June 13, 2006

Why Field Trips

I often get asked why I take my little kids on so many field trips and why we have memberships to all the museums now while they are young. There are many reasons we do this while our kids are still young, I will list some of them here.

We Love It - My kids thrive at museums, field trips and all the people think I am crazy to take them while they are young. Ask my kids where they want to go today and you will hear things like "The arboretum!" or "Fort Snelling!" or "Oliver Kelly Farm!" along with the usual library, beach, pool and park. When we are there they have a great time whether it is working the farm chores, making a nail at the blacksmith, identifying flowers, seeing their favorite animals, learning about science, history or whatever else we are doing that day. I have many great pictures of them doing things most people take older kids to do when they are as young as two. One of my favorite pictures is of Sirah threshing wheat while Ciaran is tossing manure and Rhiannon and stomping down the hay pile at a field trip to the Oliver Kelly Farm - they were 2, 4 and 6 at the time. They just plain have fun.

They are Impressionable Still - Perhaps part of why they think it is fun is because they are so young and still get excited about what I get excited about. They don't know any better some might say. They are not experiencing these places for the first time with a bunch of peers who tell them "this is lame" or "why do we have to do this?" to form their impressions for them. They are experiencing it with me who can gear it to their interests and help them form new interests in it. They get to explore at their pace and at their interest level and I can give positive direction to something new if they get bored. I also have the freedom to decide how long or short we stay at any given place based on my kids needs and interest level at the time. So they don't have to spend hours at something they hate and leave to soon at something they love (though we usually do leave before they would choose to).

They Remember It
- Yes my kids are young but they remember these experiences and places far more than you might think they would. When they are very young it usually takes one experience or thing they did to remind them but even as young as 4 they are asking to go back again and again because they remember they had a fun time. This says to me these are things to do again. Experiences my kids love and remember and ask for again.

They Learn From It
- They have learned so much more from field trips and museum visits than all the books we read. To be sure we often complement the two together, which mutually reinforce each other. Still I can not count the number of times I have heard "Remember when we did x" while learning a lesson in a book. Or they will come forward with some crazy tidbit of information and I ask "Where did you learn that?" and they say "Mom, don't you remember when we were at Fort Snelling and we did this?" Whenever we can why not learn in life? Field trips and museums offer this opportunity so easily and for our family with so much fun involved.

Real Life Experiences
- Think back to your own schooling. What is the first memory you have of history or science? I bet for many of you it involved an experiment or nature experience for science and for history a character dress up, or field trip. That is because we remember our experiences more than what we read when we are little. The hands on experiences stick with us through our lives. Starting this while they are young gives them years of life experiences. We are planting the seeds now for a lifetime of harvest. Teaching them to enjoy it and love it while we still have a significant influence in their interests and desires.

They Build On It - The more we go to a location the more the kids get out of it. If we return to the fire station each year they learn something new each year and reinforce in their memory what they learned the year before. Each visit to the science museum allows us to build off the last one, see and discover new things and learn more about what we already knew. The kids feel comfortable there and free to learn instead of having to experience everything in this moment because it is their only opportunity. They have confidence we will do the same thing again or something similar to it.

Membership Pays For Itself - We are members at our local science museum, history museum, children's museum, arboretum and zoo. We use all memberships regularly. Typically we will use each membership monthly at least, often more than once a month depending on the season. For a family of 5 a typical membership pays for itself in two or three visits and everything on top of that is essentially free. It also has the benefit that you have many fun family experiences available for "free" to you throughout the year. Once you have paid for your membership you can visit a place without worries about how you will pay for it. I even buy my kids treats at the location more frequently because I did not just spend $40 to get in the door. We have asked for and received memberships for holidays and birthdays. This is one of my kids favorite gifts to get because it keeps giving the whole year long.

They Create Keepsakes - My kids usually bring a sketchbook, pencils and crayons with us. Many times they will make a drawing at a location of something they enjoyed or liked. Then we will add that drawing to their history or nature notebooks. When Rhiannon was at the history museum she really liked the rocket experience so she drew a picture of a rocket and we added it to her history timeline. When Ciaran was at the zoo he drew a shark and we added it to his nature notebook. We can go back and compare his notebook drawing from when he was three and when he was five because we have gone so many times he eventually picks the same thing to draw. Sometimes we purchase postcards or stickers or some small token from a particular location. Sometimes it is just our pictures. Still they are creating keepsakes through these field trips.

Developing Appreciation
- By doing so many field trips and museum trips we are helping to develop an appreciation of field trips and museums and experiential learning in our kids. For us a field trip is not about the "novelty" of the trip or experience but rather another way to help our kids develop an appreciation for learning in life. It is yet another training ground for becoming lifetime learners with a passion for finer things. The consistency of this in our kids helps them to see that we can enjoy the same things over and over again if those have a lot to offer us.

Homeschooling Makes it Easy - Homeschooling gives us the freedom and flexibility to do so many hands on experiences and trips. We have the time, we have the mobility and we have the flexibility in our schedule. Due to family generosity and our own financial priorities we have the financial means to do so as well. Homeschooling also makes it easier because our kids are used to learning in many different ways and different locations.

Mom is the Coordinator - Okay I have such a passion for these types of experiences that I work on the field trip committee for our homeschool support group. We have over 70 families involved with a wide range in children ages and interests. This past year we offered many interesting field trips for the kids and parents to enjoy. Together our field trip committee worked to offer field trips that interested the very young to the older students while focusing primarily on our elementary age group. I figure if I believe all this I should help with it, so I do. It also makes it easy to get tours and discount rates for locations when you have a large group of people, which we almost always do.

So there are some of our reasons for doing field trips with our kids. We started when Rhiannon (our oldest) was just shy of 4 and have been going strong since. I can remember being at a fire station field trip when Sirah was just shy of two weeks old. She was in the sling and the kids were having a great time. Of course I think that was easier after she was born then when I took them strawberry picking and to the farm when I was 8 and 9 months pregnant. What was I thinking? They remember it and that first trip to the farm was the one that started their love for the farm and Rhia's love for horses. So it is all worth it.


  1. I also appreciate memberships because if one of my kids is having an off day, I don't feel compelled to "get my money's worth" and stay past my child's breaking point. I can calmly say, "This isn't working," and we walk back out the door.

  2. Great post.

    We do a lot of field trips too. I remember when I was in public school we did maybe two field trips a year and they were the "walk in a single file line and don't touch anything" type of trips.

    Plus so many places are becoming kid friendly these days. Recently I took my 5 yo daughter Z to a museum of ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian sculpture, pottery and art. Z really enjoyed the art itself but had a blast in the kids room where she got to write on specially treated pottery with a dry erase marker and put on several shadow plays being characters like Medusa and Orpheius. Then she went through the whole museum again tracking down hard to find items on a scavenger hunt. It was great!

    Cher Mere

  3. People really wonder why you do it? How weird.. seems normal to me! :D I went to public school (I'm hoping to find a way to homeschool my son) but my parents took us to all sorts of museums and field trips like that all the time! I thought that was normal...

  4. I think people mostly wonder because my kids are young and because we do so much of it. It is normal for us too!

  5. I have not ever wondered "why" you do all you do, I thank God you do!! Your talents are much appreciated and the way the field trip committee has flourished since you joined last fall is astounding! Thank You!