Wow, this school year is just running away from me! I could swear that it is still October. I've been getting invitations to book fairs and making arrangements to attend. This can be a very exciting time of year for many of us, but it also can be VERY overwhelming.
Most states have fairly large to huge book fairs. I have found that most new folks end up totally overwhelmed and "fried" long before the book fair is over. The more seasoned veterans of homeschooling are less likely to be so overwhelmed, but, face it, it is a long day. Often times a state book fair is more than one day. They generally schedule workshops back to back throughout most of the day and evening.
Doesn't this sound like a great opportunity to see every vendor and ask every question you ever wanted to know? Actually, that's the hope, but the reality is often that there are hundreds to thousands of folks with the exact same idea as you. Each vendor tries to staff their table appropriately, but it is not unusual to go to many of the "hot" tables to find that you can barely take a look at the product, let alone talk to someone without waiting in line.
I am going to attempt to give you some "insider tips" for walking through your state book fair in one piece with your sanity and wallet still relatively in place! The next few weeks we will discuss setting goals, choosing curriculum and getting the most out of your book fair. Whether or not you are new to homeschooling, I am hopeful that these newsletters will better arm you for your next book fair!
This week I want to mention a few things about goal setting. Before you can see the benefits of a book fair, you need to figure out what you are hoping to accomplish there. If you go to a book fair with a plan to "look around and see what's out there" curriculum wise without knowing what you hope to accomplish in your school next year, you are probably going to "lose it" within the first hours of the book fair. If you have no idea what kind of school you would "like" to have (our plans should always be written in pencil), then you will sit through seminar after seminar and ALL of them will convince you that they are terrific. That's because each method of schooling IS terrific for someone. The question is, which method and what curriculum is ideal for YOU!
So, before you go, have some general ideas in mind. What are the goals for your school? Do you want to largely work on relationships between family members this year, then you may want to look for curriculum and teaching styles that cater more toward "character" training. (Although that is quite a buzzword lately). If you need to "catch up" on school or "fill in gaps", then you may want to lean towards seminars and curriculum that will encourage you to be more structured. If you know that your family leans more towards an unschooling approach, then look for great books that might "trip your child's trigger"!. I am not saying that you should never listen anyone else's opinion, but you should have an idea of which way you think you are leaning. Otherwise, you may be "sold" on EVERY teaching method and then come home more confused than when you originally went!
Book fairs are a great opportunity to meet other homeschoolers, see curriculum and listen to wonderful seminars. I encourage everyone to attend their book fairs (both state and local), but I don't always encourage folks to BUY curriculum at those book fairs. We'll talk more about that after next week in Part 2!
This article was originally published in Homeschooler's Notebook, a free newsletter created by veteran homeschooler Lynn Hogan. Sign up to receive Homeschooler's Notebook for more great homeschooling resources.