I have traveled quite a bit with my children, even before I started homeschooling. Enough that, while I still wouldn’t consider myself an expert, I’ve certainly picked up a few tricks along the way. Beyond that, I’m a self proclaimed “get-up-and-go” type homeschool parent. I want to join groups and attend events. I want my children to have a rich childhood, full of adventure and hands-on learning. To learn from life itself.
Tip #1: Make sure the trip is a good fit for your child. If they are scared of heights, don’t take them to the Empire State Building. If they hate dirt, don’t take them nature hiking. If they get motion sickness, don’t take them on a boat.
Tip #2: Make sure that the group you are going with is a good fit. You and your child both will find the experience much more enjoyable if the group you are attending with has like-minded parents and children who are similar in interests and/or age.
Tip #3: Prepare, prepare, prepare. Talk about the trip beforehand, make sure your child is excited to go and answer any questions they might have. Get a good night’s rest the night before. Eat a decent breakfast the morning of. Wear comfortable clothes. These will all help you get the trip started on the right foot.
Tip #4: A well-packed bag is your best friend.
I generally like to take two bags. One with all the heavy stuff or the extra stuff (extra food, emergency cash, change of clothes, etc..) that we hopefully won’t need but better safe than sorry. This is the bag that I carry. The other bag is smaller, child-sized. In this bag we carry all the essential items as well as the stuff that helps make the field trip into a fun learning experience.
A kid-proof camera. We have a Vtech Kidizoom Spin & Smile Camera and love it. We’ve had it for a little over 2 years now and it works just as good as it did the day we bought it, despite being handled and dropped by small children. LittleMan is an avid photographer thanks to this camera, however he’s been experimenting with it to make movies as well. He especially loves making nature documentaries in our backyard. Our only complaint about the camera is that it has a lot of bells and whistles that we never use, like funny frames and picture props.
Appropriate weather gear. This obviously depends on where you live and what season it is. For our outing today we only needed sunglasses, but for other outings we’ve packed a rain poncho, bug spray, sun screen, wool gloves, etc..
A snack and a drink. It doesn’t take a genius to know that even the most well-mannered children will struggle to behave (and they certainly won’t retain anything that they are supposed to be learning) if they are hungry or dehydrated. Keep them happy, pack a little something in case they get peckish.
Notebook and mechanical pencil. For taking notes during your field trip? Well, yes. But also for playing tic-tac-toe during the commute there. And its handy for writing down names and numbers of all the new friends you meet. Why a mechanical pencil? Well, you could pack a regular pencil but then you’ll want to bring a sharpener as well.
Lastly, small toys. Is it necessary? No. Is it a good idea? Probably. If the trip doesn’t as planned, if you find yourself waiting on members of the group to arrive or if you get lost on the way there, it is handy to have something for the kids to keep themselves entertained while they wait for the adults to sort things out. Besides that, sharing toys is a great way to find friends of common interests and bond. LittleMan is a big time animal fanatic so some of his favorite toys are Safari LTD figurines. Today we took along a couple figures from his Monkeys and Ape TOOB and a couple figures from his Big Cats TOOB.
A quick note on the bag we use. I made it a couple years ago out of one of my husband’s old Army uniforms. I love it because it is just big enough to fit a day’s worth of supplies for a child, without getting too heavy. I measured the strap so that it would rest at my son’s hip and I sewed a magnetic closure into the top. When it gets dirty I can just throw it in the washing machine, and thanks to the durable pant material it is made from, it can stand-up to almost any abuse that LittleMan puts it through. Choosing the right bag will make your life a lot easier, but if you can’t find the right bag then you might want to look into making one. I can write up a tutorial for the bag pictured below if anyone is interested, just let me know.
Tip #5: Relax!
Seriously. It won’t go perfectly no matter what, but if you came prepared then really all you can do is just relax and let the chips fall where they may. The other parents there are all homeschoolers too, so they’ll understand.
If your child suddenly forgets something that you’ve spent weeks learning about, they’ll understand. If your child spouts off random factoids about some obscure thing, they’ll understand. If you seem tired, they’ll understand. If you spilled something on your shirt and didn’t notice, they’ll understand. Remember, these are your people. They are down in the trenches with you. They get what it is all about. So relax. Go into it thinking that you’ll have the time of your life, and you probably will.