Friday, November 06, 2009

Reaching Homeschoolers

At a homeschool convention last year, another vendor and I struck up a conversation. He had a lot of energy but seemed a bit uptight; however, he readily admitted that he felt totally out of place because he didn't homeschool and this was definitely not his "typical convention." Not really interested in finding out what his "typical convention" was like, I smiled and assured him that we all knew he was out of place the minute he walked in the vendor hall, but we're a polite group and so we didn't point or stare as we talked about him to each other. He grinned and relaxed a bit.

"Obviously, you're a pretty direct person," He said. "So I was wondering, how does a guy who knows nothing about homeschooling sell his product to homeschoolers?"

Ignoring the fact that this out of place "greedy capitalist" was there just to make a profit, I chuckled and asked him, "Why do you think homeschoolers would even want to buy your product if you know absolutely nothing about us?"

He didn't seem to want to answer that, so I continued, "Get to know us a bit and you'll figure out it's not that hard to sell to us. We're pretty frugal but can be gullible in the right circumstance with a promising product, especially at a homeschool convention."

"Fair enough." He replied. "Then I'd like to show you my stuff and see what you think. But first there's one thing I've been wondering about homeschoolers for quite a while now."

"Oh, and what is that?"

"Why do you homeschoolers have so many kids?"

"Umm, gee, maybe it's because we have more exciting things to do than watch Jay Leno after the kiddos go to bed?!?" (Okay, I didn't really say that but I did think it.)

Instead, I politely tried to explain that for some of us homeschooling isn't just an educational choice but a life decision based on a belief that children are as a blessing from God. He wasn't getting it and I was getting hungry so the conversation quickly died of natural causes.

If I ever run into him again, however, I'm sending him over to Ethan Demme (of Math-U-See fame) who gives a much more thoughtful and complete answer to the question, How do I reach the homeschool community? His post is directed at politicians but he starts from the same premise that you have to know something about us, past and present, in order to reach us.

As a homeschool grad and marketing guru, Demme provides an excellent round-up of information and resources to understand this growing but changing movement of homeschool radicals who actually believe they can teach their children at home and live to blog about it. Check it out and keep in handy if you ever run into my vendor friend at your state homeschool convention.

(Note to Demme: Please add a paragraph on fecundity and homeschoolers, thanks in advance.)

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