homeschool conference tips

Is our April 7-8 homeschool conference going to be your first time attending? If so, welcome!

We know it can be overwhelming, especially to learn a lot of new material in a short timeframe. Here are the top conference tips and strategies from longtime homeschoolers to give you the best possible experience:

Come early if possible.

Before you can enter the vendor hall or hear workshop speakers, you need to register.

Registration usually peaks around 9 a.m. Friday, so avoid the bottleneck and arrive earlier if you can! Parking can also be an issue, so see whether you can get a ride or carpool. Doors open right at 8 a.m.

If applicable, bring your spouse.

If your husband or wife has no previous homeschool experience, our conference is a great introduction! Even if they’re totally on-board with your decision to homeschool, they may not have the best understanding of all it entails.

Several of our Saturday workshops are especially intended for the male principals of a homeschool, so your spouse will have plenty of company. 😉

As one homeschool mom wrote, “My first visit to a conference really solidified my conviction toward homeschooling. And I was surprised by how many men were involved.”

Familiarize yourself with the location map.

Some of our workshops take place in the KCI Expo Center; others take place in the Holiday Inn Truman and Pershing rooms. This almost always causes confusion. Please check before coming to be prepared!

You can also get a good idea of the layout through this map before you arrive.

Plan the workshops you’d like to see.

Standardized testing (MPE)Conference newbies often don’t realize how important workshops can be to enhance their learning and homeschool. (See more conference tips on making the most of workshops in last year’s blog post.)

“I have several friends that have left the conference feeling overwhelmed and exhausted,” writes one homeschool parent. “The reason why – they only attended the vendor hall. The workshops are a wonderful time for refreshment, learning and laughter.”

Now that our workshop schedule’s online, you can decide which workshops are on your must-see list (and maybe some backup ones as well!). You can also see detailed descriptions of each workshop, as well as speaker bios.

BONUS TIP: To get the maximum value from your workshop experience, you can pre-order recordings of every session for just $50 if you sign up before April 6!

As one mom writes, planning workshops in advance is “MUCH less overwhelming to do it in the comfort of your living room than standing in a crowded lobby.”

Research vendor booths and needed/wanted curricula beforehand.

We’ve published the coming vendors, as well as their booth numbers and locations, in this PDF so you can get an idea of all their products and services.

“Make a list beforehand of materials and booths you want to visit to purchase items or even see items in person and physically hold or flip through,” says one homeschool mom.

Another homeschooler creates a spreadsheet of all the curriculum pieces she wants, including prices from different sources, so she can compare everything right there at the conference.

Avoid impulse buying.

“The main thing I tell first-timers is to leave your money in your wallet during the initial look around the curriculum hall,” writes one homeschooler. “Use the first walk-through as a time to compare things you’re interested in, explore new options, and ask the vendors questions. Write titles in a notebook or take a picture of the curriculum and vendor booths you’d like to return to later after you’ve done all your comparing.”

What about all those free shipping deals? As one mom writes, “Don’t get pushed into saving a few dollars only to have books on your shelf you’ll never use. (The voice of experience speaking here.)”

Get involved at MPEBuild in time for rest, relaxing and socialization.

You’ll need to take frequent breaks just to process everything you’re learning at the conference. Having someone to share that with you – a spouse or fellow homeschool friend – can make the experience much more enjoyable.

Our mentoring moms room is always open if you want just a few minutes chatting with veteran homeschoolers!

And consider staying close, too. Even though one homeschool mom lives in the area, she’s found it best to get a hotel room “so I don’t add to the exhaustion with a long drive.”

“It is amazing how tiring it is sitting and listening all day,” she says. “Probably a bit of brain processing also, as I tend to mentally sort through what I am hearing.”

This year we also have a Prayer Room in the Holiday Inn, where people are welcome to come pray or receive prayer from veteran homeschool families.

It will be in Suite 617 (10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday).

Come dressed for a marathon, not a sprint!

You can almost always tell the newbies from the veterans by the following markers:

    • Comfortable sneakers or tennis shoes.
    • Rolling carts for multiple trips back and forth from their vehicles.
    • Large bags containing snacks, water bottles, additional pens and paper, and extra room for purchases along the way.

Here’s a bonus tip we found extremely helpful: “Bring all those pesky address labels that companies send you, and use them for the gazillions of drawings and other signups available [in the vendor hall]. Your hand will thank you.”

Follow up afterward for reinforcement.

Maybe you’re still overwhelmed because you just can’t make it to every workshop session and talk to every conference speaker. Guess what? You don’t have to.

“Don’t feel like you have to hear ALL the speakers, or even sit through an entire session if you need to be in two places (or if it’s just not the info you were looking for),” writes one homeschooler. “Buy a CD or two of sessions you would have liked to attend.”

We use Rhino Technologies to record all our conference sessions. The on-site conference special is 10 CDs for $50 (a $10 savings) or a full set of all recorded sessions in MP3 format for $79. (Don’t forget our pre-conference special for all recorded sessions for just $50!)

Do you have other homeschool conference tips for newbies? Let us know in the comments!

This post was originally published in April 2015. It has been updated for timeliness and clarity.