Aside from Arnold from the Magic School Bus, I think that most kids would agree that field trips are just about the best part of school. To me, there was nothing better than getting out of school to do something… interactive. Anything to get away from the fluorescent lighting. (I have an aversion to fluorescent lighting. I can tolerate it, but it gives me headaches and the coloring sometimes makes me feel sick.) Field trips allowed me to get away from the confines of the school and allowed me to ask questions and learn from being submerged in each new place we went. The post office, planetarium, zoo, quary… each held a new and exciting experience, and each presented a new possibility of what life could be or what life contained and took to function. To me, that’s why field trips are the greatest.
One of my favorite things about being a homeschooler is the ability to have all kinds of field trips to all different places on whatever schedule suits our family. One of my favorite sayings is that “the whole world is a classroom.” We don’t need four walls, desks, chairs, chalkboards (or whatever is most common these days), because we can learn anywhere. September was a fun month for us because we got to have 4 field trips within a short period of time. October hasn’t had any, but November is going to have a long series of field trips! We went to Maribel Caves, Little Farmer Apple Orchard, and had an impromptu field trip to the fabric store.
We started with a trip to the fabric store. We’ve been often enough in the past that it’s not exactly something new to them, but this time, I was going for a specific purpose. We went to take pictures for the How to Buy Fabric post, and while I was doing that, I took the time to break down the store for the kids and also teach them all of the things that I shared in that post about fabric content, getting fabric cut, why we buy different yardages… I don’t always think to explain the ins and outs of what we are doing when I take the kids out and about with me, so when I do think of it, we make a field trip of it, asking people in the different shops all of the questions we can come up with. We were recently in the post office and were asking if we might be able to come back and do a field trip… now I just have to schedule something with them 🙂
The Little Farmer field trip was next on our list and has become a tradition for us… we’ve gone 4 years running now. We do the full tour every year, and we all enjoy it. Every year, it’s my kids and me, my sister-in-law and her kids, and my mom for certain. I think every year, somebody else has joined us. The full field trip includes a visit to the schoolhouse where they teach the kids about bees and pollination. At this point, the info has really sunk in with the kids, especially since we have apple trees AND bees now. But it’s good. And as the kids get older, if we continue to go, they do have more advanced lessons that they’ll start to teach. After the bee lesson, we head over to a portion of the apple orchard. They actually have land across the road and elsewhere (I believe) where they grow the bulk of the fruit, but this section contains some of the original trees to the orchard. They give a little talk about how they watch for bugs and only spray as necessary after carefully watching for bugs, they also have a solar set-up and get credit back for the input they have on the grid. They talk about how ladybugs and aphids affect the trees, how many leaves an apple needs to grow, and teach the kids how to pick an apple, about the bloom on an apple, and about composting.
After the apple picking, we head into their giant refrigerator where they store their apples, and they show their sorting and washing operation. They always have a few odd apples to show off for the kids, one of which inevitably leads to some giggling as it’s a double apple… With that part complete, they take you on a hayride through their woods, and over to the pumpkin patch that has pumpkins just for these kinds of field trips… the little pumpkins. The recommendation is to pick a pumpkin the size of your head, but the kids always seem to think their heads are much larger than they actually are 😉 Only Doodles opted for a small pumpkin. He loves everything that looks like a “baby.” Once that’s complete, the kids finish off the afternoon with a picnic in the play area, and the parents take turns perusing the shops where there’s always something delicious to purchase. As the kids get a little older, I’m sure we’ll start to bring them into the shops with us as well, but it can be a bit chaotic to take any of them inside! At the end of the field trip, we are given 1/2 a gallon of apple cider to top off our trip, and a coloring book that reviews all of the information that they learned on the tour.
The next field trip was out to the Maribel Caves. This may have been my favorite field trip. We met up with our friends for a day at the park, but it’s not an ordinary park. Following the West Twin River, there was so much beauty to take in. It started off as a very foggy morning. We were glad there had been no rain, or the paths would have been dangerous and we probably would have had to stick to the playground. There are signs for reading info about the caves and park here and there (though not a lot), and multiple caves that you can go into. None of the ones that are accessible on a daily basis are very big, and certainly were a little too cramped for mommas with babies on their backs to go into, but the kids were all able to cram into these tiny little rooms. I think they especially enjoyed Pancake Cave (for iitsname), and Tunnel Passage. There is at least one cave that is much larger and is only accessible while they have cave tours on Sundays (and only for ages 10 and up). We obviously couldn’t go into that cave, but exploring the bluff and walking the trails was fun and exciting. The fall coloring was just beginning to set in, and we had a nice, comfortable day for exploring.
That weekend following, we went to see the Civil War Weekend at the Wade House. Of course, after an exceptionally mild August, September began to see stiflingly hot temperatures as the month progressed, and the day we went to the weekend event, it was a blistering 90F. (That may not seem like much to some of you, but for late September, that’s some really hot weather here in Wisconsin!) Because of the heat, we did not stay as long as we would have liked, but we still got to watch one skirmish and we walked around and talked to some of the people who partake as reenactors. The kids were excited to see “Abraham Lincoln,” but were a little shy to actually talk to him, though we could have. We talked to a nurse, and she explained to us that a nurse during those times really didn’t do anything much aside from wrap minor wounds and offer comfort the injured (meaning they didn’t do much to actually help the soldiers medically). One of the boys had a bandage wrapped on his arm and they put fake blood on it, but he got shy about it and wanted it off. Go figure! Normally they’d be all about something like that!
With the heat, we just couldn’t stay long. Doodles was overwhelmed, and we were worried about E overheating, so we decided to head over to their carriage museum. (We wanted to go into the house museum itself (it was once a hotel), but without having A/C, we didn’t think the kids could handle continuing on.) The carriage museum was nice, cool, dark, quiet, with plenty to see. I think we all loved the interactive rein “station.” They had a set of reins coming from a box, and you had to give the reins the right amount of pull to see if you’d be able to control your horses. I nailed it on the first try, Scott pulled too hard, as did the older boys (meaning they would have stopped the horses altogether). Miss Lady struggled to keep them under control, and Doodles, try as he might, would have surely had runaway horses! They had a play area for the kids near the end, and there were some displays throughout that the kids could hop onto and pretend to drive. As we were heading out, we decided to stop into the gift shop. I found a Wisconsin shaped cookie cutter and we found a Great Lakes activity book.
As we were heading out, we decided to stop into the gift shop. I found a Wisconsin shaped cookie cutter and we found a Great Lakes activity book. I have to admit, their prices were really reasonable for a gift shop. We haven’t used the activity book just yet, but we’ll be getting to it soon. We live very close to Lake Michigan, and there are so many interesting things to learn about the Great Lakes region that we figured it would be worth it to spend some time learning a bit more.
You know what was neat about each of these field trips? They each taught something very different from the next. The fabric store was a typical outing turned learning opportunity. The apple orchard was a “traditional” field trip with a tour and everything, but fun and informative. The cave trip was more impromptu, planned just a few days in advance, and it was a great science and nature trip with some friends and relaxation mixed in. And the Civil War one, while planned in advance was at our leisure and very historical. I love that it was so easy for us to pick up and head off on one of these field trips. I love that we can go on as many as we want….we could have a field trip every day of the week for a month, and it wouldn’t take away from their education, it would enrich it.
Some of the best lessons I learned when I would go on a field trip were things like how to interact with adults (aside from the teacher/student relationship), what a workplace environment looks like, how to pay at a cash register, how to place an order for something, and how to show respect in a large crowd (and also how not to get lost). There was always something else to be learned too, something specific to the adventure that we were on, but it allowed me to interact with the world outside of school. And I’m really grateful for those experience because they were some of the only things that gave me confidence in interacting in the real world as I grew older. It’s different for my kids. They aren’t afraid to talk with adults, to ask questions, and they already have a decent amount of experience purchasing things with their own money, just to name a few things. But as far as the field trip that was most memorable for me, I’d have to say was the zoo. It is very well the only place I’ll ever see animals from all over the world, and there is something awe-inspiring in seeing these creatures face to face.
What’s the most memorable field trip you’ve ever been on? Let me know! Leave your comments below!