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First Convention Advice

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The Greenville convention will be my first homeschool convention (I'm bringing dh & ds). I'm trying to keep in mind things I've learned from prior professional conferences:


(1) Don't just run from workshop to workshop, even though they all look great. PLAN to spend time (and budget time) for the vendors hall.


(2) Have a plan in advance of the workshops you want to attend (first choice, second choice). If one is a bust, you can head out and possibly catch your second choice (although if you think you'll do this, sit at the back so you're not disruptive).


(3) If there's a workshop you REALLY want to see, get there early so you can get in and have a place up front.


(4) (Taken from the forums :) ) Bring address labels for contact info at the vendor hall.


(5) Dress comfortably.


(6) I'm writing up a list in advance of the curriculum/vendors I want to be sure to see & have any questions I want to ask ready.


It's easy to get carried away.

I take notes so I remember things. I'm pretty excited about the conference.

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Just a few ideas:


1) attend workshops for those new to homeschooling if you feel you will benefit from those


2) consider buying the conference mp3 set if that is offered. At my state convention it is usually about $50.00 and includes every. single. workshop. I think it is great as I can listen to all the workshops at my leisure. Sometimes I get together with ladies from our homeschool co-op and we listen to a workshop that we feel will be helpful/encouraging to us. I think it is a great value.


3) don't be overwhelmed in the vendor hall. I know I was at my first convention. Remember, you can always order later! Yes, you might save on shipping by purchasing at convention but that is a small price to pay for an impulse buy that you find out later does not work for you and and your family. Get ideas and consider all your options. I am not saying do not buy anything at the vendor hall, but be cautious and realize that you can take your time to make up your mind.


4) have fun and possibly connect with others in your area if that opportunity is presented. For example, at my state convention they sometimes designate eating areas for individuals who live in a particular county/region so homeschoolers from that area can meet and network.

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Have a set financial budget. You will find many, many great looking things 'on sale' in the vendors area and will be tempted to make many impulse buys.


Be prepared to buy CDs of some speakers. I did that so I could spend more time in the vendor area. I was wanting to spend most of my time taking a very close look at different curriculums. Sometimes the vendors are only open at the same time the speakers are. Unless you miss some speakers you may not get enough vendor time.


Wear comfortable walking shoes.


Keep snacks and bottled water in your bag.


If you are planning on lots of buying, take a tote/suitcase on wheels or easy to carry bags that hold lots.

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Wear good shoes. There's a lot of walking and standing. At Cincinnati, much is on concrete floors.


Wear comfortable clothing, layer. Rooms will vary in temperature based on attendance and size. This isn't a fashion show. Be comfy.


I like having a cart to carry purchases and a backpack for notebooks, pens, pencils, a book (I don't know why I bother with the book, but I do every year, you know, to read between sessions LOL). The cart is kind of a pain, but ends up being worth it. I kinda wish I had a cart with a seat on it so I could sit while reading curriculum at booths (they never have chairs for some reason) ...


I plan on purchasing talks on CD. I'm going to try to take care of that early this year so I don't have to stand in the long line at the end of the conference ... and it is usually a long line at the end of conference. There are usually some talks that are only available for purchase on-site (SWB's for instance)


I block out 3-4 hours to go through the convention hall. I don't like to leave in the middle and come back. I plan on purchasing talks from that time. I like to do the whole hall in one swoop. I try to have a plan, going through the vendor list, knowing where I do and where I don't want to stop ahead of time. Also a list with prices and shipping costs for different retailers helps me save money. Shop Rainbow Resources last ... anything they don't have on hand that is ordered at conference is free shipping. This 3-4 hours lets me walk past every vendor (or has in the past). It does *not* leave a lot of time for scouring the used book vendors searching for deals. That always makes me a little sad.


Bring your Rainbow Resource catalog (price compare) and I usually bring my WTM (rec'd or no?). If you have a catalog of your personal books, that can be helpful in not buying duplicates. I have one on LibraryThing and a link on my phone.


On your list of what you want to buy, think about things you may prefer to buy as pdf or mp3 downloads. For me, that is a lot easier than a book. Again, YMMV.


When they post the topic/speaker list, I print and highlight every talk I might be interested in. Then I go through and prioritize. This helps me know what I may want to attend, what I may want to purchase. For example, last year I knew I wanted to by SWB's history talks, and as much as I love seeing her speak live in person, buying them was going to free up those slots for other speakers.


Plan on possibly throwing your plan out the window. When SWB was speaking the year before on her writing series, I hadn't planned on attending all of them, but ended up attending all but one.


It is fun to attend talks with your friends. It is fun to spread out and hear different things then brief one another on what you heard. I usually stay with my in-laws and it is a 30-40 minute drive. A perfect time for discussing. Or over dinner, whatever. Narrate back what you heard/learned and talk about what you agree/disagree with. My friends and I usually do a mixture of apart and together.


Beware "vendor" talks where they're going to sell. I get the most mileage out of the philosophy or content talks. YMMV. If there's a curriculum you're really interested in, it may be worthwhile going to the talk. I know there's one company out there I won't buy from after attending their session.

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I think I agree with most of the advice.


The only thing I will say about getting the cheaper deal-if someone has really helped you and talked with you about a product, Don't run to the cheaper guy to buy it after someone else convinced you to buy. A worker is worth his wage.


The other thing also is be willing to talk to others. I have asked others if they have used something. What do they think. I'll also say "I used that" if I see someone looking at something. I've had some great conversations at conventions about hsing.


I love to volunteer at our convention. We have a used curriculum sale and volunteers get in first. I volunteer early in the convention. I love that too. Have been with the same area for several years now and I have my time and place set so I get to see lots of things.

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1. Take a rolling cart/small suitcase of some sort to keep all your stuff in

2. Take notepads and pens to the seminars

3. Wear comfortable shoes

4. Bring a sweater/sweatshirt in case it's cold inside (and it usually is)

5. Look up who the speakers are before you attend their seminar

Edited by Paintedlady
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What kind of rolling cart do you all bring? Has anyone really brought a small suitcase? Like carry-on size? I'm totally the type that would bring a big bag, go to the curric. hall first thing in the morning, then have to haul a packed-full bag over my shoulder all day and it would be horrible. All because I felt like a dork with a cart. And instead I am the idiot with a headache and a backache!!!


Anyway, I don't have a rolling cart. I do have a carry-on, but is that over-kill?? I could push a stroller! I won't have kids with me, but hey, every time I use a stroller with kids, I end up pushing it around empty anyway! No one would know! :lol:


I think we should all wear name tags with our WTM usernames on them:)

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I wrote this for my blog but it's what I always tell people:


1. Make time with your husband to pray and write out your goals for your home school and your kids. Click on the blog title, "Prepping for Convention Season" for a link to my Family Purpose blog to help you do that. Bring these goals with you to the convention to help you narrow down the choices.


2. Read Debra Bell's "The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling" before you go. It will help you get an understanding of the types of curriculum out there. Veterens and speakers will toss arounds words like, "classical, Charlotte Mason, literature based, unit studies and lap books" and it will give you some understanding of what in the world they are talking about.


3. Go with a friend who has been homeschooling longer than you. Bring your husband. Pay a babysitter, bribe your mother or do whatever you need to do to have your husband come with you. My husband is a life saver at the convention. He sees the bigger picture and helps me to pick curriculum that meets our goals and he carries all the heavy stuff. I love that.


4. Make a list before you go of what you need. Don't go in blind, do the research, visit web-sites, message boards, e-mail me, talk to the lady at church that home schools to figure out what you need.


5. Make a budget - be realistic. I spend at least $1000 a year total on all three kids curriculum although with high school looming that number is about to jump, I fear. That $1000 looks a lot but check out what a private school costs. Some people do it with less, some more. I buy what we think is best for our kids. Sometimes that's the most expensive curriculum, sometimes it's not. Keep your husband out of your budget money. We have more books on the Roman Empire than I know what to do with.


6. Plan to go for more than one day. I find I need the first day for looking around and the second or third day for buying.


7. Our cardinal rule - NEVER BUY MAJOR CURRICULUM ON THE FIRST DAY. No matter what that amazing speaker says, go home( or the hotel room) think about it, talk to your husband, look at your goals and sleep on it. This has saved me a world of trouble. I can't count the number of times I have changed my mind after some thought and prayer and sleep. Trust me.


8. Wear really comfortable shoes and bring a sweater, notebook , pens, caffeine and chocolate. You can thank me later.


9. Plan time to shop. It's tempting to go to all the speakers but you need time to get hands-on with the curriculum. Ask questions of the vendors. Ask the vendors if their curriculum fits your goals. ( I love doing this - it saves me so much time) Don't be afraid to spend major time at a booth, especially if it's going to be your main curriculum ( think MFW, Sonlight, TOG etc). Ask me how much time I spent at the MFW booth before we decided it was the "one". David Hazell knew me by name and sight. It's also okay to just say that you need time with the Teacher's Manual looking at the curriculum. Do what you need to do.


10. Buy fun things to bring home to your kids. Buy a bonnet, a rubber Bowie knife, a game, a new Adventure in Odyssey and a new book to read. They will think conventions are great.

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Wow, these are really great replies/tips.


My tiny helps:


A backpack is easier to carry than a purse and/or rolling cart.


Work the volunteer hours to get into the used sale, or consignment sale early.....and take a list with you of exactly what you want, and stick to it. Take a moment to make brief notes of the curric that you view. Hold the book, hold the materials, try not to succumb to a brilliant salesperson.


Have fun!



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GREAT advice here. One thing I'd add, depending on where you are in your curriculum...


I make a one-page to-do list.


First, I list the programs, booths, books, etc. that I want to visit/review, etc. along with any questions I want to try to answer. I review the list of vendors before hand so I know which ones I definitely want to visit and familiarize myself with others I might be interested in. (Also, I can see what they're regular prices are because some will offer great discounts at the conference. I can be ready to buy right then.)


Second, I have my complete shopping list. I list every book I want to buy along with the lowest price I've found. I may even include books that are at our library with that notation because once I'm there I'll inevitably recognize a book title and not remember if it's one I need to buy. This comes in really handy at the used curriculum sale. I know the reading/history/literature books I need and the price I can buy them new.


Also, I try to get to the used curriculum sale as soon as possible and have made some great buys on things like math manipulatives.

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Oh my head is spinning already! Thank you so much for all of the advice. I am copying and pasting notes! I will be sure to spend lots of time before I leave prepping in the next few weeks.


This conference is my 40th birthday present. I am going with three friends and just can't wait (though I imagine after about 12 hours I will be really missing the kids).


Thanks again!


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I am going to the Greenville convention next month with some friends (no kids). I am feeling the need to plan ahead. What are your best convention-going tips for a newbie?





1) Good sturdy shoes that you will be comfortable walking around in. You will be doing a lot of walking.


2) Drink plenty of water.


3) Take Advil with you (or tylenol if that is what you take)


4) Take nuts for snacks.


5) Take a notebook (spiral kind) to take notes. Divide into two sections. One for notes you take during classes/workshops and the other is your shopping list and the vendors you want to visit.


6) If the convention will supply you a map before the convention then study the map very well and mark the spots on the map of the exhibit hall to see where you want to go.


7) if this is allowed take a small suitcase with wheels so you can put your purchases in them. (save your arm and back)


8) take a fanny pack to keep your money/hotel cards and whatever else in. Leave your purse at home.


9) Stick to your shopping list. Just like you would go into Walmart you have a shopping list and you stick to it right?? (I know none of us stick to it at Walmart) It does help you keep your focus on what you are needing to get. I always allow two buys that is not on my list. Once you give your self permission to do an impulse buy make sure you set a limit on how many impulse buys you can get.


That is all I can think of.



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Take a backpack if you plan on collecting a lot of literature and if it is allowed at the building. I like to pick up literature and read it on my own time later.


Wear comfortable shoes.


Take cash in case you want to buy something at a booth that doesn't accept other forms of payment.


If there's something you know you want to buy, plan to buy it there so you can get a convention discount. Know the best non-convention price so you can compare.

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What kind of rolling cart do you all bring? Has anyone really brought a small suitcase? Like carry-on size? I'm totally the type that would bring a big bag, go to the curric. hall first thing in the morning, then have to haul a packed-full bag over my shoulder all day and it would be horrible. All because I felt like a dork with a cart. And instead I am the idiot with a headache and a backache!!!


Anyway, I don't have a rolling cart. I do have a carry-on, but is that over-kill?? I could push a stroller! I won't have kids with me, but hey, every time I use a stroller with kids, I end up pushing it around empty anyway! No one would know! :lol:


I think we should all wear name tags with our WTM usernames on them:)


I bring a carry on rolling suitcase and didn't feel out of place at all. Lots of people had them. It'll save you.

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