When I was in school, I eagerly looked forward to field trip days. A whole day away from the “learning” and humdrum of sitting in desks and filling out worksheets. What I didn’t realize then was that during these trips I was still learning. I just didn’t realize it because it was FUN! Now that I have my own children AND we’ve chosen to homeschool them, field trips have become a regular occurrence in our lives. Part of our homeschooling philosophy is to integrate learning into life. We don’t confine it to certain days or hours. What better way to encourage this than to go SEE things and TOUCH them and HEAR them?
Field trips can add an extra layer to your studies that bring everything alive for your children. They can show children that learning isn’t confined to a textbook or a classroom (or your dining room table). They provide opportunities to learn together as a family (or with a group of friends and fellow homeschoolers).
I’ve heard many homeschoolers say that field trips are too expensive, which can sometimes be true, especially if you are on a budget. However, most towns have free or very low cost options if you are willing to dig for them a bit! Our town is VERY small and yet we have found little gems that have made fantastic trips! If you are willing to travel a bit outside of your own town or city, you can likely find several more options!
Some ideas for finding free or low cost places to visit:
1.) Check out your local library’s website or bulletin board.
I’ve found that other homeschoolers sometimes advertise trips or group outings on these boards OR you can see a list of local events and possibly find something that will interest your family.
2.) Search the internet or your phone directory for local museums. We have a heritage museum for our county that has free admission, though they do accept donations. In the next county over, our local airport has a free aviation museum. Little known places can pack some punch! Don’t underestimate them! Even many large museums offer free admission. If you live near the DC area, ALL of the Smithsonian museums are free to visit!
4.) Don’t be afraid to make a phone call.
Just because a place you are interested in doesn’t advertise that they give tours or offer educational opportunities, doesn’t mean that they don’t. Most of our local fire stations will host a group on short notice. Some local farms will as well. It can’t hurt to call and ask!
5.) Go with a group.
Many places offer deep discounts if you have a certain number of attendees when you visit. This can vary from place to place, so always call to find out specific details. Then call up your homeschool buddies or group and make it an event!
6.) Check your local parks.
There are several parks near us (particularly in the mountains) that offer free educational sessions that teach children about local wildlife, hiking trails, flora and fauna. You should be able to find this info on your local parks and recreation website.
7.) Purchase a membership to a local educational center/museum.
This won’t apply everywhere, but MANY local museums team up and offer free admission to a wealth of other participating venues(including museums and zoos!) when you purchase a membership at one. It might mean spending some money at the beginning for the membership, but if you would likely enjoy the other offered venues then it could be a great investment!
8.) Field trips don’t have to be elaborate.
Some of the trips that my children remember most are simple trips to go pick strawberries at a local farm. Some grocery stores offer tours and talks about nutrition. Go hiking and make up a nature scavenger hunt for the children to use, encouraging them to look for certain types of plants or animals. Go to a local sporting event. Attend a local musical performance or a play. Visit an ethnic restaurant after you study a different country. Go bowling. Go skating. (Many areas have programs where you can do this for FREE. Check out Kids Skate Free and Kids Bowl Free). Go to storytime at your local library. Go fly kites. Field trips can be as simple as you want them to be and still be a great time!
9.) When you travel, keep your eyes open for opportunities!
We don’t vacation often, but when we do, we watch for signs along the road or during our travels for interesting places to visit. You never know what you’ll find! On the way home from visiting my mother in Virginia, we discovered a life size replica of Stonehenge made out of Styrofoam! I’m not kidding. We’ve also found quaint little shops and museums this way.
10.) Check to see if the place you want to go hosts special events or days specifically for homeschoolers.
Many places have Homeschool or Education Days where admission is discounted and special events are planned. Even Disney World offers something just for those who home educate! Most venues will have a section on their websites giving information about these days and the costs.
If all else fails, you can always try out a virtual field trip! Yes, you heard right! Lots of places offer tours online, so if something is too far away, you might still be able to enjoy it. Check out my Virtual Field Trips Pinterest board for some ideas!
Dusty is a stay at home mother of three who is expecting her fourth child this summer! She has been married to the love of her life for nearly 8 years and is trying to figure out her own path while devouring chocolate and leaning on the Lord. She blogs about homeschooling,home making, motherhood, and faith at To the Moon and Back.