Making "Every Day Field Trips" special {free printable}

Ideas for Every Day Field Trips

{Download the free printable "Every Day Field Trip Checklist" at the end of this post}

If there's one side effect parents feel when deciding to homeschool, it's learning to solve problems in creative ways. 

Your homeschool budget is limited, and so is your time. You want to plan special field trips with your kids, but are at a loss for ideas and wondering how field trips can fit into your homeschool budget.

Don't worry - your kids can learn in the real world with "every day field trips". 

When I was in school, the words 'field trip" elicited feelings of anticipation and freedom. Liberated from schedules, bells, and desks, our class headed out for an adventure that felt like playing hookey, but was actually learning in the real world. I remembered this when I started homeschooling my own kids.

My favorite field trip in elementary school was visiting Blenko Glass in Milton, West Virginia. I had $3 in my pocket, and the only thing I could afford in the gift shop was a blue elephant figurine. I had no particular interest or affection for elephants, but I didn't care - I wanted to bring home a piece of that experience with me. And for years I could recall many details about working with glass because I had not only been fascinated by the topic, I had in some measure interacted with it.

Students who interact with information in context are more likely to retain it. Textbooks may be filled with beautiful pictures of memorials, artwork, and historically significant places, but physically being there involves all the senses. Children are also more likely to empathize with other cultures and eras when they are able to imagine themselves in that time and place. 

Unfortunately, public schools are reducing the number of educational field trips, but for homeschoolers, there are few limits to how many field trips we can take or where we can go. We may be thinking of field trips as requiring an outlay of cash and significant investment of time to travel far away for an extra special day of learning. This may result in very few homeschool field trips.

However, we may be overlooking the benefits of regularly scheduled field trips, and how even our every day travels can become enriching educational experiences. 

For the last two years we have been unable to go on many field trips because of the logistics of caring for an elderly parent with dementia. This meant we had to make the most of every opportunity and learn more about our immediate neighborhood because we couldn't travel very far from home. By necessity I stopped taking our weekly errands for granted and started developing the habit of asking critical thinking questions and using a variety of activities to squeeze the fun and learning from every outing. 

Whether you are able to take frequent field trips, or you are limited to places like local businesses and parks, you can still make going out with your family a little bit more special. 

Here are some ideas for making your field trips and regular errands an opportunity for your kids to learn in the real world: 

Preparation 

  • Take cameras, scrapbooks, or journals to record specifics about the trip. 
  • Discuss safety procedures and appropriate behavior for this location. 
  • Search for history or background about the place or area you plan to go.

On the way 

  • Look up maps of various routes and choose one of them together. 
  • Make notes of interesting landmarks and the names of streets. 
  • "What do you already know about where we are going?"
  • "Is there anything in particular you hope to see today?" 
  • If it is some place you've already visited, ask "What have you seen here before, and what do you expect to see again?" 
  • "Is there something you don't know about that you'd like to learn?" 
  • "What is your favorite part of going here?" 

While you are there

  • "What does the name of this place tell you about it?"
  • "Are there signs that give you directions to help you find where you want to go?"
  • "Are there labels and instructions to help you learn about the things in this place?"
  • "Do you see some things featured as special? Why do you think they are important or unique?"
  • Play games like "I Spy". 
  • Give the kids a list of items to find for a scavenger hunt (this is a huge hit in the grocery store and it's amazing how quickly your shopping can get done!). 
  • Have them describe how the environment makes them feel, and why; colors, lighting, artwork... all convey something, so what are your kids perceiving about the atmosphere?
  • "If you were in charge, what would you do differently?" 
  • "If you were a traveler from the future, what would this place tell you about our culture?" 
  • "If you were a traveler from the past, what would you find most surprising or strange?"

Post trip 

  • "What did we learn on this trip? "
  • Have the kids draw some of the things they saw from memory.
  • Assess whether or not you prepared adequately for this trip.
  • Make notes about anything you'd like to do differently next time.

These questions and activities can be used for any place you plan to go, whether it is the zoo, a local playground, a museum, or a nature preserve. Just a little bit of thoughtful preparation and purposefulness can engage your kids in learning more about the specialness of every day things.

Share your Every Day Field Trip Experiences in the comments below -