Family Field Trips are Freedom

Ahhh, picture it.  Smiling clean faces quietly listen in rapt attention to the tour guide. Everyone in the group enjoys the pre-made fieldtrip designed for generic kids.  Each darling obediently follows the rules and colors insides the line.  Even Mommy.  If that does not sound like your family on a field trip … join the club!  Being free to do whatever you want on a fieldtrip because it’s family is awesome! You can explore anything you want.  Take it deeper.  Take it in another direction!  Do crazy fun.  You have freedom. Take it anywhere God wants to teach and enrich your life. It requires planning and flexibility so your wee ones and not so “wee” ones learn something more than how to find the bathroom. 

We do most of our field trips with just me, the mom, and the kids.  Yes, it’s fun to go with friends and other homeschoolers.  However, there are distinct advantages to going solo.  For starters, you can go and leave when you want.  This is POWERFUL. If little Johnny is having a bad day, you can cut the day short and go home.  If you are interested in a topic you can stay longer.  You can skip guided tours and study something intensely.  You don’t have to apologize if you need to cancel. 

A fieldtrip is not a checkbox on your ‘to do’ list.  A good fieldtrip is more than getting out of the house. It’s an opportunity to learn something above the academics during regular school activities. For me, I try to plan a trip that is experiential.  I want my kids to experience something they cannot home.  Touch a plane, simulate a rocket lunar landing, photograph lichen with macro lenses, the list goes on for opportunities for trips.  I link each fieldtrip to a subject in our homeschool.  For those who need to document everything, I even have a fieldtrip tracking sheet coded for each subject.

If it’s family only, we have time for reflection or study.  I can’t do that with a group. We create or interpret what we are experiencing.  The easiest way to do this is through art.  I carry an art bag.  Nothing fancy.  It’s a free, reusable grocery bag. There are three art quality sketch pads living permanently in the bag.  A pad for Daddy is available when he accompanies us.  I carry a spill “proof” container for water colors, water color pencils, quality colored pencils and a set of graphite/charcoal pencils and erasers.  We draw one thing we see on the trip.  At art museums, we plop on the ground—quietly of course—and copy the masters.  If we are at zoos or gardens, they can use water color pencils.  Sometimes we skip the bag and bring our cameras.

Most field trips end with a writing assignment.  I started this when targeting early sentence writing skills.  Now it is more about reflection.  I made a basic fieldtrip notes page.  It has about 8 questions and a place to draw something from the trip.  It takes only a few minutes unless Junior lollygags.  It is completed on the car ride home.  At the end of the year, I place a few into portfolios.  Voila!  An experiential fieldtrip complete with documentation and a writing assignment. 

As for learning something … that is up to you and your expectations.  Take it further. Discover a personal connection.  Stretch your mind. Raggety Ann said that she thought so hard she popped stitches. Pop stitches! Find unusual places for fieldtrips with unique appeal.  Plan several components matching multiple kids’ diverse interests.  For example, pair a STEAM project with touring a bakery.  Tour an antique home followed by rummaging through a used bookstore.  Go geocaching in a park.

 Have a bustling activity paired with a quiet connection.  For example, hike and find colorful mushrooms followed by tossing sticks over a bridge railing into a creek like Pooh.  We call it Pooh Sticks.  See who can recall the story of Pooh and friends tossing sticks in the creek when Eeyore floats by.  My kids are older and still like the quiet reflection.  Even a guided tour of a mansion paired with a stroll through the gardens at your own pace pairs well for most.

Fieldtrips with varying ages can be a challenge but don’t be afraid—these are your kids!  Schedule it away from naptime and keep it short.  Pair older with younger kids to build responsibility. 

Build family solidarity while preparing for time in a crowd.  Wear matching shirts.  Why? It is easier to spot your kids in a crowd.  It also makes it clear your kids are part of something.  This is good for them mentally. It’s also a signal to strangers to discourage them from messing with your kids. Bring pocket-size snacks.  Keep water bottles handy.  Always have a plan B for when things go wrong. 

One last tip: safety first.  I am often out alone with my kids.  Unfortunately, I am often in places where guns and weapons are not allowed.  Keep your kids close and safe.  Train them to walk with you or just in front of you.  No stragglers and no running ahead.  I taught both my toddlers a simple saying, “If you can’t touch Mommy you are too far away.”  I made it their responsibilities to be able to reach and touch Mommy.  I still constantly check.  God wants us to stay under His wing.  We want to keep them under our wing to keep them safe in these circumstances. 

Go for it!  It is one of the best ways to enhance your homeschool.  Train them when they are young so they are ready to go on bigger, longer, more elaborate trips.  This is one of the best ways to make homeschool come alive…

                                              get homeschool out of the house.