I am going to start by answering that question. Are homeschool field trips necessary or not? I think not; however, they can add so much fun to the journey. I think the trick is in choosing your field trips wisely and not overwhelming yourself with too much on your plate. Many times I have let that happen because I did not want to miss some event. You have to choose what is truly worth your efforts and if it is truly worth your effort you might need to scale back some school assignments during that time frame to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
Another thing that I like to do is if I we are having a field trip venture I like to plan it later in the afternoon if it is close by so that we can get some lessons in beforehand. I just feel accomplished if the kids get some lessons in and we can relax more on our field trip. And if we are going to be out and it is a short event I try to squeeze in more than one event into the trip. Recently, we went on a spur of the moment field trip to a pumpkin patch at a local farm (about 30 minutes away from our house). We purposefully planned it for 3:PM, so we could do lessons early in the day. And since we were already out and about I kept my eye open for other things we could do as we were travelling down the road. I noticed a park (because if all else fails kids always love a park), a pottery shop (did not have time for that one that day), a small pond with a watermill (but it was on private property), and a sign that said "Rock Shop" in front of an old building that did not even really look opened. After our pumpkin adventure I decided to pull into the rock shop. I left the kids in the van (right by the entrance to the store) and darted inside to take a quick peak. What looked like nothing from the outside turned out to be a hidden treasure and I had the kids unload and we toured the rock shop.
Just from those two events that day we learned a lot. It sounds like we just goofed off at a pumpkin patch and a rock shop for a little while, but it was much more than that. There was so many levels of learning involved and so many topics of learning. At the pumpkin patch we were able to learn about many varieties of pumpkins (10 or more), observe old farm implements (hand push plows), harvest sunflowers (at a bargain of 25 cents a piece), interact with an elderly gentleman (yes, there is much to learn this way), learn about gourds and the proper harvest time, observe an old crank operated corn shucker and bring home our own Indian corn, and the list does on. At the rock shop we were able to have a brief geography lesson and we plan to go back to that little shop for more teachable moments as we study geography. And again we were also able to interact with another elderly gentleman that owned the store. The older generation has so much to share with us if we take time to listen to them.
Another great way to experience field trips in on the WEEKEND, so it does not interefere with lessons at all. I love these because Daddy gets to tag along. Often, Daddy is less than enthusiastic, but it good for us all none the less. Daddy likes to be on the go, so slowing down to observe little details sometimes gets him antsy. He likes to whiz through much of the stuff that we could all spend hours at. Recently, we dragged him to a little historic site while we were out running an errand. He learned to sllllooooowww down. It is hard for him sometimes, but good for him. They all posed for pictures on the porch of an old homesite and then, we meandered around and found a few pecans that Cody and I cracked and nibbled at while the kids played. The kids go to be put in jail in a little replica jail. And the weekend before that we dragged him to a Heritage Festival. We could have spent the whole day, but we settled for a couple of hours. And in those two hours we learned so much. Field trips can be a fun way to learn without the kids realizing they are learning at all. There was weaving and tanning hides, blacksmithing, a potter spinning pottery on a leg powered wheel, spinning wheels, basket weaver, musicians playing their music, Hawaiian dancers demonstrating many styles of dancing, a museum of old wagons and their purposes detailed out, Native American Indians showing their crafts, pioneer clothing and so many things I could never list it all. There is much to learn this way.
Occassionally, there is a really special trip that Cody will take off work for. A few weeks back we went to a One Room Schoolhouse. Now, that sounds like something you would tour like a museum and be done, but no this was much more. We were there for four hours. We dressed in pioneer clothing and actually had school in the schoolhouse for a few hours. The kids did real lessons the way they would have if they had attended that school in the late 1800s. After that they had time in the museum that was spent with the teacher teaching them and showing them items. Afterwards, they went outside for recess and games and drinking from the water pump. I think it was the best field trip ever... or pretty close. We have done some great ones.
**** That is all the pics you get... sorry. My computer is tired or I am making the internet tired... ****
So, we love our field trips. It is not for everybody, but I don't really enjoy "classroom teaching" so the field trips are great for us. One last thing is I like to change them up. I don't want to see the same thing over and over in most cases and if I do I like to skip a year or two between the things that we repeat or see what the interests are of my current age grouping. We love live theater and are blessed to get to see Snow White in ballet annually, but last year we skipped do take a break from it. Seussical the Musical on the other hand is something we do EVERY year and do not like to miss at all. Actually, we just saw that one last week and it was awesome, as usual.
****I wrote this post a few weeks back and did not post it because I wanted to take another look at it before posting. I am so thankful that I had loaded the pictures in this post because I thought I had lost them forever. I destroyed my camera and possible all my pictures that were on the memory stick while on vacation. God knows my heart's desires and I was really sad that I did not have these fall pumpkin patch pictures. I may not have them all, but these few make my heart rejoice!****