Easy Tips for Successful, Stress Free Field Trips

Photo by Jon Sullivan

I plan a lot of field trips for various homeschool groups. I do this because I want my children to have opportunities to experience, see, explore, and learn. Planning field trips and tours allows me to give them these experiences at a more affordable price or with greater depth. Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about setting up successful field trips.

  • Never be afraid to ask a company or organization for a field trip or tour. The worst that can happen is that they say no. Most businesses will want to keep you, the potential customer, happy. I’ve had many places tell me that no one has ever asked and they have gone on to design something for us. You may end up with a behind the scenes tour or just a group discount, but you won’t have anything if you don’t take the initiative.
  • Be flexible and work with the business or organization. They are doing a favor for you, so be willing to work with them to meet both your needs and theirs.
  • Be organized. The key to a successful field trip is to be organized. Nothing brings a field trip down faster than a disorganized organizer. Consider setting up a spreadsheet to keep track of participants, amounts, fees, and payments.
  • Do your prep work. Ask the business for all pertinent information up front: minimum and maximum numbers they are willing to do the tour with, age ranges, prices for all ages, the length of the tour, what the tour will involve, etc.
  • Set the date, and then have people sign up. This may seem backwards to some. However, it is almost always impossible to find a date that works for everyone, especially with a diverse group of homeschoolers. Feel free to take into consideration others’ schedules, but plan for something that works for you. If people are available and are interested, they will sign up.
  • Call to confirm numbers. Many businesses will ask how many people are coming, which is something you won’t know until people sign up. Explain that you would like to provide firm numbers and would therefore like to set up a date and have people sign up. Then give a separate date, well in advance of the tour date, that you will call back with those firm numbers. Follow through.
  • Collect payment in advance. People are less likely to flake on an event if they have already paid for it. You want to show the business that you appreciate their time and willingness to cooperate. Having a large number of no-shows is not only unprofessional, it can cost you money. There may be a minimum number that needs to be met in order to reach the group rate. If you haven’t already collected payment from everyone, you may be left footing the bill.
  • Charge something. Free field trips are fantasti,c and many businesses will give them. However, consider charging something to give people an incentive to show up if you think no shows may be an issue. You can use that money to provide an additional activity or snack for participants or consider donating it to the organization. Many non-profit groups who give free tours and presentations can really use donations.

Field trips can be a great way to learn about various topics, including our communities. With some simple planning, you can easily set up successful, stress free field trips.

Driveway Painting

When we were pendulum painting, some of the paint went off of the paper onto the driveway. After looking at it for a few days, I decided there was really only one thing taht made any sense – paint the driveway! My kids loved the suggestion, and we set to work watering down some more tempera paint (washable so it isn’t permanent). It was nice, messy fun and watching the different techniques was a blast. My one year old decided that her belly button was feeling left out and promptly remedied that. After cleaning up our painting supplies outside, the kids piled into the bathtub to get cleaned up, giving me some downtime as I sat there supervising and knitting some of their holiday gifts.

Pendulum Painting

Lovely weather at the end of Septmeber had us spending a lot of time outside. We decided to improvise with a couple of saw horses, an extra board, some string, a water bottle out of the recycling bin, and watered down tempera paint. Walla! Pendulum painting!

Seed Bombs

Tsuchi dango (Earth dumplings) were invented in the 1950s by a Japanese farmer named Masanobu Fukuoka as a way to store seeds for next season’s crops. These seed balls could be planted without tilling and resulted in stronger plants, as the seeds were protected by the balls during germination. Today seed bombs are used to regenerate land after natural disasters and by geurilla gardners to add plant life to urban areas.

We made seed bombs with some of our friends this summer. It was simple and messy and fun. I purchased a big bag of region appropriate seeds. Then we pulled out a bunch of shredded paper. Plastic containers were perfect for the kids to mix the seeds, paper, and water and then shake until they were all mixed. They formed the balls with their hands and carried them home in repurposed egg cartons.

Composition Notebooks

Though our unschooling family doesn’t go back to school, we do hit up the back to school sales in order to stock up on various supplies. Composition books, surprisingly, have been one of the most sought after supplies. My children do all sorts of things in their composition books and go through numerous ones each year.

There has been no need for me to sit down with them and explain how to write properly. They are quite capable of learning how to write without tedious instruction from someone else’s agenda. I’m sometimes asked how to spell certain words, but unless they want to show me something in their notebooks, I stay out of it.

Free Range Learning

Free Range Learning: How Home-Schooling Changes Everything by Laura Grace Weldon: Book Cover

If I could only recommend one book about homeschooling to someone, it would be Laura Grace Weldon’s Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. There is something for everyone in this book, whether a homeschooling veteran or someone who is contemplating whether or not to homeschool their children. While the book is unschooling-lite, families of all styles will find value in the book. Free Range Learning is not merely about homeschooling; it’s about the way people learn and interact with others, about what we take from life, and about what we make of life.

Weldon’s eloquent writing is backed by numerous studies and research. The book is not a fluff read. Readers will want to take their time, pondering and digesting the information, whether the information presented is new to them or something they have long believed. With numerous personal anecdotes from homeschooling families of all styles and experiences allowing glimpses into the lives of homeschoolers, the bulk of the book relies on sound research. While I would reccomend the book to anyone with even a passing interest in homeschooling, I would not reccomend it to anyone not open to homeschooling unless they are willing to challenge their current assumptions.

Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything promises to be a valuable research for new homeschoolers everywhere for many years to come.

Disclaimer: A copy of the book was provided by the author.

LEGO Crayons

Crayons can be recycled into almost any shape. I used the LEGO Minifigure Ice Cube Tray to make these little recycled crayons for my LEGO loving children. I have a lot more put away for when we need a gift for a little friend.

While working with melted wax may be something for aparent to do, even little ones can help make these by stripping the crayons, sorting them, and breaking them up.