by Susan Peterson

“This subject is sooo boring.” “School is not fun.” “I don’t get anything out of just reading about it.” These and numerous other comments like them are what we homeschoolers hear so often, but we can do something wonderful to turn around such apathetic and sour attitudes and mundane moods: Go on field trips.

Why is going on field trips so important; vital even? First, it gets kids out of the house, so it saves your sanity. Everyone, kids and adults—needs a change of scenery, and to be stimulated and inspired. Going on field trips can also increase your child’s understanding of the subject being studied. When something is seen, touched, taken apart, and rebuilt, then your child gets it. History, science, art and more can come to life.

For instance, at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles there are certain times when you and your older children can meet and listen to a Holocaust survivor. This can have a powerful impact on your children’s lives and certainly affect the way they understand that time period in history.

As knowledgeable as we parents are as teachers, and we are, we are probably not experts on every single subject, so we can go to places where tour guides are the experts (and we become even smarter by listening to them and pretending we knew the information all along).

Sometimes our children listen to other people better than they listen to us, so they might be more willing to learn via a museum curator than you on some subjects. Kids will also increase their vocabulary, hopefully in all good ways, by going out and gleaning information from another educator. Your children will become more interesting to talk with as their understanding increases.

Cultural and ethnic awareness are other positive gains from going on field trips. Take a trip to Chinatown, for example. Walk around and look at the architecture, sample the food, and definitely go into the grocery stores to see foods that might not look (or smell) familiar. 

Going on field trips is also about making memories together. Yes, we can and do that while at home, too. Yet there is something special about going out of the house to experience something together that makes an outing more memorable. Part of it is that while we are at home we are often somewhat distracted in our schooling of our children by the laundry that needs to be done, by fixing (and cleaning up after) a meal, by phone interruptions, etc.

When we go out with our kids we are, in essence, telling them that they are more important to us than a clean house or doing another chore. We value the time we have with them and are investing in them. Our focus is on them, alone.

This purposeful time often opens up great conversation about issues or topics we wouldn’t have thought of or have time for while at home. And we are sometimes freer to just enjoy them, and their reactions to the new places, people, or things they see, instead of constantly teaching them. What a pleasure.

Your family will also have new “remember whens” to talk about and laugh about. A few years ago my husband and I took our three boys to England, which is a big field trip, I know. At a restaurant my middle son was interested in ordering battered fish, but he was hesitant and ultimately decided not to. I didn’t know why until my husband, who actually did order the fish, got his dish. My middle son stared at it and said, “Oh, I thought it meant battered, like beaten up.” We all laughed and now when we order fish we joke if we want the fish beaten, battered or bludgeoned.

I know it doesn’t seem like it sometimes, but we do only have a certain amount of time with our children and we want to make the most of it. Building memories and laying the foundation of spending time together is precious.

I have been blessed to go field tripping all over Southern California and many parts of the world. So one of the most important tips I can pass on about going anywhere with your kids is to CALL FIRST. Call first and find out if the attraction is still open.

In these economic times many places, even ones that have been in business for over twenty years, are closing down. Call first and check on the prices (for both kids and adults) and the times it is open. Call first and verify that the main attraction that you are coming to see is going to be open on that very day that you are coming.

Here is one of my favorite questions to call and ask before I visit a place: “Is there anything else you think I should know?” Not every receptionist or program director will think to tell you everything you might want to know, or to tell you about a special deal that’s going on, or that curriculum supplement is available.

We went to Lancaster, Pennsylvania years ago and I spent a lot of time researching what we could see and do while in the area. I found a bed and breakfast that was a working dairy and cattle farm, and was once part of the underground railroad—how cool. Before I got off the phone from making reservations, I asked my favorite question. The owner’s answer was, “Well, would you like to have dinner with an Amish family? Because we can arrange that.” Would I? Absolutely. The dinner was an incredible adventure that we probably would have missed out on if I hadn’t asked that question.

I am nearing the end of my homeschooling journey. My oldest son just graduated from college in December. My middle son just got married and graduated from college in May. My youngest son is graduating high school in June. I have taken them on field trips practically since the day they were each born. Going has enriched our lives and our understanding of the world.

We’ve gone on missions trips together to the jungles of Ecuador and stayed with an indigenous tribe. Experiencing places, people, and adventures together has not only rooted and strengthened our family bonds, but it has also deepened our comprehension and appreciation for our Creator and Savior.

After years of laying a foundation of investing treasured time together, of getting excited about exploring new venues (and some repeat ones), and of sharing about the things we’ve seen and done, I delight in seeing my boys continue to learn about the world, each other, and the Lord as they venture out more on their own to discover, travel, and serve Jesus locally and abroad. 

Susan Peterson is a veteran homeschooling mom of three busy, thrill-seeking, and adventuresome boys. Her comprehensive guidebook Fun and Educational Places to Go with Kids and Adults in Southern California came from a desire to learn and teach by hands-on exploration and education, and is available in the CHEA store.