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 bon bons 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 lead. 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 among themselves.

I do want to point out that probably 70% of the homeschool students and parents (notice how 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 back yards? 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 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?

Copyright 2012 Dianne Padget. Used by permission of the author.