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Toward Happy Homeschooling Field Trips!

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Toward Happy Homeschooling Field Trips!

By Linda Dobson

homeschoolingWhile making arrangements for your happy homeschooling field trip, ask your host if there’s anything you can discuss with your child, including vocabulary, to prepare for the visit. Places that see a lot of school groups often provide information sheets beforehand. Exchange information on what your guide will explain and what you’d like your homeschooling child to learn. Ask how many visitors can be accommodated; maybe you’d like to invite another family or your homeschooling support group!

If you’ll have young ones in tow, schedule your trip for a time they’re at their best, well fed and well rested, so you, too, can enjoy yourself. Join your children in asking questions, bring paper and pencils for notes, and don’t forget the camera!

Talk about your homeschooling field trip on the ride home. Share your ideas about what you found most interesting, things you learned that you didn’t know before, and what your visit inspired you to learn next. This encourages your child to examine the trip, increasing its educational value.

See also Smart Free Range Kids (Or Why Homeschoolers Don’t Stay Home)

Don’t forget to send your happy homeschool field trip host a thank you note. Encourage your child to include comments about what she liked best and what she learned.

Homeschooling and Visiting Museums


Homeschooling children visit museums a lot, and they’re not the kids running around with clipboards, frantically trying to find the answers to a list of questions. They rarely take audio tours that have them blindly following a voice that directs them to the “most important” painting or objects, telling them what to see. Rarely are they the ones following a docent around. They are the ones exploring excitedly for an hour or two, focusing on what interests them.

All sorts of museums are storehouses of information and artifacts that are best explored at leisure and in small doses. What sparks an interest one day might leave a person cold on another. Children usually gravitate to what interests them in the moment, and of course this often means the flashiest exhibit with the most buttons. Why not? I want my children to feel that museums are wonderful fascinating places where every visit brings new insights. And so we go a lot, and we purchase memberships to as many different museums as we possibly can, so that short trips don’t seem wasteful. I let the children lead the way and don’t insist on their reading every explanation as they go. I read what interests me and so do they. We talk, we try, we play. I insist on good etiquette: low voices, no running, and proper use of interactive equipment. Otherwise we are all free to explore.

Over time, I’ve been amazed at how much “homeschooling” and learning occurs in museums, especially when I haven’t actually seen them carefully studying the information presented. Time and again they’ve demonstrated weeks later that something they saw or experienced at a science or natural history museum has “clicked” and they “get it.” They’ve grown to love certain paintings at the art museum and have wanted to read more about favorite artists or periods or even try a technique at home. Mostly I’ve been amazed to witness, though not really understand, the process by which they gradually build their own knowledge and understanding of the world by integrating what they know from other sources with information and experiences they’ve picked up from museums. At ages eleven and thirteen they’ve even become critics, finding errors in explanations and coming up with suggestions for improvement in exhibit design and presentation.

I don’t think any of this would have happened if they’d had to spend long hours in single (or rare visits and been forced to stop and read everything along the way, if they’d been required to try and get it all, ready or not. Being free to explore means they can absorb and assimilate information for themselves when the time is right for them. They can take time and figure things out for themselves. Even when it seems they’re “just fooling around,” later discussions reveal how much their minds were actively engaged. It’s not necessary to answer someone else’s questions or to have the experience in any way predigested and packaged for them. It’s actually harder when one has to make one’s own connections and draw conclusions. That’s real learning that endures and opens up avenues for further study and contemplation.

~ Paula Russell

Finding People for Your Happy Homeschooling Field Trips

Here are just a few suggestions to help you find interesting people in your neighborhood who will be happy to share what they know with your homeschooling family!

  • Local or regional arts council – craftspeople, artists, actors, musicians
  • Library or bookstore – writers, poets, craftspeople
  • State agricultural extension office – farmers, foresters, nursery and fishery workers
  • Chamber of Commerce – business, professional, or service people
  • Civic, municipal and government bodies – legislators, judges, police officers, firefighters, town clerk
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