Historically, February has been my least favorite month. It’s so short, but somehow the combination of bad weather, the distance from the end of the school year, and the waning excitement over anything holiday-related makes for a long feel to the month. There is, however, one very exciting aspect to turning that calendar page to February: Homeschool convention season is just around the corner!
I go to a homeschool convention every year. My husband and I view it as equal parts continuing education, spiritual renewal, and a time of rest and relaxation for Mama. He is 100% on board for making that weekend happen for me each year, making sure it’s factored into our budget and taking off work for the days I’m away. It’s pretty much a non-negotiable in our home, and I’m so very thankful.
For the past several years, I’ve attended Teach Them Diligently in Nashville with dear friends. But this year several of us have decided to branch out and try a new-to-us convention, so we’re heading to Missouri next month for the Great Homeschool Convention.
Convention preparation for us started last year, when my friends and I booked our hotel room and confirmed the vehicle we’ll be using (thanks, Mom!). As we get closer to the trip, other elements of preparation come into play. I thought I’d type some of those out here in case there are any newbies who might benefit from seeing how we get ready for convention weekend.
In order to keep my thoughts straight, I always have a new, simple notebook set aside specifically for use during the trip. In the past I’ve used binders, legal pads, and spiral notebooks. This year I’m using a spiral notebook again. It’s easy to split into individual sections (things to do, speakers/workshops to attend, exhibit hall vendors to check out, notes from various sessions, etc.). It’s also easy to flip back and forth as I go from session to session and not bulky to carry.
One of the first things I like to do is search the area for fun activities, interesting museums, unique restaurants, and used bookstores that we might want to check out during our down time. I add all the pertinent information I find (hours of operation, entry fee if applicable, etc.) to my convention notebook and share it with my group. I also split my trip budget into categories: hotel, gas, dining out, curriculum/supplies, and spending. These figures also make it into my notebook.
I then take some time to research the speakers who will be presenting during the event. There are always some people who are brand new to me, and I like to get a feel for what they offer before showing up at the convention. In conjunction with researching the speakers, I also check out workshop topics and earmark the ones that sound interesting to me. I’ll warn you that the actual convention schedule can change many times leading up to the event, so be flexible. Even so, I enjoy getting a general idea of what I can look forward to.
Once the workshop schedule is set, I make sure to write down all the sessions I’m interested in attending, where they’re located, and what time they start and end. I also jot down the hours the exhibit hall is open. My plans are never set in stone, though. More than once I’ve found myself in a workshop I hadn’t expected to attend and ended up greatly blessed by it.
Another big part of my convention preparation actually involves looking ahead to the next school year. The exhibit hall is beautiful and amazing and overwhelming, and if I’m not careful, it can be easy to get a little lost in all the possibilities. So my goal in the weeks before the convention is simply to try for an outline of basic resources I expect to use next year. This helps me in a few specific ways:
- I don’t get my head turned by other options that I pass by in the exhibit hall
- I have a good idea of any gaps that need to be filled and can focus my wanderings with that in mind
- I can compile a list of topics we’ll be studying and buy some fun extras that align with them which I can pull out throughout the year.
As for packing, well….I’ll admit to sending this text to my travel buddies a couple weeks ago:
Is it just me or does anyone else think things like, “In order to have more space available for exhibit hall treasures, I’ll wear my jeans on the drive there and back since they take up more packing space!”
I pack pretty lightly for this trip each year, mostly in anticipation of packing my bags pretty heavily with books and other goodies for the drive back home. I do make sure I take comfortable walking shoes and layers, since the temperature of the many rooms in a convention center is notorious for varying a good deal. I also take a couple of good books, my commonplace book, a few favorite pens, and a refillable water bottle. Some other non-clothing items I include are snacks to share, Irish breakfast tea bags to share, a backpack or shoulder bag that’s comfortable to carry all over creation, and GAMES!!! There’s not much I enjoy more than comfy pj’s, good friends, hot tea, and a hilarious, late night game in a hotel room.
This year our drive is much longer than it has been in the past. So we’re all saving some podcasts and audiobooks to share with each other along the way.
February is wet, and dark, and somewhat dreary. I’m grateful we have a week off of lessons between terms this month, and I know exactly what I’ll be doing during some of those free hours: getting ready for an awesome trip! Are you going to any homeschool conventions this year?