5 tips for saving money at a homeschool convention

5 Ways to Save Money at a Homeschool Convention (These tips may ruffle some feathers!)

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5 tips for saving money at a homeschool conventionThe homeschool convention and workshop season is right around the corner. In the 10+ years that I’ve been homeschooling, conferences have become more inviting and more organized than ever. Many boast notable keynote speakers, entertainment, the top curriculum publishers and even best-selling authors. In other words, they have become more sophisticated and tempting than ever.

I’m grateful for the ever-increasing support and choices available to homeschoolers and attending a homeschool convention is a great way to get information and inspiration.

On the other hand, it’s so easy to waste tens or even hundreds of dollars if you aren’t prepared for the overwhelming sights, onslaught of information and enticing materials at nearly every table.

 

These 5 tips will help you avoid a homeschool curriculum hangover.

 

#1 Think About Your Needs and Budget Ahead of Time

If you’re new to homeschooling, knowing what you’ll need before you walk into the vendor hall is difficult which makes it even more important that you resist the urge to buy on the spot. There are so many excellent resources for homeschoolers and nearly everything you see will look perfect for your family.

My advice is to take your time and browse as many booths as possible. Ask questions, look through the books and don’t be embarrassed about putting something down and walking away or returning to the booth later for a second look.

It is so easy to rationalize spending money on homeschool books. You might tell yourself that a quality education is worth the money. Or you might tell yourself that the expense is minimal compared to a private school tuition.

If you’re like me, you love the look, feel, smell and the promise of a new book.

The best way to resist the temptation of buying something you might not use is to decide on your spending limit ahead of time. Don’t forget to include the cost of your admission ticket.

Planning your spending limit ahead of time will help you control impulse purchases that might turn out not to be a good fit.

Keep in mind that everything you see at a homeschool conference will be available for purchase when you get back home.

 #2 Keynote Speakers

Let’s talk about the keynote speaker at a convention. Usually, this is a well-known author or advocate of home education. Even the small, regional homeschool convention I attend nearly every year has grown enough to secure nationally-recognized speakers.

In the early years, the keynote address would be given by a local, experienced homeschool parent who spoke on a general topic intended to encourage and inspire conference attendees.

The workshop has grown in number of attendees and curriculum vendors and  now attracts top-notch speakers who typically have designed homeschool materials.

Todd Wilson was invited to our local conference a few years ago.  Not only did he present an entertaining and inspiring keynote address but he also led at least one of the breakout sessions. In between sessions, he was available for questions and casual conversation at his book sales table. Let’s be honest, it’s awkward to take a guys’ time and NOT buy at least one of his books….I bought two!

Keynote and other conference speakers are passionate about a parent’s right and ability to educate their children at home.

It’s great to have access to experienced and successful home educating parents. I also think it’s important to support their work if it’s within your needs and budget.

If you plan ahead and decide to spend your dollars on curriculum that you need, you should think twice about spending money on home education encouragement materials. On the other hand, if you’re new to homeschooling and are mostly interested in encouragement and general “how-to” resources, you will definitely find that at a conference. The key is to understand your needs at the time.

 #3 New Curriculum

Does anything appeal to your senses more than the crisp clean pages of a brand new book….that promises to educate your child?

It’s great to have so many curriculum choices. A convention is a great place to handle books and talk to the publishers or authors to decide whether they’re a good fit for your family.

You may have already decided to buy before you get to the convention and purchasing on site can be a smart way to save on shipping costs and ask questions about how best to use the resource or program.

You should keep in mind that most materials at a homeschool convention are available online, some for a fraction of the price.

Again, I think it’s important to support publishers and authors but not by wasting money on curriculum that you may not actually use.

 

#4 Used Book Sales

Collecting too many books (even at a discount) is one of my biggest regrets as a homeschooler and manager of my home.

Many homeschool conventions include an area to purchase used books and curriculum. Buying used books is a great way to save money on curriculum but they’re only a bargain if you’ll actually use them. No matter how great the resource looks, it’s a waste of money if your family won’t actually use it.

I fell into the trap of buying materials that I thought that I would use “some day” because they were so inexpensive.

This wasn’t a great strategy and if I had to do it all over again, I would rather not have 5 shelves of homeschool books in my house, no matter how economical and excellent they are.

I’ve been guilty of forgetting what I have and not using it when it’s most relevant which is a common problem when you buy books that you intend to use in the future.

I would advise buying what you need for the current year and saving it for younger siblings only if you thought it was useful or excellent.

#5 HSLDA

The Homeschool Legal Defense Association is an advocacy group that also publishes information about the homeschool laws in various states and even in other countries. Anyone can visit the HSLDA website and get information about the basics of their state’s homeschooling requirements.

Most large, regional homeschool conventions have a representative from HSLDA to answer questions about state homeschool laws at a booth.

The HSLDA also offers an annual membership which gives subscribers the benefit of legal representation if their rights to homeschool their children are ever challenged.

You definitely have to evaluate your need for this benefit based on your circumstances and the climate of homeschooling in your area or school district.

Although Pennsylvania homeschool laws are among the most demanding in the country and my school district has requested information beyond the homeschool law nearly every year, I have never needed the HSLDA to step in to resolve these misunderstandings.  A simple letter to a school administrator has always been sufficient to straighten things out.

If you decide to pay the annual membership fee to the HSLDA (currently $120 per year or discounts for joining for more than a year), make sure you understand that the HSLDA reserves the right to review every case and decline to represent you at its discretion.

In my opinion, HSLDA membership isn’t necessary but you’ll have to make that decision for yourself.

Regardless, your decision to join the HSLDA doesn’t need to be made on the spot at a homeschool convention. You always have the option of reviewing the membership benefit information when you return home.

I think homeschool conventions are a great way for both new and veteran homeschoolers to learn, connect with like-minded parents and to renew their commitment to home education. Speakers are typically knowledgeable and supportive and often very entertaining. I encourage every homeschooling parent to attend at least one conference during their homeschooling years. If you decide to attend a conference, either on your own, with a friend or with your spouse, keep these tips in mind to minimize the risk of buyer’s remorse and cluttering up your book shelves. Even if you end up NOT buying anything, you’ll benefit from the experience and encouragement.

So, what should you do if you’re reading this advice too late? If you have shelves full of homeschool books, you might be interested in a series I wrote last spring on my other blog about selling used homeschool books.

Do you have any tips for saving money at a homeschool convention? Please share!

Written by BethPhillips
 

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4 Comments

  1. Beth,
    You have such a great ability to look back and summarize experiences. I’ve avoided these conventions for the past few years for fear of being sucked into things I don’t need/can’t analyze in an afternoon and subsequently feeling bad for spending money I shouldn’t have.
    But, yes, there are other benefits to attending even if only for that yearly jolt of “why we do this” and feeling great about our decision to home educate.
    Terrific article. Thanks!

    • Kelly,
      Thanks, as always for your supporting words. In the interest of brevity, I didn’t even write about my most egregious experiences with wasting money (I bought all the Five In a Row, Beyond Five in a Row and Above and Beyond Five in a Row volumes because Steve Lambert told me at his table that they were going all digital and they wouldn’t be available). I have learned over the years to go with a plan in mind and that’s helped. I still think conventions are great for a boost of encouragement.

  2. Hi Beth, I love this site. Thanks so much! Just a quick perspective about #2. I have been both a consumer and a presenter at conferences. I’ve been on a tight budget with seven kids and one income. Many a time, my husband has missed a paycheck. So I understand the careful consumer!

    BUT, it is as a presenter that I wish to speak. Without presenters and vendors there is no conference. It is not often easy for us to be there. Traveling takes us away from our families. (That is why I limit travel.) We are often not very well paid. Many of us wouldn’t be able to come at all if we didn’t sell our own books.

    That is why, as a consumer, I try to patronize the speakers and vendors at these events. I have to go Christmas, birthday, etc. shopping anyway, right? Instead of Walmart, why not give business to people who are building up our own community at often great personal sacrifice?

    By all means, as a consumer, watch your spending. If you can’t buy something, we understand. Be nice to us at least.

    Please DON’T:

    A) Stand around reading a book, then write down the ISBN and then tell the vendor you are going to buy it cheaper online.
    B) Tell the vendor you’ll be loaning your copy to all your friends. You are free to do so. But if you really like it, consider buying one for a friend as a gift.
    C) Take the vendor’s attention away from people who might intend to buy something if you are sure you won’t.
    D) Ask for a free copy. The author doesn’t have her own printing press. She had to buy the book herself before she could sell it to you.

    On the other hand, DO:

    A) Tell the vendor you’d buy one but are down to your last $9. She might just make a deal – if it’s the end of the day or she accidentally wrote somebody’s name backwards on the front white page and doesn’t want to get stuck with it.
    B) Tell the other people standing around how much you liked the books and talk (if you did).
    C) Go up and say hi to the presenter. She’s just somebody’s mother, like you. She’s glad to know you.
    D) Tell the vendor you have a blog or media outlet and ask for her publisher’s contact information if you want to request a review copy from them.

    • Susie,

      Thank you so much for your perspective and for taking the time to add those EXCELLENT points. I agree wholeheartedly with them. I guess all of my bullet points are intended to help a conference attendee plan ahead.

      I think I purchased your book, “Please Don’t Drink the Holy Water” years ago at a Catholic Homeschool Conference and loved it. I’ll be checking out your two other books soon.

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