Guest Post: A dear friend’s account on going to homeschool conventions. Enjoy!
Going to an annual homeschooler’s convention is something that I have come to look very forward to, after going for a few years now. It is a good time, that always promises a combination of some relaxing, down time, along with some good learning and gaining experiences to help our homeschooling adventure along.
The past few years I have gone along with a good mom-friend, and not taken my kids with me, and it’s been awesome. Our closest convention is always the end of May so it is right as we are wrapping our school year up too, so it’s perfect timing for me to be clearing out old curriculum and ready to be thinking of the next thing we need – and, it’s perfect timing for needing a break!
I am fortunate as well in that, ours is in Orlando, FL, the largest homeschool convention in the country.
So, this year as I went with my kids I was contemplating off and on whether this was better than leaving them at home or not. I couldn’t help but make comparisons as I was watching them along the process and try to decide if this would be repeated next year, or I’d be going back to the no-kids deal. I have to say that, truly, I think they’ll go back with me again., as long as they want to, but I would recommend to newbies to do it at least once by yourself. It is a lot to take in, and especially the first time. Getting used to how to navigate everything and find the time slots for lectures and exhibits, is definitely something that would be harder with kids in tow. Obviously, with that being said, every kid is different and also, depending on how old they are, you have to be the ultimate judge on what they can handle. So here is my list of pros and cons for you, and I hope it will help you make your decision if you are on the fence about what to do for your next convention.
- Hotel activities / Pool are great for burning some of their energy and giving yourself a break, but it does take away from your time attending lectures and seeing exhibits. If you stay in the hotel the convention is held, there are lots of cool activities and fun things to do, like the pool for example. If you’re not staying there, then this one isn’t for you. The pool here in Orlando was awesome and had several large slides, nighttime and daytime activities, like dance parties, and a kid’s play area, so my kids were so excited to spend time there. I was happy to let them and we even ordered lunch poolside once, which was a great, relaxing treat!
- Staying in the nicer, convention hotel can cost you extra money, but it can be very convenient for the traveling aspect. You have to outweigh if it’s really worth it to save on the hotel stay. We got one room, with 2 beds so we were together, and although it has just one potty, it had double sinks and plenty of room. Well worth it to me! No driving out of the way and going back again the next day.
- Another related to staying at the convention hotel – Food can be costly compared to doing outside places or fast food, but being able to show the kids that side of things, staying there, and being able to eat right there where you’re at is awesome. (And if you are like our family, who has multiple food allergy issues, fast food is not so much an option anyway & we pay for it in another way when we eat it!)
- Kids get to learn about local information and get some hands-on experience when they go. This hotel is in a Florida theme that is extremely well done and there is a lot of historical information there, plus animals like fish, alligators, and snakes for them to see. The downside to this is that spending time doing that is another take away from spending time in the convention itself.
- One big one that can be a con – long lines checking into hotel and convention. Kids do not deal well with waiting, at least mine don’t! I saw this one coming so I did make sure they had a device they could get on & had them sit quietly where I could see them, while I dealt with the lines. The pro to this one – they are learning some real-life stuff here. Lines stink, yes they do, but they are part of life and we have to act like grown-ups about them.
- Visiting the exhibits is much different with kids in tow. They want to browse the fun booths and be done with it, mostly. I did find that this part was harder for me, as I wanted to look into a few things a little deeper while we were there, they would get impatient with me and I felt pressure to hurry through it. I would say to pace yourself and try to just choose a few priorities that you will make the time for, and prepare them that this is going to happen, and while it’s happening, they can sit off to the side and hang out, quietly, so that there isn’t a huge issue when it does happen. The pro here is that they can weigh in on curriculum too, which is helpful. We found a great Bible curriculum for them that they are very excited about, which makes me happy, and it was worth it for that. Getting their input makes them feel validated.
- Good money management opportunity for them. Give them a budget idea or a certain amount to spend before you go in, and they will see quickly how fast that money will go. It’s a great teaching opportunity on budgeting and also not jumping the gun to buy the first cool thing you see, and then regretting it a few aisles later. The downside to this is that it is harder on your wallet when they are with you. They want things, you want things, and you have to find compromises sometimes and meet in the middle. I definitely spent a lot more money taking them with me!
- Attending lectures – Alone this is a walk in the park: Find the times slot you want, attend, take notes and glean some great information. With your children: Not so much. They can get antsy, impatient and fussy, and they request that if you bring children into the lectures they have to stay quiet. The lectures are being recorded and they do not want any distractions happening. You will miss out on part of it when you have to get up and leave halfway through if they can’t handle it.
So, overall, those are the main things I considered going into it, and during our time there. One of my children didn’t complain, and I think he will easily want to go back again, and the other did a lot of whining and dragging when we weren’t doing what he was interested in, and he may ask to stay back next year. I’m honestly okay with either outcome. Even with the whining, it was worth it.
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