Are we facilitating Field Trips or simply living Life?
When my son’s public school kindergarten class visited a local grocery store to learn about community, it was considered a creative field trip idea by his teachers who were limited by the schools trip rules and resources.
When I take my son to the grocery store, putting him in charge of a portion of our list—he is tasked with finding a few items and crossing them off—and letting him navigate part of the self checkout, it’s considered creative parenting or, more simply put…life.
So, what is a field trip exactly?
According to dictionary.com it’s a trip by students to gain firsthand knowledge away from the classroom, as to a museum, factory, geological area, or environment of certain plants and animals.
So, If we take away the “schooling” in homeschooling and admit that the world is our child’s classroom (hey, we’ve gotten really good at facilitating learning in a variety of locations!) then are we facilitating field trips or simply living life?
It’s been much easier for me to fit in “field-trips” when I think about it from the perspective of living life. Now that I understand they don’t have to be some overly planned event, I realize we are constantly taking field-trips! Heck, just the other day, we ventured to Michael’s Arts and Crafts for a spur of the moment puzzle framing idea by my son. The unique size of the puzzle required some creative, out-of-the-box thinking and the mounting of the puzzle turned into a fun math lesson as we measured out the border for our frame.
Do I still need to plan a few events from time to time? Of course. But, all of these activities come from the perspective of me wanting to share a rich life with my son. I am no different than the school-going family who plans outings during their weekends except I get to do so during off-peak times when crowds are smaller.
Creating my Home Based Learning Road Map has helped spark a genuine excitement for sharing experiences with my son. Since I no longer think of outings as a “field-trip”—a break from “classroom-work”—there is less pressure on my part. Now, I am simply enjoying my time with my son, doing something that (hopefully) excites us both.
So, whether you consider it a field-trip from formal learning or simply facilitating a rich and inspiring life for your child(ren), here are some ideas to get you started. This list is by no means exhaustive and I highly anticipate you will generate your own outings…ones that are fun for your family, enhance your family values, and align with whatever your family is currently learning.
Our Best Field Trip Ideas for Homeschool Families
History and geography are all around us – check out these ideas for taking advantage of it!
Discover Historical Sites
I highly recommend checking out any historical sites near your home, if you can. My son is becoming quite interested in history which I think is partly because of the interesting books we’ve been reading and partly because of all the places he has visited. We recently finished reading King George: What Was His Problem?: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn’t Tell You About the American Revolution and he immediately started asking about visiting Mount Vernon, George Washington’s Home.
We got the opportunity to do so this summer (it’s about a 45 minute drive from our little apartment in the District) and it was an instant hit. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post about our experience.
During his short 7 years, my son has already experienced history and geography in Philadelphia, the many estates around Wilmington, Delaware (his grandparents have showered him with history opportunities), the Amish in Lancaster County, and more. He has been to 13 states and 6 countries, and while I recognize this sort of travel is not possible for every family, there are bound to be some local areas of interest.
Field trips to historic spots allow your children to really get a feel for what people of the past struggled within their daily life. Lesli, from This Crazy Homeschool Life, has compiled a list of 100 historic sites to see in the United States.
Check out your local architecture
Take a walk around town to spot some of the best buildings. See if you can find the oldest, and newest building.
Compare the current landscape with old aerial photographs
This is a great way to show children how things in your area have changed over time.
Find free museums in your area to visit
This may be easier for some families than others, depending on your area. Living in DC we are fortunate to have many free museums but even if your area is more sparse in terms of opportunities, free museums are great to keep in mind for your next planned trip somewhere.
History museums make the list of homeschool field trip ideas because they can tie in with history curriculum lessons. These museums come in a range of sizes and cover a plethora of topics.
You might even find small local history museums located in little old towns.
Visit your local cemetery or war memorial
Pretty much every community has a local cemetery is rich in history, even if super local. Look at the dates and names on the tomb stones and try and make connections with other things you have learned about that period of time. Try to imagine what that person’s life might have been like. Did they live in a time before electricity perhaps or were they a civil rights activist? Create your own stories.
Take advantage of free community events
Air shows, vintage car rallies or historic re-enactments are just some examples.
Explore Ethnic Grocery Stores
My husband recently took our son to the Indian grocery store to pick up some Dahl (lentils). While there, the discovered a little restaurant in the back and ended up brining home some of the most amazing Indian food I’ve had in the area. While any grocery store can make an interesting field trip, ethnic grocery stores provide an added opportunity to learn about and see first hand, another cultures. Even if you don’t know anything about cooking that particular cuisine, a quick stop can be a lot of fun. Don’t be a afraid to chat with the store owner. Ask about their culture. Ask for a “tour” or their foods. Consider picking up a few snacks to try at home and ask for restaurant recommendations for further cultural exploration. If you can tie the cultural food market to a culture you have been studying, even better.
Try people watching
Introduce children to body language, and then go out and see if you can spot some examples.
If you can afford the time and cost, travel is an amazing learning opportunity! Whether you take a short road-trip or travel to another country (post pandemic of course), travel provides so many learning opportunities it’s impossible to list them all here. Things we’ve learned during our travels: planning, math, map reading, geography, learning about different cultures, history, kindness, socialization, acceptance, and more.
Science and Nature
Take a nature walk
Collect items for your homeschool nature table and nature projects. Even a local park can unearth some wonderful finds. Play nature I spy or go on a nature scavenger hunt.
Visit a Farm or local orchard
Working farms are amazing places for kids to visit. Staying an helping out on farm taught my son so much about this lifestyle and where our food comes from.
He learned that things grow in seasons and that sometimes hard work is involved in getting food to our table. He also learned hot to milk a goat and collect duck eggs.
Pick your Own
Grab opportunities to pick your own pumpkins, strawberries, apples or blackberries. Find a nearby pick your own farm here.
Explore a Zoo
To be honest, my son has never been particularly interested in the animals at the zoo but, zoos seem to be a favorite spot for many children, making them one of the top homeschool field trip ideas. Kids can observe animals they might not otherwise see in the wild. Kids can learn map reading skills, animal facts, and even a bit of geography as they read the descriptive plaques. If your kids are not as thrilled about the animals themselves, perhaps pairing with another activity will help build up engagement over time. I’ve facilitated several photography outings to the zoo and my son has been happy to put his photography learning to practice on the lovely animals.
Enjoy the Aquarium
Aquariums let kids observe aquatic animals that they couldn’t see otherwise. Kids learn to care about protecting our planet when they see the wide range of animals impacted by their choices. Can’t travel to an aquarium do to distance or COIVD? Check your local (or other) aquarium for virtual visits. We follow the Georgia Aquarium on FB and receive live updates on their animals. I know several other aquariums offer similar experiences.
See how many different environments you can find in your area…
…beach, wetlands, highlands, lakes, agricultural and so on.
Go Pond Dipping or bug hunting
Ant farming is a favorite with my son.
Visit bird sanctuaries or animal rescue centers
Or at the very least, go feed the ducks at your local park.
Join Open Garden Tours
Many areas hold Open Garden Days, where people open their gardens to the public. In fact, when my son was little, we used to be a part of a neighborhood garden tour. Give a big shoutout to people who live with and maintain show gardens!
Learn from A Fish Hatchery
Fish hatcheries are perfect if your kids have any interest in fish. Try and tour a fish hatchery as the salmon are returning to spawn. You’ll be able to see salmon in all stages of life which might encourage your children to keep our rivers a little more clean.
Discover State Parks
State parks frequently host seminars led by park rangers. Some of these seminars are open to the public and some are special requests. Check out the state park website for your state and see what is available.
Stand In Awe Of National Parks
National parks tend to either have gorgeous scenery or historical sites. Kids can even take part in the junior ranger program. Be sure to check out the visitor center.
Many national park visitor centers display exhibits that explain what the children will see in the park. Find a national park near you here.
Learn from a Nature Center
Nature centers frequently host kid-friendly educational opportunities. The employees are an excellent resource for learning about your environment.
Botanical gardens are beautiful enchanting places. We like to just walk around and enjoy all of the gorgeous plant life. If you have an artist on your hands, be sure to bring a sketchbook.
Check out these reasons why visiting a botanical garden is important.
Enjoy The Beach
Some of our favorite memories are our off-season beach trips this past winter. Our friends’ offers of their places were a wonderful relief from COVID insanity. Being off-season we had the beach primarily to ourselves. We were able to explore and examine a variety of different shells, take beautiful photos, fly a kite, play in the sand and even star gaze by the ocean!
Explore A Science Museum
Science museums usually contain a wide range of science topics so you are almost guaranteed to find something that correlates with a lesson. These museums are usually full of hands on activities and experiments to keep little learners interested and engaged.
Be sure to check out the online exhibit guide before you go, so you can see everything you want to see. Here is a list of science centers in the US. Sort it by state to search it a little easier. Hopefully, you can find an interesting exhibit near you to add to your homeschool field trip ideas list.
Experience a Planetarium
A planetarium is an excellent spot for a homeschool field trip if you are studying the solar system or constellations. The light displays are amazing. This is one of the best homeschool field trip ideas if you are studying astronomy!
It does get dark right before the show starts, so it might not be the best field trip idea if your child is afraid of the dark. Check this website for a list of some US planetariums.
Be sure to ask around your community though. You might find smaller planetariums in specialty high schools.
Go out and make some Kids Nature Art.
Go on a photography walk
Explore your area through the lens of a camera. If your child seems interested find an online or local photography class. Alternatively you can get a book on photography and work through it, one lesson at a time. My son has been having fun with Be A Super Awesome Photographer.
Take advantage of free or inexpensive performances
Street performances, theatre in the park, universities etc. offer free or inexpensive performance opportunities.
Visit art studios
Many areas run an ‘Open Art Studio’ scheme where artists open their studio doors to the public for a few days a year. This is a great opportunity to meet the artists and talk about their work. Around the corner from where we are staying for the summer is a collective artists’ workspace with 8 artists. On Saturdays, they have a small craft project for kids.
Ask to visit craft groups
Craft groups are usually very keen to share their skills, and welcome visitors. Try your local groups in spinning, quilting, weaving, knitting, pottery and painting.
Visit Art Museums, galleries, or free art exhibits
When we lived in Kansas City, my son enjoyed his first art experience at the Nelson Atkin’s Museum of Art. Since then he has enjoyed storytime, a cherry blossom craft day and more at the National Portrait Gallery and Hishorne Musemes in DC and the Delaware museum of modern art.
Young kids can enjoy art museums if they have the right preparation and parents have the right expectations. Plan to keep the visit fairly short if your kids are young or high energy. We found it works well to focus on one exhibit each visit until his attention span and interest increase. Pairing your visits with story time or an organized craft project add increased engagement from kids.
Choose 1 or 2 pieces to analyze with this handy guide.
Browse Art Stores
Check out the different art mediums and ask how they are used. Some stores will be happy to demonstrate and some art store employees can even tell you about the local art scene or their own interest in and style of art.
Local Businesses are often happy to arrange visits by small groups. If you’re planning to visit one of these business in the course of your day, then why not turn it into a field trip?
Take a look at how the books are categorized. Find books on a specific topic or theme. See what fun events are being hosted. Chat with the librarian and ask what resources are available to homeschoolers. Perhaps the librarian can help you find other homeschoolers who frequent the library?
Factories are excellent places to learn about manufacturing and assembly lines. You can even tour an Amazon fulfillment center! Currently (2021), the tours are being offered virtually, but hopefully, they will eventually get back to in-person tours.
If you have a child that is fascinated with trash trucks, I highly recommend a visit to a recycling center. You can even take a virtual field trip tour of a recycling center online.
Taking a field trip to visit a fire station is an important part of teaching fire safety to kids. Kids can tour the station, but most importantly, they can see a fire fighter wearing all of the gear. That can look kind of scary and kids have been known to hide from fire fighters during rescue attempts.
Seeing a fully dressed firefighter in a safe setting helps prepare them. Here is a great field trip response worksheet to help kids process everything they learned.
This is one of those homeschool field trip ideas that I can really make a difference in terms of safety.
Police stations are a natural fit for any child learning about community helpers or the criminal justice system. I recommend setting up a field trip with your local police station AND the helicopter unit.
My kids thought the police station was interesting, but they really gained useful information from the helicopter unit tour. These are the officers that respond to situations such as lost children and catastrophic injuries, so they reinforce safety tips, like always wearing a bike helmet when riding on wheels.
Aside from the basic socialization aspect and learning how to interact in society, grocery stores provide another piece of the ‘where does my food come from’ puzzle. Kids also learn about point of sale, bakeries, and delis. Some grocery stores even offer nutrition lessons, and of course learning how to read nutrition labels is a great life skill.
For math, try teach your child about rounding to the nearest dollar or half dollar as you read price labels, adding up their grocery items, or understanding how to calculate price per unit to discover the “best value”.
For older kids, you could have them start a spreadsheet or list for price comparisons between multiple stores.
Pet stores are one of the easiest homeschool field trip ideas if your child loves animals. Many pet stores sell a very limited variety of animals, but they do sell everything needed to care for a pet.
Post offices are busy places with lots of moving parts. Schedule a behind the scenes tour and see how mail gets from one part of the country to another.
Print out this copy of Post Office I Spy and keep toddlers entertained while their older siblings learn all about the mail process.
Children’s museums are a great place for the younger crowd to burn off a little energy while learning a bit too. Typical exhibits include building with large blocks, water play, light tables, and make-believe.
Many children’s museums offer discount nights every so often.
Touring your state capitol building is a great way to garner interest in state politics.
Every state capitol follows a different protocol for setting up field trips, so you will need to check with your state officials to find out how to set up a tour.
A restaurant might seem like a weird addition to a list of homeschool field trip ideas, but they can be great! Gather a few friends and call up a local restaurant to schedule a homeschool field trip.
Restaurant field trips often include a behind-the-scenes tour of the kitchen. You might even be able to get a little snack.
Story times are often hosted by libraries or book stores and they are perfect for young children. Many times the story times have themes. It is great when you can coordinate the theme with a lesson or unit study, but listening to stories is always educational in it’s own right.
Frequently Asked Questions About Homeschool Field Trips
What are good field trip ideas?
Good field trips are anything that keeps your kids interested and learning. I think the homeschool field trip ideas listed above are great.
How do homeschool field trips work?
Every homeschool field trip is different, but generally they work the same way any family trip works. Choose when you want to go and make reservations if necessary.
You can go on the field trip alone or with multiple families. Sometimes there are discounts available for large groups, so it might be worth a little extra planning work to coordinate.
What is the best homeschool field trip?
The best homeschool field trip is one that:
- Is interesting to your family
- Is affordable for your family
- Is in your area
Every family will have a different opinion about the best field trip. Some will be an instant hit with your kids and some, perhaps not as much but that’s okay. Just keep observing and getting to know your kids to have more instant hits than not.
What has been your favorite life experience you’ve shared with your child(ren)?
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