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Hooray for Field Trips: Homeschooling the Early Years

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I know all of you don’t live where snow blankets the earth for six months during an especially harsh winter. So while you may not be quite as eager as I am to embrace the arrival of warm weather (or at least to enjoy outdoor temperatures that don’t hurt), you’re still probably more inclined to think about outdoor and travel activities when the weather grows warmer. Spring and summer are wonderful times for field trips that combine fun and learning while sharing the real world of work and play of community with your early years children.

It’s Available Near You

Too often we think of a “good” field trip as one that takes us “someplace else.” (Don’t we all at some time wish the Smithsonian Institute was next door?) But some of the best field trips for the three-to-eight year-old crowd are right around the corner. They can be brief, too, which means your child won’t get overwhelmed by the experience. Many of these trips are to places that daily perform the activities at the heart of your community, activities that even you as a parent may find more appreciation for after your visit.

Homeschooling families have an advantage over school groups when it comes to opening up the “field” in field trips. You can visit places that can’t accommodate the numbers involved with a typical school class. You can visit before and after school hours, and on weekends.

FiremenIf by some chance letting your fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages doesn’t yield contact information for a trip you’d like to take, there’s a few more places to try. [You can Google, for starters.] A local or regional arts council should be able to put you in touch with craftspeople, artists, actors and musicians. Likewise, an historical societ will reveal the best places to visit. Your library will know who the writers and poets are. A call to the Chamber of Commerce can make known business, professional and service people. Try your state agricultural extension office to contact farmers, foresters, nurseries, and fisheries. Finally, your town or city clerk will be able to guide you to legislators, judges, and police and fire department contacts.

Helpful Contacts


Craftspeople, artists, actors, musicians


Writers, poets, craftspeople


Farms, foresters, nursery and fisheries


Business, professional, or service people


Legislators, judges, policemen, firefighters, town clerk

Top Tips to Help Everyone Enjoy the Trip

While visiting all these places will be fun in their own right, there are a few suggestions from experienced homeschoolers to help make your trips as enjoyable as possible.

  • Ask if there’s anything you can do to prepare yourself and your children for the trip.

If yours is a popular destination of school groups, it could have background and information sheets already prepared. Maybe they know of some good children’s literatur that includes the topic(s) you’ll be covering. Is there specialized vocabulary it might help to be familiar with?

Here are just a few nearby community “hot spots” enjoyed by the early years crowd

Post Office



Newspaper office and printing facility



Fish hatchery

Police station


Historical homes and homesteads

Old cemeteries, forts, mines, battlefields

  • As long as you’re already chatting, get a synopsis of what the guide will explain.

If the guide doesn’t mention some of the things you were hoping to find out about or visit, ask if they can be included. This gives the guide time to prepare and/or get permission to stray from the pre-planned program.

  • Little ones should be well rested.

It’s possible you won’t have any control over your trip’s schedule. But if you do, choose a time when you know your infant or toddler – in fact, all of you – will be well fed and well rested.

  • Consider what materials to bring with you.

Might it help if you bring a pencil and paper for notes? Do you have something for the children to do if you run into a delay? Should you pack snacks because the length of the trip will run into snacktime? Don’t forget the camera!

  • Talk about what you’ve learned on the way home.

Let your children know what you found interesting, what you learned, what you’re inspired to learn about next. This will encourage the kids to share their impressions, too, and serve as a painless review of the day’s activities.

  • Don’t forget to say thank you.

Not only does a thank you note give your child the opportunity to write down what he liked and learned about the trip, it could keep this wonderful art from dying in our culture! You’ll also leave a nice impression of homeschoolers when the next of the growing number of families calls.

  • Don’t overdo.

Even something as fun as field trips can get old if overdone. Remember home is a very nice part of homeschooling, and you have to be there once in a while to discover how many fun things there are to learn in the backyard!

Originally appeared in Home Education Magazine’s May-June, 2000 issue

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2 Responses to “Hooray for Field Trips: Homeschooling the Early Years”

  1. upstatelisa says:

    Great tips. We have gone on various field trips in our area… a creamery, a sawmill, a medical device plant and we have started a list of other places we want to explore!

  2. Hi, Lisa,

    Thanks for writing! It's amazing, isn't it, places that we had previously driven by without giving them a second thought become some of the coolest things to do with you kids. OK, now I'm missing the good ol' days when the kids and I did such fun things learning together.

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