confidence

13 Tips for Attending Homeschool Conferences

13 Tips for Attending Homeschool Conferences

Homeschool conferences can be overwhelming, but also incredibly informative. I recently attended a homeschool conference and here’s what I learned.

1. Bring a friend and a notebook.
Many of the workshops you would like to attend may be scheduled at the same time. Split up the workshops with a friend, and divide and conquer. Take notes during the workshops. It will be impossible to remember everything you heard and learned. A notebook will help jog your memory when you’ve had time to decompress from all you learned. At the end of the day, compare notes with your friend and share information. You will gain twice as much confidence and information with a friend.

2. Take as much information as you can in the vendor hall. 
Vendors have material available because they want you to become informed, and want your business. Even if you think you are not interested in what a vendor has to offer, check out their product, and take their promotional material. Once home, it’s easier to digest all the information over a cup of coffee and some quiet time. You may just be inspired by something you didn’t know you needed or wanted!

3. Make a game plan.
Vendor halls and workshops can be overwhelming, especially at larger conventions or conferences. Be sure to check out the schedule and make a game plan on what you need. Ask the staff at the registration table for any updates to the schedule. Speakers and workshops schedules sometimes get moved because of attendance numbers, or other factors. You don’t want to miss your favorite workshop, so be sure to inquire. If the registration desk has a map of the vendor hall, review it before entering. Also make note of where the restrooms are located and local restaurants or the food court. Staying nourished and hydrated is important. 

4. Ask to lock in sales prices. 
If you can’t purchase now, ask the vendor if they can lock in the sales price that is offered at the conference. Most vendors will offer an extended sales price during the conference and for a week or so after the conference.

5. Check with speakers or workshop hosts to see if there is a webinar or audio version of the workshop that you can get free or purchase. 
There is so much information to take in, that being able to listen to keynote speakers again, may be a benefit in your homeschooling.

6. Rest.
Grab lunch with a friend and decompress from the convention noise and overwhelm. Sitting outside for a while can help you regain some clarity, and give you energy to tackle the next workshop or vendor hall. Wear comfortable shoes.

7. Bring bags. 
Most conference will offer a reusable bag as part of the vendor hall experience, but purchases, flyers, and PR material can quickly fill up your bags. Better yet, check to see if a rolling cart is allowed into the conference. It will save your back and arms from all the weight of that newly acquired material. 

8. Meet and greet. 
Introduce yourself to others. Tell your homeschooling story. Ask about theirs. Conferences and conventions are prime real estate for making connections in the homeschool world. Find your common ground, stay connected through social media or other methods, and build your homeschooling network. 

9. Thank the coordinators of the event. 
So much behind the scenes planning takes place to make homeschool conferences a success. Give helpful suggestions, rather than complaints. Volunteer to help if you can. Even a few hours attending the registration desk is a help to all. 

10. Ask questions.
Contact the speakers and vendors if you still have questions about their workshop or product. They will welcome your inquiry for more information.

11. Decide if you will bring children. 
Some conferences are child friendly with lots of scheduled kid activities, and others are more geared toward an adult day. Conferences may or may not offer child care or kid activities, so be sure to inquire. Vendor halls can be a long day for children who have no interest in looking at curriculum. Plan accordingly.

12. Plan time for sightseeing.
If you are traveling to a conference be sure to check out the local sites. Homeschoolers never stop learning, and this is a great opportunity to explore the world.

13. Set your budget.
Vendor halls and that shiny new curriculum or online curriculum, can be very tempting to purchase. Be sure you research thoroughly and stick to your budget. 

Homeschool conventions are a perfect opportunity to make connections and have all your homeschooling questions answered. Do your research before the convention both on workshops you want to attend, and speakers that you want to hear. When you are in need of a homeschool reboot, a convention can be just the thing to inspire and refresh your world. 


Growing Through Traveling: Independence, Confidence, and What We Become Away from Home

Growing Through Traveling: Independence, Confidence, and What We Become Away from Home

I didn’t grow up in a traveling family. Besides the yearly ritual drive down to a cabin for a week every summer, my parents weren’t big on trips of any sort.

But in my later teens, that started to change, mostly because of my sister and me. We started wanting to connect with the unschooling community more, and traveling as a trio of sisters and mother (my father’s job doesn’t allow for much traveling) to unschooling conferences and camps. And pretty soon, the friends I made at those places had me craving more time spent away.

In the past six or so years, I still haven’t been off this continent. I haven’t even made it to the opposite coast! But I have made many, many trips to visit friends, most within a (sometimes long) days bus or car ride. And though it might not be as exciting as backpacking in Europe or hiking in Peru, I have learned and grown a lot from the experience of traveling, not to mention having some of the best times of my life. Here are just a few reasons why I love getting away from home every now and then for a good adventure.

Independence

When I first started traveling by myself, at a time when I was just starting to be more independent, it felt like a very big deal to be the only person responsible for getting myself over long distances and handling whatever problems came up while I was gone. While parents have definitely been called in a panic time or two, when they’re not within an hours drive you still have to fix things yourself, with just advice (and the occasional emergency loan or bus ticket) to get you through. I haven’t needed either of those last two in a while, and the panicked phone calls have become few and far between. But travel has marked some of the times in the past that I first started to feel like an adult because I did manage to solve problems by myself, get myself to the right destination, deal with emotional upheaval (both my own and that of friends), and otherwise keep it all together. And managing to do that while far away from my parents meant so much to me.

Confidence

As I write this, I’m sitting in a cafe in rural Maine, many hours from my home in Montreal. Some things may have changed in the years since I started spending more time away from home, but what hasn’t changed is how much more confident I feel when away from my familiar haunts. Counter-intuitive, perhaps, but being somewhere unfamiliar, meeting lots of new people and going to new places, gives me a freedom I feel few other times. I’m more outgoing, and though it’s still scary, I’m more likely to introduce myself to someone, joke around, and be more myself than I often am with anyone other than close friends. Maybe it’s because my immersion in the social life of wherever I am is so temporary, so that I don’t feel as concerned about how other people view me. I can be less self-conscious when I’m leaving in just a week. But whatever lets me push my social boundaries when away definitely stays with me when I head home. I’m reminded of all that I’m capable of, and that I can be an outgoing person at home, too, if I want to. Stretching my comfort zone when away gives me that much bigger a zone when I get back home.

Familiarity

If I’m to be confident and independent, I need to first feel secure. This has meant learning, through trial and error, how to find or create situations where I can be comfortable far away from my usual surroundings and routines. For me, this has meant that I now stay only with friends (whether at their houses, or camping with them, or staying at a less familiar place with a good friend) and not friends of friends or casual acquaintances. I need to feel safe wherever I am, and for me that means being with at least one person I really trust. It also means that I keep my routines. I might be away from home, but I can still do the same things I always do before bed and when I get up in the morning. I can still use the same methods to calm down when I’m stressed. Bringing familiar routines away with me helps me stay calm and grounded, no matter how unfamiliar a place I am. It’s thanks to that base I can try scary new things and meet so many new friends!

I head back home on Monday, after over a week of adventuring in Maine. I’ve already met a lot of new people, tasted a whole bunch of different food and drinks, slept at two different houses, walked around Portland, and swum in a lake. Plans for the coming days keep unfolding, as my good friend and host thinks of more places she wants to bring me and more people she thinks I should meet. It’s been a really good time so far, with more good times to come I am sure. And through it all, I feel myself stretching, testing my current limits and finding new ones, and feeling better and more centered within myself.

No matter how near or how far we venture, I think travel can help us all to learn and grow!