The Alberta Home Education Association (AHEA) hosts its provincial convention in Red Deer each spring. Registration opens each November.
Theme for 2018 is Embrace the Unexpected
Thursday evening (for new homeschoolers & performing arts) & all day Friday & Saturday, April 12-14, 2018 featuring multiple workshops plus these keynote speakers:
The convention is FAMILY-INTEGRATED. You choose what works for your family:
- Separate Youth Track (ages 13+) with optional labs
- Separate Children's Conference (ages 5-12)
- Vendor Hall & Used Curriculum Hall
- New Homeschoolers' Sessions & Tour
- Performing Arts Evening & Homeschool Art Show
- Information Booths for New, Special Needs, and High School
- Friday Night Family Time
- Chocolate Evening for Moms & Breakfast for Dads
- AHEA Graduation Ceremony
- Shopping-Only Admission Option (the last two hours on Saturday for the vendor hall only)
- Buy-It-Here Incentives (promotes the etiquette of shopping from vendors rather than online later)
- Option to invite Grandparents & Clergy at no extra cost with your registration
Please note Alberta Education's restrictions on what can be reimbursed. In the past, the convention fee was allowable, since it is for educational/professional development. The standards currently allow "admission fees to conferences only if the conference is a resource in the Education Program Plan". Please check with your board and/or add the convention to your EPPs if you intend to submit this for reimbursement.
Are You Planning to Attend the AHEA Convention?
1. Yes, absolutely! See tips.
2. Maybe. See reasons to attend.
3. Can't really, but I’d like to. See options.
4. No, thanks. See possible considerations.
Tips for You to Get the Most Out of the AHEA Convention:
- Pray ahead to know God’s direction for your family’s homeschooling, for guidance in selecting curriculum (or not), for creative ideas, that He would bring the right people across your path that day, and for His peace during what can be an overwhelming weekend.
- Know your role & what you need to do there: learn from the keynote speakers? get practical help at the workshops? do a lot of shopping? be a volunteer? encourage others? be encouraged? all of the above? Year-by-year each conference will have a different flavour for you, usually depending on where you are along your homeschool journey & what your family circumstances are. Keep your goals clearly in mind. And just take the gems home that will work for *your* family.
- Plan in advance by knowing who the conference speakers will be & which ones you really want to hear. Circle these sessions on your schedule and feel free to shop & visit at other times; don’t feel you have to attend every single session just because someone is speaking! You, your spouse or a friend can divide and conquer, or you can purchase a recording if there is more than one good session you’d like to attend in the same time slot. The conference schedule is posted on AHEA's website a couple months in advance so that you can print out a copy & plan early.
- Keep paper organized & take notes on what you like & highlight or star the best tips, ideas, or resources. It's also okay to pull out your phone & take pix. Later at home, share these ‘bests’ with your spouse and/or make a short list so you can remember to implement what you have learned. To keep your notes, handouts, brochures, catalogues & receipts organized, bring along a clip board, a pocketed binder, and/or designate a backpack section for the cause. Many sessions have handouts, and the speakers or AHEA will often provide these or their powerpoint notes online afterwards.
- Be brave! The speakers and workshop leaders have come to serve our homeschool community. Feel free to approach them at sessions or at their booths with your comments & questions. The AHEA staff and volunteers are also there throughout the convention to help you find the information you need.
- Use discernment about the sessions you hear and the resources you purchase. God never asks us to check our brains at the door, but rather to love Him with all our minds too! Ask lots of questions. Conference etiquette: if a particular vendor spends quality time helping you, please honour that by purchasing from their booth rather than getting the same resource for a few dollars less somewhere else. Participate in "Buy-It-Here"!
- Make a list in advance of essential & possible purchases. It’s good to keep an ongoing “shopping list” throughout the year of resources you know you do need, and of ones you’ve heard might be good to check firsthand or to ask about. If you collect certain book series, you'll save time & money if you know your inventory & which titles you need next. If you have a favourite vendor, call them ahead of time & see if they'll bring your needed item(s) with them; they make a sale, and you save on shipping costs! You might also be able to find items in the HSCF library or at the March HSCF used curriculum sale even before attending AHEA.
- Come with a budget and stay within it. If you know ahead what your essential needs are and what a reasonable price is for them, go ahead and shop the first day. Otherwise, browse & wait until the second day to buy (or not!) Be aware that most vendors take plastic; some may accept cheque or cash only, but ATMs are available if needed. Your conference registration fee & relevant purchases may possibly be submitted toward your homeschool funding if you choose; check with your board's funding policy. So save your receipts! (Accommodation & fuel costs are not eligible for reimbursement.) If you've attended conference before, you'll already know that used book tables are swarmed first thing!
- Remember to consider all the various subjects and activities your family will be covering in upcoming months & years. SO much for sale can lure you into becoming a curriculum junkie. It's not a bargain if you don't need it! And it's perfectly fine to stay in a curriculum rut if it's a happy rut that is serving your family well. Make a good list and stick with it. Take time this year to research & compare higher ticket items (e.g. get catalogues to compare microscopes if you anticipate you'll need one in a year or two.) Some families will purchase a few extra items each year to build up a tote of science experiment supplies, or a series of more advanced novels, etc. to use a year or two later, on target with a child's educational program plan.
- Care for others: be on the lookout to encourage others, offer a smile, or the seat next to you. Make a new friend! Make family memories! Convention is a disruption in routine for our families, so pray for a little extra patience & grace as needed. Use this time to get to know other HSCF families you may recognize, or to welcome a mom or dad who is newer to homeschooling. There is no reason for any of us to go home having felt alone in a crowd of homeschool families!
- Care for yourself: bring along or buy lunch, snacks & water for you and/or your registered family. A concession, vending machines & ATM are on site, or choose from fast food, Walmart, Sobeys, etc. within 5-10 minutes. Take breaks outside, dress comfortably & don’t carry a purse – you’ll want your hands free in the vendor hall. Use a backpack, rolling bag, the AHEA book & coat check, or take frequent trips to your vehicle to drop off purchases. If you're attending with your nursing baby, consider "wearing" him or her & push a stroller or bring a grandparent :) If you're attending with your toddlers & older children, bring quiet activities for them to keep busy during the sessions & let them visit the child-friendly zones in the vendor hall so you and they all make happy memories. A clipboard is helpful if you’re not taking notes electronically. If you like to enter draws, print your name & info ahead of time on sticky labels to save hassle. One mom bought herself a special book at AHEA each year & made a collection to represent each of her years of homeschooling. Buy a 'professional development' or other encouraging book to give you fresh ideas about homeschooling. Need more encouragement or suggestions for meeting your homeschool conference goals? It's okay to ask at any of the AHEA booths at convention (Info, Special Needs, HSing through High School, New Homeschoolers).
- Accommodations - book months ahead for better rates and availability if you need a hotel. There are often several big events in town that same weekend. If you don't have a favourite online deal, remember that AHEA blocks discounted rooms each year at a variety of hotels as listed in the registration information. You may want to billet with friends or family or other homeschoolers. Or choose accommodations further out, including RV camping & cabins.
- Register early for the convention to save money on admission fees & to avoid longer line-ups. Walk-in registrations are allowed though if you miss the early bird rate. Feedback about the registration process is welcomed as AHEA has recently moved to the new family-friendly convention format.
Reasons to Attend a Homeschool Convention:
- Just thinking about homeschooling? What better place to immerse yourself for a couple of days and learn firsthand about homeschooling, before making an educated decision about it! If you're still not sure you want to commit to the whole convention, attend the free Thursday evening session first, designed for not-yet & new homeschooling families.
- Newer to homeschooling? Many hundreds of homeschoolers attend the AHEA convention. You will be energized just being there in community - maybe even amazed at the support & resources available for you to help you prepare for the months ahead. Convention is a great time to assess resources hands-on & to discuss the ins and outs of home education. Attend Thursday evening for a vendor hall tour & two sessions just for you, or stop by the New Homeschoolers' booth.
- Partway through? Be challenged with fresh ideas. Be refreshed and inspired once again to create a home where your kids can learn. Homeschooling is hard work! Network with other families, enjoy the camaraderie, get practical help, develop your skills as an educator, or even volunteer for an hour or two. If your kids are attending the children’s or youth programs, they’ll have opportunities to make lifelong friends & enjoy some great sessions geared for them.
- A veteran? Be encouraged to finish well & remember the big picture of why you have invested yourself in home education. Stay current with trends and resources in homeschooling. Stop by the Homeschooling Thru High School booth. Consider volunteering and being a blessing to other families while showing your support of home education in Alberta. Meanwhile, your kids may love being part of the children's or youth tracks!
Options to Consider if You’re Not Sure You Can Attend, But Would Like to:
- I need child care. The AHEA convention does work well as a "professional development" time for parents; however, your children of all ages ARE welcome! Can you plan ahead to hire or swap care with a supportive relative or friend? Are your kids old enough to attend the children’s conference that runs concurrently? Can you take your kids to explore Red Deer (e.g. Collicutt Centre, the ravine) and split their care with your spouse or a friend while the other attends conference – meet up for lunch? Can you bring a grandparent to help out at conference? Can you attend at least one of the convention days, perhaps swapping child care with another HS family? See the AHEA convention website for more information about children at conference.
- It’s too expensive. Consider carpooling & sharing a hotel with another HSCF mom; become a volunteer (8 hrs single; 10 hours couple) to have your admission fee reimbursed; register at the early bird price and book a hotel extra early to save money; use hotel or other loyalty points; attend just one day so you don’t have to stay overnight; billet with friends or family; apply to AHEA for a scholarship (if available); keep your receipts well organized & promptly submit your relevant shopping towards your homeschool funding. Since convention is at the same time each year, try setting aside $40-50 monthly to cover next year’s non-reimbursable expenses, e.g. registration, accommodations, gas, food. Keep an ongoing list over the year of essential home education needs and resources you want to see hands-on before purchasing. Know approximate prices ahead of time. Maybe you can find these used through HSCF families or vendors. A well-planned list and resolving to stick with a budget will keep you from impulse shopping and overspending.
- I don’t have my spouse’s support. Homeschooling is very much a family lifestyle choice, so this is a difficult situation more complicated than simply attending convention or not. Pray. Share your interest and concern with your spouse. Protect your marriage. Perhaps a friend can pick up essential curriculum or recordings for you this year. Use the HSCF library & attend the HSCF used book sale to freshen up your homeschool resources.
- The weather might be awful. The weather is indeed often stormy that weekend, so keep your snow tires on! Plan ahead so you don’t have to rush. Carpool with someone else if you prefer not to drive. Be aware of your hotel’s cancellation policy or book an extra night so you don’t have to travel in poor weather.
- I have a previous commitment or non-negotiable health or family issues. The AHEA convention is held annually each April. Save the date for next year & hopefully you can attend then. Have a friend shop for your specific items to save money on shipping, and buy or borrow recordings from sessions you would like to have attended this year.
Homeschool Convention Really Isn’t for Me, but Let’s Talk About It:
- I’ve never attended before, am generally disinterested, and don’t need to attend. Although it’s possible to do homeschooling alone, it’s more enriching to homeschool with the support and input of others – authors, speakers, vendors, fellow homeschoolers, volunteers, leaders, newbies, children’s & youth sessions...all in one place! Your kids might appreciate attending the children’s or youth tracks. Around 150 vendors and over 2000 registrants attend the AHEA convention, making it a wonderfully vibrant learning environment. Enjoy the speakers if you don’t need to shop; enjoy the shopping if the speakers aren’t your flavour. Come to be blessed and to be a blessing to others!
- It’s too overwhelming for me. Yup, a crowd that large in the huge conference centre with so many options can be overwhelming! But there are ways to cope & come away feeling revitalized and encouraged in your decision to be a home educator. That’s why you need to plan plan plan in advance by praying, talking to others, browsing online, and figuring out what works best for YOUR family. Know your own schedule of which sessions YOU prefer and stick with it. Attend with a friend or seek out fellow HSCFers there if you prefer the buddy system. Arrive at sessions early to select a seat where you can feel comfortable. Keep an ongoing list during the year of essential needs and of resources you’d like to see hands-on. (A good way to make a list is by subject area per child.) Using your list, shop during keynote sessions while the vending hall is less crowded. Take breaks in the rest areas. Stick to your list so that you are not overwhelmed with too many new ideas, choices or catalogues. Buy your essentials first. Ask for advice as needed, but don’t be swayed by what isn’t on your list, doesn’t fit your family, or isn’t within your budget. Write down good ideas for resources and think about them overnight or in the months ahead. You don’t have to buy anything at conference!
- I’ve homeschooled so long that I could be the speaker. Share God’s faithfulness in home education! There will be lots of families there who could use your expertise & your awareness of current trends & resources in homeschooling. Perhaps revisit the topics being presented year by year. With the longevity of homeschooling, more conferences are including high school issues, transitions, & life-after-homeschooling topics, including being a homeschool grandparent. Consider volunteering this year. Find out how to become a speaker, a panelist, or a vendor at convention, or a writer for the provincial homeschool magazine.
- I feel too liberal or too conservative to fit in. Welcome! No two homeschools are alike, so chances are that you will find something to meet your needs. Use discernment about the vendors you shop at and the speakers you hear. If a particular speaker doesn't fit your family's needs, allot more time to the vendor hall, to workshops and to networking with others.
- I used to attend, but got turned off. If you are still a home educator, perhaps reconsider how you and/or your family might benefit this particular year. Is there a way you could help improve the convention for yourself, for your kids, or for others? Is there an area of the convention where you could volunteer and be a blessing to others?
- We are finished homeschooling now. The AHEA Convention has grown past 2000 attendees, so if you'd like, there are many ways for you to stay connected with this vibrant community and share your expertise. You can even earn back the convention registration fee by volunteering enough hours. Use the email link below to contact the volunteer coordinator.
- I attend an online or different homeschool conference instead. Members, please feel free to share the details if it is of interest to our HSCF group!