Where Do Homeschoolers Go For Fieldtrips?
Are field trips expensive for homeschoolers?
How do you find unique field trips?
How do you organize a field trip?
Tune in this week while we discuss these topics and more!
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Field Trip Bundle with 100 ideas (pdf)
Take learning to the next level by incorporating a lot of field trips in your homeschool. Field trips are the perfect example of hands-on, real-life learning. Field Trips are one of the best ways to enjoy learning in a fun way with a homeschool group or just with your own family and the opportunities are endless! It’s great to use a field trip as a nice break after a busy week or use it as a way to complement a lesson you are already doing.
We were lucky to live in certain parts of the country that were relevant to the history we were learning at the time- how fun is it to actually get to put your hands on history? Or other things you may be learning about. You can go to the local art museum just to find pieces by an artist that you have been reading about.
One of the biggest benefits of homeschooling is that we are the keepers of our time, and that means we are not at all limited to schooling during the week and only having afternoons and weekends for exploring. We discuss how to create an entire homeschool lifestyle in episode 018. One of my favorite things is to hit a museum on a Monday morning or Thursday afternoon and have it all to myself. I always joke with people that I homeschool so that I never have to go to the zoo or mall on a Saturday!
Are field trips expensive for homeschoolers?
The short answer is that they don’t have to be! Obviously there are going to be places that charge an entry fee or admission but there will also be places you can visit for free. You could also consider planning your own field trip in order to get a free or discounted rate.
One of the things I would like to share are two organizations that offer reciprocal programs. Basically, if you have a membership in your town to one of these participating museums or facilities or to the program itself, you can often use the benefits in other places. These programs are:
ASTC Passport Program
If you are a member of a science center or museum participating in the, you are eligible for benefits such as free general admission when you travel outside of your local area. Learn more about ASTC memberships.
American Horticultural Society
A current membership card from here or from a garden participating in the Reciprocal Admissions Program (RAP) entitles you to special admission privileges and discounts* at 345+ gardens throughout North America!
How do you find unique field trips?
Can you include transportation as an element of your trip? Does your area have a train or bus or trolley or boat or other alternate transportation that you might not typically take? Include it in your trip. For littler kids, just that transportation ride can be a field trip in itself.
I coach a Future City Engineering Team and have found some really cool field trips to go along with our topic for the year- we have toured a Wetland filtration facility and last year, I reached out to a commercial landfill for a tour (we were doing a project on garbage). This ended up being the coolest tour- we drove all over their facility, climbed on huge equipment and trucks, and learned so much- I came home excited, myself, for a future in waste management. The funny thing was, after that tour, I asked how many students came there and we were the only group that they had ever hosted! So don’t be afraid to call and just ask if someone would be interested in showing you their workplace.
We also have a friend who coaches a local Model United Nations group. Every year her team represents a country, and she immerses them in learning all kinds of things about that country. She finds the coolest events and activities- one year when all of our kids were representing Italy, she took us to an Italian Car Show, a Latin Vespers Mass at a monastery, an Italian restaurant and an Italian cooking lesson for a holiday meal, and many other things. We’ve been to Asian Art talks when we were representing China and Budhan, a mosque as Kuwait, and the Greek Festival as Greece.
Ask around to other parents in your group- what kind of jobs do your friend’s spouses have? Neighbors? Your uncle? Through the years we’ve toured my dad’s Air Traffic Control Radar Facility and my husband’s hotel’s commercial laundry. You were able to get us into your kids’ dad’s company once to see the giant pendulum (Foucault pendulum) in the Hunt building downtown Dallas.
Interesting community field trips (16:16)
How do you organize a field trip? (44:39)
Organizing a field trip is not difficult. It will require a bit of organization and a lot of patience though. Be creative and plan things you know your family will enjoy. Plan ahead and contact a business to see if they offer free tours or discounted rates for groups. I have often booked field trips for places that I want to go but maybe have a high entrance price that we can get a group discount on. Sometimes, the organizer gets a free ticket- that is great motivation for booking, as well.
One thing I consider before planning any kind of field trip or event is, will I be ok with doing this if we were the only ones to show up? Especially if there is an early morning and or long drive involved. Obviously there are things like sports style activities and some classes that are not going to be fun with just one family. But generally, if we are ok going with just us, then anyone else attending alongside us is just pure fun friend bonus to me.
Second, is there a cost that needs to be paid upfront, or a minimum number needed for an event to happen at a certain price. If so, you really need a firm commitment from your attendees and I would caution you from putting up your personal dollars if you aren’t sure you can recoup those costs. It is totally fine for you to put out info about the event and request that dollar amount up front. You can say something like, you are not confirmed until I have both your RSVP and program fee. Also, determine and state if your event is refundable or not. I have booked groups in the past where I will say no refunds but they can try and resell their spots to someone else in the group. Do what is simplest for you. Feel free to make strict rules about it, too.
Third, I will be honest, homeschoolers can sometimes be a flakey bunch. Especially if an event does not have a cost to it. It is super embarrassing to have 40 people confirm yes to an event and then that day 6 people show up. I handle this in a couple ways. One, in one of my groups I let people know that my yes-es must be firm. If you’re not going or change your mind last minute, you must change your rsvp. Likewise, I don’t count “maybes.” People can “maybe” all day to keep the event in their calendar feed (like on facebook). That is fine. I don’t want to spend a ton of time at the location, figuring out who all is showing up or not, because someone decided to ditch at the last minute. The other thing I do sometimes is charge a small fee to hold their space that I will refund on arrival. This was easier when we all wrote checks, but you can do it now with venmo/paypal/zelle, too. People are more likely to show up to something that they have paid for, even if it is a nominal fee. Any money that you get from no-shows can go in your pocket or you can make a donation to the place that you are going to.
Obviously, you want to put out detailed information as far as address, parking information, hours, age related info, if it is a trip that has restrictions, arrival time. I always fudge arrival time. Set a meet up time that will guarantee most people are there well ahead of the program start time so you don’t hold up the group. Include info about lunch/snacks, or maybe a picnic spot nearby for after or for parents with littles not attending. I typically include a rule about what ages need a chaperone if parents want to drop off. And any information from the facility about their rules. Have your contact information available- you may even want to tell people to only contact by text day of because you will be driving and might not see their message on another post or messaging forum.
I typically organize group events on Facebook. I start with my immediate friend group or if it’s a field trip I am organizing from a specific group, I’ll start with them. If I still need to fill spots, I’ll open up to like groups, or bigger groups in my area. Some people may just need numbers and so they set it as a public group that anyone can join. Make sure you keep a detailed second list for yourself with payments collected for your references. If individuals are paying their own way, make sure to include information for that. Confirm with the location 3 days prior. Let them know final numbers and see if there is any additional information or details you need to pass on to your group. Send your group a reminder. On the day of an event, get there early so that you have time to deal with any last minute communications from your attendees.
There really are two kinds of homeschoolers- people who like to plan and organize and people who show up to things and do not ever want to plan something themselves. If you build it, they will come! Field trips can be more than just extras in your homeschool. They are one of the best tools you have in your homeschooling toolbox. Adding field trips to your homeschool will make learning come alive for your children and create lifelong memories!