The Home Educators Association of Virginia convention, that is. The HEAV convention is happening June 6-8. There are incredible keynote speakers, programs for the kids, cartooning camp, a graduation ceremony, and seminars on the basics of homeschooling, farming, saving money, encouragement for the weary mama, and all sorts of other topics. There is also an enormous used curriculum sale and an exhibit hall packed with vendors of everything from books to baking supplies. No matter your level of homeschool experience, I encourage you to attend. If your oldest child's 5th birthday occurs after June 8, 2013, and you have never attended a HEAV convention, you can attend this year's entire convention for free. Woohoo!
My family and I have attended the HEAV convention at least four times and it has been a blessing every time. However, a homeschool convention can be incredibly overwhelming. I am going to write a series of blog entries covering how to prep for a convention, how to handle your kids at the convention, how to survive at the convention and the like. I hope to equip you to get the most out of the experience and enjoy yourself.
The first step in preparation for a homeschool convention is to make a hotel reservation well in advance. That opportunity has passed for this year, but I'm sure there are still reasonably priced hotel rooms in the outskirts of Richmond available. Many of them will offer shuttles to the Greater Richmond Convention Center, but if they don't, parking at the center is only $6 per day, which is not too shabby for downtown Richmond. Next year, you can make your reservations in advance and get better rates or at least a better selection of hotels. Oops, you also might want to register for the convention! Yes, good plan.
Next, figure out what speakers you are interested in. Each year HEAV puts out a convention schedule in advance. I like to make two copies of this. I give one to Hubby and we each highlight the sessions we are interested in. Sometimes that means nearly the entire spread sheet turns colors. We wait a few days and reevaluate the schedule to see what we really care about. We then work out the logistics of who is going to what session and what we will have to just miss. We buy the MP3 recordings every year, so we know that any session we miss we can hear later. Our final choices are highlighted on one fresh copy. This year I will use a color code for different family members so I know who is supposed to be where and when. I know. It makes my little wanna-be-organized heart happy to even think of it. Come on, stop laughing and embrace the color-coded nerdiness with me!
Now you must figure out what you need and want to buy in the exhibit hall. Walking through that hall without a plan is like going car shopping without knowing whether you want a used minivan or a new sports car. That salesman is going to thank you for funding his vacation! At the HEAV convention, there are many vendors selling many things that look and sound fantastic. Without a plan you will overspend and buy things you don't really need or want.
Start making your shopping plan by pulling out your goals and mission statement to remind yourself why you are homeschooling. Make note of what grade each of your children is in (or however you rank what your child has accomplished in previous years) their preferred learning style and your homeschool style. I will eventually write about homeschooling approaches and learning styles, but in the meantime the internet is full of great blogs and sites that explain these things. Do a little research now and you will be better prepared.
Now that you have a clue what you are looking for in the way of curriculum resources, you need to look at what you already have. Bringing home a fantastic new curriculum that you can't wait to use is a great feeling. Finding out you used the same curriculum 3 years ago and hated it? Not a good feeling at all. You don't have to create an inventory. Just take a look at what you have and want to use. Think about what has worked in the past and what has not. Take a few notes to help you remember. Also jot down what you know you need for next year.
You may now look at the curriculum vendor list. I'll wait for you to come back.
Hmmm ... mmmm ... Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg. The Batmobile ...
Are you okay? You look a little dazed. It's okay, I don't know what half of those vendors are selling either, but there are links to their websites. Get that highlighter out and make note of what is interesting to you. Visit the vendor websites to see if they will be offering any deals or specials at the convention. I buy my math curriculum there every year because I get free shipping. You can also look at what each vendor is selling and see who offers the best prices. Make note of those vendors who are selling items you have always wanted to really investigate and ask questions about.
Please make a budget! Whether your budget is open or tight, you should have an idea of what you are willing to spend. Remember that some vendors are small and may not accept credit cards. Some people even bring their whole budget in cash. You don't have to do that, but you should at least have some cash on hand. Keep in mind there will be lots of cool homeschool stuff for sale, too. There are T-shirts, hats and bags that proudly proclaim you homeschool, educational toys, musical instruments, science kits, and swords!
That's it for now. Next I will try to tell you what to do with your children ... well, you know what I mean.
I didn't take any pictures at conventions in previous years, thus the totally unrelated pictures.