Are You Planning to Attend the Alberta Home Education Convention?
Yes, absolutely! See tips.
Maybe. See reasons to attend.
Can't really, but I’d like to. See options.
No, thanks! See possible considerations.
Tips To Consider So Your Homeschool Conference Experience Is Worthwhile:
- 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.
- 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.
- Take notes on what you like & highlight or star the best tips, ideas, or resources. Later at home, share these ‘bests’ with your spouse and/or make a short list so you can remember to implement what you learned.
- 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 need, and ones you’ve heard might be good to see firsthand or to ask about. You might 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 some vendors may accept cash only. Your conference registration fee & relevant purchases can be submitted toward your homeschool funding if you choose. 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 when the vendor hall opens!
- 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! 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.)
- Care for others: be on the lookout to encourage others, offer a smile, or the seat next to you. 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 or buy lunch, take breaks outside, dress comfortably & don’t carry a purse – you’ll want your hands free. Use a backpack, rolling bag, the book & coat check, or take frequent trips to your vehicle to drop off purchases. 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. Need encouragement or suggestions for meeting your homeschool conference goals? It's okay to ask!
- Book early for better rates and availability if you need a hotel. There are several big events in town that weekend.
- Register early for the conference to save money & avoid the line-ups.
Reasons To Attend A Homeschool Conference:
- Just thinking about homeschooling? You are invited to attend the free Friday morning workshop without committing to the entire conference. If you decide to attend, what better place to immerse yourself for two days and learn firsthand about homeschooling, before making an educated decision about it!
- New to homeschooling? Many hundreds of homeschoolers attend the AHEA conference. 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. Conference is a great time to assess resources hands-on & to discuss the ins and outs of home education.
- 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 and develop your skills as an educator. Volunteers are always welcome! If your kids are attending the children’s or youth programs, they’ll have opportunities to make lifelong friends.
- 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. Consider volunteering and being a blessing to other families while showing your support of home education in Alberta.
Options To Consider If You’re Not Sure You Can Attend, But Would Like To:
- I need child care. 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? Can you take your kids to explore Red Deer and split their care with your spouse or a friend while the other attends conference – meet up for lunch? Can you bring along or hire a sitter in Red Deer while you attend conference? Can you attend at least one of the conference days? See the AHEA brochure for more information about children at conference.
- It’s too expensive. Consider carpooling & sharing a hotel with another HSCF mom (ask on the forum); register before the early bird deadline and book a hotel early to save money; use hotel or other loyalty points; attend just one day so you don’t have to stay over; billet with friends or family; apply to AHEA for a scholarship (if available); submit your registration fee & relevant shopping towards your homeschool funding. Since conference is at the same time each year, you can set aside $15-20 monthly to cover next year’s non-reimbursable expenses, e.g. 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 conference 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 a second night so you don’t have to travel in poor weather.
- I have a previous commitment or non-negotiable health or family issues. AHEA is held annually during early to mid-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 specific recordings from sessions you would like to have attended this year.
Homeschool Conference 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 so much richer 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. Last year around 150 vendors and 2000 registrants attended the AHEA conference, making a wonderfully rich 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 of 2000 others in the huge conference centre 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 sessions while the vending hall is less crowded. Take breaks in the rest area. 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 conference, 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 conference 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?
- I attend an online or different homeschool conference instead. Please feel free to share the details on the Calendar or Forum if it is of interest to our HSCF group!
©HSCF 2014 by DLE
HSCF members may use the Group Email Forum for discussion about conference, carpooling arrangements, your own favourite tips, etc.