Homeschooling is a growing movement today. There are many reasons parents choose to homeschool ranging from safety issues to academic quality to religious beliefs. Regardless of the reasons, parents sometimes wonder that their children may be missing out on something that they would receive through the traditional school format. One of those areas is that of field trips.
We homeschooled our son from 1st through 12th grade. The states we lived in required 170 days of educational instruction, the same requirement for traditional schools. The curriculum we used included 160 days of classroom instruction. For the remaining 10 days, we were encouraged to include field trip days. The beauty of homeschooling is that 1) we could take our lessons on the road with us, and 2) we could go on field trips anywhere for as long as we desired without worrying about rushing back for afternoon pick up.
Many fire departments, police departments, and hospitals offer educational opportunities. Tours, demonstrations, and talks are usually included. Contact your local agencies to see what may be available for your family. Some grocery stores also provide tours of the bakery and other areas of the store. Call the manager of the store for information regarding possible tours. Additionally, be sure to explore your local area. Often there are area specific museums or events that would be of great benefit to enhance the education of your student.
Zoos and marine attractions are often a favorite field trip for traditional schools. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a great resource for finding these facilities in your local area or in an area you may be traveling to. The locator page allows you to look for facilities in your state or in a number of countries. If the facility has a coupon available it will be listed with the facility information. Also, check with each of your desired zoos or aquariums as many offer homeschool days.
Museums are another wonderful field trip idea. Military.com provides a searchable format to locate military-themed museums, monuments or memorials either locally or where you are traveling. The American Alliance of Museums has a searchable database of member museums. You can search by state as well as add to the search a specific type of museum via a drop down menu. The Association of Science-Technology Centers provides a database of not only science centers and museums but also nature centers, aquariums, planetariums, zoos, botanical gardens, and natural history and children’s museums. Children’s museums offer a place where children can learn through play and exploration. The Association of Children’s Museums offers a list of member museums, which can be filtered by state and country.
An often overlooked homeschool field trip is in the area of the arts. Many theaters and symphonies provide educational days for area schools. Theaters bring to life literature that has been read. Symphonies develop an appreciation for a different style of music. Contact local production theaters, symphonies, and colleges and universities to see what may be available for your homeschool student. Part of educating is exposing our children to all areas including the arts.
If the above ideas are not enough, you can search the Homeschool Buyers Co-op Field Trips of the USA and Canada for even more ideas. Once you select your state or province you will have the opportunity to choose popular types of field trips such as agriculture, arts and culture, children’s museums, factory tours, history and heritage museums, natural history, science and technology, and zoos. You will also be able to search as specific as your own zip code. Factory Tours USA also provides a database of manufacturing and industrial companies that offer tours. Potential field trips may include candy and food factories, NASCAR race tracks, as well as toy and automobile manufacturers.
However, we did not always field trips that were inside-the-box. We have been known to include a few amusement parks as part of our field trips. Because we were not tied to a school calendar, we could go to these parks at any time, which allowed us to miss the crowds and availed us plenty of time to explore.
EPCOT at Disney World in Orlando offers many aspects of education. The Future World side focuses on the latest technology as well as many science attractions and exhibits. Innoventions East and West often have exhibits perfect for elementary and middle school. The Land teaches about agriculture including a boat ride through the hydroponic lab where fruits and vegetables are grown that are used in many of the restaurants at Disney World. Spaceship Earth gives a history lesson including the first alphabet through today’s communication avenues. The Seas with Nemo and Friends includes exhibits of sea life. Test Track is an engineering exhibit of how cars are built. Mission Space takes you on a space mission with a walk through exhibit of interactive labs following the ride. As Christians, we did not always agree with all the information presented which provided us an excellent opportunity to teach our son the difference between a Christian worldview and a secular worldview.
The second side of EPCOT is the World Showcase. This side of the park focuses on a number of countries providing excellent geography and cultural lessons. Most, if not all, the cast members in each of the World Showcase countries are from the country in the exhibit. These cast members are usually more than willing to talk about their home country or perhaps to teach a few words of their native language. An EPCOT field trip cannot be accomplished with any thoroughness in one day; you should plan on at least two days.
One way to save money for an amusement park field trip is to participate in their homeschool or educational days. Often the homeschool days include significant discounts. Occasionally, downloadable lesson information is also available. Not all parks offer these days. The best way to search for them is to type in a search box of your desired parkt he terms “homeschool” or “educational days.” Parks may be very specific in that they may have a Physics Day or a Math Day. Some of the parks known to have presented these days include Disney World, SeaWorld, Dollywood, LEGOLand, Silver Dollar City, Kennedy Space Center, and the Creation Museum.
Field trips are great in that they can either set up the topic for an upcoming lesson or they can follow up a lesson on a particular subject. Field trips provide a different avenue of learning that often helps a student to remember the material because they have experienced it. Exposing your children to different applications to what they are learning will also help them to connect the dots in the world around them. Be creative. Have fun. Learn through action. Make some memories!
Feel free to add your own field trip ideas in the comments. Where did you go? How did it enhance your classroom teaching?
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