Tuesday, June 21, 2016

10 Tips for New Homeschoolers Attending Your 1st Convention/Expo

I just shared these tips on my homeschool community's Facebook page and thought to re-share them here for anyone who missed it or wants to revisit it in one place.

At the beginning homeschooling many of us were overwhelmed with all the information and choices.  I have found these tips to be helpful and hope that you, too, will be able to make use of them.

Tip #1: Know Your Family's Goals

What are your family's goals for homeschooling? Why are you homeschooling and to what end? What things are important for you to do with your children? What subjects will you be covering this year? How will you accommodate all the life and socialization skills you know your children need?

These are just a few questions you should ask yourself to help you hone in on what YOU are doing with regards to homeschooling/life-learning.

Attending conferences and conventions will definitely help you expand your ideas, but begin by identifying where you are and where you want to be. Make a list of what's important to you. Talk it over with your spouse/partner. Make sure the two of you are on the same page. This one step will help you identify information and resources that will be meaningful to you and your family.

Tip #2--Know Your Child/ren's Learning Style

How best does your child learn? Do they prefer listening or reading? Are they content with sitting for a good bit of time working independently or do they like talking and interacting with others? Do they like to manipulate and handle things or do they like to mull things over in their minds before responding and coming up with new ideas?

Learning styles are not clear cut, but understanding how best your child learns will help you as you listen to suggestions and browse through curriculum and resource options. Why purchase something that doesn't match the way your child learns? It will be more of a headache for you and you'll end up wasting your money.

Watch your child. Pay attention to what brings them alive as you learn together. Take note of their interests, their strengths and challenges. Knowing these things before heading to a convention will help you weed through the overwhelmingness of all your options and get right to what your family needs.

Talk with others during the convention and expos to see what curricula works best for children who are auditory learners or more kinesthetic learners, etc. Listen to others who have found things that work for their children who learn similar to yours. Let the information you have inform your purchases for next year.

Tip #3 & #4 -- Have a Plan & Have a Budget

Know your reason for attending. Are you going to look through curriculum options up close and personal? Are you wanting to speak with an author or publisher (or their rep) directly to better understand their methods? Are you going to hear a particular speaker? Are you going to meet other like-minded homeschoolers in your area? Are you just curious and want to see what all the hype is about?

Knowing your purpose for attending can assist you in remaining on track so as not to be overwhelmed at the larger conventions. It can also guide you through smaller ones, too.
Have a budget. This is key. Every year you will hear from homeschooling families who have gone over their budget because they didn't have one.

Know what you're looking for. Research now the typical price points for those items. Deals and discounts are often offered during conventions and expos--so they are typically the time to make purchases. However, be wise about it. Can you find that same resource at a used book sale or online? Everything at a convention is meant to draw your attention and want it. By having a list of items you're looking for and a budget, you can leave with peace of mind with regards to your spending.

Tip #5 -- Go Ready to Learn Something New

All of the previous tips have focused on the importance of knowing where you and your children are and being willing to hold those things in a way that keeps them priority. However, you want to make sure you remain open to learning new ways of doing things. This could be from a speaker/presenter during a workshop or from another homeschooling parent who is willing to share from their experiences as you browse through convention halls.

Look and listen. Ask questions until you have the answers you need. There are many ways of doing things. In attending, you may be surprised to find out another way of reaching your children that may work better than what you've thought/planned thus far. Be open to this! (Carrying a small notebook to write down these ideas is helpful.)

Tips #6 and #7 are pretty straight forward but I thought I should point both of them out to you. 

Take your time--plan now to spend a full day (or two) so that you have ample time to browse, ask questions, get the answers to your questions and attend workshops. You don't want to feel rushed, as this often cause stress, especially for those of you who will be experiencing your first one this year. There will be crowds so you'll have to account for that. You may also have to wait to talk to a speaker or vendor. If you aren't planning to stay the full time, you can sometimes miss these opportunities. Even if you end up leaving early, plan to take your time.

Bring a tote--the ones on wheels are better to carry the items that you purchase. There is nothing like lugging a heavy tote bag on your shoulder through a convention center. It will make for a much more pleasant experience, trust us on this! You can find rolling totes at most of the office type stores. You will be glad that you have it instead of having to use your shoulders.

Tip #8 -- Plan for your children 

Homeschool Conventions and Expos can be a lot to take in. If you can attend without your children, plan to do so. You will want to take your time while browsing so that you can accurately identify the resources that match your family's goals and styles. It can be challenging when you have little ones, and even older ones, chattering at you. This may not be feasible for everyone who, so here are a few more ideas: 

*Bring an older homeschooled child with you who can assist you with your children. (Somewhat like a mother's helper.) 
*Some conventions/expos offer a children's program. Find out now about them and the costs and sign your children up for that. They usually coincide with the workshop schedule. 
*Bring your partner/spouse so you can 'double team' the kids. When you want to speak with a curriculum rep, workshop speaker, or another homeschooling parent your partner/spouse can manage the children and vice versa. 
*Plan to attend with another homeschooling family and take turns with all the children. If you do plan to take your children with you, be sure to set clear expectations for them. But also, be realistic. They cannot be expected to be silent the entire time. Bring snacks and water. Bring things they can do quietly while you attend workshops. Plan for necessary bathroom breaks. This will help both you and your children get the most of the experience. 

Each year I secure a babysitter and plan a fun day for my children at home while I attend conferences and conventions. Last year was my first time taking my older two the second day of an expo so they could see just what I was looking at for them. I allowed both of them to find something they wanted and purchased it. We had previously talked about what we'd be studying and what things would best suit our needs. That experience went well and I will probably do it again this year. 

Regardless of what you decide--do plan for your children.

Tip #9 -- Bring Your Lists
As I have previously shared, knowing your family's goals and budget for homeschooling will greatly assist you in determining what resources you'll be on the look for during conferences and conventions. Also knowing how your children learn and what subjects you'll be covering this next school year will help you navigate all the information that you'll be presented with during workshops and all the resources/curriculum you'll see in the exhibition hall.

Make a couple lists for yourself to bring along:
1st List: This list should include what you're wanting to make sure you do, find out about or look at. 
For example:
-Look at 6th Grade Science Curriculum
-Speak with a rep from a college campus
-Look for a handwriting curriculum for 2nd grade
-Attend a workshop about how to teach writing
-Speaking with [said speaker] about how to implement a schedule
-Compare prices and see what conference discounts are being offered.
Write down the things you want to make sure you do while at the conference.
2nd List: This list can include what you're looking to purchase. Items you want to make sure you don't walk away without. 
For example:
-Handwriting paper for cursive writing
-Specimens for dissection
-Laminated wall map
-3rd Grade Math Workbook
Whatever it is you're looking to purchase, make sure it's on this list. 
As you navigate through an exhibition hall, do take time to look, listen, ask questions and learn. However, don't forget what you're looking for. Lists are great ways to make sure you've done what you've set out to accomplish. It will assist in keeping you on track.

Tip #10: Take a Positive Attitude

As with pregnancy, you are bound to encounter unsolicited advice from a stranger or two. Take it in stride and be gracious. If you're able to be in a positive place, you may find something helpful in what was shared. 

Checkout lines can be long, your positive attitude while waiting will come in handy here, too. Popular workshops can fill up quickly. Seats may be held for others who have yet to come in. You may have to stand in the back or may even miss attending one due to the overwhelming interest. A positive attitude is good to hold onto in this event. 

But not only that, being in a positive space will allow you to offer your advice, tips and experience to others who may be feeling unsure, hesitant or apprehensive. You can give the reassuring smile or knowing look to someone else, who may not be as prepared as you at the convention. 

I hope that these ten tips will assist you in making this year's homeschool conventions and expos season a good one. Planning is key, knowing what you're looking for is important and being positive is essential.

Do you have other suggestions and tips that you can add to this list? Take a moment to comment below. Another parent will be thankful you shared (and I will too!).

Happy Learning!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Freebie Friday

It's been a while since I've shared some freebies but I found a great financial literacy program that covers activities from the young to the old.  I'm focusing only on the kid's piece today, but you can definite browse the entire site.

Hands On Banking 4.0 for Kids

It's an interactive learning game.  My children and I just watched the introduction video and will go through more of it during our 'Money Monday' time next week.  We took a year-long financial literacy class with other homeschoolers in our area this year so I'm looking forward to see how this program reinforces what they've already learned.

If you try it out, let me know what you think.

Happy Friday!!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

For the Love of Learning

I'm participating on a panel of parents taking an alternative path to education.  We'll be discussing homeschooling, unschooling, life-learning and many topics in between with a focus on how Black families are educating their children outside of school.  Tune in if you can.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Learning and Growing

It's important to remember that learning and growing are not just for our children -- we need to keep up with them and push ourselves to keep growing.  Arming ourselves with needed information is one way we as life-learning parents can not only set a good example for our children but also prepare us for assisting, facilitating and teaching them as they get older and into more challenging studies.

I so enjoy learning.  Whether it's taking a class or workshop, reading a book or learning from another's experience, I am always learning something.  I also enjoy sharing what I've learned with others.  I haven't been here to blog in a good long while but I still use this space to direct others to information that has been shared to guide them in finding just what will work for their family.

I'm excited about an upcoming series of workshops that another homeschooling mom and I will be offering in our area for new homeschooling families.  I figured I'd share it here as well in the event you happen to be local or know someone who might benefit from going through some of the basic steps in setting up and preparing to homeschooling their own children.

We've been down the road and have been able to assist so many families already -- I'm looking forward to meeting new families beginning this month.  Feel free to link to my page or share this picture (above) in your networks.

Happy Learning & Growing!


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