Field trips are a wonderful way to encourage hands on learning for your homeschooler. As homeschool families we have the opportunity to take field trips when certain attractions are less crowded and when the timing is perfect for us. The flexibility we have teaching our children at home is a real bonus when planning field trips. Start your school year with a list of possible field trip ideas, based on curriculum tie-ins or pre planned homeschool group activities. If you belong to a homeschool group check out what field trips they are offering, and look into planning one for the group if that is an option. If you don't have a group, gather with several friends or family members to make a small list of attendees for your trip. Or, plan a field trip for just your own homeschool family, as that can be a great bonding and educational experience.
After you have a list of topics you will be covering in homeschool studies, look for field trips to coincide with these topics. Free trips are a good baseline to search for, especially in today's rough economy.Think first about your local community. Is there a pizza place or ice cream shop in town? Have you asked them if they would be willing to do a free field trip? I have gotten a supportive response when approaching members of my community, thus being able to arrange quite a few free outings. We have visited Dairy Queen to learn how ice cream is made and everyone enjoyed a tour, lesson on cleanliness in the kitchen, and free ice cream. Panera was kind enough to sponsor a free bagel making lesson for the students in our homeschool group, and the children loved eating their creations! While these two chains offered a trip in my area, I cannot guarantee the locations in other cities and states will do the same. But it doesn't hurt to ask- chain locations or local favorites.
A super site to check out to help set up free field trips in your community is Field Trip Factory. You can schedule trips online or over the phone, and there are many trips to choose from based on your region/area. Stores and companies including Meijer, Saturn, A.C. Moore, Albertsons and Petco, and they offer field trips for all grade levels. The neat thing about this site is you can access pre and post lesson materials, and read reviews from past trip attendees. I have personally arranged the Petco trip and found it to be a fun and informative field trip. There are even specific guidelines for each age group and grade level, and standards are listed on the site as well.
Don't forget about local museums, many offer special free days for homeschoolers or residents of the immediate area. Check your town's attraction websites or chamber of commerce website for current promotions and events. The last Saturday of this month is "Free Museum Day" at Smithsonian sponsored museums around the United States. This would be a perfect opportunity to have a weekend field trip, and enjoy the free exploration. Visit the website at smithsonianmag.com and scroll to the bottom right for a link to the list of participating museums in your area.
Consider local parks and nature preserves for field trips as well. Many locations have free admission and offer a variety of options for nature walks and hiking, perfect for recording in a Science journal about native plants and animals. Many parks have recreation departments that also offer free workshops and activities for children, check out your local parks department for more details on this potential opportunity. Don't forget about your local library, too. Not only will they have information on area outings for free, but they also offer field trips to visit them! I organized a wonderful field trip to our town library so the students could learn how to use the resources in the library, from locating the Encyclopedias to checking out books. Then the librarian did a special storytime just for our homeschool group.
Whether your homeschool field trip takes you to a museum or a park nearby, enjoy finding the free fun in your experience.