The last couple of weeks we have talked about bookfairs, curriculum shopping and setting goals in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. Once you have a clear idea of what you are hoping to get out of the bookfair, you can have a better idea of what seminars you would like to attend. At most bookfairs, there are two kinds of seminars; vendor workshops and non-vendor seminars/ workshops. Each have their own benefits. If you have always wondered how a certain curriculum works, this is a somewhat one-sided event (although there is often time for questions and answers at the end) that should give you a pretty good idea of how a specific curriculum works. Often they do demonstrations of how to use their item. It is not uncommon for there to be more than one of these given by the same company at a multi-day bookfair.
Some seminars given by vendors are not just designed to sell their product, but are actually designed to show you WHY you would want to use their product or something similar. An example might be a general seminar on unit studies done by someone that sells a unit study. They may not specifically talk about their curriculum but may be encouraging you to use unit studies in general and maybe their curriculum in specific.
The other kinds of seminar that goes on at bookfairs are training or informational seminars. These are generally done by experienced homeschoolers and often by support group leaders and/or respected individuals in the homeschooling community. Generally they do not have any agenda other than to help out homeschoolers.
So here's the quandary; you see many seminars that you would like to attend and you only have so much time to visit the vendors, attend seminars and check out any vendor workshops. Decisions, decisions. This is where you have to be strong.
Start with what your goals are for this bookfair. If purchasing specific items was the first priority when you left home, then go ahead and get that done. I recommend that you do it towards the end of the first day so you are not depending on vendors not running out of stock and so you don't have to carry the items around with you all day.
Prior to coming to the book fair, get hold of a list of workshops and mark them by A, B or C. A is an absolute MUST see, B is a "sure would like to" and the C is a "if I don't have anything going on". Now if you have 2 "A's" at the same time, either you will have to enlist a partner to go and take notes for you, or you may have to break down and order a tape. Remember that some workshops are done more than once, so make sure that you have no other alternatives. Book fairs are a fountain of information, but you need to be prepared with comfortable shoes, a "game plan" and paper to take notes, write down vendors you want to re-visit and their telephone numbers if you think you may want to touch base with them after you get home, as well as names and phone numbers of all the new friends you are going to meet from your area. Enjoy your book fair but realize that other opportunities do exist to see curriculum and that you do not HAVE to buy there.
Let me add one disclaimer here: If you go to a booth and take up a large amount of time with a consultant and then go buy her book at another table where it is a little cheaper, you have just "told" that consultant that her time was worth nothing. Most folks behind these tables work there as a ministry, but working at a loss (of their family time, not to mention the price of the table etc.) is not good stewardship of their time and energy. A worker is worthy of his wages.
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.