Whether you’ve been homeschooling for years or are only thinking about it, the Great Homeschool Convention (GHC) is well worth attending. From a massive exhibit hall with numerous vendors to informative workshops, this convention offers something for everyone. The Great Homeschool Convention is a much-anticipated event for many homeschool families each year.
Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
Multiple Locations for the GHC
As a regional convention, the GHC has several locations each year. In 2024, you can attend a Great Homeschool Convention in South Carolina, Missouri, Ohio, California, and Texas. The number of locations may vary from year to year.
While the experience is similar for all locations, each convention has a unique set of speakers and exhibitors. We’ve only attended the Cincinnati, Ohio GHC. Thus, our convention experience shared here may differ from yours.
Workshops and Speakers
The Great Homeschool Convention workshops are well worth attending. As the workshops tend to cover a wide range of topics, there is something for everyone. Check out the list of workshops and speakers for your conference ahead of time and form a plan.
General Workshop Recommendations
1. If possible, attend a workshop from the creators of your curriculum.
Doing so will give you a better understanding and a deeper connection with the homeschool materials you purchased. Every time I make a connection with the authors of our curriculum, I find myself more motivated during our homeschool year.
The following are three of the authors of our homeschool curriculum whose workshops we prioritize each year. While we cannot attend every workshop, we’ve been impressed by each of these presenters.
- Andrew Pudewa: Any workshop by Andrew Pudewa is a real treat. We use many Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) materials in our home for writing, grammar, and poetry memorization.
- Steve Demme: As the creator of Math-U-See, Steve Demme has been a well-known teacher in our home for eight years and counting. He presents workshops for both Math-U-See and Building Faith Families. He is very personable, gifted one of his books to our children last year, and even offered to share his snack with me.
- Monica Irvine: We discovered Monica Irvine and her company, The Etiquette Factory, at the GHC. She is a phenomenal speaker. We bought her streaming video etiquette lessons for our kids after hearing her speak. I also plan to purchase her Dating Guide for Ladies and Gentleman before our kids reach that stage in life.
2. Start looking ahead to future homeschool years but not too far.
The GHC workshops provide a great opportunity to look ahead for ideas you might want to integrate into your homeschool. For example, when our oldest was not yet in seventh grade, I attended workshops on courtship and dating, college credit plus, and college entrance exams. By checking out these workshops early, I feel less stressed about our future options.
3. Check out the wide range of workshops at the GHC.
Homeschooling isn’t just about academics. A few years before my husband decided to pursue professional photography, he attended a workshop on photography at the GHC. One year, I discovered a new way to organize our paperwork at a presentation about the Sunday Basket. Last year, our kids thoroughly enjoyed a song writing workshop with Randall Goodgame of Slugs and Bugs fame. In addition to homeschooling, GHC workshops commonly include topics on health, home, organization, authors, entrepreneurship, and parenting.
Need help navigating the list of speakers and workshops? Check out the tracks page. Tracks at the Great Homeschool Convention organize workshops by topic. For example, the Real Faith for the Real World Teen Track is so popular, they offer group pricing for church youth groups and Christian school groups. Other tracks include special needs, parenting, classical, Charlotte Mason, and more. Note that you can attend workshops from any track.
The Exhibit Hall
The exhibit hall is inspiring. Nowhere else can you pick up and examine so many different curriculum options in one place. In many cases, you can meet the actual creators of your curriculum. This is a great opportunity to ask questions and discover new options.
The exhibit hall is also overwhelming. With a variety of companies and organizations exhibiting their goods and services, it’s easy to lose focus. One moment you’re sure of your homeschool choices, and the next you’re questioning everything. Should you switch to that shiny new curriculum? Is there room in the budget to add this art class? Are your children missing out?
A complete list of exhibitors for each Great Homeschool Convention location is available online in advance of the conference. Use this to your advantage. Peruse the list, click through to exhibitor websites of interest, and make a plan.
Given that this is a homeschool convention, you may be surprised by some of the exhibitors. They’re not all selling homeschool supplies. In addition to traditional homeschool booths, you’ll also find authors, regional colleges, camps, mission groups, and miscellaneous product vendors.
Discounts and Special Offers
Many exhibitors offer discounts, free shipping, or other incentives for purchasing items at the convention. Some vendors may require an onsite purchase or order. Others may offer a discount code with an expiration date sometime after the convention ends. Be on the lookout for deals, but don’t feel pressured to buy anything at the convention.
Keep in mind that items purchased on site must be stowed somewhere. Rather than carrying them around all day, you may want to save purchases until day’s end. If your car or hotel are at a convenient walking distance, you could also store them there.
Tips for Navigating the Exhibit Hall
1. Narrow your focus.
Whether you are new to homeschooling or a veteran, a resource like Cathy Duffy Reviews is invaluable. It will help you learn about the many homeschool curriculum choices that are available today. Use it as a guide to find potential options for your homeschool.
2. Make a plan.
Before you ever set foot in the exhibitor hall, make a list of the booths you most want to visit. When you pick up your registration packet, use the convention guidebook to add booth numbers to your list. Also take a picture of the exhibit hall map on your phone so that you always have it handy.
3. Schedule enough time for the exhibit hall.
If you plan to attend several workshops, make sure you give yourself enough time for the exhibit hall too. Remember, it’s both inspiring and overwhelming. Thus, it takes time to browse the aisles. Fortunately, you don’t have to walk the entire exhibit hall in one setting.
4. Visit the exhibitors on your list first.
When you step into the exhibit hall, make every effort to visit the exhibitors on your list first. Other exhibitors will call out to you like Odysseus’s sirens. However, these are not your priority. Avoid eye contact and move along.
5. Next, walk the exhibitor hall aisle by aisle.
Now that you’ve visited all the exhibitors on your list, you can peruse the remaining booths. Ideally, begin at one end of the hall and work your way across aisle by aisle. This method helps prevent fear of missing out. However, it requires endurance, so breaks for food or workshops are highly recommended.
6. Engage with creators.
For three glorious days each year, the Great Homeschool Convention gives you the opportunity to meet homeschool legends and entrepreneurs. Take advantage of this time. When you visit exhibitors, ask questions and consider attending their workshops if their products or services match your interests.
7. Ask for a brochure or business card.
You will find new, exciting possibilities at the convention. When this happens, ask for a brochure or a business card to help you remember the exhibitor. In addition, use your phone to snap a photo of the booth or item. Later on, you can research these products or services at your own convenience.
8. Learn to politely walk away.
Your time at the GHC is valuable. Yet you may unintentionally be pulled into an exhibitor’s sales pitch. If you need to walk away, do so. Try to be polite, but don’t feel the need to linger indefinitely when you have other priorities.
My best advice for a successful homeschool convention is to plan ahead. Much like a trip to IKEA, the convention is overwhelming if you don’t know what you are searching for. Use the Great Homeschool Convention website to your advantage. Whether you just want to browse the exhibit hall or you purchased a full convention pass, create a plan before you arrive.
Check the exhibitor list ahead of time and click through to visit the website of any vendor with which you are unfamiliar. Make a list of each exhibit booth that you’d like to visit. In this way you can use your time wisely when walking the exhibit hall. Your registration packet will include a map of the exhibit hall with a list of exhibitors and their booth numbers. Use this to navigate the exhibit hall more quickly.
With more workshops than available time slots, it may not be possible to attend every workshop on your wish list. Most time slots on the final schedule include ten or more workshops. This means that you may have to choose one workshop over another. In addition, every workshop you attend pulls you away from the exhibit hall. So, make sure you leave room in your schedule to check out the exhibit hall.
For the 2021 GHC in Cincinnati, I created a simple table with three possible options for each workshop hour on the schedule. I then filled these with the workshops my family and I most wanted to attend or listed the exhibit hall as an alternative. In this way we could make the most of our time at the convention by having a prioritized yet flexible schedule. Click the images below to enlarge them.
Budgeting for the Convention
There are many factors that determine the total cost of your GHC experience. If you live near a convention city like we do, you may be able to get by rather cheaply. Your travel distance and preferences will influence the overall cost of attending the convention.
GHC Registration Options
When registering for the Great Homeschool Convention, you must decide between an exhibit hall shopping pass and the full convention. All options are affordable. For current pricing, visit the GHC website and select your convention location.
Free Shopping (Thursday Night)
On Thursday night, you can shop the exhibit hall for free. Registration is still required for free shopping. You can register online to save time at check-in or in person when you arrive.
Note that this is a small time window to walk the exhibit hall. This option is worthwhile only if you are local to the convention city.
One-Day Shopping Pass (Friday OR Saturday)
Many people who attend the Great Homeschool Convention do so only for the exhibit hall. If you don’t have time to participate in the workshops, this option may work well for you.
The shopping passes are for one day only – either Friday or Saturday. Pricing is cheaper for an individual than for a family, but both options are inexpensive.
Full Convention Pass (Thursday, Friday, AND Saturday)
The best value is the full convention pass as it includes access to all workshops as well as the exhibit hall. In addition, you have the option to attend special events, which may require the purchase of tickets. Family passes are only $10 more than an individual pass and include grandparents in addition to your immediate family.
The Great Homeschool Convention offers a military discount of 50% off a full convention pass. A military ID is required at check-in.
Free Convention Pass for Full-Time Pastors
Full-time pastors receive a complimentary full convention pass – either individual or family. Check out the Great Homeshcool Convention website for more information about this complementary pass for pastors.
Many of the helpers at the GHC are volunteers who serve one four-hour block of time during the convention. In exchange, they receive a free convention pass for their families. To find out more about this option, visit the Volunteer page at the Great Homeschool Convention website.
When you register for the convention, you have the option to purchase tickets for special events. These vary from year to year with nationally-known speakers, musicians, and comedians. Each event has its own pricing.
Children’s Conference – Giant Cow Ministries
While it’s great that the GHC is family-friendly and children can attend workshops and walk the exhibit hall, sometimes it’s nice to fully focus on the convention. Each Great Homeschool Convention includes an optional children’s conference run by Giant Cow Ministries.
The age range for children is 5-11 with some conventions allowing children as young as three. All kids who participate must be fully potty-trained. Siblings who are twelve and older may volunteer for the children’s conference if desired.
This children’s conference is similar in price to the full convention pass. As the venue is allergy-friendly, only water is provided to children. Parents must pick up their kids for the lunch break.
Don’t forget to account for parking when you budget for the homeschool convention. Standard parking garages are often much more affordable than hotel parking. At the GHC in Cincinnati, we’ve tried both hotel parking and parking garages near the convention center. We are fortunate to have found an inexpensive parking garage with a convenient sky walk to the convention center. Parking prices likely vary by city. Plan to budget about $5 to $20 per day.
The Great Homeschool Convention has a group discount for several nearby hotels in each convention location. These are withing walking distance to the convention center and may have access to it through skywalks. If these hotels fall within your budget, book them early to ensure room availability.
You may be able to find better rates for hotels at a greater distance from the convention. In addition to the tradeoff in price, is the tradeoff in convenience. City traffic and parking should factor into your decision.
As we live about an hour from the Cincinnati GHC, we have explored both options. For many years the kids visited with grandparents while we had our own little getaway and stayed in a hotel. Last year we chose to make the drive each day as we had two of our children with us. Dropping the expense of the hotel greatly reduced the overall price of the conference.
As with other expenses the cost of food depends on your preferences. With concessions located within the convention center and many nearby restaurants, you have plenty of options for eating out. Unfortunately, this can add up rather quickly.
After the sticker shock of concessions our first year at the convention, we began packing water and snacks to eat throughout the day. Last year we attempted packed lunches that wouldn’t require refrigeration. This food added to the weight of our bags each day, but it also saved us money and time spent waiting in lines.
While writing about the Great Homeschool Convention, I came across a frequently asked question about whether outside food may be brought in. The official answer is no because the convention centers do not allow it. In our experience this has never been an issue. While I generally strive to obey rules, I also think it impractical to ask families not to bring snacks or drinks for their children, especially babies and toddlers who use bottles or sippy cups.
Make sure to include travel expenses as you budget for the convention. Gas prices are a huge factor if attending the convention requires a long drive. You may also need snacks or meals along the way.
Audio Recordings of Workshops
You will not be able to attend every available workshop at the Great Homeschool Convention. Fortunately, recordings of most workshops are available. While we’ve never purchased these in the past, I’m always tempted to buy the entire set so as not to miss out. Note that you must attend the convention to purchase the recordings.
Recordings are sold individually, in groups, or as the entire set. Price lists are available at the convention.
Purchases from Exhibitors
If you stroll the exhibit hall, you may find yourself reaching for your wallet more than expected. Many exhibitors offer convention discounts, and the products are not limited to homeschool curriculum. You may find a new game for the family, a cool t-shirt, jewelry, and more. Budget accordingly and prepare by viewing the list of exhibitors ahead of time.
Questions About the Great Homeschool Convention
What Makes the GHC So Special?
As homeschooling families, we need encouragement, motivation, and a sense of belonging. The GHC meets all of these needs. It reminds us that we’re not alone in our calling to teach our children, and it equips us to meet that calling.
Is the Great Homeschool Convention Family-Friendly?
Without a doubt, the GHC is family friendly. Family passes for the convention include all members of one’s immediate family and grandparents. Many families bring their children to the convention for both the exhibit hall experience and the workshops.
Single-wide strollers are welcome in the convention center, but they are not allowed in speaking sessions or special events. Double-wide strollers are prohibited due to their size. Stroller parking is available.
Parents who want to enjoy workshops without their kids may opt to enroll them in the children’s conference from Giant Cow Ministries.
Will My Spouse Enjoy the Conference?
Absolutely. We know many couples who attend the Great Homeschool Convention together as a short getaway or with their kids. I’ve yet to meet a homeschool parent who didn’t enjoy the convention. With a full convention pass, there truly is something for everyone at the GHC.
What Should I Wear and Bring to the Convention?
First and foremost, dress comfortably. Wear shoes made for walking as the convention centers are quite large. Dress in layers especially if you tend to feel chilly in air-conditioned spaces. When you register, you’ll receive a wristband that cannot be removed without breaking it. Make sure to size it so that it won’t slip off too easily or squeeze your wrist too tightly.
Bring a notebook and pens to jot down any notes during the workshops or at the exhibit hall. Your phone camera is also a handy tool in the exhibit hall to remember ideas for later. If you created a plan and/or schedule ahead of time, be sure to pack it as well. You may find a light backpack to be more convenient than a purse, but try not to over pack the bag you carry around the convention center.
If you have any additional questions about the Great Homeschool Convention, please contact me. I would love to provide further insight based on our past experiences with the conference. Note that I am not affiliated with the convention in any way other than as an attendee. Thus, I can only answer general questions and cannot provide any customer support.
We look forward to the Great Homeschool Convention every year. If you’ve never attended the GHC, and it is feasible to do so, I highly recommend that you try it. The Great Homeschool Convention truly is a remarkable asset for homeschool families.