This is the third post in a series. If you missed the first two, you can follow these links to the start of the series (which was just an introduction and a bit about our school choices) and a discussion about planning, organization and motivation (Part One).
The last one was long, I know. Crazy long, but I had a lot to say. You should have seen the original, unedited version. I’ll try to make this one shorter.
We LOVE field trips!
A trip to anywhere can enhance a child’s education because anything and everything can be turned into a teachable moment. (Who remembers me teaching toddlers about plumbing?) The only “trick” to homeschool field trips is deciding what you want to learn and where you can learn about it.
Consider these destinations:
- Post Office
- Municiple Buildings (Town Hall, Court House, etc.)
- Library or Independent Bookstore (someone who really knows books, not a chain retail store)
- Art Exhibits
- Museums (History, Science, Art … anything!)
- Emergency Service Stations (Fire, Police, Ambulance)
- Hospital or Doctor’s Office (for humans or animals)
- Farm (We have visited dairy farms, agricultural farms, and poultry farms. Each is a unique experience!)
- Zoo or Animal Preserve
- Planetarium or Science Center
- Renaissance Fair or Themed Park or Event
- Historical Sites (Famous homes, discoveries or artifacts)
- Local Factory (We have Crayola, Nabisco and Craft all nearby.)
- Bakery or any local business that will show you “how they do it”
- Nature Preserve, Reservoir or Dam
- State or National Parks (See if you can speak with the rangers or get a special tour.)
The possibilities are endless.
Value vs. Cost
We are blessed to live in the shadow of New York City, so just about every type of museum, attraction, zoo, park and more are within an hour’s drive. The downside of it is that … well, it’s New York City and quite expensive. Just getting across the bridge costs $12. Parking is around $40 (if you arrive after 8 am and stay less than three hours). Then, of course, we have to pay for whatever attraction it is we’ve actually come to see. Some things are free — like the public libraries and parks — and there are discounts and “kids go free” days on Broadway and most of the museums. Still, if every trip into the city requires a $50 entry fee, we must limit our trips.
We get around this with substitutions. What is it that we want to see? Is there anything similar nearby that we could do for less expense?
Instead of going to Broadway, we can visit a local community theatre. We saw Melissa Gilbert in the Little House on the Prairie Musical for a quarter (maybe less) of what we would have paid to see it in New York.
The Bronx Zoo is fantastic, but we have a fine zoo — much, much smaller, but a fraction of the cost — just fifteen minutes away. No bridge toll and free parking. If we want a full-day experience, the Philadelphia Zoo is a little further from us, but quite comparable to the Bronx Zoo, and for about half the price.
Some things cannot be imitated nor easily substituted. The Freedom Tower. The Statue of Liberty. Independence Hall (Philadelphia). The Museum of Natural History. We definitely make the trip for these.
My point is that, depending on the attraction and the ages of your children, you can often get the same bang for significantly fewer bucks. Choose where you want to spend your budget.
Making the Most of Your Trips
Some field trips require little to no preparation. If you can do them often (like our small, local zoo), then you can learn something new each time. Simply enjoy the experience as it comes and the teachable moments as they arise.
Other trips — those where you only have one shot, those that require a financial expense — will benefit from advanced planning. On the logistical end, you may need to call ahead to make an appointment, reserve a tour or complete liability forms. On the educational end, you may want to prepare yourself and the kids for what you’ll see. Often advanced knowledge optimizes an experience.
Visiting a famous battleground, for example, may seem like little more than a field to the uninitiated, but it comes alive to those who know it’s history and significance. A trip to the aquarium will be far more thrilling when the kids can point out what they’ve been studying at home: ecosystems, camouflage, defenses and habitats.
Now I have to share these books with you. These are so cool.The Complete Adventure Series includes three titles — Aquarium, Zoo and Creation Museum — all of which fully load your field trip experience.
Designed for homeschoolers or private Christian education, these books offer devotions and preparation projects to do BEFORE your trip, learning activities to do DURING your trip and even more to do AFTER your trip.
Filled with glossy, full-color photos, tabbed chapters and an unbelievable amount of information, these are amazing resources. I wish they had more! You’ll find details about specific animals, crosswords, coloring sheets, maps, charts, passports, checklists, fill-in-the-blank diagrams, glossaries … EVERYTHING you need to make your field trip successful. And all without YOU having to do the research or organization. It’s already done for you. Again, I cannot recommend these resources highly enough. They’re absolutely fantastic!
They’re so good, you don’t even have to take the field trip to find the books valuable. We live about 600 miles away from The Creation Museum in eastern Kentucky. My kids still love looking through the field journals, discovering dinosaur facts and diving into all the projects from here.
You can purchase the whole set by clicking here or on the image above. The books may also be purchased separately through Christianbook.com or Answers in Genesis. Please note that all of these present a creationism perspective and include an abundance of Scripture and references to God and the Christian faith.
I should stop now before I start adding pics of all of our past field trips.
Your Turn: What are your favorite field trips to do with your kids?