In the spring, homeschooling hearts turn to thoughts of conventions and exhibit halls. That elusive, perfect math program. New inspiration for a flagging vision. A fresh approach to grammar. The solution for this year’s educational challenge. With over 1000 conventions and exhibits under our Rainbow belts, here’s our playbook for conquering conventions.
Take some time to look through your favorite catalogs, magazines, and websites for curriculum information. Plan to go to the convention/exhibit with your spouse if at all possible but at the very least talk and plan ahead of time. Discuss various curriculum possibilities and choices. Determine your budget – and what form of payment you’ll use.
To avoid frustrating checkout experiences, call your credit card company and let them know that you’ll be attending. This will be especially useful if you plan on shopping from multiple booths (credit card machiens may register as out-of-state purchases), and/or if you plan on spending a good amount of money in a single day (i.e., $500+).
Don’t forget to make plans for your children so you’ll be able to enjoy your time without worrying about them.
Read through the convention information. You’ll want to think through the time schedule and be aware of shopping times. Pick the workshops that fit a need for you. Take some time to look at the vendor hall map and identify the vendors you most want to visit.
The Night Before
Pack your bag so you’re not rushing around at the last minute. You should include the convention guide, any lists you’ve made (don’t forget to use your tablet or smartphone), pens, address labels (for mailing lists) or maybe email address labels, tissues, mints, hand sanitizer. Be sure to take only what you need – it’s easier to handle and lighter to carry.
When you arrive check to see if there are last minute changes in workshops. Make changes in your plan as needed. Remember to be flexible. Don’t feel badly if you need to leave a workshop early. If you get into a workshop and it isn’t what you thought it would be, go ahead and leave – your time is valuable.
Browsing/Shopping the Exhibit Hall
Take care of your business first. Information is everywhere online these days but the opportunity to skim through a book, feel the paper, get a sense of the flow of information and compare it to other material is something that is really only available at an exhibit hall. Take full advantage of the opportunity. Talk to vendors and ask questions – some of the vendors are homeschoolers themselves and offer a valuable perspective. Some booths are large, so ask where items are located. If time allows, browse booths that intrigue you and get additional information for future purchases.
Pick up catalogs (or sign up for them to be sent) from booths in which you have an interest. Resist the urge to pick up extra catalogs. Remember: you’ll have to carry them around and you’re likely to throw them away when you get home. [Of course, this does not apply to the Rainbow catalog – which is available on CD (pdf) if you prefer.] Resist distractions (i.e. cute displays, intriguing items, pushy vendors).
At the Rainbow Booth
We bring about 3000 titles to a typical convention and up to 4500 to the larger ones (about 1/10 of our total product line). You’ll quickly notice that we pack products into every nook and cranny. It’s a great opportunity to browse and look at new products as well as do your shopping for the next school year. But keep in mind, if you have particular products you wish to look at you may want to come to our booth early in case we sell out of the item. We bring a consultant to most of our exhibits so be sure to ask if you have any questions. We offer free shipping on any orders placed at conventions regardless of size so if we’re out of things we’ll be happy to send one to you.
Rest and Relaxation
For a one day trip, allow time for a quick lunch and more time later for a sit-down dinner to relax. For a two (or more) day trip, allow time for a nice lunch to relax, rehash, and go over plans for the afternoon.
…the kids at home – an inexpensive gift is always easy to find at a convention.
So you didn’t get to everything? No worries! Call vendors after the convention to get the information you need.
Veni, Vidi, Vici
Perhaps an analogy with Caesar and his Gallic Wars is a stretch, but still, we hope you’ll be able to say at the close of your convention/exhibit experience: I came, I saw, I conquered!