My First Homeschool Convention Experience
Last month I got to go to a homeschool convention! It was a last-minute surprise – someone in my prayer group just started homeschooling and mentioned there was a convention in our city! Our provincial homeschool association puts on a convention every year – but I thought they were all in the capital city of our province. The capital is too far away to justify the costs of attending before we have children old enough to be officially homeschooled. So, I was delighted to hear there was one I could make it to now!
I am so glad I was able to go. Even though our eldest is only 18 months, there was so much beneficial information at the convention. I feel more confident in my understanding of provincial regulations and requirements. Plus, I was able to geek out over all the books and curriculum at the convention hall.
Yeah – I had an amazing time. I don’t think I’ll go again next year, but I am really glad to have had this experience and gained the knowledge I did before starting Kindergarten with Little Fox.
A Few Hic-cups Along the Way
Since my husband was working on the first day of the convention (Friday), I had Little Fox with me for the day. I know 18 months old is too young to expect perfect behaviour all the time, but she is usually so good when we are out. She can sit still for an hour at church… and even do that twice in a day. Everybody compliments her. I was nervous about her possibly missing her nap and that affecting her, but I still suspected that with toys and snacks she would have a good time at the convention.
And – she did have a good time. She liked the venders and displays, and the book sale. Although, she wasn’t happy I held her the whole time we were in the book hall. But she was still quiet and cuddly, if a little squirmy.
The problem came when it was time to listen to presenters. She did not want to go into the rooms where the speakers were. I don’t know if it was the dark lighting, if it was too quiet, or what, but she would fuss whenever I tried to bring her into one of the rooms. So, we missed the first talk which was an introduction to homeschooling. I heard some of it from the doorway, and it was mostly stuff I’d read already. But I definitely wanted to get some of the talks in on Friday. After all, that was why I was there!
We made it through most of one by bringing her in before it started so I had time to calm her before the speaking started. The second talk I even tried giving her the phone and letting her play with the camera to keep her happy and quiet. And that is a huge sacrifice for me – I hate letting her have screen time. And that didn’t even work.
Finally, I let her roam the convention area outside where the speakers were while I listened in the doorway. She fell asleep a minute and thirty seconds into the car ride home.
Don’t Judge a Talk by its Cover
The next day Little Fox was with Tato, so I had hands and arms free for attending convention events. Saturday I was able to focus on attending the talks I wanted to. And there were several great ones… but this is where I learned what I should have done before choosing talks at the convention: look up the speakers.
I accidently ending up in a talk about Unschooling. Now, for those of you who don’t know, unschooling is basically the opposite of classically educating. (You can read about our choice of classical education here). Unschooling is about child directed learning – there is no structure or curriculum. The child follows their interests and learns through engaging with those interests. Now, I do see how unschooling can give a good education – but I want the best! Classical still allows for delight directed learning. But it also provides the child with a foundation in a wide variety of subjects and topics they might not have otherwise explored.
Anyway, I did at least learn about a library app where I can place and renew holds from my phone (hurray)! But I could have saved myself some awkward feelings – and learned about something more applicable to my homeschooling journey, if I had taken the time to check out the speaker’s blog. So next time I am going to look into all the speakers I am interested in listening to, and not just go by the topic.
Homeschool Convention Venders
Since Little Fox didn’t want to go to any of the talks, we had a lot of time to explore the homeschool convention venders. Actually, when I didn’t have her, lots of the talks went over the break times, plus the venders were busier. So, if you end up at a talk you don’t find helpful, consider using the time to explore! It was really helpful for me to go at a quieter time. I may be an extravert, but I’m also shy.
The most exciting thing I learned was that HSLDA Canada (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) offers free membership for families with preschool aged children. That means we can be members and won’t pay anything until our oldest turns six. Of course, I joined right away and am already happy with the documents and information I have access to. If you have children younger than six and are considering homeschooling, why not check out HSLDA Canada (here) while it is free? We definitely plan to stay members and purchase a lifetime membership when Little Fox turns six.
The American HSLDA doesn’t seem to have free preschool membership but you can learn about them here.
I also stopped by my provincial homeschool group. They provided brochures with explanations for the actual provincial requirements for homeschooling. Also, they provide templates for submission to the government. Although so does HSLDA Canada, which I have access to as a member.
I know what my homework is. And I’m excited to be able to prepare for the provincial requirements ahead of time and not have to worry if I’m doing them right!
Homeschool Convention Curriculum and Booksale
Here is one place I didn’t make a mistake! I had read from other homeschool convention going bloggers not to buy anything on day one. Well, besides a few animal magnets for Little Fox’s magnet board. Otherwise I did wait for the second go around to buy.
There were so many free samples and curriculum guide booklets. I took so many home! I have to admit it is a lot of fun geeking out over all the available books. After the first day of the convention I went home and spent at least an hour flipping through the guides. While I got these at the convention, I’m pretty sure curriculum providers also ship out catalogues if you request one as well.
Another great thing about the Booksale hall was that I got to see samples of things I wasn’t sure about. Like Story of the World 4. Now I’m adding it to my buy list.
What I bought at the Convention
Math for grades 1-3 had been weighing on me for a while. I didn’t feel certain about how I wanted to do it. See, I love math. I’m currently confident in grade four we want to start Saxon 4/5. But the price for Saxon Math 1 through 3 is too high for me. I can teach adding and subtracting without a textbook guiding me, and we’re building our own collection of math manipulatives. We need a different program for the earlier grades.
On the first day of the convention I saw some of the options I was thinking about. It was good to see the samples, but I still felt unsettled about the math curriculum. I brought up my feelings with God (and my husband) and stumbled upon some of the Singapore Math books at the second day of the convention!
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (4th Edition) talks about Singapore math, and that was one of my considerations for early math curriculum. (You can read my thoughts about The Well-Trained Mind on my page about homeschooling or in my article on Books that will Change the Way You Parent). I didn’t find the Singapore Math books on my first day of the convention. But when I stumbled across them on day two, they were exactly what I was looking for!
My Thoughts on Singapore Math Now
Singapore Math is going to be perfect for our family. It is a conceptual and visual approach to learning math. After we work on learning the concepts, we can supplement with procedural work. And we’ll hvae time in our week for math reading/picture books, and math board games. Since we will be doing lots of supplementing, Singapore Math is going to be “more work” for me to use than another more complete program. But it is worth it for the price! There are lots of free worksheets online, books at the library, and we’d want to get math games anyway.
We are still going to use the “Facts that Stick” books from Kate Snow, which I also talked about on our page on homeschooling. Since these books are meant to be supplements anyway, they are going to work well with Singapore Math. Plus, these books contain lots of math games to play in them.
Hurray for Math!
What I learned for Next Time
I have three main takeaways for next time I go to a homeschool convention. First, I want to have my husband with me if I’m going with a baby over 6 months or a toddler. Second, bring a credit card because some places take those but not debit. To be fair, I brought cash to try and budget myself. But Singapore math isn’t on Amazon for a decent price, and other retailers would have charged shipping, so I wanted it all now.
Third, read the bios of the speakers and look them up online ahead of time. Taking a few minutes to check out their blogs or other work is worth it. That way you don’t accidentally end up with a talk about a style that you already know won’t work for you, etc.
Thank you for reading my post. Be sure to check out our Facebook page, where weekly articles are shared, as well as the work of our very own Badger Dad to promote his Byzantine works. Also take a look at our Pinterest page, where I share my favourite organizing images, baby ideas, byzantine icons and more. My husband also runs our twitter (@LifeByzantine).
If you have any other lessons you’ve learned from a homeschool convention, or have thoughts on homeschooling, be sure to share your ideas in the comments!