Last Minute HEAV Convention Survival Tips

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Flyer2016-Front-1000x412This is re-posted from last year, with minor changes.

As I am STILL trying to hurriedly finish labeling books for the UCS, I wanted to make sure these last minute notes got out to all of you!

Here are my last minute survival tips!

1. Have your shopping lists ready! Break it down into your “must get, “would like to get,” and your “I wish I could get” categories! Have a little extra fun money for a few fun toys or surprises, if possible!

Also, break down your list of “subjects” in case you decide to change your mind completely while you’re there. For example, I know I want to teach the girls music theory next year. (Seriously the best way to help a kid understand fractions. I know my background in music was the only way I got through math in 4th and 5th grade!) I don’t exactly HOW I want to teach it or what “books” I want to use. But I know I want to. So, I’ll keep an eye out for that topic while I’m searching the Used Curriculum Sale, etc..

1a. Be sure the convention recordings are on your shopping list. YOU NEED THEM. REALLY.

2. PACK the following: Earplugs so you can sleep peacefully sharing a room with your snoring, “talks in their sleep” family, a good pillow, your camera AND the charger to your cellphone!, and very comfortable shoes.

2a. You guys might think I’m joking about the earplugs and the pillow. But getting a GOOD night’s sleep is vital to surviving a homeschool convention without a mental breakdown. Plus, HEAV starts a solid hour before my brain is fully functioning! (I’m not a morning person. At all. Ever.)

3. Do you have your fun “I’m cool because I’m a homeschooler” T Shirts packed to wear? Because this is the best place to wear them!

4. Make your list of places for dinner! We always take the opportunity to scout out good BBQ. It’s sooooo worth it.

4a. By the way, the convention area is NOT the most gluten-free-friendly area. If you have dietary issues, PLAN AHEAD. Bring your own snacks and be sure you bring more than you think you will need. Oh, and those hotel breakfasts? They are going to be swamped and they’re not gluten-free either. I made the mistake of thinking I was going to be able to eat at the hotel last year. Last year, I had two days of salads with no dressing, and nut bars. I got a bit cranky after eating the 6th nut bar in two days – I need real food, LOL. I will plan much better this year.

5. Plan for sanity breaks. The hallways are wide and you’ll find many folks taking breaks in them. I would also recommend having a hidden stash of chocolate on hand and I plan to bring my “serenity sticks” I made with my essential oils (like a lotion bar). A few Advil for the headache you’ll get staring at math curriculum. Earplugs for listening to music if you need to zone out and decompress for a while.

6. Stock up on Redbox movies on the way for the kids! Definitely worth the price for peace and quiet during the car drive down!

“I am excited to be a blogger for HEAV this year. In exchange for sharing my honest opinion about this convention, I was provided with a family registration at no charge.”

Getting Ready For HEAV???

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Flyer2016-Front-1000x412This is re-posted from last year, with minor changes.

It’s coming! It’s coming!

HEAV’s convention is very very soon!!!

It’s time to make that last minute to-do list of everything you need to get done before hopping in the car. If you’re curious, mine at the moment includes things like “make ask hubby to get a hair cut” and “find mini cassette recorder to use for interviews.”:)

While you’re making your plan, I wanted to share with you some advice I’ve been gleaning from some of my homeschooling friends with WAY more homeschool convention experience than me!

And here are my tips from previous years!

Advice for Homeschool Conventions

There were a few overwhelmingly common pieces of advice from pretty much everyone I spoke to. I would even say these are non-negotiable:

1) Wear Comfortable Shoes. Absolutely no one cares what your feet look like. You’re going to be walking the equivalent of a marathon around that convention center, so take care of your feet! Your little piggies will thank you by the end of the day.

2) Take a Cart on Wheels! You can get these a number of places, from Amazon, or even some grocery stores. Others have suggested a rolling suitcase, or a stroller even. I learned this lesson the hard way. I’ll actually be using on of my Thirty-One Gifts bags, which is actually an insulated rolling cart-type thingee. Oh well. My purchases will stay “cool” at least, AND it will be easy to spot amongst the crowds!

3) Return Address Labels. Pre-make labels with your address and contact information on them. This is going to save you from massive writer’s cramp all weekend. Really.

4) Prepare for OVERWHELM. Really. It’s not that the crowds are “Black Friday” or “Disney” bad, but they’re there. For me, it wasn’t the people, it was the STUFF. So much information, so many choices, so much to look at. It was just A LOT on input coming at you.

Everyone had several tips to cope.

  • Just order the mp3s right when you get there. That way you’ll be able to rest in the fact that you won’t have to worry about missing anything. Or, if some of the events are full and you can’t get in, it won’t be such a big deal. You can re-listen to the sessions at your leisure all summer long.
  • Don’t buy anything the first time through the exhibit hall! Do a complete walk through the first time, getting an eye for the different vendors, perhaps checking prices on your first choice items. Talk to the different vendors, get advice and information, that sort of thing. Make your list, and THEN go buy.
  • My advice: If there are particular items that you already know you HAVE to get, I’d at least go ahead and get that out of the way first. Then you’re done and can focus your time on the “extras” or items you need to spend more time thinking about. And, you don’t have to worry that the vendor runs out of your “must have.”
  • Many even recommend leaving your wallet at home and not even purchasing anything at your first convention. If you can do that, then you have mountains more willpower than I do. At the very least, come with your budget in mind. Or, failing that, come prepared with a detailed list of what exactly you MUST have, what you need but aren’t sure what to get, and what your wish list would be. That will be very useful in both the Exhibit Hall and the Used Curriculum Sale.
  • Carry as little as possible with you, because, again, it means carrying it with you. And that is going to get old very quick. However, a water bottle, notebook, pens, protein bars, your return address labels, wallet and cellphone are all great things to have. Just be sure to turn off the ringer to your cellphone during sessions! Hubby and I mainly use our cellphones to find each other when we get separated, etc. If you’re in a hotel nearby, you should be able to run back to the hotel and dump things to start fresh during lunch breaks!
  • Just focus on what is best for your family. No need to deal with all the sessions and vendors that don’t pertain to you. (Such as, we don’t have boys – I don’t go to the booths that sell “boy” paraphernalia. Or the sessions on raising boys. While I’d love to, I have to set boundaries and focus on what my family needs right then. Also, I don’t go to “high school” sessions when we’re only teaching fourth grade. That sort of thing.)
  • If you don’t have to have your kids with you, I wouldn’t. Use the awesome kids programs, get a babysitter, etc. It’s too hard to keep them entertained and also hear what you need to hear. If you do though, be sure to bring items to keep them occupied. Remember, in order to record the sessions and have decent quality, “vocal” children should be taken out of the room.

5) Have fun! Goodness gracious, after all that it might sound like Homeschool Conventions are stressful events. Why would anyone want to go? Well, they can have stressful moments, but last year was also wonderfully inspiring and motivational. I can’t figure out another way to say it, other than I left with my heart completely full.

Talk to people. In this building, for three whole days, you are going to be surrounded by homeschoolers who just want to do their best for their children — JUST LIKE YOU. Make new friends. In this day and age, there is no reason you only have to be friends with the people who live right around you. Bring “business” cards, or those address labels and exchange information. Chat with the folks next to you in line. Be sure to meet the parents of the kids your children make friends with in the kids’ program – you already have a lot in common!

I’m looking at this convention weekend like it’s my mini “homeschool” vacation! Mommy event on steroids!

So, what is my plan?

  • I want to be packed the day before – I know the week leading up to leaving will be insane because I will be working right up until the last moment, so being packed the day before will alleviate a little bit of my stress.
  • We plan to arrive as early as traffic will allow on Thursday – I have a meeting I need to attend, and also I really want to check out the the exhibit hall Thursday night and get some of that stuff done then before all of the speakers the rest of the event. Plus, have you seen all the great events happening on THURSDAY??? If we get there “too early,” we can use that as an excuse to check out the Richmond Children’s Museum before everything gets started.
  • I buy my “must haves” right away, then spend time going over and over the “I know I need something but I don’t know what to get” list. And then in between, as things might catch my fancy, I might sneak them in. Or, if they are truly a splurge I might wait until the last minute. Just in case I can talk myself out of it. Or not.
  • ***New TIP: Are you wavering between buying certain items? TAKE A PICTURE WITH YOUR SMARTPHONE of the item AND the booth where you found it! Then, when you’re ready to go back and purchase, you’ve got that info just waiting for you!!***
  • I’ve got my seminar list ready to go! I’ve highlighted all the ones I want to see
  • I plan to plan our meals ahead of time. Since I went gluten-free, eating is an all new adventure for me, and grabbing a slice of pizza in the exhibit hall isn’t going to cut it. Last year I had quite a bit of difficulty coming up with decent local-to-the-convention-center-food where the line wasn’t a mile long, and I really paid for it. (By the way, food IN the convention center? Expensive.) So, we’ll come with snacks and water for the room, but also, I plan where we’ll eat each evening in advance. At least that way I know I’ll get one good meal a day. Plus, is breakfast added into the cost of your hotel room? Will you have time to eat real bfast? Then we might want to bring something to the room for bfast each morning.
  • Beyond that? I plan to take lots of deep breaths and just relax. Absorb what I can absorb, meet who I can meet, enjoy everything I can, and just take in all the inspiration I can to get me through the next school year!

HEAV- Home Educators Association of Virginia – website

“I am excited to be a blogger for HEAV this year. In exchange for sharing my honest opinion about this convention, I was provided with a family registration at no charge.”

An Update on my Working While Homeschooling

Three years ago, I started a series on Working While Homeschooling.

Day 1 here
Day 2 here
Day 3 here
Day 4 here
Day 5 here

Since then I’ve noticed a huge uptick in interest in this, and so I thought I would share with you guys how my Working While Homeschooling experience has evolved in the past year or so, and then in the future I will continue the original series!

Because, yeah, I’m still working and homeschooling at the same time. This wasn’t the plan, and I keep hoping it will not be the plan soon, but realistically? . . . I don’t see that happening. We are in a big “Dave Ramsey-pay off everything” phase right now, and then comes college savings and retirement and all that, and you get the idea. Though, I do still have the dream of my own business evolving to the point of it being my only “work.” I have some definite ideas on how to make that happen, and am working on developing that. But in the meantime, I’m still working my personal business and a contract for a national organization as well. And as my kids are getting older and needing me less, that will most likely continue!

We keep my “work” very much in mind when make our homeschool plans, and have placed greater importance, especially this year when they are now doing 4th and 2nd/3rd grade level work, on independent learning. Basically, giving the girls at least some work they can do on their own if I am not available to be there. Or, for them to come with me with questions, but mainly complete themselves. I am just not able to be 100% hands-on at this point, and also, they have grown to not want me to be either. They are proud of their independence! And yes, I am constantly having to make sure they aren’t being lazy and are actually completing assignments, and not skipping parts. “Doing your work thoroughly and completely, and to the best of your ability” has been a big part of our process this year.

How in the world are we accomplishing this? First, it has taken us almost the entire school year for them to get to this point (they are almost 10 and 8 as well) of learning how to truly be independent in their work. We also focused on curriculum that makes this possible. We use Teaching Textbooks for math and SpellingCity.com for spelling (I pull Abeka spelling lists off right from SpellingCity.com to use!). We have done Bible workbooks or KeysforKids.com for their devotional time – it was very important to me that they start developing the habit/need of personal devotional time now that they are both young Christians and also can read well on their own. And, it gives me a chance to have my own devotional time! I don’t get to have my own if they aren’t busy with something to do! And I desparately needed that back in my own life!

We started Growing with Grammar and Winning with Writing this year, and while I wasn’t quite sure about it, both girls have really enjoyed it, and have requested it again for next year. These can be done completely independently if I am not available, or they can just come to me when they have questions or don’t understand something. They have had their own handwriting or copywork to do each day. We have used Math Songs and Math Keys to practice the math facts rotating numbers each day. And then I will assign whatever is to be done with whatever current science, literature or World Geography units we are working on.

This year, we began with working together in the mornings and them doing their independent work in the afternoons for most of the year. But just in the past few weeks, we are now changing and adapting our schedule once again. I am now giving the girls their independent work (the majority of their assignments) first thing in the morning, and I am changing my work schedule so I do my client calls primarily in the mornings at the same time. This will hopefully leave most of the afternoons free! During the afternoons, we will do any group projects that my input is still needed for, field trips, errands, or outside activities.

Our girls are now at that age where the time limits my job has put on them is really becoming a problem. We have realized that our girls are having a stronger need for even more time with “friends.” They want more time at the homeschool park days (severely limited on our previous schedule) and they have been begging for more “lessons” – which has been difficult to do when I work in the afternoons. Yes, the dreaded socialization issue!

We hope this will give us more freedom to try out some of the traditional after-school activities. Or hit a museum without stressing about me having to be on the phone at a certain time. I have missed being able to be creative with field trips. That sort of thing. Also, this leaves my afternoons free to explore some of my own creative business ideas when my “office hours” are done, and the kids are playing outside.

I have also found to it feel incredibly freeing to get work out of the way first thing in the morning and then being able to “mentally leave the office” instead of watching the clock all day, so I won’t be “late.” I am looking forward to continuing this through next year as well!

Considering, or New to, Homeschooling?

I recently had a friend say she’s considering homeschooling and ask for advice.  Specifically, she asked for tips, but also why we chose whatever curriculum we chose. Below is some of the advice I shared with her:

I love homeschooling, even though sometimes I want to duck-tape the kids to the wall! (And now that our oldest is entering her prepubescent years, THAT HAS NOT CHANGED.:) )

There are a million ways to go about homeschooling. And tons of things you can do! First, look for local support groups and co-ops and meet lots of homeschool moms. Find a good homeschool convention around you and GO. Talk to bunches of people. Figure out what really will fit you guys the best because that is going to matter most.

Some programs such as Sonlight, for example, are very popular – but for me it was very intense and lots of work on the parent’s part. And very expensive, which I couldn’t justify because at first hubby was not really on board. The same applies to Classical Conversations – it was a bit intense for me, and I have learned I’m not very good about following a group and doing certain things because you kinda have to stay together in your learning with the group. (And pricey for me when you have more than one kid in it.)

When I began homeschooling, I was truly on my own. I knew very few people who homeschooled and had very little direct contact with it, etc.

I started with My Father’s World for the perhaps dumb reason that I had other friends using it, and it wasn’t astronomically expensive. I didn’t really research it much at the time (like I now do). What grabbed me was that it was Christian-based and it was all organized for you. It is what they call “a box curriculum” where you buy a “kit” and that’s it. It had a teacher’s manual that says “do this” and “say that.” Made me feel a lot better as a beginner homeschool mom.

And even though, “doing X because other people are” might have a been a dumb reason to start, we truly fell in absolute LOVE with the MFW program. If I had more kids, we would absolutely go back to it for the K-2 years IN A HEARTBEAT.

I think the MFW K-2 programs are EXCELLENT. We had the best time with those years. I did add a “stronger” math (Saxon) because that made me feel better about making sure they had a strong math knowledge. I stink at math so making sure they don’t is important to me.

I like My Father’s World because its approach is to keep lessons short for short attention spans, lots of hands-on activities, big emphasis on nature and spending time outdoors. My main focus to begin with was to make sure they learn to read. And math of course. Once they can read, they can truly learn whatever the heck they want.

As an example, the K program last about 90 minutes a day which means there is plenty of time to be outside,and do all sorts of other activities. It was more important to spend my time and money on those “field trips” and extra-curriculars, etc. I loved that so little time was spent on “school” (what they think of as school) so they can focus on their own interests and what THEY want to learn and do.

Of course, now that mine are older, it has come back to bite me on the behind. They don’t want to learn what the teacher’s manual tells them it’s time to learn. They want to do what they want to do, which means I don’t have a teacher’s manual to follow anymore. I really miss being able to lean on that!

So, right now we do more of an eclectic, unit-based, notebooking, approach. We are not completely child/delight-led because I still have “control” of what I think they need to learn at this stage – but their input heavily ways in. For example – we know they have to do science. They tell me a list of ideas they are interested in, and I go looking for materials on those topics. And then we start doing them one at a time. (We only did 3 topics last year for science.) I am guessing as they get older and older, they will take more and more independence in this as well.

After that, HSLDA should be your first stop for the legal mumbo-jumbo to review the laws and reporting you need to do. But mainly you need to think about your kids learning styles and yours, and how exactly do you WANT to teach.  But, no matter where you live, it can be done. I currently live in one of the most regulated states in the US, and it is still very doable here.

Here are a few websites that have some good steps:

Homeschool Mom – Getting Started Homeschooling

Successful Homeschooling

Confessions of a Homeschooler

Ooops! Forgot to Announce HEAV 2016 Pass Winner!

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My sincere apologies, guys, I completely forgot that I hadn’t announced the winner to my 2016 HEAV Pass Giveaway!

Congratulations to Karen Phillips! Your family is going to HEAV this year for free!

Congats to Rafflecopter Giveaway Winner!
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HEAV- Home Educators Association of Virginia – website

“I am excited to be a blogger for HEAV this year. In exchange for sharing my honest opinion about this convention, I was provided with a family registration at no charge.”

My Biggest Question about the HEAV Convention!

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Flyer2016-Front-1000x412This is a repost with minor changes from previous years!

If you’re a newbie to the HEAV Convention, there was one question I had my first time that I just couldn’t find the answer!

My biggest question:

Dress Code!

I will admit, for my very first homeschool convention, this was a big concern for me! I hadn’t been around a lot of homeschoolers before. Were they are all going to be in long skirts and the ever-so-stereotypical prairie style?

I even chose our clothes with this in mind, and was SOOOO relieved to realize we fit right in!

Yes, there is the “skirt” crowd. Yes, there is the “skirt to the ground” and even the “prairie print dress” crowd. My girls were fascinated by some of the Mennonite attendees which sparked some interesting conversations about “head coverings.”

Yet, to balance all that out, there was the contingent from what I lovingly refer to as the “granola” homeschooling crowd. You know, with the teenager with purple hair and black leather boots and the funky clothes!

And no one batted an eye.

That very first day, I was sitting in the hall in line (can’t remember what for now) and just breathed a huge sigh of relief. I look absolutely normal! I fit right in! I don’t stick out – in fact, with my jean skirt and blouse, I was smack-dab in the middle of the dress code continuum.

And I can’t begin to tell you how good that felt. After homeschooling for only a year with very little “community,” it just felt sooo good to fit right in.

That all being said, I’ll give ya’ll some advice for you newbie attendees:

a) WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES! Really. The miles you will walk that weekend will astound you. No one cares if your shoes match or are cute. And after a few hours, neither will you. So, for goodness sakes, be comfortable!

b) APPRECIATE CONVICTIONS OF OTHERS. Obviously what I learned last year was there was not an official dress code for HEAV. But, it would probably be polite to at least take others’ concerns about modesty into consideration when packing! I didn’t go out and purchase a new wardrobe, but I did pick clothes that were on the more modest (not that my clothes are all that revealing, in any case). My skirt came to my knee for instance. My shirt didn’t show a lot of cleavage. My girls didn’t wear spaghetti strap sundresses.  Again, this is not to impose any rules on you, but to just consider others’ beliefs. That’s all.

And for some reason, I feel the need to say we don’t go around wearing super-revealing clothes the other 362 days a year. After re-reading this, I’m not so sure that comes across that well!

c) SWEATER. You might appreciate a sweater in some of those seminars and halls. One you can easily take on and off as the situation warrants, and balls up and be stuffed in your purse easily. But I’m a bit of a cold-nature person anyway!

 “I am excited to be a blogger for HEAV this year. In exchange for sharing my honest opinion about this convention, I was provided with a family registration at no charge.”

Getting Ready for 2016 Homeschool Convention Season #3

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Flyer2016-Front-1000x412This post is a repeat with minor changes from last year.

Last post was all practical and humorous, but today I’d like to go back to the spiritual gut-check side of convention.

Now that we’ve evaluated our “current” curriculum status, and “organized” the past stuff that needs to go, we really should take a moment and look to the future.

Yes, even before we start deciding which grammar and spelling curriculum to use next fall.

Think of this time as a great opportunity – it’s like the New Year Resolutions for homeschoolers. We’re out with the old and in with the new. And with that always comes a time of reflection, of celebrating being done, and also making resolutions/goals for the upcoming year.

And this is a really perfect time to sit down with your spouse and “Define Your Homeschooling Mission.

Defining your purpose and vision (see, there goes my “Coaching” voice again) can be life changing. I know that going through this process each year, (outside of homeschooling), truly helped me clarify the driving priorities and purposes in my life. Step-by-step, I began to evolve into who I am, and closer to whom I’m meant to be.

And oh, isn’t that what we want for our families? For our homeschool? For our children?

So as a personal challenge this week, sit down with the hubby, a cup of coffee (or chocolate ice cream, whichever makes discussion go down better), and really just talk about these questions. Perhaps you might want to email him the link to this article ahead of time, giving him time to come up with his list of answers, and then you both can compare notes.

And just since we’re already going there, I want to point out this article that I read. WOW. Powerful stuff. But really, has the “homeschooling” become the driving force in all that you do in your home? Sadly, I’ve seen several “discussions” online that give me pause. Maybe because I led a Bible study in past years, entitled “No Other Gods” that I’m hypersensitive about this particular topic?

Regardless, we still want to make sure that God is the ruler of our home, our lives, AND our homeschools.

And once we, as individuals, as parents and as a family, able to truly envision that “better us” that God is ever developing, we can start to use that as our guideline.

How does that information define your choices?

  1. Does it affect particular curriculum choices?
  2. How do you keep homeschooling within it’s proper order of priority in your family?
  3. What things might need to be reviewed and adjusted from last year?
  4. What can you simplify in your family to make it all work out “to the glory of God” in hopefully a less chaotic, calmer manner?
  5. How are you teaching “living in priority” to your children? Are they learning from your life or only your words?

Yes, these are the things I’m contemplating right now – as I sit here and read reviews of spelling and grammar programs. Yes, here is Choice A, which everyone says is SO amazing, but they also say it’s very time consuming. Choice B is also good, but is more shorter time period each day. Which one fits with my “simplifying, calming, and loving/nuturing” atmosphere I long to create? Perhaps it’s worth it to use the longer time-intensive program and make cuts somewhere else. Or, do I really need all those extra curriculum enhancement programs I’ve found online? When is too much? Or when is the extra just so much fun you don’t want to stop?

I guess what I’m saying is, this is a really good time to figure out where your lines seem to be drawn in the sand. Obviously I might not be able to figure out the answer to that grammar/spelling curriculum internal debate before convention, but knowing having our family mission statement and priorities organized, will make those decisions much easier and quicker. So, you know, you can enjoy everything else at convention!

(PS. Another reason I want to be clear on this before attending: Hubby attends HEAV with me each year. Which means he will actually SEE how much I spend in the Expo hall. More incentive to behave. Ha!)

HEAV- Home Educators Association of Virginia – website

 

“I am excited to be a blogger for HEAV this year. In exchange for sharing my honest opinion about this convention, I was provided with a family registration at no charge.”

 

Getting Ready for 2016 Homeschool Convention Season #2

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This post is a repeat with minor changes from last year.

Soooooooooo, in a previous post, we talked about becoming spiritually ready for convention.

After that, I’d say step to get ready for convention is to organize, evaluate, and consolidate!

1. ORGANIZE

First of all, do you want to participate in the Used Curriculum Sale? Right now is the time to sign up and get ready! Start pulling all of your “old stuff” together for the sale, and get it priced. Be sure to read my earlier article about getting ready for the Used Curriculum Sale as well!

And then have a little weep over all the curriculum that you have to say goodbye to.

Goodbye MFW Kindergarten Curriculum (and random preschool stuff. Snif, snif.

Goodbye MFW Kindergarten Curriculum (and random preschool stuff). Sniff, sniff.

And this is where I usually just get stuck. I know it all needs to go, we’re completely maxed out already and we’re not going to be using it again. But oh, it’s just so hard to let go! I have such emotional attachment and memory attachment to these books and items!

Last year I honestly just couldn’t handle the thought of the consignment process. If my kids were older, I might assign this to them as a project!:) But, since they aren’t, I decided to forgo the consignment sale route and did a swap with another homeschool mom who needed this and had the year that I needed. Last year, that was just a much easier option.

This year, though? I’m about about getting this nonsense OUT OF MY HOUSE. I’m so tired of all this nonsense taking up space.

???????????????????????????????2. EVALUATE

Now that the old is gone, evaluate what is left. Have you pre-bought/pre-collected items for next year? Get them together and see where the holes are. Any missing gaps? Make sure you make a note of it.

Have you made your decisions for your curriculum for next year? Where are your continued question marks? Any wish lists?

To add to that list: any questions that you really wish you can ask for help on? Each year there are “Curriculum Doctors” and they are the absolute sweetest ladies on the planet. So calm and so reassuring to this new homeschooling mama, AND they had such great ideas for me – at the time we were stuck at the dreaded “Addition Math Facts” hurdle. To the point where I’d been calling my mom begging her for advice!

(Side note just so you can get that joke: My mother – super-analytical-brained CPA. Me – artsy-creative-thinker, and DEFINITELY NOT a CPA, who still to this day does her checkbook on the computer so she doesn’t have to add or subtract. My mother and I and doing math homework growing up??? Quite a funny picture. I was more interested in the story behind the math problem, asking why Jenny and John wanted to put their apples together in one basket, and my mother would just say, “Just answer the problem already!” Such irony, I not only homeschool but I’m now the one trying to teach someone math! Oh well, guess you had to be there.)

And the rest of the folks at the HEAV convention? From the volunteers manning the “new to homeschooling” booth to the vendors in the exhibition hall? Just awesome. Learned so much that I’m surprised my head didn’t explode.

3. CONSOLIDATE

This is just a simple note to say that now is a good time to get all of this wonderful pondering and prepping organized in one place. In some sort of fashion that would make it easy to carry around the convention hall.

Because you know you’re going to forget something and just want to give yourself a good head-slap. Or you get home and realize you bought things you don’t end up needing. Like a particular book on my bookshelf that I have bought THREE TIMES. Because every time I see it I buy it, forgetting that I’ve done that twice already! Or, ya know, you already have six-zillion different science experiment idea books on your shelf, you really don’t need the five more you impulse-bought at the exhibition hall. Ya know. Or, the REALLY IMPORTANT QUESTION about math curriculum that you only remembered to ask the last two hours of the convention, so you have to race around looking for that particular person who is the perfect person to ask, that you already had the half-hour conversation with the day before? Ya know, that sort of thing!

Not that I’m talking from experience, of course. Not at all!

Oh, and please, if you haven’t already, STOP RIGHT NOW AND REGISTER. RIGHT NOW!

And then, BOOK YOUR HOTEL ROOM IF NEEDED.

 

“I am excited to be a blogger for HEAV this year. In exchange for sharing my honest opinion about this convention, I was provided with a family registration at no charge.”

Lessons Learned From Past Homeschool Conventions

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Flyer2016-Front-1000x412This is re-posted from previous years, with minor changes.

Here are a few of my lessons learned from attending HEAV’s Homeschool Convention:

1. Pack half of what you need, and then cut that by half. And then by half again. Really.

2. Don’t expect to actually to get anything done afterwards in the evenings in the hotel. You’re going to be brain-dead. Or exhausted from hauling your loads of junk around. So why pack it in the first place? Just leave it all at home.

3. WEAR COMFY SHOES WITH LOTS OF SUPPORT. Trust me, no one here is going to look at your feet and no one will care if your sneakers match your outfit in the least. In fact, they will probably be looking very longingly at your feet, wishing they were wearing comfy sneakers too. And remember, you’re talking of two-three days of walking around carrying tons of junk.

4. There is a reason that they recommend you bring a cart on wheels. ‘Cause you will be carrying lots of junk. My first year, I had one of my Thirty-One Gifts Large Utility Totes, and about killed myself. First of all, because the bag will just hold too much stuff and I am apparently a wimp. But also, because I had it up over my shoulder all day long. Even my “briefcase purse” that I’m using today is tiring. (Gots lots of complements on them though! And being a girl, I did enjoy getting complements on my bags and my purse!)

And last year, I had two rolling totes. I loved them so much, I’ve killed them both this past year. So yes, I have to get new ones! My first purchase already planned!

5. Labels with your contact info. That was recommended on a blog post I read, and I’m so glad I did this. This is great for filling out all those “Enter to Win” forms. Peel, stick, and you’re done. Saves a lot of writers’ cramp. (I forgot my labels last year! I just left them right on the printer. So I guess I would add – actually make sure you pack them!)

6. Business cards with contact info on it to share with other people. I learned this eons ago from when I used to go to conferences with direct-selling companies and it was wonderful. However, I was completely SHOCKED at how many people were so surprised when I was able to hand them my contact info after we met. AND, by how many didn’t even offer to reciprocate. Like every single person I met (that wasn’t trying to sell me something in the exhibition hall). No one even offered to write down their email and exchange that.

7. MEET NEW PEOPLE! Don’t only talk to the people you know! Please, please, please, step outside your pretty little comfort zone box and talk to someone new. Because that someone new might have come by herself with two small children, might be new to the area and not know a soul, and might just be STARVING for friendship. Take a chance, and go a step beyond the polite conversation in the Starbucks line! That “nice gal I briefly met” might be a wonderful encouragement to you, or perhaps be your chance to be God’s arms and give her a huge hug after an emotional session!

Now that I’ve been to convention for a few years, I will say it is so wonderful to come back “home” and see all those friendly faces once again! I have dear friends now from all over that I only know because of HEAV! Only because they were willing to talk to this crazy gal! And I can’t wait to go back just to see my buddies again!

8. Come ready for God to speak to your heart and stir your soul. Really. PACK KLEENEX PACKETS. Bring extras to share to bless the gal next to you. Bring extra pens to share, and paper (cause I forgot my pad in one session and had to scribble on a scratch paper). Pray for those around you. Look for God working in the room, and offer up prayers and praise in support. And set aside a few minutes of quiet time partway through each  day to just deal with what He is bringing up in your own heart. Trust me, you’re going to need it. And plan some alone time after you get home to just process all that you took in while there. It’s just an overload of stuff.

9. Take copious notes. And then buy the convention recordings.

10. SLEEP. Don’t worry about anything else in the evenings except showering and sleeping. You are going to need the extra sleep to deal with all the emotional energy you are going to be expending. And carting around of stuff like heavy curriculum books and impulse purchases. I wish I was kidding! (Surely, I’ll behave better next year, right? As all this won’t be so new???? Oh well, I can dream.)

11. Check the room before you leave. Have someone else check it, then wait five minutes and check it again. One year, I did all this and still left my nice pillow there. Doh! I was losing things all weekend. I blame it on the sleep deprivation.

12. Pack your cellphone chargers. After last year, hubby and I now have “battery packs” to use as well, when our cellphone batteries try to run out. I know that was also because I was using my phone so much to blog, etc at the convention as well, but it was actually quite difficult to find plugs in convenient locations around the Conference Center!

13. Take extra bags to bring stuff home in! My Thirty-One Gifts Large Utility Totes came is so handy when it was time to come home! Everything I got – books, brochures, whatever, was easily shoved into one tote, the girls toys and pillows in another, etc. They collapse completely when not using them and take up almost no room. So that’s why I like them. Well, that and they’re cute.

14. Okay, I know I’m supposed to say something about staying on budget, blah blah blah. Coming with your list and your money and sticking to it. Well, I never follow my own advice, so I’m definitely not going to be the one to tell you to! HA! At the very least before you go, make a list of “must haves” and review what you already have so you don’t buy duplicates.

15. Take advantage of the experts there! While there, I was able to sit down and talk to several different ladies about my children and their educational/ developmental needs. I got some fabulous advice and information that really helped me feel like we are now in a position to conquer the dreaded math facts instead of them conquering us! Plus, I talked to several people about missionary work around the world, legislative work at both the state and federal level, and what science kits would be appropriate for our current age levels. Soak up the knowledge of the pros while you can!

16. Use childcare. My first year at the HEAV convention, the “kids room” started at age five, and I didn’t want to split up my girls. Plus, there was absolutely NO WAY I was taking a three year old into lecture hall sessions with me for eight straight hours! That would have been pure torture for both of us. So, I bit the bullet, worked my contact list and found a college student babysitter. My girls were thrilled, and I got to really focus on the task at hand. It was a pretty price to pay, but worth it.  The moms/parents who were hauling around multiple toddlers and older kids and still trying to listen to the speakers while keeping the rug-rats happy and quiet – I honestly don’t know how they heard or concentrated on a thing. (I am not talking about breastfeeding infants.)

Now that my girls are older, they love the kid’s program! They beg to go (and then, not to leave) every year! My youngest, who has social anxiety, did have enough by the second day, and was more than willing to attend sessions with me in the peace and quiet (and color with some markers and paper I got for her).

 

 
“I am excited to be a blogger for HEAV this year. In exchange for sharing my honest opinion about this convention, I was provided with a family registration at no charge.”

Getting Ready for 2016 Homeschool Convention Season #1

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This post is a repeat with minor changes from previous years. It’s time for the HEAV (Home Educators Association of Virginia) Convention again, and I thought it would be a good idea to re-share my posts to get you ready!!!

The 2016 HEAV (Home Educators Association of Virginia) Convention is coming up soon! Are you guys excited??

And are you registered????? Because registration is open! Clicky Here (And if I were you, I’d go ahead and get that hotel room reserved!)

Reading a post from the 2:1 Conference, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about getting ready for the upcoming homeschool conference.

In previous First Things First posts, I’ve talked about the idea of making sure we put Christ first in everything we do. And I really like the idea of practicing what I preach to my girls as well – if I say I want to put God first in our homeschool life, then just maybe I should start putting him first in my preparation of it as well!

So that’s my challenge for YOU this week. Are you putting God FIRST in your homeschool preparation? Before the research of curriculum choices, before the sorting and organizing for the Used Curriculum Sale, before asking a zillion other homeschool moms their opinions on various programs — Have you put FIRST THINGS FIRST?

Please take some time this week and prepare your heart with God. Spend time getting His input on your children’s education!

After all, who could really know your children better than the Maker and Creator? (1 Peter 4:19)

Who could know what is truly going to up in the next year better than the One who sees all? (Psalm 139:1-5)

Who is the One who holds your kids in the palm of His hand? (John 10:29)

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And pray not only for your children, but what about you? (Oh, and your spouse, of course!)

After all, this is the stereotypical time of the year that you plan for next. And how can you lead unless you yourself are being led by the Commander of the Heavenly Hosts?  (Isaiah 55:4)

Pray that you will continue to “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” even before advanced “education.” Beg the One Who Sees All to open your eyes, so that you can see the vision as well, and the road before you.

Ask that He prepare your heart before you arrive, so not only can this (not-so-little) homeschool convention be MORE than just about “school.” May this be a time of rejuvenation, of strengthening, of clarity, of encouragement. Oh, and of fun! Nothing wrong with asking that God help you truly enjoy your time there!

Each week until the HEAV Convention, I’ll be posting more thoughts on getting prepared! Stay tuned!!!

Sign up for my HEAV Convention Pass Giveaway!! HEAV’s convention is June 9-11th this year!

Yes, you can win a pass so you can attend HEAV’s convention for free! (Leaving more money to spend on stuff! WAHOO!) Optional Programs are not included, and if you have already registered and you win, HEAV will credit you for the amount of the free pass! This giveaway ends March 24 at midnight, so sign up now!

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Go to this Rafflecopter Giveaway And Good Luck!

 

HEAV- Home Educators Association of Virginia – website

“I am excited to be a blogger for HEAV this year. In exchange for sharing my honest opinion about this convention, I was provided with a family registration at no charge.”
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