Impressions from a FPEA Noob
This past weekend I enjoyed a Saturday jaunt down to the FPEA Homeschool Convention held in Orlando, Florida with fellow Gainesville Homeschool mom, Carol Stride. Carol has been to the FPEA conference a bazillion times. Last Saturday was my first visit to the FPEA event. I was a FPEA Homeschool Convention newbie.
Everyone keeps asking me what I thought and if it was worth it and should they go next year. So dear Gainesville Homeschool friends, here is what I recommend:
REALIZE WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Most of the homeschool friends I spoke with pre-convention chatted excitedly about browsing curriculum in the exhibit hall. Yet, what the FPEA Convention is really about is recharging your battery, becoming inspired and getting motivated. I think there is a strategic reason the FPEA hosts the convention on Memorial Day Weekend at the end of the homeschool year – they know we are all burnt out and ready for a break.
Why else would you spend your holiday weekend in a decadent hotel dashing from one ballroom to the next to cram in as many speakers possible all the while towing a heavy load of newly minted curriculum? LOL
While curriculum shopping IS a part of the experience, the reason to go to the FPEA Homeschool Convention is to surround yourself with like-minded families and gain new insight and ideas for your homeschool journey.
I have to admit that one day isn’t enough to do that so next year I plan to stay longer.
REFLECT ON WHAT KIND OF MOTIVATION YOU NEED
The FPEA Convention has a wide variety of speakers on topics ranging from curriculum to parenting to marriage counseling to special education and legal-eze. Take a moment to think about what your needs are and don’t be shy about attending several workshops.
Carol had pegged the Raddish Kids workshop as a seminar high on her list and I’m glad she cajoled me into attending. As an unschooler, I didn’t think the workshops would be very appealing, but I was wrong. Raddish is a kids cooking club where you sign up to receive thematic cooking kits delivered in your mailbox each month. Now I’m the first to admit that any of us could come up with a cooking theme each month, but the point here is that we often don’t because we have too many other themes and projects and field trips mulling about our over-taxed-homeschool-parent heads.
I enjoyed listening to the ideas that Raddish founder, Samantha Barnes shared. With a mission of empowering healthy living, Samantha gave some uber-cool ideas on how to incorporate history, math, science, art and a host of other subjects into cooking. She’s not talking about reading an encyclopedia at meal time…she is talking about taking a food item like corn and investigating the physics behind popping it, the value it held in ancient history, estimating and calculating how many kernels fit into a geometric shape and on and on and on…
Wow. As an unschooler I totally appreciated Raddish Kids’ approach and can easily see how valuable getting all that well-thought out learning in my mailbox each month would be.
HAVE A CURRICULUM PLAN BEFORE YOU GO
There is A LOT of homeschool curriculum to see on the exhibit hall floor. Just like you don’t go to the grocery store hungry, you don’t want to go to the FPEA Convention without a list of what you need to buy.
Yowza! Quite frankly, everything looks appealing and awesome and wonderful sitting on display. Yet, with thousands of families bumping and jostling into you, you simply can’t take the time to review curriculum properly. Investigate potential curriculum online in the quiet of your own home (like browsing our parent reviewed curriculum right here on the Homeschool Helpdesk website!).
Then use the FPEA convention as a chance to touch and feel the curriculum, so to speak, and make a final decision. Otherwise, you might end up quickly buying what looks appealing at the moment and end up with buyer’s remorse.
Also, don’t assume the curriculum provider you want to see is going to be at the FPEA. I wanted to look at two math programs and neither were in attendance. Dope!
Read the FPEA program guide in advance and jot down the booth numbers of those folks you want to visit. This will also help you when you get tired. You can make sure to zip by the booths you really want to see and then experience the rest of the exhibit floor at your leisure without the pressure of walking up and down every aisle.
TAKE WHEELS AND WALKING SHOES
If there is one piece of advice you might glean from this blog post it is this: take a bag on wheels! Or wheeled luggage. Or a Pack-N-Roll. Or a Radio Flyer wagon. Or a pallet on skids. Whatever it takes to haul all those glorious, heavy, HEAVY books around the exhibit hall. Geez, my arms were tired.
We love the Usborne books and I bought quite a few, plus a half dozen geography placemats, a few educational toys and more Usborne books. Hello! My shoulders were killing me by the end of the day.
Carol had even more to deal with as she bought a 50lb bag of granular honey! Fortunately, Bread Beckers Kitchen Store delivered the sugar to my car. However, if you are buying an entire year’s worth of curriculum many of the vendors will ship directly to your home.
Still you are going to need a pair of cozy shoes and something on wheels to make your stay more comfortable. Also, take a pad of paper to jot down ideas and notes. You’ll have so many sideline conversations with vendors, homeschool parents and speakers that you’ll forget your own name by the end of each day.
I tried to type all that stuff into my iPhone and promptly ran out of battery power! Old fashion pencil and paper will do just fine.
BRING THE FAMILY
I plan on taking my entire family to the 2016 FPEA Convention. The Gaylord Palms Resort is g-g-g-gorgeous and has an outrageously cool pool where my husband can chill with the boys while I scurry about. The FPEA also has child care available, similar to a Kids Club, if you and your hubs want to attend the convention together.
I want to attend our District 3 meeting next year and get in line for the workshops on Friday. There were quite a few Friday workshops I wanted to attend, but didn’t since I only attended the Saturday portion.
Bottom line…join the party and check out the FPEA Homeschool Convention at least once. You’ll get your money’s worth in ideas, inspiration and also some pretty good curriculum deals.
PS: If you attended the FPEA conference, share your thoughts and experience in the comment section below!