As homeschoolers, we are notorious for utilizing field trips to enhance our children’s learning. When we visit these venues, are we setting the example of stellar behavior, as both representatives of homeschooling families, and more importantly, of Christ?

We are taking a look at two perspectives that will, hopefully, encourage you to examine your heart and the way in which you and your family represent yourselves on field trips.

Setting the Example by Katie Julius
As a homeschooling mom with a very interactive learner, we frequently use outings and field trips that tie into what we are learning. We’ve been at this for three years now, and while I love the homeschool groups we are part of, I have also been incredibly embarrassed by the behavior of both the students and parents on some of our trips with these same groups.

While I could share several experiences where I was cringing at the actions of other homeschooled students (and parents), one that really stands out to me was a visit to an interactive reenactment of the American Revolution with a Christian co-op. There were easily 400-500 students participating that day. Most of the students were from traditional schools and were mostly upper elementary. The morning began with each group lined up behind their town’s flag as instructions were given for the entire day. While the lines of the other groups weren’t incredibly straight, they at least resembled a line. Our group’s line was virtually non-existent as families were scattered around the area, despite attempts to have them line up. I know the joke is that homeschooled students do not know how to stand in a line, but I’ve seen plenty of them do it when visiting amusement parks, so it’s not a completely foreign concept. The day kind of went downhill from there.

Throughout the day, groups rotated from one station to another, learning about what life was like in the early years of the American Revolution. Most of our kids were usually engaged with the instructors and asked great questions at each station, but once it was time to start trying the activity on their own, they scattered like ants to climb in the trees, build a snowman, have a snowball fight…and their parents didn’t bat an eye as they carried on their conversations in the back of the group.

Yes, snow had fallen the night before, so that added to the distraction and drew students away from the activities. However, I did not notice these actions from any of the other kids who were there that day, all equally excited about being in the snow.

Perhaps the most frustrating part about our group is that many of the students who were not interested in participating in the activities were our teens. Were they maybe a bit old for some of the activities? Maybe? But as leaders and role models for the group, they should have engaged, with parent encouragement, if necessary.

I do want to acknowledge that while the behavior from some in our group was cringeworthy, the vast majority of our kids, and their parents, were well-behaved and participated in the planned activities. However, what are the presenters likely to remember from that day? The kids who were excitedly learning how to use a loom to weave or ink to write their names, or the kids they had to constantly remind to stay out of certain areas or had to be corralled every few minutes because they had wandered off?

Homeschoolers already struggle to receive the same access to some field trip venues due to their smaller group sizes and wider age ranges since siblings often attend. Why do we add yet another hurdle by giving these locations, which have so much to offer us who educate at home, a bad taste in their mouths because of our poor behavior? Yes, homeschoolers are known for going against the grain and bucking the rules of the “system,” but eventually, our kids will be part of that system and they need to learn how to follow rules and be respectful of others, even if we don’t always agree with them.

But more than that, as believers, we are called to an even higher standard because God calls us to be like Christ. I know this is very cliche late-90’s Christian culture, but what would Jesus have thought if he were standing with our group of homeschool families on that field trip? Would He have been proud to have us as His representatives or would He have hung His head in shame?

If you are feeling convicted by this article, I challenge you next time you are on your way to a field trip, discuss with your children how Jesus would have us act. Remind them to be polite and respectful of those who are taking time out of their day to teach us (yes, often these docents and interpreters are volunteers) and to the facility we are visiting. As a parent, set the example. Be engaged in the presentation. Supervise your children and correct their behavior, when warranted. Don’t expect other parents in your group to watch your children. Don’t stand in the back of the group socializing with the other moms while the children run amuck. If you feel that you are one who supervises your children and encourages good behavior, be bold enough to stand up for homeschoolers and Christ, and, appropriately, confront those who are not.

A View from the Other Side by Dianne Padget
After homeschooling for 19 years, all my children had graduated and moved on with their lives. I prayed and asked the Lord to show me what I could do with the rest of my life. Sitting around eating bonbons and watching TV sounded appealing, but not realistic. 

One day I was in our school office explaining that I would like a job that I didn’t have to work weekends, but maybe two to three mornings a week—like that job existed. But, in God’s wonderful providence, another mom told me about her part-time job as a docent with the county parks. This turned out to be the perfect job—I worked with kids, other Christians, and I was still able to teach my classes on Tuesdays.

I soon discovered that my boss and other staff members were not very open to allowing homeschool students to come on the field trips we led. I knew my students would all be perfectly behaved and incredibly interested in what was being said, but because of the unwillingness to accept homeschoolers, I couldn’t have my school visit. I grew increasingly frustrated and tried to convince my boss that all the homeschool students were wonderful. She finally booked a homeschool group from another area, and my eyes were opened.

Each day, from two to five days a week during the school year, we have between 40 and 80 public or private school students come and enjoy our beautiful ranch, make tortillas and ice cream, and learn about life in the 1800s. When students arrive at the ranch, the first thing we do is have them sit on the picnic benches and we give them a set of instructions. These instructions are pretty basic: don’t run, listen when we’re talking, raise your hand when you want to talk—nothing unusual. I didn’t think we would need to tell homeschool students not to climb trees, stay with the group, and please don’t run around the wood-burning stove, or that we would need to ask the homeschool moms to step away from the group if they wanted to talk amongst themselves.

I do want to point out that probably 70% of the homeschool students and parents (notice that I include parents) were fine and well behaved. Unfortunately, the other 30% were so disruptive that our other docent basically stopped teaching and just directed the activities. This was so wrong and not at all what I had hoped to see.

Here’s the question—what kind of impression are we leaving with unbelievers, such as my co-worker? We are to be training our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, but doesn’t that also include being polite? I know how wonderful it is to get out and have some time to chat with our friends, and I know how much our children enjoy the freedom of being out in the open, but what are our actions saying? It’s pretty sad when the docents would rather deal with 70 public school students than 40 homeschoolers and their moms.

So how do we prepare and behave while on a field trip? I realize our children are not very good at getting in a line; maybe that is something we could practice at park days, or even in our backyards? How about raising hands? Our sweet children are always ready to answer our questions and comment on what they are learning, but maybe we need to direct them to wait their turns. As far as sitting still, there is a time even for that. That is one of the values of putting your children in a Sunday school class, or other classes where for a time period each week they learn to be still, raise hands, and politely listen. And don’t forget looking—our students need to learn to pay attention and, if possible, make eye contact with the adults teaching them.

On a final note, my dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, when we leave after a field trip, is the staff talking about what a great day it was with those smart, kind children and how polite and nice the moms were, or are they finishing up, glad that the day is over? Are they refreshed by the sweet aroma of Christ, or are they mopping their brows, relieved that we are gone?

As we learned from Dianne Padget’s experiences as a docent, it only takes one group, one bad apple to ruin the whole barrel.