Homeschool conventions are like Christmas to many families. Lots of choices, bargains, crowds, and - after two days - tired, aching feet. There are, however, a number of advantages to purchasing your books at a homeschool convention:
- You can see and touch the materials (probably the most important benefit)
- Avoid shipping and handling costs
- Take advantage of convention discounts on some items
- Attend helpful seminars
- Get new ideas
- Connect with old friends and make new ones
- Feel connected in a growing movement
- Blow your budget on lots and lot of cool stuff
Okay, that last item wasn't really a benefit
, but it can happen.
So here are some tips to getting the most of the homeschool conventions you attend.
The Savvy Shopper
If you have done your research and know what materials you are planning to buy, here's a surefire strategy that has served me well.
1. Make a list of all items you plan to buy, and the cost. This list can be on paper or in a tablet or smart phone (whichever is easiest for you.) Leave room on your list between items for you to write.
2. At the bottom of the desired items, write the subjects/grades you haven't decided on. For instance, second grade math and eighth grade grammar.
3. Carry your list with you. Use a clipboard if you are using paper. I've even attached my pen with a string to make sure I don't lose it. (You don't have to be that obsessive, however.)
4. Make sure your name is on an obvious place on your clipboard or device.
4. As soon as you arrive, systematically start at one end of the convention hall and go to the end, checking out each booth. For all of the items on thelist, write the number of the booth, and the cost if it is different than the regular retail. It works better to write the booth number than name; as the number will help you find it again.
5. At this point, I don't buy anything unless it looks like there is a limited supply of something I wanted (such as a used book or clearance item.)
6. Make note of any booths that have materials on the subjects you are undecided on. Take relevent literature.
7. Review your list, and return to those booths that have the items you desired. Often, I have missed the first seminar in order to do this.
With this strategy, I have purchased 90% of the curriculum for the year, and have the rest of the convention free to investigate the few undecided subjects, attend seminars, and shop for supplemental and fun resources. Meanwhile, I have also avoided the crowds that are just starting their shopping.
Of course, this strategy only works when you already know what you plan to buy. Sometimes, you may not have made all those decisions.
Just Getting Started
If this is your first year homeschooling, or if you are looking for an entirely new approach, you will likely approach the homeschool conventions very differently. It can be overwhelming when you encounter the numerous options. Relax and don't rush yourself to make decisions.
Look at the seminar programs and mark the sessions you are most interested in. It is possible that there are two or three that seem particularly important to you. If so, make it a priority to go to those. While it is beneficial to browse through the booths before those sessions, you might want to hold off from making decisions until you have been to those particular sessions. Possibly, the session may open up new ideas and possibilities for you.
Take longer to go booth to booth than suggested in the shopping strategy above. It may take half of the first day to get an idea of what choices are really options you are interested in.
If any programs or curriculum seem like something you are interested in, take the literature.
If you are just getting started, it is possible that you may finish the convention having narrowed down to three different possible curriculums. That is okay. While you may not have saved the cost of shipping and handling, you have learned a lot and have time to research the few choices you have narrowed down to.
On the other hand, you may be ready to narrow it down further to your final decision during the days of the convention. If you have two or more days, you may want to take the literature home or to the hotel, and review it again at your lesiure in the evening hours.
All materials have strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes it helps to look at what others say are the strengths and weakness of each program.
Another strategy that I find prefer is to ask, "What kind of student would find this material most helpful?" Ask that for each of the choices you are considering. If one of them describes your student, the decision may be easier.
Many homeschool conventions have used curriculum. For some consumers, this is a welcome way to stretch their budget. For others, it may just add to the confusion of multiple choices.
If you already know what books you want, and would like to save money with used curriculum, check out the used books first
. Once a book is purchased from the second hand vendor, it is gone.
Here's a strategy one family used when they were trying to decide between two textbook suppliers. Buy both texts for the same grade and subject. Use them over the summer and see which one you like better. This isn't so much a money saving strategy - unless you consider the money saved by NOT purchasing a curriculum you might regret.
New and Interesting
Another advantage of homeschool conventions is you can see new products as they appear. The homeschool market is like any other: always changing. Even the veteran homeschoolers find new products and new ideas as they gather for the annual convention.