A Day at the Museum (and More if I Convince You Properly), by Jen N.

When I heard Science Week at Sandbox I thought: field trips. I resisted the urge to add an evil laugh. Those of us following any set curriculum including day to day plans that we’ve purchased or created ourselves may find that a field trip becomes the enemy. Especially at the beginning of the year. Those plans are new, and my impulse is to reject anything that comes between me and my plans. In the dead of winter or the first warm days of spring, it may be a different matter. By then life has already intervened. There have been sick days, days of running errands for family, days when you babysit to help a friend. But at the beginning of the year, plans are almost sacred.

I’m here today while you are still planning and scheduling to encourage you to plan days at the museum now. It is not an intrusion if it is part of your curriculum. I think the term “field trip” has become a sort of euphemism for a day off from learning. I know that my children learn as much or more when we are in the field than on the days where we are home with our books. This year I am going back to a set curriculum,  and as I sat with the plans and my calendar I too fought the impulse to leave each day intact. I really want Monday to be on Monday. Throwing the entire week off-kilter on the first day seems counterproductive to keeping on track.

There are two ways to get around this feeling. I’m giving you permission from the high council of homeschoolers here at Sandbox to Socrates to adopt either method.

The first is easiest. Just decide that the schedule and plans are not going to be the boss of you. If you want to take your kids to the museum regularly and then do it. Be comfortable with doing Tuesday’s work on Wednesday thereby throwing off the pre-printed schedule. Don’t worry about fitting it in with anything that you are reading or studying. Those connections will come later as you get to those subjects. Did you study the ancients last year? Or not for two more years? It doesn’t matter. Some part of the mummy exhibit will stick with the kids. We were at the Field Museum recently and thoroughly enjoyed their Mammoth and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age.  We studied the Ice Age during our study of the ancients two years ago. It turned out to be the highlight of our day. We actually went there to check out the insects on display.

When you encounter something you studied awhile ago, you’ll get a “Oh, yeah that guy- we read about him.”  If you haven’t studied that subject yet, you’ll have to wait to hear,”We saw that at the museum, I remember that.” As Susan Wise Bauer says,” Your goal is to supply mental pegs on which later information can be hung.”

The second way takes a bit more planning. If you are a planning junkie,  you probably won’t need my step by step directions either – but humor me. I’m actually sitting down this morning hoping to do this myself. I’ve got my plans out, and I’m reading through them and the texts to see if any obvious connections between museum exhibits and subject matter jump out. Then I look at the websites of all the museums that we could possibly get to and take a look at both the permanent and temporary exhibits.

My point is simply this: Don’t let the schedule rule the year. Any kind of home education takes so much dedication. You are already a hero for taking it on. The memories that my graduates talk about are all field trip-related and since I am down to two students, I am trying to keep that in mind. The one thing I can’t help you with?





Jen N. – Jen has spent her time homeschooling her five children since 2001. She has read over 5,000 books aloud. A fan of all things geeky, she calls her children her horcruxes — each one has a talent for something she might have pursued herself. Jen and her husband have created a family of quirky, creative people that they are thrilled to launch out into the world. With the three oldest graduated, Jen now has time on her hands and has started a blog: www.recreationalscholar.wordpress.com

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