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with Maureen Wittmann
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the Most Out of Your Conference Experience
We subscribe to Heart and Mind, read all the great homeschooling books, and now conference season is upon us. Is it possible to be thrifty and still attend a conference that asks us to fork out anywhere from $20 to $40? To answer this question we must first define the difference between thrifty and cheap. Thrifty is getting the most for your money. On the other hand, cheap is getting something of little worth.
When considering whether or not to attend a homeschooling conference make sure not to be cheap. Instead ask yourself if and how the conference will benefit you to determine if it is worth the money.
Ordering curricula sight unseen is never a safe bet. Conferences offer you the opportunity to see a lot of the great curricula available to homeschoolers, whether you plan to make a purchase that day or sometime in the future.
Conferences are also beneficial in other ways. We all have something to learn and attending the talks can give you ideas to improve your homeschool. Talks also often offer encouragement. Just being under one roof with hundreds of other homeschoolers is rejuvenating. I always come home from our Michigan conference pumped up and ready to face the next school year. To me, that alone is worth the cost of my admission ticket.
Saving Money in the Vending
Last year my friend Karen St. John, a key figure in putting together the Michigan Catholic Home Educators’ conference, helped me put together a top-ten list to make your homeschooling conference experience a successful one.
1. Come with lists of what you
need, want, and would like to have, for the upcoming school year.
It saves LOTS of time by asking “Do you have . . .” If the answer
is no, you can move on to the next vending table. This list is especially
useful when looking through the used book sales. Include any needed
OOP (out of print) books on your list.
2. Always make sure that you check the used book tables before buying new books, as well as checking for vendors offering discounts and “conference specials.” Also look for opportunities to sell your used books and curricula. Most conferences offer such opportunities.
3. Many vendors will allow you to order ahead of time so that you can pick up and pay for your package at the conference - shipping free! Plus you don’t have to worry about the vendor running out of stock before you get to their table. It’s worth an email or a phone call to find out if a favorite vendor will do this. If you don’t get around to ordering in advance and your favorite vendor is out of stock, many will offer free shipping and handling if you place an order at the conference.
4. Vendors are often looking for someone who will man a table. Call and see if a particular vendor would like you to work their table and then check with the vendor coordinator for that conference to see if a table can be rented through the company you wish to represent. You can negotiate for books and curricula in exchange for your time, or if you prefer - cash.
5. If you are traveling from out of town, check out campgrounds for rates cheaper than hotels. The most fun that I have had at conferences is when I have traveled with girlfriends and we split the cost of gas and lodging.
6. If you like to enter all of the free drawings at the conference, bring some return address labels with you. That way you aren’t wasting time filling out your name and address over and over again. Keep in mind though, that vendors often times offer free drawings so that they can put you on their mailing list.
7. Make a budget and stick to it. Also keep in mind that smaller vendors, and often the conference organizers, do not take credit cards. You will need to bring an allotted amount of cash or your checkbook.
8. Register early for a discount. Often times, joining the state or local support group will get you a discount to the conference. (In addition to a regular newsletter, sometimes a HSLDA discount, local support, etc.).
9. Volunteers receive discounts
or sometimes get in for free. There are all kinds of volunteer jobs
to do. If you want to make sure to get to all of the talks, you could
volunteer to be a monitor. The monitor sits in on talks and helps
the speaker if a need arises. Some other fun conference jobs - pick
up the speakers from the airport, open your home to speakers or vendors,
take phone inquiries, registration, and so on. You can also volunteer
your teenaged children. My teens enjoy assisting with setup and takedown
at our state conference.
originally appeared in Heart and Mind magazine. For
ordering information, see www.heart-and-mind.com
or write PO Box 420881, San Diego, CA 92142
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