Homeschool Field Trips 101: How to Make the Day Count

Homeschool Field Trips 101: How to Make the Day Count

Are you one of those homeschoolers who watches dolphins at the zoo and calls it school? Here's a secret: Sometimes we all are.

Do field trips have a place on your homeschool calendar year? Are you on the fence about taking the time away from your books? Here are facts to get you off that fence and on that field trip.

How do you make that outside-of-the-books field trip time really count? Although the term field trip has become a euphemism for a day off from learning, I don’t find that true at all. My adult children still talk about the connections they made between seeing history on our various homeschool field trips and then later reading about it in their curriculum.

There are two ways to get around feeling guilty about taking a day off from your books. I’m giving you permission from the high council of homeschoolers to adopt either method of making your homeschool field trips count.

 Two Ways To Plan Homeschool Field Trips

1. The Wing It Method

The first is easiest. Just decide that the schedule and programs are not going to be the boss of you. In other words, wing it. 

  • Be impulsive! Wake up one day and surprise everyone with a day out.

  • Be comfortable knowing you may do Tuesday's work on Wednesday.

  • Don't worry about fitting anything that you are reading or studying. Just choose a topic or location that seems fun.

  • Even your youngest students will be thrilled about making a connection to a book they've read.

  • If you encounter something from a different point in history, you'll get that pay off in years to come when they look up from reading and tell you how they saw that in the museum last year. As Susan Wise Bauer says,” Your goal is to supply mental pegs on which later information can be hung.”

2. The Curriculum Supplement Method

The second way to plan homeschool field trips is more suited to the Type A personalities. If you are a box checker this is for you!

  • Pull out your Instructor's Guide (IG) and open to the Scope and Sequence page.

  • Open up a few browser tabs with websites of local museums and zoos.

  • Take a look at both the temporary and permanent exhibits for topics in your syllabus.

  • No matter what level you are studying, you are almost guaranteed to find something applicable to your homeschool.

  • Pencil the locations into your IG, and when you get to that week, you've already got a relevant field trip idea on tap!

No matter what kind of planner you are, my point is just this: Don’t let the Instructor’s Guide rule the year. Any kind of home education is a full-time job. You are already a hero for taking it on. The guide is just that; it’s not your boss.

Before the Visit: What to Bring for a Happy Homeschool Field Trip

Homeschool Field Trips 101: How to Make the Day CountBring the essentials. We even have a dedicated field trip backpack.

  • The outside pocket contains pens, pencils, and a couple of small notebooks for drawing, notes, or games.

  • Kleenex and wet wipes are always handy to have on hand.

  • I carry snacks that do not melt— gum and granola bars for example.

  • Keep a stash of dollar bills for souvenirs and the Mold-A-Rama machine if you are lucky enough to find one!

Back in the day, I had four kids all under the age of ten. I can tell you from experience that any field trip will require an entire day off from school. It doesn't matter if you drive or take public transportation. It still takes all day and most of your patience.

Try not to wake or leave the house any earlier than you normally would. If that means you leave mid-morning, that is okay. The last thing you want is to begin the day stressed as you rush out the door. 

During the Visit: Know When to Stop

The old adage "always leave them wanting more" is true. Dont' try to do it all, and leave before the day goes sideways.

  • Each kid gets a map and chooses one "must see" item.

  • Take turns navigating through the place.

  • Don’t be afraid to let your kids ask questions (or not). Museum and zoo folks love eager vistors. They don’t work there only for the money!

  • Bringing schoolwork? No. Just don't.
    There is no point in bringing teens with you if they sit on a bench, reading literature or doing algebra problems.

  • Keep the visit short—less than four hours unless you have all teens. If anyone seems overtired, unengaged, or is almost crying, it is absolutely time to go.

After the Visit: Reflect and Investigate

Sit down and regroup before you leave. Ask

  • what they did and didn’t like

  • what would they like to see next time

  • what they saw that they want to learn more about

Encourage them to think about how they can find the answers to their questions. That ends the visit on a high note, and before you know it, you’ll be motivated to plan the next day of field trip learning!

See BookShark Reading with History Programs

About the Author

Jenny NaughtonJenny Naughton lives in Chicagoland with her husband where they have been homeschooling their four sons and one daughter since the dark ages of 2001. Her nose is always in a book, and if you come over, she will send you home with one so that she has the shelf space to get more. Her favorite social media platform is Instagram where she overshares her books, coffee, pets, and more books.