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No. 6

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by MaryAnn Gaver
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Great Field Trips
Mary Ann Gaver
Mary Ann Gaver

Hoist the sails! Clear the prop! We’re going on a field trip. Whether you call it an excursion, an expedition, or a plain old day off, I encourage you to leave the books behind and set out for a day of hands-on learning and discovery.

As for places to go? Of course, that depends on where you live. Let the kids join in by offering ideas about places to visit. Just have a reply ready in case they mention something slightly farfetched, such as climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Consider the following destinations:

  • Local airports
  • Nature centers
  • Farms
  • Fire stations
  • Historical areas
  • Musical venues
  • Museums
  • Seasonal festivals

Living near Washington, D.C., my family is fortunate to have access to many museums, but every area of the country offers its own interesting places to visit. Asking other parents about their favorite field trips can be helpful in deciding whether or not it’s worth taking time for a particular site.

Library of Congress
Washington at Valley Forge by Edward Moran

One of my favorite trips was when the twins were in 5th grade and we were studying Valley Forge and the horrible winter that the Continental Army had to endure. As we read on and on, I slowly closed the book and said, “It’s February, and it’s freezing outside. Let’s visit Valley Forge and learn more about Washington’s courageous men.” My husband Jay liked the idea, so we left the following Friday for an unforgettable historical experience.

If your children are small, I suggest that you not try to accomplish too much in one day. Plan to bring sandwiches and drinks for a picnic or tailgate lunch. Also, encourage the kids to be especially cooperative as you change the daily routine.

Once everyone has piled into the van and clicked their seatbelts, have a prayer together to ask for God’s protection, giving thanks for the new day. Then, venture out and have fun—and don’t forget the camera!

About the author

MaryAnn Gaver and her husband, Jay, have been homeschooling their twin sons for 10 years.

Share Your Tips

This column is designed to feature teaching tips, encouragement, and advice from homeschooling parents.

One of the great things about homeschooling is the opportunity to expose our children to beautiful music. Not only is music a joy to listen to, but it’s a nonverbal language that can enrich our school program in wonderful ways. How do you use music to enhance your homeschool and life? We’d love to hear your ideas! Send us your story in 150 words or less. Submissions may be edited for space. Mail submissions to:

Mail submissions to:

Attn.: Parent to Parent, HSLDA
P.O. Box 3000
Purcellville, VA 20134

Or email us (include “Parent to Parent” in the subject line) at ComDept@hslda.org

Please include your name and address. Submission deadline is July 31, 2012.

Applying Your Studies

Field trips can offer tangible proof of what home education has achieved. Our daughter Maggie, 17, finally had a chance to call us a few days after arriving in Rome with her parish youth group. After assuring us she was doing well, the first thing she told us about her experiences touring the Eternal City was, “Mom, I can read all the inscriptions and understand them, and I’m understanding Italian, too! I’m so glad I learned Latin!”

Few traditional high school schedules permit the study of two foreign languages without severely limiting other electives. After some informal study of Spanish at home over several years, Maggie has also successfully completed two semesters of Spanish at community college. Maggie’s group travels to Madrid shortly to attend World Youth Day with the pope, and we fully expect to hear next how well her Spanish has served her!

by Fred and Ursula R. / Erie, CO



Combining Your Strategies

We take some pretty awesome local field trips, but our vacations are also amazing field trips. Three years ago, we flew to Seattle, saw all of the local sights, and even crossed the border into Canada. Then we rented an RV and camped all along the northern Oregon coast. Our goal was to hike to all of the lighthouses. We made it halfway down the coast. This year, we are renting an RV from the San Francisco area and driving north into Oregon to finish hiking to the rest of the lighthouses. The kids love it, and there is so much to learn—from campfire building to local history and plant identification.

by Jen P. / San Juan Capistrano, CA

Don’t Forget the Why

I awoke early one morning to prepare for our field trip to an old jail museum in our town. Clean clothes for four children—check. Snacks and drinks packed—check. Baby supplies packed—check. Money and tour guide arranged—check. Great fall weather—check.

Built in the early 1800s, this jail boasted dirt floors, aged conditions, and even living quarters for the jailer and his family. Up to 40 prisoners could be housed in its four cells.

The packed car seemed very peaceful. Then, a quavering voice ventured, “Do you mind telling us what we did wrong?”

I burst into laughter as I realized how important it is to give children the context and reason for field trips. I surely have learned more than my children in our homeschooling adventure.

by Kathryn P. / Leesburg, VA