Why to Attend a Homeschool Convention + FREE Planner

With everything becoming connected online, is there really any reason to physically attend a homeschool convention? After all, that comes with the added expense of travel, and then you can’t just shop online in your pajamas…

There’s just no substitute for community and face-to-face contact, and a homeschool convention offers benefits that you won’t find anywhere else!

Finding Your Tribe
I can’t prove it, but maybe the reason homeschool conventions begin in early spring is because they know we’ve been cooped up all winter, and most families are suffering from ‘February Fever.’ We have to break out, find other homeschooling families, and shake off winter!

An Ounce of Encouragement
It can be lonely homeschooling, whether you live in a big city or a rural area. Getting into a crowd of people who have made similar life choices can be affirming. Plus, you’ll be able to bounce ideas off of others, get new ideas, and remember that we’re all in this together.

Teach Them Diligently

Information from the Source
It’s one thing to read a book. It’s another to actually sit down and talk with the author and get personalized information. You can actually do that at conventions! Reap the benefits and wisdom of experienced homeschoolers. You can do this in the vendor hall, in a one-on-one setting, walking around the hotel (but be mindful of their limited free time), or within the workshops themselves.

Workshop Paths
Many conventions these days are creating ‘paths’ of workshops, meaning they have a series for new homeschoolers, those with special needs children, and those preparing for college. You’re not confined to those workshops, but by following the path that fits your family best, you have a pre-set schedule that will allow you to maximize what you learn from these experienced speakers. Oftentimes, there are special discounts offered within the workshops, too! J

Curriculum Discounts
The exhibit hall is packed full of vendors offering fantastic discounts on their curriculum. There are usually some pretty nice extras to supplement the curriculum that you won’t find anywhere else, too! If you’re in the market for something new, you can actually flip through and examine various selections, talk to the publishers (or authors) about them, and make a well-informed decision for your family. You can maximize your time by looking ahead to see which vendors will be represented and make a note to visit their booths. (There’s a page for this in the convention planner!)

It’s a Family Affair
There seem to be two types of convention-goers….those who take the whole family, and those who make it a girls’ weekend. (Having done both, my preference falls toward the latter…everybody needs to cut loose with friends sometimes, right?!) If you take the whole family, though, you’ll have a (typically) rare opportunity to get Dad involved. 

Usually the dads are off working full-time so that moms can stay home and homeschool.   Both parents care about education, but Mom is the one fully-entrenched. Taking Dad to a convention will give him a different perspective, and new appreciation, for the daily grind of homeschooling. As for the littles, there is usually some sort of day camp set up for them to enjoy time with other kids while Mom and Dad get some one-on-one time to either attend workshops or go sleep in the hotel room…

We’ve put together a convention planner to help you organize your weekend and keep track of workshops and vendors. Take this FREE 20-page convention planner to your next event!

Tips on Choosing a Homeschool Conference

Some questions to consider include:

  • Are there any speakers that you really want to see?  (Research some of the ones you don’t know and you might locate a gem.)
  • Is there child care or an activity available?  If not, are children allowed in the presentations?
  • Will there be a vendor hall or used curriculum sale?  (You can usually get great deals here!)
  • Does the total price (tickets, transportation, and hotel) fit in your budget?
  • Is it religious or secular?  Does that fit with your beliefs?

Join the Homeschool House crew in Rogers, Arkansas!

Teach Them Diligently 2020 Homeschool Convention Registration is now open.

The Costs of Homeschooling

The Costs of Homeschooling

One of the hidden costs of homeschooling is time.  It takes a lot of time and focus to properly homeschool, which makes working a full-time job difficult.  There are, however, many homeschooling moms (or dads) that work part-time or seasonal jobs.

HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) estimates that homeschooling families spend approximately $300 to $600 per year, per child, on educational needs.  This can really add up!  There are ways, however, to save money…


The biggest chunk of change you’ll notice right away is the cost of curriculum.  There are so many different types of curricula out there that we recommend doing a little bit of investigation before investing money into one. 

If you have access to one, attending a homeschool convention is an excellent way to get your hands on several types of curricula, flip through the pages, and see which ones will or won’t work for your family.  Personally, when we started homeschooling, my husband and I started ruling out which ones we didn’t like for our family, as that helped narrow down the shortlist to about six that we wanted to check into further.

You can check curriculum websites for samples, often full-module downloads to try out you’re your family.  If you’re near Oklahoma, you can come by the Book Shack and take home some different types of curricula to try.   Mardels or a used bookstore are also good options for this, though you won’t be able to take them home (free) to try out with the kids.

If you choose curriculum carefully, you should be able to reuse it for subsequent children or resell it.  For example, we use Saxon Math and only had to purchase each textbook once.  We purchased one student book for each child to use (and could have had them write on notebook paper, but student books aren’t that expensive, and it was easier for the kids to write in the books).

Co-ops, Classes & Extracurricular Activities

Foreign language, homeschool band, physical education, debate classes – these are things that work best when taught in a group setting, and are often covered in cooperative settings…but that costs money.  It is, however, cheaper than weekly lessons!

For some families, especially at the high school level, science or math classes get outsourced to a ‘real teacher.’  Not everyone feels comfortable teaching at those advanced levels, particularly for a child who is preparing to attend college.

All of these expenses cost money, but should be included in the homeschooling budget, because they are a necessary part of education.

Field Trips

When we were roadschooling, nearly 90% of our homeschool budget went toward field trips.  After all, if you’re only going to be visiting a place once, you make the most of it, right?

We still spend money on field trips each year because experiential learning is a fantastic way to cement concepts and foster a love of learning!  There are many options for frugal and free field trips if you just dig a bit. 

  • Follow your local museums on Facebook, and you’ll see when they post free days for educators, homeschoolers, families, or just the general public. 
  • Visit the fire station, police station, or town mayor for a lesson in civics and emergency management. 
  • Visit a local factory to learn “how it’s made.”  
  • Take a step back, and look at your area like a tourist.  What nooks and crannies have you yet to explore?  Many of these small places are free or frugal!

Experience is Valuable

Most new homeschooling families spend more money than experienced ones.  This is partly due to needing to purchase curriculum and all of the materials upfront (whereas more experienced ones tend to have leftovers on hand, or purchase in bulk during back-to-school sales). 

Another pitfall is purchasing several different types of curriculum.  Sometimes things don’t work out as intended; sometimes they’re just not a good fit for your family.  Many times, new homeschoolers aren’t ‘in’ on where to get curriculum at a reduced price.

Finding those Resources

  • The Book Shack – The upstairs ministry of Homeschool House, the Book Shack has been providing families with FREE curricula and materials since 1999 (originally named the Book Samaritan).  Find out more about requesting materials, or visiting, here.
  • Bibliomania – This homeschool consignment store is one of the Book Shack’s biggest supporters, and we love to support them, too!  They have a walk-in store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where you can come and visit with the proprietors and thumb through all kinds of curricula.  They also have an online store at Amazon.  You can also call the store directly, or private message through Facebook, and have the option to pay with Paypal or credit card over the phone.
  • ChristianBook – If you hit ChristianBook at the right time (sign up for the email list, and they’ll tell you when this is), you can get curricula at deep discounts.  They also have books, craft kids, home décor and stuff for adults, and (my favorite!) “surprise boxes” — $100+ in books for only 9.99. 
  • Amazon – Not surprisingly, since they sell everything but the kitchen sink (actually, the probably sell those, too!), Amazon is a great resource for finding books, supplies, science kits, craft kits, and even curricula…sometimes at cheaper costs since you can buy them from a third-party vendor.
  • SchoolhouseTeachers.com – This online resource offers all core classes, plus several electives, for every grade level…up to adult learners!  Use code TRIAL to get the first month for only $5. By doing so, you’ll have an automatic, ongoing monthly discount but also will get your first MONTH as a member for only $5. If you don’t love it, just cancel it after the first month and all you will have lost is a skinny latte.  Find out more about ST here.

Five Best Planners for High School Teens + Mom’s Best Planner!

High school is when we begin to transition our students into college life.  A big part of that transition is learning time management.  As a teen, your student is juggling classes, extracurricular activities, athletics, a part-time job, and friends and family.  It can be difficult to remember all of the details!

A good planner works for you and your needs.  What is right for one person may not be the best option for someone else, so take a moment to investigate each option and find the one that works best for your student.

Two great planners, Clever Fox and Panda, were not included in this list because they are only designed to last six months…which isn’t enough to get you through the school year.

Artfan Planner
Undated planner allows you to start at any point.Smaller size makes it easier to carry.Hourly blocks for every day of the week.Hardcover and band-closure makes it more durable.Includes calendar stickers for quick planning.Includes references with calendar, goal tracking, reflections, and inspirational quotes.Includes a gift box and pens, for use as a nice gift!
Read more reviews…

At-A-Glance Planner
Follows the academic year, from July to July.Simple design is more popular with males.Weekly pages have blocks for each hour of the weekday.Weekend spaces for notes.Tips on studying, note-taking, and time management.
Read more reviews…

Erin Condren Life Planner
Available in several colors and styles.Months are tabbed for easy navigation.Blocks for each day allow you to see the entire month.Includes folder and pouch for papers.Inspirational quotes and goal-setting pages.Hardcover makes it more durable.
Read more reviews…

Freedom Planner Pro
Undated planner allows you to start at any point.Section for reflections and goal-setting.Blocks for planning each hour of every day.Includes inspirational quotes.For both academic and professional use.
Read more reviews…

Global Printed Planner
Dated from July to June, this is designed for the academic year.Comes in a variety of colors and styles.One column with blocked hours; one ‘To Do List’ column.Space for reflections and goal-setting.
Read more reviews…

Schoolhouse Teachers has a FREE Printable Planner as part of its membership.  There are a few options for planners here, including one specifically for high school students and one for parents.

In addition to calendar planning pages, the parent planner includes:

  • Helpful articles written by homeschooling experts.
  • Interactive calendars, planning pages, field trip logs, and transcripts.
  • Notebooking and Lapbook resources
  • Must-have lists, including common Greek and Latin roots, books of the Bible, grammar and spelling rules, a periodic table of the elements, U.S. Presidents and more!
  • Helpful household forms such as chore charts, grocery lists, and meal-planning charts.

Read a full-length review of Schoolhouse Teachers here.

Is Virtual School the Same as Homeschool?

Connections Academy, Epic, K12….all of these virtual public school programs are often confused with ‘homeschooling.’  Today we’re going to answer some of the most common questions that we hear.  Each student has different needs, and these options might be the right fit for you family, but they’re not actually homeschooling…

If we’re ‘at home,’ isn’t it homeschool?

  • Homeschools are parent-directed and privately-funded.
    • Homeschool families are responsible for providing the curriculum and instruction.  There are no funds set aside for homeschoolers, and they are usually restricted from participating in public school activities.  Curriculum and activities are paid for by the family.  At the Book Shack, we strive to help families ease that burden through our resource room.
    • Parents have the freedom to choose curriculum and resources that match their worldview.  They decide how to plan education and track records.  (Some states also require parents to keep records, complete testing and / or portfolio review, and take standardized tests.  Oklahoma currently does not.)
    • On the flipside, there are also no government regulations (in the state of Oklahoma).
  • Virtual schools are government-directed and publicly-funded.
    • Virtual school programs provide the curriculum, instruction, and access to extracurriculars at no expense to the family.  Teachers are usually state-certified, and parents do not play an instructional role.  This is “public school done at home.”
    • Students must comply with state standards for testing, as well as all other laws applicable to school-age students (eg, vaccinations).
    • The virtual schooling program must be completed at / by a certain time and in a particular order.  There is no time for student-directed ‘bunny trails.’  A minimum amount of ‘seat time’ must also be spent for each class.
    • Virtual public schools are free, as in they are paid for by tax dollars.  Like brick and mortar public schools, however, there are still extra fees that come up.  The price of a ‘free education,’ however, is the freedom to choose how to educate your student.

If I use virtual schooling, and want to call myself a homeschooler, why do you care?

  • Because the rights and freedoms of homeschools are different from ‘traditional’ schools, it is important to maintain a distinction.  Each state has their own legal requirements.
  • The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) maintains a position that to confuse the two groups will eventually erode protections that homeschool families currently have, and fought hard to receive.  These rights, such as freedom to choose our own curriculum, were hard-won by previous generations of homeschool families, and we would be remiss to let them slip away.

How does the Book Shack & Homeschool House feel about virtual public schooling?

  • The Book Shack does not offer resources to families who are using virtual public schooling, as their materials are already covered by the state.
  • The Homeschool House does offer its space and classes to virtual public school families.  This is a community effort to bring together all children who are schooling at home.

Homeschooling Styles

Choosing the right curriculum for your family means first determining your family’s homeschooling style.  Some families are strictly one style, while others prefer a blend of styles.  Within the leadership of the Book Shack, we cover nearly every style imaginable…so if you ever have questions, just ask, and one of us will be glad to assist you!

Your family might try out one style and find that it’s not for you.  It may take a few years to settle down into the right fit for your family, and that’s completely normal.  When contacting the Book Shack for assistance, however, it helps us to help you if you know your family’s preferred style.  

So….what’s your style?


This approach utilizes three stages of learning : grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric.  These stages match up with elementary, middle, and secondary school.  This is a rigorous approach to schooling, but produces results.  Examples of this style include Story of the World, Classical Conversations, and Memoria Press.

Charlotte Mason

This approach involves ‘living learning.  It revolves around reading aloud together as a family, and following child interests.  Nature walks, art museums, and living books are all a part of this approach.  Examples of this style include My Father’s World, Ambleside, and Tapestry of Grace.

Unit Studies

This approach takes all of the subjects and smashes them together in an in-depth study of a topic.  For example, a unit study of Rome might include reading and writing about Rome, studying the history of Roman emperors, calculating timelines and marketplace purchases, creating artwork and projects from Ancient Roman times, and studying water (from the aqueducts built during this era).  Examples of unit studies include Sonlight, Learning Adventures, and Amanda Bennett.


Similar to unschooling, this is a child-centered approach that focuses on nature, arts, crafts, music, and movement.  Technology is not a big part of this curriculum.  One example of Waldorf curriculum is Oak Meadow.


Definitely for the Type B family, this is a child-centered approach to schooling.  There are no formal lessons, or even formal curriculum, but the children follow their interests and learn from life experiences.  Schedules are not utilized, and there is much flexibility and freedom.  This does not mean that they don’t read, write, and do math, but that they follow their interests.  Math might be adding up the tab at the restaurant, or figuring the tax.


This is just a fancy way of saying ‘a combination of styles.’  If you tell us that your family is eclectic, please tell us which styles you prefer, and which ones you do not want to use.

Stay-at-Home School

This is the one that we don’t really consider homeschooling, because it’s more like public school at home.  This is your Epic or K12 family, who uses tax dollars and receives their curriculum from the state.  This is the only style not utilized by a member of the Book Shack leadership.

Charlotte Mason Method19th century educator
·       living books
·       nature journal
·       music, art, poetry
·       great literature (vs. “twaddle”)
Ambleside Online
Five in a Row
Classical3 stages of learning: 
·       grammar
·       logic
·       rhetoric
Focuses on teaching kids how to learn
Well-Trained Mind
Story of the World
Classical Conversations
My Father’s World
Veritas Press
Memoria Press
Textbooks·       School at home
·       Common to use this style in the first few years of homeschooling to build confidence
Bob Jones
Alpha Omega
Liberty Online Academy
Calvert School
Unit Studies·       Hands-on
·       Literature-based
·       Geared towards Charlotte Mason method
·       Encompasses multiple subjects through one topic·       Multi-grades together
Five in a Row
My Father’s World
Tapestry of Grace
Learning Adventures
UnschoolingJohn Holt
·       Child-led learning
·       No formal curricula
·       Daily life learning

WaldorfEurope late 19th – early 20th centuries
·       Holistic liberal arts
·       Subjects are not separated from each other
·       Textbooks only in older grades
·       Early education is focused on experiences & activities (like Moore formula)
Oak Meadow

Re-framing the Day in an Educational Context

First-time homeschoolers generally try to replicate public school at home.  It’s what they know, and it’s familiar.  Trust me…many mommas have gone down this road before!

Learning to re-frame the day, however, is the first step toward homeschool freedom.  When you understand and accept that there is considerable learning value is almost everything you do, it relaxes your attitude toward school…which transfers to your students…and makes for a more enjoyable experience.

How to re-frame?

First, learn the lingo.  

  • Does your child understand something?  Wonderful!  They have ‘comprehension.’  
  • If you quiz your child on his ABCs, does he know them?  Great!  He just passed an ‘assessment.’

Second, master documentation.

  • Say your elementary student spent two hours outside, skipping rope, playing with sidewalk chalk, catching bugs and examining them, and making leaf prints.  That’s physical education, art (or handwriting, depending on what was drawn), science, and nature study!
  • Baking cookies together as part of holiday preparations?  This activity has math (measurement and time), chemistry, reading, home economics, and nutrition lessons!

We’re not suggesting that everyday consist of this type of schooling, though there are families who do ascribe to this theory – it’s called Unschooling, and you can learn more about it here.  

The point is that each day doesn’t need to consist of books, papers, and pencils to ensure that learning is happening.  When children are excited about something, they’re sure to learn and retain more!