In our family, one of the greatest blessings of homeschooling is the ability to learn about life in person! Whether we are spending time together as a family at the state park, taking a huge trip in our 15-passenger van, visiting a local historic site, or going to a political rally, we do a lot of school “on the road.” We have taken field trips to every place imaginable and I cannot wait until the children are old enough so that we can travel to Mexico or South America! What a field trip that will be! 🙂
Some moms have told me that they avoid field trips because they like the idea of their children learning things in a “hands on” manner, they get stressed out when they try to take their children on field trips. Frequently, the reason they are stressed is because of a lack of preparation and planning. Here are some tips to help you avoid common field trip pitfalls and make the most of your experience.
– Plan ahead
Verify the hours of operation if you are going some place without 24 hour access. We once went to Kentucky for the purpose of exploring some of the caves there, which we thought were open year round. It turned out that they are open year round with the exception of ONE week every year when they prepare for the Lewis and Clark festival. Guess when we were there? If necessary, schedule the field trip in advance. This will be required for places such as the television station, radio station, etc.
– Get plenty of rest the night before.
Many parents get frustrated on field trips because toddlers or young children are cranky. Sometimes they aren’t used to getting up early (homeschoolers are notoriously late-sleepers) and if your child has not had enough rest, this can doom your field trip before you even start!
– Get an early start.
Whether it’s a morning, afternoon, or evening field trip, make sure you leave in plenty of time to get there ON TIME or EARLY.
– Make sure everyone has plenty to eat before you go.
Obviously, if your field trip is going to involve a lot of movement (whether traveling there or on rides once you arrive), you will want to be careful about how much your child eats, but the point is that you don’t want your child to pass out (or have a meltdown) from “starvation” at the aquarium – or wherever you may be.
– Take snacks
This kind of goes along with the above point, but take snacks with you if at all possible. If you pack these at home before you leave, you will save money, but certainly you’ll save everyone some frustration if you have snacks throughout the day. If you are going to be doing a lot of walking through a nature area, leave a picnic in the car so it will be ready when you return or take a backpack with you.
– Carry water
Depending on the length and location of the field trip, keep a bottle of water with you for each person. This is especially important if you’re going to be doing a lot of walking, waiting, or if you’ll be outdoors in the hot sun.
– Make sure everyone goes to the bathroom before the field trip!
If you think about it, this is an easy thing to do and it will make a huge difference in the attitudes of everyone involved. We have a rule in our family that when one goes, we all go. When we go places, the first thing we do is visit the bathroom, then we enjoy the visit. If someone needs to go to the restroom during the activity, we just take everyone. I tell the kids, “If you try, it will come.” 🙂 With several children, a person could run to the bathroom constantly if they don’t set some kind of rules.
– Take lots of pictures
This isn’t a necessity, of course, but it’s always a lot of fun to look back and have those memories! You can also use the photos to discuss the field trip and what you learned afterwards. Create a lap book, memory album, or other keepsake.
– Tell your children what is expected of them in advance.
I think one of the biggest problems parents have is that they don’t talk with their children before a problem arises. Tell your children what is expected of them! Let them know what is going to happen, what kind of behavior you expect, and what will happen if they misbehave. Above all, remind your children to be respectful. When you are in public, you represent not only your own family, but you also represent homeschoolers.
– Decide how you will discipline in advance.
Don’t just tell your children what you expect and what the consequences will be if they misbehave. Decide the consequences and follow through. Do not discipline your child in public. Take them to a restroom or another private area to talk with them. If necessary, return to your vehicle to discipline your child.
– Be sure to THANK your guides, the employees, firemen, reporters, or whoever else is involved in the field trip before you leave.
– Follow up your field trips with a thank you note.
If you visit a national park, send an e-mail to the national park service. If you visit a local tv station, government official, etc., send a hand-written thank you note that they might be able to post in their office. Send a batch of cookies to the local police station or fire station as a thank you for a tour. You get the idea. Show your gratitude and they will be more likely to allow the next family to visit!