I never wanted to push my kids too far above their grade level, because I was worried about what would happen if I died and they had to go to school. Yes, I really am that kind of worrier! So rather than finish a math book every 4 months, and start 8th grade science in 3rd grade, I decided to focus more on supplementing their education with all the extras I could: filling our home with as many wonderful classic books as I could get my hands on as well, frequenting the library, and getting them involved in many projects, classes, and organizations.
But my favorite aspect of homeschooling was the ability to enrich our curriculum with field trips. At times when they were young, we’d go on a field trip every week. And even though we may have cut back as they got older, I would say that my children went on a couple hundred field trips over the course of our 16 years of homeschooling. I can guarantee there aren’t any public schools that do that! It’s a part of our homeschooling I will never forget … and I hope they won’t either.
As I share some of our field trip destinations, keep in mind that, although our actual locations are mainly located in Southern California, the general ideas can be translated to virtually any area of the country.
The Getty Museum was our favorite go-to destination; we tried to get there every year. We also did LACMA and the Huntington Library as well. A good art museum can keep you occupied for hours, and still leave plenty to see on future trips. If you want to make the most of your trip, have a plan beforehand. At the Getty, you might do pre-1600 one time and the next time from 1600 to the present, or all the photography exhibits one time and sculptures the next. But every time we went, I had to see the Impressionist exhibits … I LOVE that room!
If you live close to the beach, tide pools are a great way to spend a day. You will need to go online and find out the tide schedule: the lower the tide, the better the sights. There are a lot of good books and guides on what to look for that can be found at the library or bookstore.
Another great way to get into nature is to hike. There are hiking trails all over So Cal, and we’ve hiked several of them; there are probably some in your area, too. If you’re close to the Santa Monica mountain chain, there are plenty of trails to choose from. Your state, county, or national park service visitor center should have maps to help you locate a trail to your liking. Then get out there and explore.
Historical/Living History Museums:
This category ranges from natural history museums (we have a large one in LA, which is free one day each month, and a smaller one in Santa Barbara, as well as the La Brea Tar Pits in LA) to state historic sites (such as the El Monte Historical Museum and any of the missions – more on that in another post) to living history/re-enactment venues (there are many of these all over, such as Strathearn Historical Park in Simi Valley, Stagecoach Inn in Newbury Park, Chumash Center in Thousand Oaks, Olivas Adobe in Ventura, Leonis Adobe in Calabasas, and Riley’s Log Cabin in San Bernardino County). Just search online and I’m sure you’ll find many more.
Then get on their mailing lists and watch for cool exhibits. My children still remember the “Bog People” – an exhibit of preserved human bodies dug out of a bog in Europe, some of which may or may not have been human sacrifices! It was fabulous – and gross, a perfect combination for kids.
One more very interesting museum we found is the Holyland Exhibit near Dodger Stadium. If you have shared stories from the Bible with your children, they will love seeing actual artifacts from Biblical times.
Located in Downtown LA is an oasis of living history, part of the original pueblo of Los Angeles. You can combine history with the fun of Olvera Street, and if you have plenty of time, I’d even suggest taking the train, and add wandering through downtown and visiting the Cathedral to your day (even if you aren’t Catholic, the artwork and architecture are amazing).
Right next door to the LA County Natural History Museum is the LA Science Center, so every time we did one, we’d always add in the other. It’s best to do the Natural History Museum first and save the Science Center for after lunch – it’s always jammed with school trips in the morning, but they have to get back to school, so we’d have it mostly to ourselves in the afternoon. Make sure to visit “Tess”; she is awe-inspiring.
Many stores and public places will take groups on tours. We have toured a fire department (OK, multiple times, who can resist a day with firemen?), police department, Costco, Dairy Queen, Western Bagel Factory, City Hall, and many other spots. Just call an interesting local destination and ask.
Another of our favorite field trips was our annual trek out to the LA County Fair. They have a special program called FairKids, which allows “school” groups (and, yes, homeschoolers count) to enter the fair on certain weekday mornings, prior to the fair opening. You must register ahead of time: http://www.tlcfairplex.org/fair/home Make sure to keep an eye out for baby animals in the big red barn, many times we’ve seen ones that were born within a matter of days.
The Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Pepperdine Concert Series, Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival at CLU and many more theatrical venues offer programs for kids … just call or go online to find their options.
In addition, the public works department in Thousand Oaks and JPL in Pasadena both offer a yearly open house.
The Angels have a homeschool day, with special events and prices for homeschoolers. I understand the Dodgers may have one as well, though we’ve never done it.
I’m going to throw out a random list of several other field trips we’ve done, but feel free to comment below if you’d like more information on any of them: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Autry Western Museum, Camarillo Aviation Museum, Fillmore Fish Hatchery, a day-trip through Carpinteria, a whale watching tour, Long Beach Aquarium, the zoo (both LA and Santa Barbara), Griffith Park Observatory, the Getty Villa in Malibu, Skirball Cultural Center (a Jewish museum with an amazing crawl-through Noah’s Ark model and other revolving exhibits), and the Ventura County Maritime Museum.
Our favorite field trips, though, involve road trips, and I’m going to save that for another post!
Please share your favorite field trip ideas in the comments. We’d love to hear them.