Spoiler Alert: yes and no.
According to Wikipedia, “a field trip or excursion is a journey by a group of people to a place away from their normal environment. The purpose is to observe and educate with experiences outside of their everyday activities.” The goal is to collect samples and to observe the subject in a more realistic state. In a typical educational situation, field trips have three major components: preparing the students, the actual trip, and follow-up discussions or reports.
To me, this definition sounds a great deal like our homeschool life. Effective, life-long learning seems to be similarly defined. I can think of many people who make a habit of researching a place or topic before they visit and participate, or observe the actual subject. I consider those people smart and well-prepared. As homeschoolers, we are training our learners in the art of being a good learner and a prepared, well-read participant.
On a personal level, my homeschool crew currently consists of a highly-active preschooler and two sometimes-moody tweens. We live on a tight budget and drive a car that isn’t gas efficient. I have to take many factors into account when planning our field trip schedule. The questions I ask myself when deciding whether we will go or not are:
- How much are the tickets?
- How much will the gas cost to get there?
- Can we pack our meal?
- Is the event or location accommodating to my loud, active three-year-old? (I have been scolded by the manager of the orchestra when I had to walk out with my crying newborn…despite it being a day-time, children’s performance!)
- Is the topic relative to something we have recently studied or will study soon? Is it related to something that is happening in the current news?
- Does the event fit into my weekly schedule without too much conflict?
- Is this a one-time event or can we go another time when it is more convenient?
- Is this something that adds value to our entire family and could be a family event?
- Are discounts available for homeschoolers?
- Will the learning that will happen be valuable enough to use up our “table-time” for the day?
- Are friends going and will there be adequate time to play and have fun with them?
- Is it winter? (A fabulous indoor activity that promotes running around is always a winner during our Connecticut winters!)
This sounds like a lot. And it kind of is. I take our trips seriously and I want them to matter. I don’t want to jump on every trip or event available for several reasons. I can usually mentally run through my list of questions within a few moments and decide whether the trip is worth it to me.
So, are the trips worth it? It truly all depends. I remember my field trips as a public school kid. It was a nice break from our routine and, although I didn’t feel like I was learning a lot while out on our excursion, I was being exposed to interesting things that wouldn’t have left such an impression if I had just flipped open a book in the library. But I also have to remind myself that I spent a large majority of my learning time in one of three buildings between the ages of 5 and 18. My kids are experiencing a vastly different educational experience, so the trips may or may not have such a profound impact on them. However, that doesn’t negate the value of field trips for them.
I love getting out, exploring, and learning about our new (to me) region along with my kids. Shhh, don’t tell…secretly, I wish I could take my own trips to some of these museums or events and not be the chaperone, teacher, mom, trip planner, etc. all in one.
What are your thoughts? Do you have a goal of a certain number of trips each year? Do you have a love/hate relationship with them? What are your thoughts on how high field trips should be on the priority list for homeschoolers?
Lindsay Banton is a caffeinated mother to three great kids. She never expected to homeschool, but has found that it is a wonderful addition to their lifestyle and wouldn’t change it for the world. In addition to homeschooling, Lindsay works alongside her husband in campus ministry at a large university in Connecticut. She grew up in Virginia but has settled into life in New England, learning to love the long winters, cool springs, green summers and gorgeous autumns- and has built a boot collection to meet all the demands. She is currently blogging at www.oaksreplanted.blogspot.com.