Like family vacations, field trips are usually the highlights of the homeschooling year. They give both parents and children a welcome break from normal, everyday schedules and create stimulating and enjoyable learning experiences. From zoos, museums, and art galleries to manufacturing plants, television stations, and historical locations, field trips let you get out and "do life" instead of just reading about things.

While the benefits of field trips are exciting and fun, their main purpose is still to enhance your child's educational experience. Therefore, to get the most from your outings, consider these ten ideas when planning and preparing your field trip:

    1. Let your children pick topics of interest and decide what they would like to see. Direct them to choose field trips that relate to subjects they are currently studying or have just completed in your homeschool curriculum. Also, be sure to ask them what they hope to learn on the field trip.

    2. Keep the field trip subject and length age appropriate and go during the time of day when your children learn best. When planning, take into account the schedules of babies and toddlers. Younger children often don't do well when they miss nap times or scheduled feedings, so consider leaving little ones with family or friends.

    3. To reduce the stress and confusion, verify the operation hours of the facility you wish to visit. Be sure to also note admission fees, parking arrangements, directions, and if young children or strollers are allowed.

    4. Read additional information relating to your topic by checking out library books or visiting Internet sites prior to your scheduled visit.

    5. Determine if you want to go alone or invite other homeschooling families to take advantage of group discounts and create more diverse discussions.

    6. If available, take advantage of information desks with self-guided children's and family tour brochures, activity sheets, and workshops. Plus, increase your children's map reading skills as they use floor plans to locate exhibits, restrooms, gift shops, and restaurants.

    7. Don't overreact when things don't go as planned. Sometimes, the best learning moments come through an unexpected course of events. Be flexible, let your children have fun, and don't try to over-teach.

    8. Discuss proper behavior, manners, and special rules for the place you plan to visit. When you arrive, follow your children's pace and move to new exhibits or activities according to their responses and interests.

    9. Bring notebooks and a camera, so your children can write about or capture fun-filled learning moments. If your children have questions you can't answer, jot them down to study later.

    10. Encourage your children's imaginations by asking thought-provoking, open-ended questions like "What do you think happened?" and "How do you think they did it?" Try to relate what they are seeing to their everyday experiences, so they can better understand the topic.
Most importantly, remember that learning doesn't need to stop at the end of your field trip. Look for opportunities to extend and deepen your children's experience with additional activities at home like lapbooking or writing about what they discovered.

How do you make your homeschool field trips more meaningful? We'd love to know! Share your best tip with AOP's homeschool community in the comment field below.