Well sort of…One of the things I enjoy about homeschooling is the freedom to do just about anything. We can choose to study as much as we want, whatever we want, and anytime we want to. We can stay at home all day long or go anywhere we want to go, whenever we want to do so. I will admit that adjusting to the weather these past few months put a halt on many of the activities we would have normally done, but the sun is starting to shine and with it are some warmer temperatures, which I am soooo looking forward to.
Although we spend a lot of time in the books, field trips and the really educational (and awesome) places we visit are also part of our learning experience. Before we left the West Coast, we literally drove up and down the northern coast of California for many of the different places we visited. We took in Charlotte’s Web at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts, rode the train at the California State Railroad Museum, walked along the shore imagining airplanes taking off and landing at Crissy Field, drew our names in the sand on Ocean Beach, and picked our pumpkins at Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm. Man, I wish I could find a pumpkin farm as cool (lots of play area, baked goods, entertainment, and of course pumpkins) as that where we now live. If you are ever in their neighborhood during that time of year, then I’m telling you, JUST GO!
Since field trips require time away from home and we are just about as far from everything we would like to see and everywhere we would like to go, there is a lot of preparation I do before stepping foot out of the door.
We never leave home without our Klean Kanteens filled with water; that’s even when running out for a few minutes. Any stainless steel water bottle will do, but water is always on hand because you never know when you’ll get stranded on the side of the road. That may be a little extreme, but it is just good to always carry water with you when you leave the house because you never know when you’ll just need a sippy, sip to carry you over. Using a reusable stainless steel container is your best option.
When it comes to clothing, I always try to dress the children in a bright shirt or a color that will stand out in a crowd. It is helpful in case they are playing in a large group or possibly in three different, but closely visible, areas where I can quickly spot them. Yes, I have lost and found a child before and if it has happened to you, then you know how disconcerting that can be.
The idea of packing a lunch may seem obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times we go rushing out of the house with just something to wet our appetites. We end up buying some unhealthy fast food or cutting our outing short so we can get home because I don’t want to spend the extra money for something to eat. A lot of hungry people don’t often have a great time together.
Another note for you mommies with really little people. I still carry a porta-potty in the back of our car. Just be sure to have paper towel, plastic bag, and cleaner on hand for use. I have nothing more to say about that.
Whether you have a lot of money or not, there is no need to fork it over on a field trip when discounts are available. We got in for FREE at the Chicago Children’s Museum because we happened to be visiting the weekend of Target Free First Sundays. That was a savings of $40. Every day of the month (recently limited to not include spring break), we can visit the Memphis Zoo, which is totally awesome and one of the best zoos I have ever been to (apologies Oakland Zoo), for free on Tuesdays. The hours are later in the day, but by the time it closes, we are all ready to go home anyway.
If free isn’t available, then often group rates, which are tremendously reduced from the general admission, are the way to go. We are going to the symphony in May and are paying $15, which is $5/per child and all chaperones are free. Although we are not going with a group, we are attending a special performance for school age children and are able to take advantage of the group rate for school children.
Decide what places interest you and your children and find out if they have free or reduced rate days or hours and schedule your visits around them.
Last year, we missed the blueberry farm, the strawberry farm, and a few other places I wanted to go to. Since we were new here, there were not too many things I knew about before arriving. I have been deciding what we want to do and checking with those places ahead of time even if the event is seasonal. This year, we will not miss too many events or activities because I have been planning and they are on our calendar. There are also a few things we did last year like the Down to Earth Festival, that we are looking forward to again this year.
Sometimes, planning ahead can get you that best reserved seat, your name on the list, or a ticket before everything is sold out.
Also, take the time to plan a really good lunch or snack to carry. This is a wonderful time to pour on the fresh fruit and prepare healthy offerings for you and your children. Remember to keep a blanket in the car ready to spread out anytime for an impromptu picnic.
Do a little studying ahead of time. If you have plans on visiting a train museum, then read a few books on trains before going. We have been attending quite a few plays presented for children’s theatre and they send me a study guide on the play to share with my children. When we went to see The Diary of Anne Frank, we learned a bit about Anne and we discussed some of the topics that would be presented – prejudice, Third Reich, etc. The children had a better understanding while watching the play.
Along with printed directions, the telephone number of the location – be sure to pull over when calling for info – just in case your GPS decides to not work, which has happened to us often, take any confirmation information to prevent any confusion upon arrival. Bring proof of payment if you pre-paid and the name of the contact person with whom you spoke to in case there are any questions.
We are part of a homeschool support group that schedules quite a few exciting activities each month. Along with play dates, there are at least two field trips planned each month. I really enjoy taking the children to these places and having them share the experiences with their friends, but sometimes this doesn’t always fit well into our schedule. We are on a four-day school week with only one day for outside activities – field trips, running errands, etc. If we head out more than two days in any Monday through Friday school week, then that sets us up for completing our school week on either Saturday or Sunday. Sometimes, that is fine. It is when we have something else scheduled for either of those days that a strain is put on our school week.
Although I am trying to be more flexible with our schedule, I have to consider whether or not the children will really benefit from the field trip because the topic may not be of any interest to any of us or whether or not it is something we could possibly do on our own at a later date when it is more convenient. I also consider the group rate we are paying, especially when you have savings as much as 50% off of the admission.
Sitting at a desk can be interesting, entertaining, and educational, but so can running around town and checking out what’s going on outside and around us.
What fun and exciting field trips have you done, have planned for your school year, or this summer?