I’ve never actually “attended” a homeschool convention…not in all of my 15 years of homeschooling! A few years ago, I worked the Logic of English vendor booth at the HEAV Convention in Richmond, VA. That’s as close as I ever got. Since I had a vendor pass, I was able to shop the used curriculum sale and browse the rest of the vendor hall on breaks, but that was it. I only worked one day.
I can’t imagine attending all of those seminars. I’m in the winding-down phase of homeschooling with only one who will be left at home next school year. He has just 4 more years before he will go to public high school, and then I can officially retire from this 19-year career as a homeschool teacher!
But I have to admit I was excited to see that the Texas Homeschool Convention here in Fort Worth offered FREE shopping in the vendor hall on the opening night of the convention. I decided to go and browse from 6-9 PM, and I ended up closing the place down! I had to pay $18 to park (a bit shocking, but hey, it’s downtown Fort Worth), so it wasn’t totally free to go, but I probably wouldn’t have been happy to spend that and then pay to get in, too!
Anyway, I really wanted to get some ideas of things I might use for Holden next year. Since he’s the last one at home, I want to make next year fun for him. It’ll be nice to do one-on-one homeschooling again, like I did in the beginning with Hayden as my one and only child. I prepared myself by taking a list of the subjects I plan to teach, what I have that I could use to teach those (I have a lot of options since I’ve been reviewing curriculum for The Old Schoolhouse magazine for 7 years), and I put question marks next to things I wasn’t sold on so I would know what subjects to browse when I arrived. I also had a printed list of all the books in BookShark History 5 where I had checked off the ones I already owned in the Sonlight version and circled the ones I needed to replace as new titles.
I must say that most of all, I enjoyed chatting with vendors whose products I’ve already used. I love giving feedback on what works and what doesn’t, and I guess that’s why I enjoy reviewing products so much. I got a chance to meet Señor Gamache from La Clase Divertida, and he was such a nice man! He offered to take a photo for Holden, who was dying to meet him. Holden was at a soccer practice with his sister, so he missed the chance to go. He loved seeing a real, live photo of him with mom! Señor Gamache said the best part for him is getting to meet his “students!”
I stopped by the Sonlight booth to see all the changes they’ve made, and I spent a good while discussing upcoming changes at the BookShark booth. It looks like Core 5’s Eastern Hemisphere Notebook (EHN) will be coming out in color around June! We start in late June, so I may not be able to wait for it, but I may order the 2017 version and then just update the EHN at that time. I did get to peek at their new full-color IG’s for the early grades, which were really easy on the eyes! And I got to peek at their new American History lapbooks, which I think are intended for Cores 3 and 4, but you could easily use them with Core 100, as well. They were beautiful, and they were designed by Home School in the Woods exclusively for BookShark/Sonlight!
I probably spent the most time talking with the representative at Classical Academic Press. I decided to stop and ask them if they had considered producing a sequel to Song School Spanish, and he said YES! In fact, they are releasing it probably in early June! So Song School Spanish 2 is on the way shortly. I can’t wait! Haylee and I reviewed the first one when it first came out a few years ago, and I saved it for Holden to use in 2nd grade. He loved it and finished the whole program! This sequel is for upper elementary, so it will be perfect for him to use for 5th grade. I think I’ll plan to buy that. I also suggested they might consider doing another Review Crew run for the new one, and they seemed open to that! I hope so. I talked so positively about the program that the guy told his marketing director that I ought to be the one Song School Spanish at their booth! LOL
At the Nature’s Workshop Plus booth, they had so many cool hands-on activity kits. I picked up a few small oil pastel kits for Haylee to do. She loves artsy stuff. And I made some notes about potential human body models to get for Holden to use for 5th grade science. We are currently reviewing Apologia Anatomy & Physiology, and I had ordered the Nature’s Workshop Plus lab kit to go with it. We are enjoying all of the experiments so much that we plan to use the set for 5th grade science starting in June instead of doing BookShark Science 5 as we had originally planned. It was nice to see that NWP had kits for all of the Apologia sciences. If Holden really loves it next year, I may just continue with Apologia for the rest of his years at home. I’ve reviewed Chemistry & Physics, Zoology 3: Land Animals, and Astronomy in years’ past, so I have those on my shelves already. I could just order the NWP lab kits to go with them, and we’d be ready to go.
At some point, I need to plan to do a 50-state study with Holden, and a focused study on Texas history. I have stuff to use for that already, but I did spot a really cool book called Eat Your Way Across the USA that had several recipes unique to each state. Holden loves food and cooking and trying new things, so I think he’d really enjoy that. I added it to my wish list at Amazon to keep in mind for when we finally getting around to doing that 50-state study.
I also jotted down that I liked the looks of Essentials in Writing 5 to possibly use for Grammar for Holden next year. I reviewed the 9th grade version with Hayden many years ago, and it seemed like a good program. He ended up enrolling in a charter high school, so he didn’t end up using any of the high school stuff I had, but I remembered that there were DVD videos that went with it. When I got home, I stayed up super late, until about 2:45 this morning, doing more research on line about all the things I found, and I saw a video clip of one of the EIW5 instruction videos on YouTube. It was pretty dull for an elementary student, so maybe I won’t go that route, or perhaps I’ll just use the workbook without the rest of it. It’s something to think about.
In any case, despite spending $18 on parking, I think it was a good trip. I had a good time and got some ideas and information I was looking to get. I always like to put my hands on new materials in person before making any purchasing decisions. I’m not one to try something sight unseen. That’s one of the advantages of reviewing products…I actually get to try them, and if we like them, sometimes I’ll stick with that vendor and keep buying their products or buy some more down the road when it seems appropriate. But at least I already know what I’m getting and what will work for us.
I’m sure the convention center is packed today and tomorrow with all of those lectures taking place. The vendor hall wasn’t too busy last night, so it seemed like the best time to go. I’ll keep that in mind for next year, and perhaps I can carpool with someone and split the parking, or get Steve to drop me off and pick me up or something. After all, it’s only 8 miles from home! I feel lucky for that.
Are you going to a homeschool convention this year?