homeschool conference

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. 


Sponsored Post: The SEA Conference Is Coming Up, and That’s a Good Thing!

My problem with homeschool conferences is a lot like my problem with homeschool magazines: They’re out there, but they seldom feel like they’re for me. That’s why I’m so excited about SEA’s homeschool conference, a totally secular homeschool conference that has the potential for real staying power

My problem with homeschool conferences is a lot like my problem with homeschool magazines: They’re out there, but they seldom feel like they’re really for me. That’s why I’m so excited about SEA’s homeschool conference, a totally secular homeschool conference that has the potential for real staying power—as long as we secular homeschoolers give it some support! Toward that end, I’ve asked Blair Lee, SEA’s founder and HSL’s high school science columnist, and two of her cohorts—Kat Hutcheson, vendor coordinator, and Tina Harden, conference organizer—to give us some details on the upcoming conference, which we at HSL are THRILLED to support.

Most of us have been to a lot of homeschool conferences. What specifically makes the SEA conference special?

There is real value to the camaraderie one can experience when gathered with others who share similar objectives, standards, and purpose. The SEA Homeschoolers conference is that gathering for those who seek to provide their children with a secular, academic, innovative home learning experience. As secular homeschoolers, especially in certain parts of the country, the challenges are unique in the homeschooling world as we seek to immerse our children in an education that doesn’t use religion as a focus or a foundation of their educational experience. The encouragement one can feel empowered by after attending such a gathering is immeasurable; having the opportunity to learn that you are not alone, that the challenges one faces are being faced by others, and solutions are available. This conference will help give participants the energy, motivation, and confidence we all need and seek for our homeschooling journey.

Blair Lee: The SEA Homeschool Conference is a secular, academic conference, which is pretty special. It isn’t all about academics though. We have worked hard to make this a fun and exciting event for conference attendees of all ages. There are also three service projects going on during the conference: Teens can receive community service credit by volunteering for the conference; we have a blood drive on Saturday, June 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and we have partnered with non-profit group Bringing Food Forests to NE Florida to raise money for a permaculture project on the Lakota Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. We have a raffle during the conference to raise funds for this.

What are some of the talks you’re most excited about?

Tina Harden: The college offerings: The college fair, how to write a college essay, questions for college physics

BL: I hate to pick favorites. I am honestly excited by the breadth of talks at this conference. I will have to admit, though, I cannot wait to hear Michael Clay Thompson speak. My son is excited by the college essay workshop, Sytil Murphy’s physics talks, Ian Guch’s workshops, and wilderness training.

Kat Hutcheson: Blair’s Project-Based Learning talk is definitely something I can’t miss. Homeschooling 101 and Homeschooling High School with Beverly Burgess should be great, too—Bev is even giving her new webinar package free to everyone who attends her Homeschooling 101 talk. Mari Buckroth of NASH and The Inappropriate Homeschooler is on my list, as well as talks by Zinn Education Project and workshops with the National Parks Service. Amanda McClure of Groovy Kids Online is giving talks on Transitioning to Independent Learning and Creating a Culture of Learning in Your Home, both of which I’m looking forward to, along with Lauren Connolly’s talk on using comic books and graphic novels in education and a talk on Permaculture, Biodynamic Soil, and Compost from Bringing Food Forest to NE Florida.

What opportunities will attendees have to connect with other homeschoolers?

TH: Games for children and teens, blood drive, vendor hall, bookstore social

BL: We have worked to include several activities to connect, but honestly, this happens naturally at homeschool conferences. My favorite way to connect at conferences is to sit down and just talk to people. I have made some great friends that way.  

KH: Community is a big part of SEA Homeschoolers and a big part of this conference. There will be lots of opportunities for homeschooling families to socialize with new friends and familiar faces. From the meet-and-greet at the local bookstore to the parents mixer to just grabbing lunch in the dining hall, we hope everyone makes lasting connections within the community.

Would this be a fun event for families to attend together?

TH: My family is joining me, and this will be a great rejuvenative endeavor for our whole family.

BL: Absolutely. We have worked hard to make this weekend a highlight of the summer for conference attendees.

KH: Absolutely. Conference organizers have worked really hard to make this a fun event for the whole family. There are tons of kids and teens programming, a Magic the Gathering tournament, Smash Brothers contest, children’s book readings with author JR Becker, teen formal, art show, talent show, and some really wonderful opportunities for those starting to plan a path to college.

What else will be happening at the conference that people should be sure to check out?

TH: The talent show, blood drive, Smash Brothers tournament, game room, magic tournament, the college fair, and the raffle.

KH: Book signings by JR Becker, Beverly Burgess, and Blair Lee. Blair will have the prototype of her new book to check out. You definitely won’t want to miss the raffle. We have so many cool books and products donated from our vendors and sponsors, plus Blair’s new book and a SEA swag bag.

BL: Wilderness training and the history of fire.

Who do you have lined up for the vendor hall? I’m assuming they are all secular homeschool resources?

KH: We have 27 secular vendors and sponsors. For a new homeschooling conference that is a big number. It means a lot to those of us planning the conference to have the secular vendors and sponsors in our community support our group. We have trusted favorites like Royal Fireworks Press, Pandia Press, Build Your Library, Teaching Textbooks, Shiller Math, and more, as well as some new and lesser known companies that we are excited introduce to the homeschool community.

What do you hope people will be saying on their way home from the conference?

TH: Let’s do it again next year! I got to spend time with my friends, and we all made great new ones too!

BL: About two hours into the drive home from a homeschool conference we had just attended, my son said, “You know my favorite thing about homeschooling?”

“What’s that?” I replied.

“The homeschool conferences,” he told me.

That is what I hope the kids and teens are saying. I hope parents are talking about the new strategies and materials they discovered and the new friends they made.

I know conferences depend on people power to keep going, and this is a conference that we’d really like to see keep going! If people just can’t attend this year, is there anything they can do to support the conference from afar?

There are two great ways to support this conference. Please share about the event on your social media platforms and on any homeschool groups you belong to on Facebook. That sort of grassroots messaging is important to any fledgling endeavor. The second way to support us is to support our vendors. We will be sharing about our vendors into the group, and purchasing through them using the conference links ensures that it is worth it to those vendors to come back again next year.

And nuts-and-bolts: Where can people sign up, how much does admission cost, and what else should attendees know about the conference?

You can buy tickets (Adults $100, Teens $65, Kids $50), one-day passes (Adults $45, Teens $30, Kids $25) and vendor hall passes ($25), rent dorm rooms for on campus accommodations, and purchase meal cards to save money in the dining hall at seahomeschoolers.com

While you’re there be sure to check out our updated conference schedule. Also, our college fair, starting at 11 a.m. on Thursday, June 1, is free to all who would like to attend. If you come to the college fair and decide you would like to see more of the conference, you will receive $5 off the purchase of a one-day or vendor hall pass.


Stuff We Like :: 2.17.17

home|school|life’s Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

Are you going to the SEA homeschool conference this spring? Suzanne and I will be there from June 1-4 giving away copies of HSL and feeling socially awkward, so please stop by and say hi if you’re there!

around the web

Just when the weight of the world feels like too much to bear, someone makes a list of book-ice cream pairings, and you know you’ll make it through.

I really love these alternative approaches to high school math.

I have so many feelings about the new James Baldwin documentary, but the main one is that everyone should go and see it.

Ursula Le Guin on "alternative facts" versus science fiction

 

at home/school/life

on the blog: A big woo-hoo to Shelli who wrapped up her year-long citizen science project with this week’s post. And Oak Meadow's winter sale is going on through the 28th!

one year ago: Rebecca reviews a curriculum for young philosophers

two years ago: Why boredom is an important part of learning

three years ago: Simple strategies to turn around a bad homeschool day

 

reading list

I’m rereading Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency so that I can watch the new television series, and I’d forgotten what a pleasure it is to make fun of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

I love when you think you’ve read everything by an author and then discover that nope, in fact, you are wrong, and there is another book. So I was delighted to discover Mischievous Meg by Astrid Lindgren, and we’ve been enjoying it as a readaloud.

My 9-year-old is reading The Wonderful Adventures of Nils. My daughter is being horrified by The Jungle for U.S. History and reading Fangirl for fun.

 

in the kitchen

Now that we’ve actually gotten back to some semblance of routine after the Tragic Ankle Breaks of 2015, I’m finding my way back to the kitchen on a regular basis. My kids mock me relentlessly, though, because I always fail Taco Tuesday—I plan tacos for Tuesday every week but something always goes sideways and we end up having them a different night. We did not have them on Tuesday, but these beef picadillo puffy tacos were much enjoyed anyway.

It’s definitely still comfort food season, and this wild rice-mushroom soup hits the spot.

Cookie of the week: Salty oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies

 

at home

I’m having trouble finding balance between staying informed and active politically (which feels important to do right now) and staying sane and available to my everyday cooking-dinner, reading-books-together, doing-the-laundry (who am I kidding? I would take any excuse to skip the laundry) life. Political happenings are like chicken pox—I’m just constantly aware of them in an uncomfortable kind of way, so much so that the rest of my life suffers, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. And yet, how can I not pay attention every minute? How are you guys handling this? Is this just the new normal?

I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ The West while I knit at my Heaven and Space. (I love patterns like this that are almost-but-not-quite brainless, and really, who can ever have enough scarves?)


Sponsored Post: The Homeschool+ Conference Is Coming Up!

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Editor's Note: This is a sponsored post, but we think this conference is such a great idea, we're giving away a free copy of home/school/life to all the attendees. Join the second annual Homeschool+ Conference, August 4-8, 2014, three nights of evening keynote sessions and two full days of keynotes plus crowd-sourced presentations. This online and free event provides an opportunity to share strategies, practices, and resources for those involved with homeschooling, unschooling, free schools, democratic schools, and other forms of alternative, independent, and non-traditional education. Keynote and distinguished speakers include Ocean Robbins, Oliver DeMille, Jerry Mintz, Carlo Ricci, Jamie McMillin, Matt Hern, Pat Farenga, Blake Boles, Leslie Barson, Monica Cochran, Paula Rothermel, Clark Aldrich, Elliot Washor, Yale Wishnick, Jackie Gerstein, Luba Vangelova, Bernard Bull, Scott Nine, Amos Blanton, and Brycen RR & Laurie A. Couture.

Public discussions on education have been increasingly more accepting of the variety of learning opportunities for students, and also of the potential for valuable dialogue on practices that arise from non-traditional learning environments. While the Homeschool+ Conference is geared toward those participating in or wanting to learn more about homeschooling, unschooling, free schools, democratic schools, and other forms of alternative education, our hope is that this conference will also be valuable for traditional educators looking to expand their scope and understanding of teaching and learning practices.

The conference is based on a peer-learning model developed over the last several years which invites high levels of interaction and participation. We hope to offer a variety of perspectives on alternative learning, and encourage you to present and share your experiences, practices, and resources with each other. First-time presenters: you are not only welcome to submit proposals—you are encouraged to do so! Visit www.homeschoolconference.com for more information and to see how you can get involved.

We are also excited to announce the first Alternative Education (Virtual) Film Festival, running online during the month of August. The Alt Ed Film Fest will showcase seven films, with live broadcast director interviews: La Educación Prohibida by director German Doin, The War on Kids by director Cevin Soling, Free to Learn by directors Bhawin Suchak and Jeff Root, Grown Without Schooling by director Peter Kowalke, Schooling the World by director Carol Black, Building the Machine by director Ian Reid, and The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend with John Taylor Gatto directed and produced by Tragedy and Hope Communications. Many of us take our education for granted. But what did we really learn in school, and who decided what was important for us to know? Was there a gap between what we learned in the classroom from our teachers, from our peers, and what we needed to know throughout the rest of our lives? What does the type of education we receive say about the world it prepares us to enter?

These and many other questions are addressed in the seven documentaries chosen for this year's Alternative Education Film Festival. From homeschooling to unschooling, from Buenos Aires the Himalayas, and from America's common core to the self-directed 'curricula' of many home learners, we hope these films stimulate and inspire you to think about education's role in creating your life and the world. Check out altedfilmfest.com for more information about the films, viewing options, and a schedule of live interviews with the directors.