I spied my first flier recently for an upcoming Curriculum Fair; the first of several in my area. I remember many years back… wait – I can’t be that old! – when our STATE curriculum fair was held in a single corner room of a local church. The options then were limited to a few publishers, each with a more traditional textbook / workbook approach. We bought. We made it work. As I gained confidence, I found we were more often ‘winging’ it. I was desperate to ignite in my children the lifelong passion for learning I held. We created optional learning methods back in the day.
Today many homeschooling curriculum fairs put our local Sam’s Club to shame! They’ve exploded – filling warehouses, exhibit halls and convention centers. There’s something to appeal to every learning style, special interest or need, teaching method and beyond. There are speakers, motivational conferences; even break-out sessions for the kids. Let’s just say it can be a bit overwhelming, even for a veteran homeschooler!
I highly recommend developing a curriculum fair ‘Attack Plan’ before you go to avoid major pitfalls such as making poor purchases or breaking the family bank! Here are some of my top tips to include:
- Search for upcoming curriculum fairs in your area – or nearby for a road trip! Put these on your calendar NOW!
- Know your kids’ learning styles: Do your kids prefer textbook/workbook methods or maybe they would find an online, interactive curriculum more engaging? There are hands on materials as well as audio formats which may also appeal.
- Next, narrow it down! Match up the preferred styles with curriculum providers. Read reviews. Company Facebook pages are great places to ask questions for quick responses – not only from the provider but also from real users! Create a list of those you wish to check out in person. Include prices to compare while you are there.
- Plan your budget and stick to it. Include a small cushion for those ‘must have’ items you spy! Many curriculum providers may offer special discounts during the fair or deals like free shipping. If they don’t advertise one at their booth, ask!
- Create a schedule of speakers/seminars you wish to attend. Most will have a published schedule available on the fair website. You can then plan your shopping accordingly. (Note: I find it helpful to set an alarm on my phone with a 15 minute reminder to avoid missing out!)
- Dress comfortably! You will be doing a lot of walking! Prepare accordingly!
- Kids / no kids? I’ve done both… and still do! At this stage, honestly, my decision is based more on what my situation of the day is. Younger kids may will get tired. Older kids may be a benefit to tag along. As the ultimate end user, if they’re immediately turned off by a curriculum, you’re more likely to have a headache in the making. If given a choice though, I lean more to leaving kids at home. (All my kids have my insatiable appetite for books. All of us together could destroy # 3’s budget plan!)
- Fully charge your phone. Not only will this keep you accessible for those left behind (if any!) but are great for looking things up, hosting discussions with your partner or helping you find the buddy you came with! (Extra tip: Pack the charger also!)
- Take your time. Most curriculum fairs are held over two days. If you can attend both, use the first day to browse, ask questions and take notes. Once you’re home, away from all things shiny and new, you’ll think more clearly. Review your notes and make a solid list of things you want to buy on the second day. Don’t have two days? I still recommend making a sweep without purchasing (unless you are 1000% sure!) Take a break over lunch. Give yourself time to separate wants into budget-fitting needs!
- About those purchases: These days, even with most of my kids’ curriculum online, I seem to always walk out weighed down with books. I must warn my fellow book junkies to be aware, curriculum fairs also contain booth after booth filled with ‘regular’ books. Literature, history, science, ‘how-to’s’… books about things I had no idea I was eager to learn about… all screaming “TAKE ME HOME!” with their super crazy discounts. There’s also great homeschool swag to be had – for FREE! Bring either a kiddie wagon (I’m not kidding!) or a suitcase with wheels to lug it all back to the car.
Final thought: Curriculum fairs can be crazy, exhausting and overwhelming. They are also well worth it! It is exhilarating to be immersed in a total sea of homeschool families! You can ask questions and will likely find new ‘extra-curricular’ activities, co-ops or groups available! Homeschool-friendly colleges or tech schools may have reps available to talk to. Ultimately, it is a chance to reboot and recharge your homeschool battery!
Are there any more curriculum fair ‘survival tips’ you have to offer?
Let me know in the comments which curriculum fairs you’ll be attending! I hope to see you there!