And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. Isaiah 54:13 KJV

Thursday, March 26, 2015

What I've Learned About Homeschool Conventions

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Or I could have titled this post: When the Internet Makes You Forget Common Sense.

I was all hyped up for TTD Nashville. I wanted to be ready. I had no idea what to expect at a homeschool convention. I've drooled over the idea of TTD for 2 years, but I was at a loss as to what to pack, plan, wear, bring, etc. So I took to the internet in search of information. The TTD website provided a tentative schedule well ahead of time. A TTD Facebook group talked hotels, Opryland features and costs, special meal prices, and more. A few blog searches provided posts of what to bring to convention. This is about the time I lost my mind.

*Idea: You must bring a bag or rolling suitcase or shopping cart to convention. My own personal truth: I brought my largest 31 tote. It holds a lot. It is hard to carry through a crowd and up an escalator, and into tiny exhibit hall vendor booths. What I should have brought: The free tote bag they gave me at check in.

*Idea: You must bring lots of snacks and water bottles. My own personal truth: We aren't snacking people. We didn't have the kids with us (even if we had them they would have been in the children's program and wouldn't have needed our snacks). I lost my mind and brought crackers, peanuts (and then I panicked over possible peanut allergies and put them back in the car the first chance I had), mints, gum, Jolly Ranchers, 2 HUGE reusable water bottles, and who knows what else. I kept all that in my giant 31 bag. Since I didn't have anything else in there. What I should have brought: A giant thermos of coffee. Coffee was available in Opryland but one had to pay a kidney and walk very far to find it. Plastic cups were provided at the water coolers in each room, but I never even got a drink from them so I was just carrying around empty bottles. Lunch. I should have brought lunch. I will bring that up again in another post. We did eat a few Jolly Ranchers and mints. Those would have fit in our pockets.

*Idea: You must bring a sweater because all the rooms are freezing. My own personal truth: I rarely ever freeze. I am generally burning up. Why? Why did I think this would be an exception? I had on long sleeves with a hoodie at the first session. The lady next to me (and the room was packed so I mean RIGHT next to me) and I took turns fanning one another. It was hot in there. Very hot. In every room. I was hot. I never needed a sweater. I needed a tank top. What I should have brought: Cuter, less casual clothes. I was dressed fairly casual both days because we were doing a lot of traveling. The jeans and capris were fine (I thought) but I wish I had taken nicer tops to wear. Cool, short sleeve tops.

*Idea: The exhibit hall is full of vendors and deals and you will buy all your curriculum there. My own personal truth: I had a long list of items I intended to buy at convention. I made a scan of the vendor list but didn't spend any real time looking at the list and making myself a detailed list. As a result the vendor hall was a scary, packed, confusing place for me. I've been in the homeschool and curriculum review game for awhile so I'm fairly familiar with most vendors. I went expecting huge deals and discounts and I only found 1. I could have found 2 but I got sidetracked and overwhelmed and spent more on one item than I should have. It was $5 cheaper one aisle over. I also didn't purchase one item because it wasn't discounted and I knew it was online. When I got home I realized that the s/h charges equaled the discount so I didn't save anything by buying from home. I had a HUGE bag and barely bought anything there. What I should have brought: A clear detailed list with the booth I needed to visit, items to look at or purchase, and prime prices. Also I went with cash because of our budget and several booths would only accept cards. Lesson learned.

*Idea: ?????? My own personal truth: I don't remember seeing anyone talk about shoes. I had this idea of sitting in sessions. Not an idea of walking miles and miles back and forth and here and there and yonder (remember I was searching for coffee). What I should have brought: I changed into sneakers fairly early, but I should have worn them all along or other very comfy shoes. I could have carried many pairs and choices in my giant bag if I'd only thought of it. You're gonna want to wear comfy shoes.

*Idea: Make a list of choices for the speakers you want to see. Pick 2nd and 3rd choices in case your first choice is full. My own personal truth: I printed the first and second schedules that were released on the TTD page and made some notes on a few of the times slots. I had no idea how many sessions would fill up and so I was scared to get stuck on a session plan. Plus I wasn't sure if my husband would want to stay with me or go his own way (things we should have talked about but....ya know). So I had cryptic markings and I never printed the final schedule. We ran sort of willy nilly. I don't really do willy nilly. What I should have done: Made a definite schedule for myself. There were no sessions that were so full that we couldn't get in at all. We almost missed one session that was really important to us because we lost track of what we were doing. In the future I will have a very set schedule and then we can veer from it if necessary.

Doing something for the first time is always a learning experience. I'm sure my second and subsequent times will be learning experiences as well but now I have a better idea of what I want to do for future conventions. I do recommend you search the website, look for Facebook groups or pages, and read blogs (like this one!) about convention suggestions. However, don't go all crazy and forget your personal preferences and be rational about your wants and needs.

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