Homeschool Field Trip Ideas
By Suzanna Fitzgerald
Writer For The International Travel Herald
Teaching children about the broader world is a vital aspect of any education program. But getting field trip ideas when you’re homeschooling can be a tricky task.
After all – schools hire professionals with four-year college degrees to come up with these ideas.
And what if you live in small-town Boresville, USA? Everything that surrounds you is very common, and you don’t have a big budget to take big and exciting trips.
Never fear! There are still dozens of ways that you can take great, world-shaping field trips that will help to enhance your child’s education and broaden their horizons.
- The Grocery Store
Trip to exotic locations can quickly become lackluster without the right mindset, especially if you have small children.
Overcoming this challenge will mean that you have to cultivate a student’s mindset for yourself.
The beautiful thing about children is that they can find wonder, mystery, and excitement in something as commonplace as a caterpillar.
So let them see that you have an openly curious mind yourself. Ask questions constantly, and encourage them to do the same. And as you learn, share your knowledge with them. This is quite simply the best way to teach – and it can turn the most ordinary milk-run into a glorious adventure.
- Expect Adventure
Human beings have a tendency to find what they expect to find. If you set out determined to find fault with your surroundings, or anticipating a bad trip, odds are that is what you will find.
But if you expect to find adventure in every flat tire – then you will find adventure.
Before setting out on a field trip, tell your students in no uncertain terms that they are going to have fun. Excite them with your words, describe the horizon for them, and share past adventures as well.
- People Field Trips
There was once an old man who lived in the desert outside a Southwestern town. He was a hateful old man; he was rude, crude, and bitter. But in the middle of that desert he grew a garden that wasn’t to be believed.
And if you asked him, he would tell you how to grow a garden in the desert.
The moral of this story is to stop seeing a field trip as a destination.
When trying to broaden a child’s horizon the most valuable lesson you can teach them is to interact with the people they find along the way.
Some people will be wonderful and kind, others will be crude and even nasty. But every person has a story they will share, if asked. Teaching your children to interact fearlessly with the people they meet – including adults – and to learn from every experience, is the most valuable field trip of all.
- The Backroads
It can be very hard to conduct a field visit if you never get close to a field.
When you are on a road trip, try to avoid the interstate as much as possible. Also try to avoid GPS, constant cellphone use, and TV or computers in the car. Children can learn from those devices at home.
When you’re on a trip, make it about the trip.
Your best entertainment should be in talking about what you’re seeing through the car window. Some of the best memories your children will have may be of dabbling their feet in a mountain stream, or trying to wrap their arms around the massive trunk of a California Redwood.
Go off the beaten trail. Take the long way round…explore side roads…stop to take in the sights.
In other words, make the most out of every road trip.
- National Parks
There are over 166 National Parks in North America. These will include some of the most scenic and rich landscapes to be seen. These come conveniently with roads, historical markers, campsites, and more.
If you are looking for the best visual experience on a budget – then the National Parks may be for you.
Just some of the 59 National Parks in the United States:
- Arches National Park, Utah
- Biscayne National Park, Florida
- Carlsbad Cavern, New Mexico
- Cuyahoga Valley, Ohio
- The Denali Game Park, Alaska
A Sample of the 40 National Parks in Canada:
- Banff, Alberta
- Glacier National Park, British Columbia
- Forillon, Quebec
- Georgian Bay Islands, Ontario
And of the 60 National Parks in Mexico:
- Loreto Bay National Marine Park
- Contoy Adventures, Isla Contoy
- Chapultepec Park, Mexico City
- Los Arcos, Puerto Vallarta
- Traditional Museums
With the natural prejudice against homeschoolers by many establishments long connected to public education it may seem hard to visit traditional museums.
Yet museum field trips offer a real gold mine not only in information, artifacts, and displays – but also in critical thinking skills. Visiting a museum that may disagree with your every life choice, and promote religions with which you can’t agree, is the perfect time to teach in oppositionist referendum mode.
Oppositionist referendum simply means that you introduce contradictory ideals, even seriously consider them, in order to learn from them.
If you are a creationist, for example, there is no better place to uncover evolution theory than in a dinosaur museum.
The trick to learning from worldviews that you strongly disagree with is to ask questions and encourage bold discussions. Never discourage your child from asking pointed, even difficult, questions of a tour guide. In fact, consider introducing arguments or asking serious questions yourself.
- Historical Sites
These can literally be anything that has the slightest connection to history. Simply driving through the old part of a town will give you a feeling of having visited history.
There are historical museums and organizations in nearly every city in America, for example.
Historical markers on the side of the road are a great place to start. And you can always visit grand houses that are open for viewing, like the historic Copper King Mansion in Butte, Montana.
These places give an actual feel and texture to history – creating a connection that not even the best book can afford.
A great way to prepare to visit a historic site, or to get the most of the experience after the fact, is to seek out historical fiction books that pertain to the area, or the most important period. Going to San Francisco will have a far great impact if your children have been hearing and reading adventure stories about the California Gold Rush.
- Visual Arts & Cultures
Field trips to anything cultural are always a really great idea.
This can include something urbane like a trip to the movies. Or it can be something really cool like a Shakespeare play, a performance by Chinese acrobats, or even an opera.
There are cultural celebrations in any environment. From Native American gatherings to old car shows, to quilting fairs. Any of these are great hands-on learning opportunities, and they are hugely fun besides.
- Resident Artists
Wherever you go – whether it’s your own hometown or a faraway trip, it will be worthwhile to try and find at least one local artist.
This might be something like the local quilt store – or a pottery store. If you are anywhere near a Native American reservation you will have wonderful opportunities to view their arts and crafts live and in person.
Take the time to discover what type or style of art any given region produces, and then find places to go view them in unique ways.
- Nature Field Trips
We already covered the national parks, but there is a greater opportunity for field visits in nature.
Animals are an incredible feature of the earth, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of zoos and wildlife preserves around North America alone.
Seeing a lion in person is an unforgettable experience, as is having your hand licked by the super-sticky tongue of a giraffe.
And there’s always Sea World, which incorporates the roller coaster experience with a marine zoo.
For viewing flora and fauna there are beautiful gardens, like the Buchart Gardens in Victoria, BC, Canada. Gardens tend to exhibit beautiful extras like butterfly pavilions, and sometimes even a few amusement rides.
Making the Most out of Every Field Trip Idea
No matter where or how far you go – there will always be learning and adventure opportunities. The ten broad ideas listed above just scratch the surface of what’s available and possible, even on a budget.
Do you have experiences in taking your homeschool students on fascinating field trips? What was your wackiest experience ever? What was the sweetest, most unexpected moment that your children found – or the person you best remember from your travels?
Please drop us a line in the comments below and let us know your story.
Suzanna Fitzgerald is a writer, photographer, and online marketer. She has been writing for over fifteen years in all fields of fiction and non-fiction. Her published novel, Loner’s Clan, is her largest foray into the print world so-far, but she has published dozens of items online, especially in the form of a blog.
Her marketing company, Fitz’n’Jammer: Online Marketing & Design, is dedicated to helping clients increase their online presences and marketing campaigns the smart way – with clarity engagement marketing.
You can find her on her company website, http://www.fitznjammer.com.