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Well, here I am – just returned from HEAV’s (Home Educators Association of Virginia) conference. This is my first chance to attend a home school convention and here are a few of my lessons learned.

1. Pack half of what you need, and then cut that by half. 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 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. I had one of my new 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!)

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.

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 another direct-selling company 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!

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. I did all this and still left my nice Tempur-Pedic pillow there. Doh! I was losing things all weekend. I blame it on the sleep deprivation.

12. 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. The 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.

13. 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 didn’t 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.

14. 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!

15. Use childcare. 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. I am hoping by next year I have figured out a cheaper option, but for this weekend, it worked out well for us. 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.) I hope that next year HEAV creates a (potty-trained) preschooler room, where at least they can go and play safely, even if the parent has to go with them.

 
So there ya’ go. My 15 lessons learned from this weekend. And now, I am going to go crash in my very own bed and sleep like a rock until the chickadees wake me up at the crack of dawn tomorrow!
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