After 9 years of homeschooling and three previous years of attending this particular convention, I came into this year with a slightly different mindset. I’ve heard many of the speakers, so I made a point to attend sessions of speakers of those I had never listened to (or in some cases, never even heard of). I had mixed results and started attending some of the more "sure thing" speakers, those that are known to be excellent and knowledgeable presenters, like Susan Wise Bauer, toward the end of the convention. In other cases, I found some new speakers to explore and gleaned some new information. In all, I attended 9 sessions with a mix of some old favorites, and new (to me) speakers.
I also didn’t have much to purchase for next year, and the vendor hall was less of a quest for the perfect product and more a time to browse and see what is out there. My only true school purchase was Math-u-See Pre-Algebra for my son. My other purchases included:
- a Rin-Tin book for my son (Timberdoodle)
- a t-shirt for my son (I can't remember the company name, unfortunately)
- some graph paper tablets for math work for my son (Miller Pads and Paper)
- soap, a candle, and a laundry bar for me (Virginia Soaps and Scents)
You'll notice that I purchased nothing for my daughter! First of all, since she was with me, she was able to purchase any fun souvenir items on her own. However, the only thing she came home with was a gift for her brother, a Lego stop-animation DVD that told the story of Jericho, by Shatterpoint Entertainment. Isn't that sweet? As for curricula, I have many of her items already, and those I don't are textbooks selected by various online courses and not necessarily something found in the vendor hall.
In previous years, I’ve come home with much more. However, after 9 years of homeschooling and 3 years of being a product reviewer, I’m finding I already have plenty on my shelves! While that is a good thing (and less costly), I sort of missed the quest for products in the vendor hall this year.
Meeting new people is always a blessing each year. I had the opportunity to meet several TOS Crew members. A small group of us met Saturday a.m. for a quick chat and I met a couple other Crew members that were working at booths in the vendor hall. It is always nice to meet online acquaintances in person. In addition, I was able to meet Niki of In the Hands of a Child when I dropped off some product by my company, Pear Educational Products, that they are distributing. I’ll expand more on this wonderful partnership at a later time.
My teen had a great time and enjoyed the sessions in the TeenTrack. She even went to a workshop on the topic of teen etiquette on her own free will, which made me proud considering I met a mom in the coffee line that was bribing her daughter with a mocha to attend the same session.
And I can’t forget to mention Tim Hawkins. What a talented and funny guy. I laughed all the way through the performance.
Overall, this is a great convention to attend and well worth the 4-hour drive to get there. I'm not sure if I'll continue to go every year, as it can get expensive to travel, but I'm sure I'll make it again before my homeschooling years are over.