While utterly overwhelming at times, our experience was absolutely fantastic. I highly recommend the GHC to anyone. It was like a wonderful marriage and parenting conference through the lens of homeschool, though not always the focus.
Here are a few takeaways I wish I had known before my first homeschool convention.
1) Wear comfortable shoes! With the massive exhibit hall with concrete floors, walking to food establishments, and even the walk between meeting halls, comfortable shoes are a must. I tried a cute pair of sandals one morning but quickly went back to my new go to comfy shoes- my Skecher Go Walks.
2) Wear Comfortable Clothing! I was not really sure what to wear to an event like this. While you do have a wide range of clothing from the religious perspective, the general rule of thumb is go comfy and modest. Sitting in chairs, walking a lot, and changes in temperature from varying rooms requires layers and easy clothing. I found wearing a modest pair of capris (it was quite warm), nicer plain t, and a scarf were perfect for most areas.
3) Look more at session leader descriptions instead of session titles: I preplanned my sessions based more on session titles. I wish I had paid more attention to the biographies of the speakers as I missed out on some key sessions because I didn't think the title meshed with my purpose.
4) Look beyond academics. I went to 1, count it one, purely academic session (and it ended up being my least favorite). The others were more geared towards parenting and marriage. I had not planned it that way, but that is what ended up enriching my time the most. I left empowered, encouraged, and uplifted as a parent and wife which I believe will transcend into my teaching.
5) Be open about Curriculums. I found that I gleaned a lot from talking to booths of curriculum or programs even if it was just to get a solid "not for me" in my head about the option. That is just as confidence boosting as a "yes" in my mind. I also learned about some options to keep in mind for the future when my kids are older or more multi level learning compatible. I had some fantastic conversations from very passionate people that were enriching (even if I didn't end up being 'sold' on their product)
6) Schedule breaks. Sessions are great and can be tempting, but schedule meals, downtime, and even hall shopping or you will find yourself rushed, hungry, and so tired you can't even pay attention to any of the other sessions.
7) Only buy if you are sure. So much money could be so quickly spent on all of the wonderful educational and toy materials offered. Only buy if you are sure you want to use it. I knew exactly what I wanted for math and kindergarten programs so it made sense to buy to save on shipping costs (some booths offered small convention discounts as well as free shipping). If you aren't sure on pricing comparison (especially on things like manipulatives) come back after you've done a price check back at your hotel room or on your smart phone.
8) Bring Your Spouse. My husband had a fantastic time. He wasn't too sure about the whole homeschool convention as the idea of learning about writing strategies and building math fact fluency isn't his cup of tea. We were so blessed to experience some of these great speakers together, talk about how to apply them in our marriage and general parenting, and just spend time together. The couple sessions we separated were not nearly as fun as the ones we went to together.
9) Ask Others. Two of our favorite sessions ended up by being referred to the speaker through stranger we met at convention (one eating at a shared table at lunch time in the hall the other in another session). Use other attenders as resources. Ask if they had any favorites as you wait in line at the gumbo station or stand on the escalator. If nothing else, it may help you decide if you want to purchase the cd of the session.
10) Pack Extra Grace. There will be long lines at lunch time. There will be busy check out counters at your favorite booths. There will be pushy sales people. There will be crying babies in a session you are trying desperately to hear. There will be packed full meeting rooms. There will be sugar hyped children wielding swords. Shower it all with grace. Empty the expectations of perfection and go forward with the understanding that sometimes things don't always go as planned. Remember you've had those days as a parent as well. Grace abound will change your attitude and may make their day.
*Bonus #11, Meeting Dr. Carson and hearing him speak was pretty awesome!