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Fabulous Homeschool Conventions
Since the expanse of homeschool stretches not simply to the community level, but also to the state level the attention given to this community has risen and the growth of conventions has really taken off in impressive numbers. No matter what state you live in you will find a homeschool convention either right there in your backyard or next door (state). Speakers, workshops, seminars, book sales – old and new, vendors, even graduations are found at these events. This is where homeschoolers come and re-energize themselves. The excitement is in the air. There is an article in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine titled The Value of Homeschool Conventions 1 that is a must read. Briefly and concisely it lists the most important reasons homeschoolers, new and seasoned, should attend. Homeschoolers of every philosophy can be found wandering the booths with families in tow. Children browsing the books and peering around parents to see what will be part of their new school year. And though I am going to talk about the one I know so well, I am going to list the others that I found. Hold on, I have a surprise at the end!
I was introduced to homeschooling and to this conference by the young mother of four who happened to live next door to me. It would be my first ever. To say “WOW" would probably be understated, this was impressive, well organized, easy to navigate, and exciting to see. HEAVE is the homeschool convention held annually in Richmond, VA. I loved attending this conference when I was deeply involved in homeschooling. It not only gave me the books, software and extra materials I needed for the school year, but it gave me the inspiration and motivation I needed to continue. It was like a heart defibrillator, jump starting my educator’s heart. You can find the latest in textbooks; educational software, teaching aids and things you never knew existed that really help you along. You can also pickup used curriculum. There is an entire section of the convention center cordoned off with curtains that hold the books that people are trying to sell. There is a small fee if you are not a member of HEAVE, but what’s cool is the whole family gets in on one fee and grandparents can come in for nothing. No matter what your homeschool philosophy may be, you will find what you need there. Almost all of the curriculum names you recognize, but there will be some that you may never have heard of. You can put your hands on the material, read through the books, try the programs and talk to people right there who know how to answer your questions.
Every year there are workshops and informational sessions you can register for. Beginner homeschoolers are encouraged to attend as many as you can fit into your day and your budget. They cover topics like record keeping, educating special needs, educating to high school and more. There are hosts of excellent and well informed speakers.
HEAVE also distributes a newspaper talking about the things homeschoolers need to know as well as things Virginia homeschoolers are accomplishing. If you subscribe, you will get the registration for the convention. You can sometimes see the graduates of that year as they wander around either before or after the ceremony, watch the excitement on their faces, and talk to your child about that feeling.
In Maryland there is the CHEN Convention, which is considerably smaller and less intimidating, yet still informative and book sales are available. MACHE also holds one in the Maryland area; members will get a discount on the admission. The Northern Virginia Home Education Conference is held in Chantilly, VA.
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State Conventions Across America
There is an organization called Great Homeschool Conventions who host extensive events. They are scheduled between March and June, 2012 to hit the cities of Memphis, TN; Cincinnati, OH; Greenville, SC; Long Beach, CA; and Hartford, Ct.
The Great American Homeschool Conferences offers 41 events from Alaska to Maine.
CHEF (Christian Home Education Fellowship) hosts an event in Gardensdale, AL
S C Home Educators Association has their conference at the University of South Carolina.
MACHE is also hosting their April 2012 event in St. Paul, MN; while TPA (Teaching Parents Assoc.) will be in Wichita, KS.
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Little Tips for Conventions
Start with a list - you probably don’t go grocery shopping without a short list of what you need or want. If you go to a homeschool convention without a list of what you have in mind, you will either pickup more than you need or you will forget something. Figure out what grade levels you need, what subjects are you looking for and if you can combine any of your material or use one book to fit more than one student.
Sign Up Sheets - Most vendors have sheets where you can sign-up for more information. Be careful because you will be bombarded with mailings of catalogs if you overdo it. If you get mailing address labels from various charities or if you have the means to print your own sticky labels, take them with you. It will save you a ton of time writing all of the information over and over.
Rolling cart or small rolling suitcase – This will save your arms from the weight and free your hands when you want to look at something new. Tuck your purchases into something besides the baby stroller, because when the toddler gets tired of wandering, you’re not going to want to carry him either.
Take a break – Don’t try to go non-stop. These events can be overwhelming. Take breaks and review what you have. Go over your checklist. Sometimes in the excitement you can forget to eat. If you’re enjoying the adventure with family members, the cost can be more than you want to spend. Pack a lunch basket for the group. Use the time to assess their feelings and concerns. Please keep up your strength; you’re going to need it for the school year.
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For those of you who think that homeschool conventions may be more than you can handle, whether it's the crowds or the expense, I found a wonderful alternative! The Ultimate Homeschool Expo is an online Homeschool Convention. Isn't technology grand! This group offers classes, seminars, and the convenience of reviewing material at a leisurely pace. WWW.ultimatehomeschoolexpo.com is definitely worth taking a look at.
1 The Schoolhouse Magazine titled The Value of Homeschool Conventions by Amelia Harper and Deborah Wuehler
Marlene Potts, homeschool mom, 1999-2010