We recently asked moms on our Facebook page what some of the best tips are that have helped them avoid being overwhelmed at homeschool conventions. With hundreds of vendors and dozens of workshops, large conventions can quickly disarm the best intentions of even experienced homeschool moms. These ideas, along with Rebecca's Insider Tips From a Homeschool Convention Veteran, will help you stick to your budget, give new resources a chance, and get the best bargains at any homeschool convention.
- Walk through vendor hall the first time with 2 bags. (Sherryl W.) Every booth has promotional material that they want to give you and it can quickly become a disorganized mass of paper. Use one bag just for promotional materials that you may pick up or are given but that do not fit the guidelines of what you need now. The other bag is for materials that you want to review and compare and it will be smaller and easier to manage. At night (or somewhere quiet during the convention), go through the second bag, making notes and deciding which vendors warrant a second stop to make purchases or answer questions. Many vendors are online during the conventions and can answer questions online if you have your computer or smartphone available while you are reviewing the materials.
- Pare down the number of vendors that you plan to visit by obtaining a vendor list ahead of time. (Linda S.) Looking at the vendors online and making a list of the ones your absolutely want to check out versus the ones in which you are only mildly or not at all interested. For workshops, read the descriptions through and choose 2 or 3 per session you would like to attend. If your first choice fills up, you will not be stuck in a session that doesn't interest you. Don't do this too far in advance, however, since the vendor list may not be final until a day or two before the convention starts.
- Make a list of each child's needs before leaving home. (Monica H.) Include the things you want for the coming school year. Once there, give yourself an entire day without kids or other distractions to go through the vendor hall. Make one pass, making notes on two lists. On the first list, write down the things that fit what you are looking for during the next school year, and on the second list write down things you are interested in. After the first pass, sit down somewhere and examine your first list and determine what you want to purchase to incorporate next year. If you have any money left(!!), go through your second list and see if you can afford any of the extras! Remember, you can always keep the list/handouts and purchase products later on online. Take a friend to make the day fun and to keep you from making impulse purchases that you might regret later.
- Bring a rolling cart or bag. (Audra W.) It's tiring to carry everything.
- Leave your checkbook in the car. (Belynda A.) Makes lists of what you want to buy later after you have had time to look and sort though all the handouts.
- Research vendors ahead of time. (Melissa R.) Walk through the entire center at least once without buying anything. You can compare curriculum and prices. Just because something looks neat doesn't mean it will work for your homeschool. Ask yourself if it is something you will really use before making the purchase. Read the convention's website ahead of time. Some do not allow you to bring rolling bags, strollers, etc. Use the book check-in room! Bring a friend and have fun!!!
- Know your prices. (Shannon T.) You may be able to find some of the books cheaper online than at the convention. Go armed with a list of what you need, and what your price to beat is. It's easy to get caught up in the moment, so always makes a trip around the hall to browse before buying. Some vendors have the same books, but with different prices.
- Prepare ahead by looking at all the vendors' websites and making a list of materials she wants to preview. (Crystal A.)
- Bring a notebook and write down things you are interested in. (Debbie R.) This allows you to go back to them and purchase if you don't find something better.
It's not uncommon to get such a high from all of the ideas, resources, curriculum, and camaraderie that you might even find yourself experiencing what Rebecca calls Post-Convention Stress Disorder. Check out the link for her tips for reentry into real life.
If you have additional tips that have helped you survive convention season, please share!