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“Eat! Eat! Eaaaaaaaaaat!” He shrieked as he pulled at the handle of my bag with the force of, well, a ravenous toddler.
“Just a minute bud, just a minute,” I promised, as I ripped in to the foil and tore off a hunk of PBJ.
My eyes darted quickly from left to right, then to the closed iron gate behind me.
The barrier standing between us and the rest of our family.
I had failed to follow the guidelines we use to plan a homeschool field trip, and I was paying for it.
On a dirty sidewalk, in an unsafe neighborhood, with my youngest child writhing in my arms.
5 Must-Follow Guidelines To Plan A Homeschool Field Trip
1. Teach A Lesson Beforehand
Kids will get the most out of a field trip if they already have the information they need to place it in its proper context.
If you have already studied the habits of polar bears, a trip to the zoo to see them becomes a rewarding supplement to what they have already learned.
They will pay more attention and be more invested in what you see.
The internet makes this an easy job.
Just visit the website for the site you will be visiting, and look for educational materials there.
Print out any worksheets, maps or other printable, and watch virtual tours or other informational videos.
If you want to take thins further you can search Pinterest for lesson plans on the subject, check books out of the public library, or search for videos on YouTube.
2. Be Your Own Your Guide
Search iTunes or the App store for interactive apps and audio tours as you plan your homeschool field trip.
Nearly every location that you visit will have some sort of virtual tour available.
And in many cases you will be able to find entire blogs devoted to getting the most out of your visit.
A quick search on Google or Pinterest will find these quickly for you.
These will add a level of depth to your visit beyond what you would get simply from reading the placards and brochures that the site provides.
3. Avoid Arguments In The Gift Shop
Plan your gift shop policy and budget in advance, and let your children know what it is before you arrive on site.
If your children are old enough to handle transactions on their own, you can give them any souvenir money to manage themselves before you arrive.
Make sure to set not only a budget for the money they can spend, but also a budget on the amount of time that you will spend in the gift shop as well as any limits on what they are and are not allowed to purchase.
My rules are that the item has to be something that they can actually use.
And it has to be something related to the place we are visiting.
For example, a sweatshirt with an image of one of the exhibits is fine if it within budget, but a bag of old-fashioned candies at the gift shop for caverns is not.
It’s a good idea to visit the gift shop right before you leave so that the kids have had a chance to see all of the exhibits first.
This will increase the chances that they will choose a souvenir that reminds them of their favorite part of the site or something interesting that they learned about while there.
4. Make Lunch Plans
Call ahead to find out what the policy is for bringing food on site.
I skipped this step during our field trip to the Thomas Edison Center.
As a result, we didn’t know that we weren’t allowed to bring food onsite until I was reprimanded for giving a bite of a sandwich to our one-year-old.
Since there also wasn’t a cafeteria or any food for sale, I had no choice but to stand outside of the park’s gates feeding my baby until he was calm enough to re-enter.
If there is a policy preventing eating at the attraction you will be visiting, make sure to eat before you arrive and make a plan for where and what you will eat nearby once you leave.
Then you can budget your time and money accordingly.
5. Stay Connected
Don’t make your visit a one and done.
Make the most of the time and money that you’ve spent by signing up for any clubs or complimentary memberships that are available before you leave.
Sign up for email updates as well to stay in the loop about upcoming events, and ask staff if there are any educational materials to take home with you.
Then at home, in the days following your visit, work on a follow-up craft or activity, or read a book to tie everything you have learned together.
Fill Your Calendar
Planning a field trip seems easy enough when all you’re doing is handing over a check to your child’s teacher.
But as a homeschool mama, in order to get the most out of your visit, and to make sure everyone enjoys the day, you really do need to plan a homeschool field trip.
Start by making a list of one place you would like to visit for each month of the year.
Then get started calling to ask about food policies and other relevant information.
Once you have planned a few trips most of the steps will become second nature.
And you will earn a happy family memories that enrich your kids’ educational experience.
What have your family’s favorite homeschool field trips been? What would you do differently to make them even better the next time around?