I’ve been promising this post about my first trip to the Cincinnati Homeschool Convention for a long while. Sometimes life just gets a little too crazy…Anyway, here are my survival tips for a homeschool convention, sessions I enjoyed and my favorite booths.
I think you’ll find these same tips on anyone’s blog…
Wear comfortable shoes. I wore flip-flops which may not sound comfortable to some of you but I live in them as long as the weather is warm enough. I’d rather just go barefoot most of the time… Also wear comfortable clothing picked out for the task at hand. I saw one lady with a skirt that was a wee bit too short and showed a little too much when she bent over. I took a sweater with me and was glad because some of the conference rooms were a bit cool.
Set a budget! I knew about what I would spend for the items I needed. I also knew there would be other finds I might decide to purchase. I set aside some money ($150) in my budget for “splurge items”. I used that money to buy little gifts for the kids, books by Chuck Black, and FitDeck cards.
My husband rigged up a milk crate to a dolly with bungee cords for me. You really do not want to carry anything. I couldn’t imagine how sore my shoulders and arms would have been if I’d carried all those books. I kept a water bottle, snacks (Kind bars), medicine (Aleve and Tylenol), notebook and pen in the crate. I kept my phone, ID, room key,money and credit card in a crossbody purse that I never took off. I knew that if I carried my regular purse I might set it down to look at something and forget it.
Go with a friend and leave the kids at home. I had a wonderful time with my sweet friend and we had a blast together. We also survived a few misadventures and kept our sense of humor (mostly…I did have a moment). She had been to the Cincinnati convention before so she was an absolute great guide for this newbie! Definitely go with someone who has been there before!
If you are going to be there for all three days then get away from the convention for one of the afternoons. I was a bit overwhelmed by everything and needed time to process and think about something other than homeschooling and curriculum. We did go out for a really wonderful dinner on Saturday evening and that was really nice. I remember thinking at the restaurant we should have done the same the previous afternoon.
I started researching speakers and vendors in December. I read the speaker biographies and made a list of anyone that sounded interesting. I then checked YouTube and listened to some of them to see if I might like one of their sessions. In the end I had a list of about ten speakers.
The speaker at the top of my list was Susan Wise Bauer. I ended up missing the session from her that I wanted to hear but thankfully was able to purchase a recording of her talk. The CD’s were six bucks a pop so I only ended up purchasing three sessions. If you get a chance I recommend listening to Bauer’s talk on homeschool burnout.
My second favorite speaker was Martin Cothran. His session on logic was very informative and enjoyable. I also listened to him again during a panel discussion on Classical education. The panel discussion was very good with lots of good-natured ribbing between the speakers. I found it rather interesting when they compared homeschoolers’ homes to ancient monasteries where knowledge was preserved for future generations. Since I once lived in a monastery this statement really struck me. The nuns we were staying with were also impressed by the comparison. (My former community let us stay in the guest room!)
I had planned to listen to Karen Holinga’s session on spelling but lucked into talking to her on the vendor floor. She answered all of my questions about her curriculum SpellingYouSee and even helped me place my crew and gave me personal advise for helping my Oldest. One of the neatest perks in attending the convention was getting to talk to several of the curriculum writers. I ended up skipping a few sessions because I got to talk to the individual at their booths and didn’t feel the need to attend.
The number of booths at the convention was…astounding, overwhelming, crazy…I never did see everything! I had researched the vendor list before hand so I already knew what I wanted to look at. On the first day I purchased the curriculum I knew I needed. On the second day I looked at items I was comparing. Oldest needed a timeline for his history studies. I went to several booths looking at their timelines and comparing the prices and features. I ended up with the timeline book from Homeschool in the Woods.
I spent the last day browsing curriculum that I might like to use in the future. I took cards and brochures and spoke briefly with the folks in the booths about their curriculum. I let them know that I was future browsing and they were usually very willing to let me know the age/grade level of their product. When I got home I place the cards/brochures into the appropriate grade level of my Well Trained Mind book. Later, when I start researching curriculum for future grades I’ll find those in my book.
I also spent my last day taking pictures of my five favorite booths to share with you.
1. Meeting Kris Bales of Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers. When I read on her blog that she would be working the Geography Matters booth I got a little excited and nervous. I started reading her blog several years ago when I first began thinking about homeschooling. Every time I had a question or struggle about homeschooling I could often find the answer somewhere on her blog. I even found a comment on her blog that led me to our favorite curriculum Beautiful Feet Books! I wanted to personally thank her for the work she put into her blog and let her know just how much I appreciated her ministry. Her blog (and Hodgepodge) helped me through that first very lonely and insecure year of homeschooling. I was so nervous but I am glad that I could tell her how much her mentorship through her blog means to me. I really wanted a picture with her but just couldn’t get up the nerve to ask. I was also given a copy of Homeschooling Today Magazine which is connected to Geography Matters. I ended up purchasing a subscription because I enjoyed every article. The magazine was my favorite freebie.
2. Meeting Chuck Black and his wife Andrea. Mr. Black is the writer of The Kingdom Series and The Knight’s of Arrethtrea Series. He is also working on a new series of books. Even though his booth was tucked away in a corner across from Rainbow Resources he was always busy. Several times when I walked by I couldn’t even get near his books to look through for all of the people wanting to speak with him. Mr. Black answered everyone’s questions. His books are fictionally (setting is something like the Middle Ages with knights) based on Scripture including discussion questions (and answers) for each chapter. My friend wanted to know where he stood on the Rapture and their discussion included words like: eschatology, premillennialism, postmillennialism, dispensationalism, amillennialism, dispensational premillennialism and other words that I no long remember…even after listening to their conversation I couldn’t tell you where either one of them stands on the whole End-of-the-World-Scenario…too many big words for me to follow. I ended up reading the first several pages of the first book and knew that my kids would love these books…I didn’t want to put the book down! Since returning home I’ve been reading these books to the kids before bedtime and going through the discussion questions with them.
3. The Critical Thinking Company. I stopped at this booth because Bauer’s The Well Trained Mind recommends some of their books for pre-logic. The lady (I could just kick myself for not writing her name down!) working this booth was very informative and gave me several tips for using the workbook with my crew. She also stopped to comfort me when I was having my little breakdown while on her break. She could have just walked on by but she didn’t. I won’t forget her compassion or warm hug…but I did forget her name…
4. Christian Light Education. I love their curriculum and more importantly so do my kids! Their booth was like a calm oasis in the vendor hall even though it was really busy. They helped me to place my crew from MathUSee into their program. I brought my crew’s placement tests (on their website) with me and they used those to help me make my decision. Even though Oldest had passed the placement test by one point into his grade level they advised that it might be best to place him a grade lower to build his confidence in math and familiarity with the new teaching style. My crew was reluctant to change their math curriculum but they ended up liking it right after the first lesson. Sometimes Middle Boy even asks to do an extra lesson! Yeah!!!
5. Laurie Gombash of The ABC’s of Movement. I learned a ton of information about the importance of movement during learning. Ms. Gombash is also very enthusiastic and I left her booth in high spirits. Her main product is for younger children but I really liked the idea of teaching the alphabet through movement. She also had some FitDecks at her booth and she helped me to pick out one (Pilates) that would be good to use with my crew. Sometimes we put on silly songs with movement from YouTube (brain breaks) but these can be more distracting than helpful. Now, we take turns picking five cards after a couple of subjects or whenever someone cannot concentrate and perform the exercise on the card. The exercises range from super easy to insanely hard but we are having a lot of fun with these cards. On days we use the cards my distractible boy is more focused on his work and I’ve noticed my back feels a little better too. Sometimes my crew still asks for the silly songs and dances but most of the time they ask for the FitDeck cards when we take a movement break.
I enjoyed my first convention trip and hope to return next year. The Sisters at the monastery have already stated they expect to host us again next year!