Flexibility and freedom to follow your passions are great perks of homeschooling. There’s no better way to capitalize on that freedom than through field trips and learning adventures. With the stress of planning, prepping and keeping everyone happy over the course of a long day, sometimes it feels easier to just stay home. Try these tips to get your family out and exploring without the chaos.
1. Choose a location that will spark curiosity.
Field trips are a great way to bring a topic of study to life or spark curiosity around a developing passion. Can you find a nearby historical site, birthplace, or living history museum that relates to your current social studies material? Maybe there is a zoo, science museum or aquarium exhibit that would build on your science curriculum. If your child is passionate about art or music, perhaps a trip to the art museum or a local orchestra performance is in order. Or maybe everyone just needs a break and some fresh air in which case a day on the hiking trail or at the beach may be just the change of routine everyone needs. Try to choose a field trip venue that you can get excited about and that will meet the needs of your children.
2. Select a date for maximum enjoyment.
Consider the date of your field trip with care. Of course, you won’t be able to anticipate every situation, but try to choose a day of the week or time of the month when you and your kids are apt to feel most energized and relaxed. If you’ve chosen a popular public school field trip destination, try not to pull up just as the fleet of school buses is unloading. You may find afternoon or early evening a more enjoyable time. The first day back to school after a long break is also a great time to have the place to yourselves. Be strategic in scheduling your adventures for maximum enjoyment.
3. Prepare your kids in advance.
Try to stir up some enthusiasm in your children ahead of time. For example, if you are visiting the aquarium, check out some library books on marine life the week before and display them attractively where your children will be drawn to them. You can also inspire your children’s interest by watching a documentary together or downloading teacher’s guides from a venue’s website to discuss before your visit. The more information your kids have going into the field trip, the better they’ll be able to engage the topic and ask good questions during the trip.
4. Keep your expectations realistic.
In addition to stoking your kids’ enthusiasm for the subject matter of your field trip, it’s also important to lay out any behavioral expectations you have for the day. Make your list of expectations short, realistic and framed as positively as possible. Go over them once the day before your outing and again en route as you’re approaching your destination. Try to keep the atmosphere upbeat and cheerful. When you need to correct any problem behaviors, try not to let it derail your day. Bad attitudes tend to spread so the sooner you can redirect and get everyone having fun again the better.
5. Pack the supplies that will keep your day running smoothly.
You don’t want anyone to get too tired, too hungry, or too cold. Dress everyone in layers with appropriate outerwear for an outdoor adventure. Bring extra clothes if there’s even a remote possibility that anyone will have an accident. Pack plenty of snacks and a lunch if needed. Bring a cell phone or camera for pictures and make sure it is fully charged. If it’s permitted, consider carrying a backpack to keep everything handy. Or have your kids carry their own adventure packs. Don’t forget to have everyone go to the bathroom before you leave home!
Leave sooner rather than later.
Sometimes the temptation to get our money’s worth out of an experience can cause us to stay at a venue long after everyone’s attention and energy have flagged. It’s better to leave after a short time when everyone is still in a good mood than to drag the field trip out until everyone is completely frazzled. Try to load up for home before anyone starts melting down or acting out.
We hope these tips will help you enjoy time away from home with your children. Once you’re back to your regular routine, take some time to reflect on the experience with your kids and solidify your shared memories.
You can download this free Field Trip Report to fill in together if you’d like a way to keep track of your adventures throughout the year.