Is our April 9-10 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.
Because of our new venue this year, finding the vendor spaces along with the workshop rooms almost always causes confusion.
Please check our website for a location map before coming to be prepared!
You can also get a good idea of the layout through the map in our conference program, which you’ll receive at the door.
Plan the workshops you’d like to see.
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 this 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.”
Keep checking our workshop schedule page to see when it goes online. We try to release this 2 weeks before the conference. 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, MPE members at the Family tier or higher can pre-order recordings of every session for just $50 if they sign up before 6 p.m. April 8! (Everyone else must pay $80 for the special discount rate.)
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 curricula beforehand.
“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.
(Please note: Vendors support our conference with their fees, so please show your appreciation for them when you meet them. Without vendors, we couldn’t afford to keep hosting these conferences!)
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.”
Make 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 will be available during our conference 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.”
Dress 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 additional pens and paper, as well as 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.”
This year we are partnering with Resounding Voice to provide recordings of each session.
(Don’t forget our pre-conference special for all recorded sessions!)
Bonus for 2021: Prepare for our conference silent auction!
This year we’re planning to make our popular silent auction bigger and better than ever before!
Bookmark this page from GalaBid and keep checking back to make sure you get the best deals – while helping support our work to help encourage and equip local homeschool families.
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.