How to Rock the Homeschool Conference

When the catalogs arrive, I know it’s time. Planning for next year’s school year is in full swing around here. This weekend I’m attending a homeschool conference so I can get all amped up for next year.

Homeschool Conferences = Pep Rally for homeschool moms. We shake our pompoms, get giddy over curriculum, flutter around in excitement, and listen to wise veterans who tell us “You can do it! YES YOU CAN!”

But before I make my way across 2 states to get there, I need a game plan. If I show up without one, there goes the homeschool budget for the year. All those pretty glossy books wrapped in that shiny plastic…. Be still my heart!

So, it starts with listing what subjects I plan to cover next year. Not listing actually books to be used, just subjects. Don’t even look at the catalogs. Got it? Good.

With the list of subjects, I take inventory of what is already on my book shelves because chances are I have something I tucked away awhile ago and it has been long forgotten. But, I also have not been homeschooling for ump-teen years yet so my shelves are lacking a little, so after the inventory, and nothing comes up, that is the time that I begin to browse the catalogs. I learned a long time ago to make my subject list first, because if I don’t, well I tend to ooh and ahh too much and start planning on buying things that I don’t really need. Yes, it may look pretty, and have all the bells and whistles, but really, is it necessary?

While I am flipping those pages and looking at all the eye candy, I must not forget the style of learning that best suits my little students.  If I buy a book simply because I like it and not because it fits my child, I am wasting both time and money,and it will most likely just cause torment for the both of us and end up on the used book table next year.. With my children’s learning styles in mind, I can then choose wisely.  I know off hand anything that is plain and not visually appealing will not fit my daughter– she needs things to be pretty. I also know that if I were to just throw a math workbook in front of her things would go awry–she needs to be able to manipulate in order to grasp the concept. So I urge you to take the time and evaluate your child’s learning style.

Once I have my book list completed for each subject, I then make yet another list. (Sick of lists yet!?  Not I, my friend! Not I!) This list I more often than not will make in Excel. This is simply preference. (And because I am old school. Anyone remember Windows 95? Put your hand up!)

I make a 6 column grid with the subject, book title, price of the book if purchased new, average price listed on Amazon, average price listed on Ebay, and the publisher website for  each book. (Don’t forget to add in shipping costs; those can add up quickly!) Then I hit the catalogs and websites and key in all the information. Once this spreadsheet is completed, I now have a skeleton in which to drag along with me to the homeschool conference book tables. I will now know if something is overpriced and can be gotten in the same condition elsewhere.

While I am at it online, I will take note of what vendors will actually be at the conference. Often there are deals to be had. There is one curriculum provider that I know will be present on Saturday. They will have all of their catalog offerings for sale at $2-$5 cheaper than the website/catalog price. If they happen to not have any copies available of a particular book I would like to purchase, they will give me the conference price and ship it to my door for free. Now, you can’t beat that with a stick.

I’ll also make a list of any questions regarding curriculum from the providers that will be present. It helps to have it thought out before hand so nothing is forgotten, and so that I am not haggled into making a purchase I wasn’t intending to make.

Does this all take up some of my precious valuable time? Well, yes it does, but really, it isn’t any more time than I wouldn’t already be spending thinking about next year. And let’s face it, we all have more time than money. So go ahead, make all those darn lists. I promise it will pay off with the savings.

But, just what do you do with all of those nice glossy new books, you say? Well, that’s a whole other story….

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