You’re a homeschool vendor.
You’ve poured your heart and soul into a beautiful math curriculum.
Or a stunning homeschool science text.
Or the most amazing subscription box for kids.
You’ve worked in the homeschool space for years, maybe decades.
You’ve talked to hundreds, if not thousands of homeschool parents and grandparents in person, by email, in a virtual setting, or through your printed materials.
You understand how homeschool moms and dads think. How they feel. What they say they need.
And what they don’t say, but you still know, because you’ve been there.
When convention season rolls around, you’re excited.
You pack up your books and supplies and banners and laptop for shipping or in your car or SUV or the trailer you haul around.
You’re optimistic. You get to talk to even more homeschool folks to learn even more about what they need so you can make your product even better.
You check in to your hotel. You check in to the convention hall. You check in with the equipment folks, the electrical folks, the scheduling folks.
Then in come the people. Your people.
These are the people you serve. This is your ministry, your calling, your life.
You want to help them. You aren’t here to make millions.
You’re here to offer advice, support, encouragement, and a clear path to success for their children.
They visit the booth you so carefully arranged.
They laugh, they ask questions, they analyze your offerings, they talk amongst themselves.
They take pictures. They make notes.
They head to the next booth.
You’re here at a great physical, mental, and financial cost.
They’re here to experience your educational offerings up-close and personal.
But they didn’t buy anything.
The View From The Other Side Of The Homeschool Convention Table
This scenario is playing out over and over around the convention halls throughout the seasons.
With the convenience of the internet right on their phones, homeschoolers are able to browse in person, then purchase online from a big-box retailer.
This seems like it makes good financial sense for them, right?
Let’s flip this perspective.
You’re a homeschooler. You’ve done your research. You’re planning to attend a convention in your area.
You’re excited. You’ve got the whole year mapped out, and all you need are the resources to make it happen.
Convention time rolls around, and you head to the vendor hall, notes and phone in hand, ready to take in all the information presented.
You visit the booths of your chosen vendors. You attend their talks and workshops.
They give all they have, and you are the grateful recipient.
You ask your questions and make your decisions.
You pull out your phone and take a quick snapshot of the book cover or box or grab a brochure to stuff in your swag bag.
And you walk to the next booth.
Hang on a second.
Please take a moment to consider the vendor behind the table.
Very often, these folks are homeschoolers, too. They’re not just business folks trying to make a buck.
Vendors are part of your homeschool community.
They’ve hauled their wares to your front door and laid bare the work of perhaps a lifetime.
If we don’t support these vendors, conventions could be a thing of the past.
That’s a bold statement, and let’s explore the reasons behind it.
As outlined in the scenario above, exhibiting at a convention is a labor of love. Tiring, stressful, but rewarding just to see and visit with other homeschoolers and offer help in numerous ways.
But if a vendor can’t afford to attend a convention due to rising costs, what becomes of the beloved convention?
Jamie Erickson of The Unlikely Homeschool, who inspired this post, said it best:
“The last five or so year’s worth of sales have been underwhelming for many homeschool vendors. Consequently, more and more of them have stopped traveling to conferences.
Consequently, conference organizers have struggled to make enough from vendor booth fees to be able to pay speakers. Consequently, speakers have stopped coming.
Consequently, the homeschooling community is losing advocates to encourage and equip the rest of us…and even educate the naysayers and policy-makers who make state and national decisions about homeschooling. It’s an ecosystem.
When one part dies off, the rest gets affected.”
Can we boldly say that if convention-goers continue to purchase from big-box retailers after attending conventions, pretty soon there won’t be any conventions to attend?
And what of the desire for homeschoolers to see and touch the offerings firsthand?
And what of the presentations and workshops where homeschoolers learn so much from the vendors who give them?
And what of the camaraderie experienced in the convention setting when homeschoolers and vendors share space and concerns and wishes and encouragement?
What becomes of conventions?
What becomes of vendors when they don’t make enough money selling their curriculum or other products and must close their shops, virtual or otherwise?
If the vendors no longer produce their products, you won’t be finding them on the big-box sites anyway.
We Homeschool For A Better Future
Let’s remind ourselves why we’re homeschooling in the first place. We homeschool to give our children the most amazing educational experience we can provide.
And we do this using books and videos and resources from a variety of companies, many of whom are mom and pop operations.
These moms and pops are just like you.
They’re also homeschooling to give their children the most amazing educational experience they can provide.
And they love what they do so much, they took their experience and knowledge and solidified it into an offering for the rest of us.
We do an enormous disservice to these generous vendors when we glean and gather from their booths or websites or seminars or workshops then hand over our money to faceless corporations to save a buck or two.
Those savings may very well signal the end of mom and pop homeschool shops.
Frankly, we think it’s not worth it.
We need moms and pops and their beautiful ideas to help us maintain the freedom and flexibility of our homeschooling lives.
If we don’t support them, they won’t be able to support us as we journey down our chosen paths.
Remember this as you venture out to homeschool conventions. Do your research, make your rounds, gather information.
Then consider purchasing from the vendors.
As Jamie says, “It’s an ecosystem.”
Your patronage and support of local vendors, of moms and pops standing behind the table with their hearts in their work, will go a long way to keeping the homeschool ecosystem healthy and thriving for years to come.
If you’d like to read Jamie’s inspiring post, please visit: