“Babe, I don’t think we’re going to make it to the homeschool conference this year, ” I sighed, tears welling up in my eyes.
I was crushed. I didn’t think I was well enough to go. My mysterious health problems were worse and I didn’t know how I was going to make it through a conference when just making it through the day felt impossible sometimes! That may seem like a bit of a melodramatic reaction, but if you ask just about anyone who has been to a homeschool conference they will tell you that they are life changing. They’re full of encouragement, hope, and practical help.
Homeschool conferences are there to encourage you as a wife, mom, and homeschooler. For some of us, though, they can feel nearly impossible in our season of life. Sometimes it’s a having new baby that might make a conference tricky, or a health problem that saps your strength. Maybe it’s a tight budget that makes a homeschool conference feel out of reach. Whatever it is, there is almost always a way to make it work. It IS possible to enjoy a homeschool conference, even if it feels like life is getting in the way.
Enjoying a Homeschool Conference with a Baby
Without a doubt, babies are a blessing. Every baby. Every time. They’re adorable, snugly, have those chubby little cheeks, and a gift from God! Every single thing about them is wonderful. Well… almost everything! Let’s be real here for a moment. Babies are amazing, but they’re also a lot of work sometimes! Logistically speaking, they can make some things harder.
We’ve all had those times when our babies start crying at the worst possible moment. Or the fun of having so much to carry between the baby and his stuff that you’re basically a pack mule. A homeschool conference isn’t going to be an exception to that reality. So do you give up and skip conferences until all of your kids are older? Of course not! Just plan ahead and follow these 3 simple tips for making it work!
Use a Backpack
There are a million cute diaper bags out there. You can find ones for your inner fashionista, ones that accommodate tech gear, and even ones for you camo-loving moms! There’s just one small problem. Most diaper bags aren’t very practical. No matter how cute they are, they still need to get the job done. For a diaper bag, that means fitting everything you need in a relatively organized manner, while being comfortable.
That’s why backpacks make the best diaper bags, especially for conferences. They:
- Sit comfortably on your shoulders
- Balance the weight across both sides (making carrying your baby easier)
- Fit a good amount of supplies
- Have separate, closed pockets for keeping things organized
Wear Your Baby
You’re going to want your hands free during the conference. You might need them for taking notes during a session, or for looking through curriculum in the vendor hall, or even for shaking the hand of your new best friend. Whatever the reason is, being able to use your hands will come in quite, well… handy! It’s not like you can plop your baby in a swing or a bouncer in the conference. So, what can you do? Wear your baby!
Baby wearing gives you the freedom to go about your business while still snuggling your baby close. Not only that, it can spare your arms the strain of carrying your baby around all day! Use whatever type of carrier is most comfortable for you. If you don’t already have a carrier, go get one now! 😁 Seriously, though, try out a few styles to see what works best for you.
Choose Your Seat Wisely
In case you haven’t already figured it out, babies cry. Often at rather inconvenient moments. Like, for example, in the middle of a conference session! If you’ve ever been in the position of having a baby exercise his lungs over the top of a speaker, you know how awkward it can be. Especially since most conferences record their speakers. It can bring on an intense urge to flee and get your baby somewhere that her cries won’t be recorded for posterity! This is why you want to choose your seat wisely.
There are far better ways to make new friends than awkwardly climbing over strangers while your baby serenades them. Don’t ask how I know. Just trust me on this one. If you’re bringing your baby along to a homeschool conference, go with a seat on the end of the aisle so you can avoid those acrobatics.
Enjoying a Homeschool Conference with Health Problems
Are you dealing with chronic health problems? You’re far from alone. Nearly half of Americans are suffering from one or more chronic illnesses.That means there are a whole lot of us moms out there pushing through each day in spite of bodies that don’t want to cooperate!
Sometimes just dealing with the basics of daily life can feel like too much when your health is bad, let alone anything extra. A conference might feel downright impossible, but I promise you it’s not! With a bit of advanced planning you can enjoy a homeschool conference AND take care of your health!
Having an easy drive to and from the conference can make it so much easier on your body. If you’re lucky enough to have a homeschool conference in your town, you’re good to go. On the other hand, if you live quite a drive away, the commute can end up being too much to handle. Your best option is to find a place to stay near the conference.
If you stay near the conference you can pop over for a rest during the day if you need to, and quickly get back to your room at the end of a busy day of learning. If you check with the organization running your conference, they’ve often arranged for a discounted rate at the closest hotels. Trust me when I say that being walking distance to my hotel has saved me more than once!
Know Your Limits
We’ve talked about how to manage things with health problems in my series on rocking life with chronic illness. You HAVE to know your limits when you’re dealing with health struggles. As much as we moms like to see ourselves as superhuman, we can’t go at full tilt all the time. Not if we want to stay well. There’s no use pushing yourself to do everything at the conference, only to pay the price for weeks after.
Instead, plan to tackle the conference in short bursts with rest breaks in between. You don’t need to go lay down and take a nap (unless you want to), but you do need to know your limits. That might mean:
- Going to only one section of the vendor hall at a time
- Finding a place to put your feet up during lunch
- Skipping a session to lay down for a bit
Plan & Prioritize
You know you have some limitations which means you’re going to have to prioritize. You can’t do everything, so you need to decide what’s most important to you. You can do that once you get to the conference, but making decisions on the spot can be a bit stressful. If you take the time to check the conference site ahead of time you can go over all of the sessions, pray about it, and then choose the ones that are most important for your life.
You should also prioritize your time in the vendor hall. It’s a wonderful place. If you’ve never been before, you are in for something special! It is great to be able to see everyone but it’s not always doable. Make a list of which vendors to see first so you don’t miss out on something you need because you ran out of energy. Then, if you have the time and energy, go see the rest!
Enjoying A Homeschool Conference on a Limited Budget
Raise your hand if you’re independently wealthy and can afford everything you want. This section probably isn’t’ for you if your hand is up. Most of us homeschoolers don’t fall into that category, though. Typically we live off of one income and that means being careful with our money.
Then there are homeschoolers who have to do more than watch the budget. Maybe you’re struggling to make ends meet, or you’re buried under medical bills, or had some financial catastrophe knock you off your feet. If that’s you, I’m here to tell you that going to a conference is still possible. It’s just going to take a little creative thinking.
Ask About Scholarships
I’m going to be a bit blunt here for a moment. This is not the time to let pride get in the way. Going to a homeschool conference is incredibly valuable. If you’re not sure how you can afford it, ask for help!
Most homeschool conferences have scholarship opportunities. Don’t feel bad about asking for a scholarship. They have them for a reason. Homeschool organization leaders know how vital conferences are for encouraging and equipping members. They want to help you make it work!
The OCEANetowrk homeschool conference has several types of scholarships available. You can find out more about them on the conference page by scrolling down to the section titled ‘scholarships‘.
Find Alternate Accommodations
Odds are that your closest homeschool conference isn’t going to be just down the road. You’re probably going to have a bit of a drive. You might even have to stay the night. The problem with that is… hotels cost money. If you can’t swing the cost of a room for yourself, there are other options.
- Sharing a hotel room: see if anyone you know is going and share with them.
- Staying with others: If you know someone who lives near the conference, ask if you can bunk with them.
- Camping: Look for campgrounds near the conference.*
*If you’re considering the OCEANetwork Conference, there is camping available on site. You can find out more about it by clicking here and scrolling down to the section labeled ‘Conference Location’.
Bring Your Food
Eating out can get expensive pretty quickly. If you’re dealing with any food allergies or intolerances that’s even more true (not to mention it can get tricky). You don’t have to eat out, though. Bringing your own food from home is a great way to save money. Just pack things that are easy to transport and meet your family’s needs.
Don’t Miss Out on a Homeschool Conference
Wouldn’t it be great if life was always convenient? It would certainly be a lot easier that way! That’s not reality, though. In real life, things are sometimes hard and we have to get creative to figure out how to make them work. The good news is, we CAN still make them work! Don’t let anything stop you from enjoying a homeschool conference this year!