Homeschool convention season is here and we are gearing up for our Southeast Homeschool Expo as we speak. This will be my first time speaking at the Southeast Homeschool Expo and I can’t wait! My first homeschool convention was an experience in itself, after homeschooling for awhile you’d think I would have been prepared for my first convention experience. I wasn’t. And I think very few first timers are. In fact, I made quite a few homeschool convention mistakes. So, today, learn from my experience!
Trying to Hear ALL the Speakers
I was SO excited to hear so many fabulous speakers at my first homeschool convention. However, reality hit shortly after I arrived. I had my ideal schedule packed back to back with little thought to food, fellowship or shopping. I ended up missing a few that I really wanted to hear because I had planned poorly.
I highly recommend only planning on hearing 2-3 speakers a day. Pick three topics you want to learn more about and find one speaker on each. Spend the rest of the time resting, shopping, or fellowshipping with other homeschool moms. Oh, and eating, if not you will crash by the end of the day starving and wondering where your time went.
Buying on the first day
If you plan on being at the homeschool convention more than one day do NOT buy the first day. I was so excited when I went and SO sure I knew what I wanted to buy that I spent all my money the first day at exhibitors I was familiar with. On the second day when I browsed, I realized there was more out there than I knew about, AND I had maybe purchased prematurely.
Here’s the thing, there may be curriculum you LOVE, but give other vendors a shot to gain your interest. If not, you may wonder what else is out there and have NO clue because you never shopped around. If you wait and hit your favorites last you may be happier with your purchases because you will KNOW that you TRULY shopped around and found the materials PERFECT for your family. Not second guessing yourself like I did…
Not having a way to pack my purchases
Guys, I swear I was the ONLY homeschool mom at the convention without something on wheels. Seriously. Instead, I was lugging a big old bag that about broke my arm. I lost feeling in it after the first day. If you don’t want to purchase a rolling cart, consider bringing a carry on size suitcase with wheels. This will work the same way, and you probably have one lying around your house. The only downside is that you have to open it each time you want to access it.
Losing my list
Before attending the convention I made a list of all the vendors I wanted to see as well as my budget for each item I needed to purchase. I then proceeded to lose my list the first day of the convention. This year, I will have a paper list and then I will take a picture of it in case I lose my list again.
You could also type out your list in the note section of your phone, make a copy, or write it down in more than one place. Bottom line is to have a backup version of your list in some way. This also helps in case you forget your copy in the hotel room or at home :)
I budgeted ahead of time for purchases I knew I was going to make. I left the convention WAY over budget because I honestly budgeted pretty poorly. I did not take into consideration the following things:
- The cost of convention food (the prices are WAY higher than normal restaurants). Consider doubling the budget for food before you attend OR pack lunch and snacks in a cooler. Just remember whatever you pack you will have to carry around or allow for time to go back to your room and eat (if you are staying on site).
- Parking, many parking garages charge per day. Some hotels offer free parking, but keep in mind you may have to walk a few blocks (with your purchases) if you do not stay on site.
- Impulse buys. Yes, I know we shouldn’t budget for these right? But in reality, you will buy a few items on impulse. Consider giving yourself a little wiggle room for that item you have NEVER seen before that you KNOW your kids will love. For me, it was a human anatomy puzzle (that is still in the plastic box unopened) and Little House on the Prairie Paper Dolls (that have been played with a LOT!).
So, will I be seeing you at the homeschool expo? I hope so! And, if it is your FIRST convention I hope sharing my homeschool convention mistakes will help YOU prepare better before you arrive!
Misty Bailey is the voice behind the Southeast Homeschool Expo’s Facebook page, as well as one of the convention planners here at the Southeast Homeschool Expo. She has worked in the homeschool market for nearly a decade with a multitude of curriculum companies, and as a former blogger and podcaster. She brings to the table 17 years of homeschooling experience working with her own three children, as well as founding her local homeschool group. Her goal is to encourage and inspire you on your homeschool journey by providing practical tips for real life (not cookie cutter perfection) homeschooling.