Homeschool field trips don’t have to be a hassle. Learn how to make them a priority this school year!
When I was in school, field trips were the highlight of my year. Brown paper bag lunches, my mom a chaperone, I remember each trip to Washington, DC or the Manassas battlefield like it was yesterday. Sadly, I only have a few of these memories. Field trips happened maybe once or twice a year if at all.
As a teacher, I tried to take my students on as many field trips as I could. The cost and getting approval were always a hurdle, however. So, when I started homeschooling, I knew I wanted to take the things I loved as a student and found valuable as a teacher and offer them as often as I could. Seven years later, field trips continue to make up a large portion of our homeschool year. My children have many favorite field trip memories thanks to all the museums, zoos, aquariums, historic parks, and science centers we visit.
Homeschool field trips can look like a traditional school field trip. Gather a large group of fellow homeschoolers, carpool or rent a large van, schedule a museum guide, and pack lunches.
They can also look like your family taking a solo adventure or even heading to the lake on a Tuesday.
A field trip is simply an opportunity to learn and play somewhere new. They do not have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time to plan. In fact, making field trips a priority in your homeschool day is pretty simple!
1. Take Advantage of Homeschool Days
One of the first things I do when I begin planning our homeschool year is to check out community calendars. Our science museums, farms, zoo, and living history museums offer homeschool days and classes. These special days are offered at a discount so tickets can sell out quickly. I make sure to register us so that we don’t miss out, put the dates on our calendar so that we don’t overbook, and then begin to think about the books and lessons we can use to build unit studies around our field trips.
2. Take a Field Trip Once a Week
A friend of mine, wanting to incorporate more field trips into her homeschool day, took a field trip every Friday. Sometimes her family took a big trip a city away, other weeks they visited a local pond or museum. Field trip Friday was a wonderful part of her family’s routine and kept them on track during the week because they knew something exciting was on the horizon.
3. Make a List of All the Places You Could Go
Sometimes taking a field trip can feel overwhelming because you aren’t sure where to go. Chances are though that there are places you have been meaning to visit but forgot about. Sit down with your family, local and nearby travel guides, and make a list of all the places you could visit. This doesn’t mean you will go to all of them! It should be a list that makes you feel overwhelmed. It’s intended to be a help. Keep the list handy, so when a free day or opportunity arises, you already have a bunch of places to choose from.
4. Field Trips Can Be All About Play
Learning happens wherever we are, and a field trip easily proves this to be true. Take a field trip to a lake or creek, go on a hike, or head to the library. Your children will discover all sorts of wonderful things without you having to plan a thing. Just let them play! As they do, pay attention to their interests. They are great starting points for unit studies. My daughter recently found huge snails at our local lake. She immediately had all sorts of questions which lead us to learn about freshwater Pointed Campeloma.
5. Take Turns Planning & Leading
While you don’t have to plan every field trip you take, sometimes a little planning can go a long way. You don’t have to do all the planning though. Connect with fellow homeschoolers. If each family or even a handful take turns coming up with field trip ideas and making them happen, you and your children will have all sorts of great places to visit.
Thanks to our homeschooler friends we have visited wetlands with hundreds of migrating birds, met local authors, gone behind the scenes at a movie theater, visited an airport, learned about wild edibles in our area, and helped out at our food pantry. Thanks to the many homeschool families who were willing to lead a field trip, we all learned a lot!
6. Ask Local Businesses
One of the best ways to create a field trip is to use your community. Is there a local bakery that could teach your kids how to make a special treat or a greenhouse that could offer information on creating water gardens. Your vet, grocery store, dentist, autobody shop . . . chances are many of the people in your community ( if asked) would be willing to take an hour out of their day to share their expertise with your children. The saying, It never hurts the ask, is true! You never know until you ask.
7. Field Trips Should Be Fun
If a field trip feels like a lot of work and stress, you are going to be way less likely to take them. Remember, field trips are FUN, but only if we let go a little and allow them to be. Go with best friends, don’t worry about recording everything your children learn, bring special treats or go out for ice cream. Choose places your children are going to find interesting. If your child loves animals, find zoos and museums where they can learn more. If your children are little, an art museum where they can’t touch anything or make noise isn’t the right fit.
Filling up our year with field trips is one of the things we love most about homeschooling. There are many ways to make field trips affordable and fun. Fill your days with adventures near and far. Keep them simple and always bring lots of snacks.