As I mentioned in my previous post about missed vacations, we were supposed to attend the Great Homeschool Convention last month in Cincinnati. After they had to cancel they scrambled and turned it into an online convention. I’ve been listening to some of the speakers and checking out the virtual exhibit hall and wanted to bring you this Great Homeschool Convention Online Review.
First: Thank You
So first off I really want to start out thanking the folks who put the convention together each year for making this available. I was really sad about the convention being cancelled for many reasons. One of those is because I purchase most of my curriculum for the following year at the exhibit hall. Another reason is that it’s really nice being around hundreds and hundreds of people who are sharing the same experiences, when you are in the minority of the population. But definitely my biggest reason is the speakers. I was missing the insight and expertise of people who have been at this thing a lot longer than me. It invigorates me each year and re-focuses me on my reasons for homeschooling. So thank you Great Homeschool Conventions for trying to provide us all with as much of the experience as they could bring to us digitally.
By far the best thing about the online convention is the speakers. All of the workshops I have watched thus far has been quality content. They have taken the time to attach worksheets when needed and they are making them all available through the end of the year. Each year I normally purchase the workshops on MP4s. This is so I can keep them and listen to them later because I can’t possibly go to all the workshops I want to during the convention itself. So having them all available for the rest of the year allows me plenty of time to listen to all the ones I want to and even go back and listen again if I so choose.
Another great thing about the online workshops is that they made them videos! When I first heard the announcement, I assumed they would just be audio MP4s like I purchased in years past. I thought they would have taken the audio from the first GHC of the year and used that for the online convention. But no! They had the speakers video tape themselves giving their talks! It was great to see faces and facial expressions and see people, even if it was digital, in this time of stay at home orders. So kudos for not just ‘phoning it in’ and using pre-existing audio recordings.
Another great thing was that they had a virtual exhibit hall. This included links to all the vendors and some of the vendors included specials. This made it easy to find all of the places I usually buy from. Some of them are small businesses that service the homeschool community with extra materials and are not straight curriculum vendors. I browsed websites that I definitely would have forgotten about without the virtual vendor hall.
Okay so now let’s talk about the bad aspects, which honestly I hesitate to bring up because some of these things were not directly the fault of GHC. Still it goes into my experience with the online convention. I wouldn’t feel right about not giving a well rounded look at the convention from all angles. And of course there will always be some comparison to the normal, physical in-person convention.
Bad organization. I felt like the speakers workshops area was poorly organized. Yes they had a drop down box to choose a track. For those of you who have never been to a GHC, they have tracks for different types of interests. These tracks are for things like parenting, special needs and gifted, homeschool 101, teens, etc. This helps you find the things that you are most interested in more quickly, and they did have this drop down on the workshops page.
However, even within the category tracks there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it. They weren’t grouped by speaker, they weren’t alphabetized by speaker, they weren’t alphabetized by title of the workshop. It was as if they were just slapped up there randomly as they received them. This made it hard to go back and find the workshop I was looking for after I browsed through the massive list.
The Exhibit Hall
The other big disappointment for me was with the virtual exhibit hall. I will admit that the exhibit hall in person doesn’t always have as many discounts as people think they will have. Some companies do give discounts at the convention, but many have their only “discount” being the free shipping you get either for picking it up in person at the hall or if they have to send it to you they will ship it for free.
The discounts were disappointment. I expected to see many more companies at least offering free shipping. My plan was trying to order directly from curriculum companies to give them their maximum amount of profit as I knew the conventions being cancelled would hit their bottom line. I wanted to directly support as many of the curriculum vendors we were using as I could. But when one company’s shipping was $12 or I could get free shipping from Rainbow Resource, guess who got my business? And it’s not that Rainbow Resource isn’t also a small business and need support. I had already ordered from them once before in March and would have been ordering from them again regardless of this particular curriculum purchase. However, the order I made with them went up by $170 all because of free shipping.
So let me sum up this Great Homeschool Online Convention review. In the end I would say that GHC did a pretty good job throwing this all together at the last minute. They could have put a lot less effort into it by throwing up previous audio tracks for the workshops. But thankfully they didn’t choose the easy route. They tried to put up quality content and make it as much like the in person experience as possible. Could some things have been executed a bit better? Sure. But they are not in the habit of being an online convention, let alone with so little time to execute it, so I give them some slack.
Can they really control what discounts the exhibitors give? No. So again I hesitated to include that particular disappointment on my part, but I wanted to give a complete review in comparison with the in person convention experience. We are regular attendees and I wanted my review to reflect the difference in the two experiences.
Still I would give the convention a 4 out of 5. There is no way they can reproduce the feeling of camaraderie and social experience of being at a GHC in person. Nothing can replace that boost to your weary homeschool spirit this time of year. But I am thankful that they tried to give us the closest thing to being there that they could. I am listening to the workshops and will continue to do so through the end of the year. In a very short period of time, I ordered from vendors and have all my curriculum purchased and squared away. I am gaining insight that I was looking for this year from the speakers. All in all in this crazy time we’re living through, I really couldn’t ask for more.Thanks for reading!