Why I Value Homeschool Conventions
By Kathy Oaks author of Homeschoolers Are Not Hermits
While some people flock to homeschool conventions, others wonder if they are really worth the time and expense. As homeschoolers sometimes it seems like we’re barely staying ahead of the game, and trying to fit in one more thing can feel impossible. Here’s why making the effort to go to at least one homeschool convention a year is really worth your time.
At Homeschool Conventions You Will Meet Awesome People
First and foremost, conventions are about people. They’re organized by people, attended by people, and have workshops led by people. When you attend a convention you get to surround yourself with those people, learn from them, and make friends with them.
It’s not just about meeting new people, though. It’s also about renewing friendships with people you may not have seen in a while, and even meeting online friends in person. Having a social support network is very important, especially for homeschoolers and their kids, and connecting in person is a great way to keep that network strong.
At Homeschool Conventions You Will Find Your Tribe
It’s a lot easier when bucking a trend to have the support of like-minded people, and secular homeschoolers are bucking all the trends. We are definitely in the minority when it comes to how we educate our kids. A convention filled with lots of others like us can give us the confidence to keep going when we are otherwise surrounded by nay-sayers.
Make sure you choose your convention carefully! Some of them just assume everyone who is coming teaches from a religious point of view, and don’t explicitly say so. Some conventions don’t even allow advertising of books or materials that aren’t specifically religious, but it may be hard to find that out without asking. Also, conventions range from curriculum-heavy to unschooling only, so pick what’s closest to your style. It’s easier to find your tribe when your tribe isn’t attending a different convention.
At Homeschool Conventions You Will Be Able to Exchange Ideas
Conventions are a great place to learn new things, consider new ideas, and even change your mind about what you thought was going to work. There are plenty of ideas on the internet, but there’s nothing like the synergy of discussing ideas in person.
Don’t forget what you bring to the party, too! You never know when something you say is going to make a world of difference to another person. Your ideas are worth sharing with others, and a convention is a great place to do that. You can share them over coffee when someone else is dealing with something you have experience in, or in a workshop where groups are sharing ideas, or even consider giving a talk yourself. People giving talks are just other homeschoolers with ideas.
At Homeschool Conventions You Will Feel a Sense of Renewal
Many people find that going to a homeschooling convention has given them energy and has renewed their excitement about learning together with their children. Homeschooling can get stale or tedious if it’s always the same old thing. Conventions can shake that up, giving us new perspectives on how to approach education and new dedication to continuing to homeschool.
Conventions are doubly important if you live in an area with few other secular homeschoolers. It can be easy to feel not only isolated but also like you’re fighting an uphill battle. Get away from all that and surround yourself with people who really get you, where you can let your guard down and relax and not have to justify your educational choices.
At Homeschool Conventions Your Kids Will Connect with Other Kids
Kid connections are as important as the adult ones. I am still friends with someone I met at a convention when I was 13. I remember telling silly jokes together as we got to know each other, and bonding over the week of the convention. Keeping up that friendship through writing letters was important as there were only a couple of other kids in my school who I could be myself with. Just knowing there were other people out there like me made a huge difference.
Bring your kids along to conventions whenever there is a chance for them to meet other homeschoolers who they can be themselves with. All the benefits of conventions apply to kids as much as (or more than) to the adults: meeting people, finding their tribe, exchanging ideas, and feeling a sense of renewal. It can be a relief to kids discover that they aren’t the only weird ones out there—it was for me!
How to Approach Homeschool Conventions
There are a couple of tips that can help you get the most out of your convention. First, find out who is going to be there that you would like to connect with. Make sure you set up times to get together with friends rather than just hoping you’ll run into each other. Also, if you would like to get to know some of the speakers, connect with them beforehand to introduce yourself by email and ask for a few minutes of their time at the convention. Most will be pleased to speak with you, and those who won’t have time will at least be connected with you online now.
Print up some business cards with your name and contact info if you don’t already have some. It’s quicker and easier to hand one to a new friend than to spend time helping them type it all into their contact list on the spot, or searching for a pen and paper when their phone dies. Then make sure you put their information into your phone when you have some downtime!
Next, choose which talks and events you want to attend and which vendors you most want to visit. There are so many awesome talks and great vendors, make sure you prioritize the most important ones or you might not get to them all.
Finally, structure your days so you will enjoy the convention. Don’t overdo it, and do plan things that will work for you. Introverts may need to schedule in downtime and one-on-one time with others, extroverts may want to go to social times or plan a party to introduce their friends to each other. Do make a budget, because there are plenty of things that will tempt you, from curricula to dinners out.