I remember my first trip to a book fair. I was probably about eighth grade, homeschooling in the big state of Texas. The book fair was in Arlington, and everything was massive. Tons of homeschoolers, more than I had ever dreamed existed. Rows upon rows of vendors and products, and no possible way to get through it all.
This year will be my first year to go as a homeschool Mom. My husband and I will be going as a sort of mini-aniversary trip. We will have been married for six years (woo-hoo). But I remember enough from attending as a child that this could be very overwhelming and a total wasted trip (not to mention an expensive trip) if I don’t have a budget and a plan.
Because this will be my first trip on this side of the homeschool spectrum, I’m not writing a post about how you ought to prepare as much as I am summarizing what I am doing, and letting you gather your own ideas from it.
- Planning a Budget. If you are new to homeschooling and have no idea how much to budget, here’s a little tip. I took a look at a few boxed curriculums to get a ballpark figure. Even if you don’t intend to go the route of a pre-set curriculum, the pricing may help you get started. (Note: The curriculum and books themselves are not nearly so hard to figure into the budget as supplies for the year–like printer ink and laminating pouches.)
- Scoping priorities. What subjects do you want to tackle? Which subjects are your priority? I have tried to budget by subject to some extent. In other words, I don’t want the bulk of my budget to go toward art if phonics is my number one priority. My scope and budget limits are not specific, but rather a general follow-up question for whatever I find.
- Doing the homework. Next, I have gone to the website for the book fair and researched the vendors that will be there. Most of them on the list for my book fair are linked to the vendors actual website, and I can preview their products. This way, I can eliminate the vendor tables I know I will not be interested in. (Now, I always keep a very open mind and could change my mind if they have a surprise product at their table. But sometimes, you do know absolutely what you don’t like or what won’t work.)
- Making a list. My list is actually a table I created in a text document that includes the vendor name, their assigned table number, a place for products I am interested in, and a separate place for questions I have about their products. For those products I know I want, I have also included in my list prices from other sources–for instance, the Amazon price, the CBD price, etc. That way, I’ll know if I’m getting a bargain or wasting my money. I also plan to take my booklist, the list of reading books I’d like to include in our year but that my library does not carry, and I have included prices for comparison in the list, too.
- Enjoying the adventure. While most of what I’m using this next year is pretty well determined–after all, it is just Kindergarten–I am not totally persuaded about my math curriculum. That’s where my vendor table numbers and lists of questions comes into play. Also, we hope to use Tapestry of Grace in first grade, and I’d love to stop by their table and check everything out. Beyond that, my goal is just to see what all is out there!