It’s homeschool convention season, and my daughter and I will be heading to Cincinnati in about 2 weeks for the Midwest Great Homeschool Convention. We live in Florida, but we’ve been traveling to Ohio for the past 5 years to attend this convention.
Why I attend the Midwest Great Homeschool Convention:
I am mostly interested in being inspired through academic lectures. For example, three talks that I am interested in attending are:
- First, Teach the Teacher: How to Create a Family-Centered Learning Lifestyle, to be given by Janice Campbell
- The Wonder of Girls: Understanding the Hidden Nature of Our Daughters, to be given by Michael Gurian
- Beauty Over Decadence: Winning the Battle Against Pop Culture, to be given by Carol Reynolds
The workshop topics that I’ve seen scheduled for the Florida convention tend to be more focused on religious reasons one might want to homeschool and inspirational talks. While I know that many people enjoy these sorts of talks, it is simply not what I am looking for. I wish I could just attend the vendor hall at the Florida convention, but a ticket for just the vendor hall hasn’t been an option in the past.
Why I take my daughter:
Once my daughter turned 7 and I was reasonably sure that she could sit quietly through talks (with the aid of her iPad if she wasn’t interested in the topic), I started bringing her with me to the convention. There were several reasons for doing so:
- It makes a huge impact on anyone when they see how many people gather to celebrate the merits of homeschooling.
- We get to have a girls’ weekend.
- She can see the products in the exhibit hall up close and share her opinions with me.
- It makes her feel more a part of the homeschooling process.
As an aside, there are many people that bring their younger children and newborns with them. As long as they do not interrupt the session being given, then they are welcome to stay (at the Great Homeschool Conventions, check first with other conventions)
How to organize your time:
- Sit down with the list of workshop titles and determine what sounds interesting to you (don’t worry yet about choosing your favorite from each time slot…we will narrow it down later)
- You can either print out the list and highlight away, or if you’re like me you will want to copy and paste the talks that are interesting into a new document file
- Try to be realistic about your schedule:
- When do you wake up? Perhaps trying to make it to an 8:30 session is not the best idea.
- When do you tire out? Maybe staying up until 9 pm walking around a convention hall is not for you. Or, perhaps, a midday rest is what you will need to make a late night possible.
- When do you want to eat? Plan your meals or else you will find yourself or family members hangry and that is no fun indeed.
- When do you want to devote a block of time to wandering the vendor hall? I like to set aside 3 separate hours for browsing a third of the hall each time, and then another hour to go back and look at anything further or make purchases. It’s really difficult to slip in and out of the vendor hall in the 30 minutes between workshop times, and I don’t recommend it.
- You will need down time if you plan on attending a multi-day conference, especially if you have family members with you. Walking all over a convention center and toting a bunch of stuff to boot gets tiresome, especially for young ones.
- What to bring:
- Notebook(s) and pen(s) for taking notes during the workshops. Some lecturers will have handouts, but most will not.
- Water and snacks: convention halls are huge and running around looking for food that you want to eat can be time-consuming
- Some sort of bag to hold all of your things. Some people will bring rolling carts so that they can easily tote around their accumulated stuff from the vendor hall. I prefer to drop things off twice a day at my hotel room since I stay close by, and it also keeps me leery of accepting curriculum catalogs that I know I won’t open.
But, there are so many talks to listen to:
It can be overwhelming to see that there are four talks that you find interesting and they are all given during the same time slot. What you may not realize is that at larger conventions all of the talks are recorded and you can purchase those recordings before the end of the convention.
I like to select a primary and backup talk from each time slot that I want to listen to, especially if the primary talk is being given by a person I am unfamiliar with. There have been a few instances where I did not enjoy the speaker and/or I misread the topic and it was about something entirely different than I anticipated. Don’t worry about respectfully leaving a talk just a few minutes after it’s started so that you can go and listen to another (or go off to the vendor hall): we all have a limited amount of time and should make full use of it.
When trying to make my decision about which talk to attend I also think about which talks might be just fine to listen to on a recording. For example, I usually attend a panel-led discussion about classical education. Since there are several panel members talking, I think that this would be a difficult session to follow on a recording. Also, if you notice that a talk will be given in a large space, such as a ballroom, then that is usually an indication that there will be little audience interaction and it should be fine to listen to it as a recording.
And lastly, use those family members, if possible! Send your spouse or the grandparents to talks that you are mildly interested in and go to the ones that are most interesting to you. Then later you can share the ideas that each of you picked up. I must admit that I am a bit jealous of those people that attend with multiple family members/allies.
Do you have any other tips for making homeschool conventions more enjoyable? Please comment below as I am always looking for ideas to help keep me fresh at this large gathering. 🙂