In my 15 years of home educating, we have invariably taken at least one trip per year that includes Field Experience. We always plan it on “off months” when most school kids are in school during the day, making the most of time without crowds.
First, what is Field Experience? For most professions, Field Experience is practical application of what a student has learned in the classroom. For us, Field Experience is similar: we study something in the classroom, and then find a way to add a hands-on experience in the field.
Here are some things to consider when planning your field experience:
- Check for school breaks! Look up the school systems in your destination city/area and check for scheduled breaks such as a fall break (some areas have incorporated this break recently), spring break, or any holiday break or teacher inservice day. If your goal is to travel when there won’t be excessive crowds, it is imperative you confirm the local schools will be in session.
- Check your destination; if it is a zoo, museum, etc. make sure they don’t have what are called “free days.” If you happen to hit a location on a free day (like our local zoos and museums are known for) it will be a very busy day. The website will list those free days, but sometimes you really have to click through to find it. Conversely, you might find it rather helpful to visit on a free day (if it applies to out-of-state residents).
- Some historical sites and museums can become rather busy with school groups when in session. We have found afternoons to be the most advantageous, when school groups generally return to the school (2 p.m. and on). We tend to go after lunch and stay later until closing.
- If you plan ahead, you can often be classified as a “field trip” and get the same pricing. Call the museum and ask about home educator pricing.
- PRE-PLAN your lessons. A little preparation goes a long way. The National Parks Service (nps.gov) has an “Education” section for each historical site which includes a “curriculum” section. They sort the lessons by age and grade level, which is very useful. Many museums and zoos also have an education and curriculum section, so take the time to explore the websites and seek out help with curriculum.
- GEOGRAPHY: the best way to learn geography is to visit different places! When we go on road trips, or even a plane trip, we bring blank maps and the students color in the states and write in landmarks. Each of our children also has a book with a page for every state to write notes, and a blank USA map where they color in the state they are visiting. Our children are up to 35 states so far. In addition, when we visit a new state we learn the state flag, motto, bird, flower, Capitol and anything that makes the state unique.
- AUDIO BOOKS: You have a captive audience for 2-10 hours per day; make the best of it and listen to a book together. For our Civil War trip, we are listening to a book about Lincoln, as well as Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Across Five Aprils (though we won’t likely finish them all).
- JOURNAL: Every trip, each of my children get a 3 ring folder with three sections: curriculum, car games, and journal. I have found the less complicated the journal page, the better. The idea is to get children to write, record, and debrief their day. This is a good example of a simple journal page that encourages children to journal: example
- CAR GAMES: Printable car games are the best! We always include battleship, dots, a license plate game, hangman, and some sort of scavenger hunt.
- Always schedule fun! Even though learning is often the goal of our trip, we always incorporate plain fun. For us this includes amusement parks, water parks, and the occasional sweet treat.
- Always remember that each student is learning at a different level. Just BEING at an historical site is enough for the 10 and under crowd, don’t make the visit too much about “school” (they will learn! even if it doesn’t seem like it). For the older crowd, ask questions, get them thinking about what you are learning, and have them write a few things down they enjoyed. The journal section is a great place to write these down.
I will update my tips any time I think of something new. The most important part is the planning, so once you are there, it all just falls into place.
When we visited the Civil War Battlefields near Kansas City, our first day was rainy and dreary. It was the PERFECT backdrop to learn how solemn and difficult the war was, all while learning the facts about the battles at specific sites. Don’t underestimate the impact of just being present on location for your children!