Keeping the Fun Factor in Field Trips


Field trips should be FUN, right? Of course! But if you’re like me, sometimes the effort to squeeze every bit of educational opportunity out of a field trip also threatens to squeeze out the fun factor for the kids. It hit me years ago when my kids would say things like, “Mom, we’re supposed to be on vacation!” or “Why does everything have to be about school?” and I made some adjustments to my expectations of field trips.

Keeping the FUN Factor in Field Trips

If you need to refocus on the fun in your field trips, try some of these ideas:

  • Do you really need the worksheet or checklist? Or do you need to do it while you’re at the zoo or museum? Personally, I don’t even like juggling the notebook or the brochures while we’re on-site. I don’t want to miss seeing something because I’m looking at a handout to try and check something off the list. If you or your kids feel the same way, leave the papers for later. Chances are good that you can take everything in and remember it well enough to fill out a worksheet or make a journal entry later.
  • Plan ahead and review afterwards. Obviously you want to look at the brochures and the maps and know what you’ll be seeing so that you don’t miss out! Often that info is available on a website so you can check it out ahead of time. If there are brochures and maps that you pick up at your field trip location, skim through them quickly for anything new that you need to know and then stuff them in a purse, pocket or backpack to look at in more detail when you get home. Those will help jog your memories as you write those journal entries too.
  • Pick your educational activities wisely. So many museums, national parks, zoos, historical sites, and other destinations have a “For Teachers” type section on their website that there is an abundance of curriculum tie-ins to choose from. If you have the time to plan ahead, do look through those resources, but choose only what ties in well for what you are studying or is appropriate for your family. Remember, many of those teacher resources are intended for class trips and to accommodate public school curriculum standards, so they may not be relevant to your homeschool. Don’t overthink it and try too hard to make it work.
  • See it today – study it later. This works best when you’re on vacation or summer break. It’s tempting to want to use all the educational value of EPCOT, for example, but if you turn your once-in-a-lifetime family vacation to Disney World into one long science and geography lesson, you might regret it. Take pictures, have fun, and follow the kids’ lead. If they want to discuss it on the spot, go ahead, but let them start the conversation. Then next year when you are studying marine biology or American history, you can say “Remember when we went to SeaWorld and saw the killer whales? Remember when we were in Philadelphia and saw the Liberty Bell?” and you will be able to relate their exciting vacation experience to their schoolwork.
The whole point of a field trip is to have a hands-on experience, so give yourself every opportunity to see, hear, and touch as much as possible. Allowing it to be fun and exciting will make it more memorable, and will encourage interest and engagement. Keep it fun!!



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Kym (5 Posts)

Kym is in the middle of her 17th year of homeschooling her four kids, two of whom have graduated. She and her husband of 27 years are Canadians transplanted to Maryland. Kym loves coffee, history, and homeschooling, and you can join her for coffee break at her blog, Homeschool Coffee Break.

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DIY Totally Safe Art Supplies for Toddlers (and their older siblings)

Guest Post by Lisa of School at Home Mom.

As a mom of an active 21-month old, I am always looking for new ways to excite his curiosity and sustain his focus. Early childhood learning is so much about hands-on experiences and exploration, and art activities are a perfect way to delight a child’s senses.

Up until about last week, though, my little artist was still putting everything into his mouth – or coating his hands with everything and then putting them into his mouth!

So, I decided to hold off on splurging on art supplies and make my own food-based materials. This way, he could explore freely, and I wouldn’t have to constantly be on “DON’T EAT THAT!” patrol.

Most of our DIY supplies use only a handful of ingredients that can be stored at room temperature in a kitchen. Just about everything we use is something we’d want to keep around for baking or cooking anyway, and can be found in every grocery store. What could be easier?

DIY Totally safe art supplies for toddlers: homemade play dough and finger paints

Benefits of DIY (besides saving money!)

My son loves to make his own art supplies. He runs to the cabinet where we keep our projects stocked and opens it up, declaring, “Paint! Paint!” and eagerly gets his smock on so that he can help me mix the ingredients.

Some of the skills we can work on while creating and using the art supplies:

  • Cause and effect
  • Colors and color mixing
  • Opposites (wet/dry, big/little, open/shut, soft/hard, slow/fast, etc.)
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Hand & finger strength

If you have more than one child, these DIY projects are perfect! The older children can help to prepare the supplies in a more scientific way, observing how changing the quantities or process changes the outcome. The playdoh project uses more precise quantities, and would be perfect for an older child learning about customary units of measurement and fractions.

Kool Aid + Baby Cereal + Water = finger paint!

Kool Aid + Baby Cereal + Water = finger paint!

DIY finger paint


  • Small amount of water
  • Baby cereal
  • Kool Aid or food coloring

Procedure: Mix the dry baby cereal with water to desired consistency, then mix in the coloring.


My son's masterpiece, created with Kool Aid, baby cereal, and water!

My son’s masterpiece, created with Kool Aid, baby cereal, and water!

Fun with painting!

Fun with painting!

3/4 of the fun was making the paint ourselves. My son loves watching the powder mix into the water!

3/4 of the fun was making the paint ourselves. My son loves watching the powder mix into the water!

My son was never a fan of baby cereal, so we ended up with a whole open container of it that we didn’t want to throw away but couldn’t donate. Using it up as thickener for finger paint was the perfect solution!

Note: we do not drink Kool Aid, but we do keep packets stocked for use in projects. I order them in bulk on Amazon so that we can get a variety of colors, and they’re widely available in grocery stores too.

Kool-Aid (or anything else with food coloring) will stain hands and whatever else it gets on, so an old shirt or smock would be great. My son gave himself a red belly button from one of his early painting sessions before we invested in a smock! Personally, I don’t mind – I abide by the saying “If he got dirty, he had fun today!”

For kids who don't like the feel of finger paint, a piece of plastic wrap taped over it will let them explore and play.

For kids who don’t like the feel of finger paint, a piece of plastic wrap taped over it will let them explore and play.

My son loved using one of our basting brushes to explore the paint materials. And I didn't have to worry about contaminating the brush!

My son loved using one of our basting brushes to explore the paint materials. And I didn’t have to worry about contaminating the brush!

After a number of successful experiences, he couldn't resist touching it!

After a number of successful experiences, he couldn’t resist touching it!

My son actually hates the feel of finger paint, or anything else that is the least bit goopy or sticky. After he made it clear that he was not going to be touching the paint directly, I taped a sheet of plastic cling over the goop. Then he loved it! Later, I gave him a basting brush, and he got into moving the thick finger paint around with that.

Once he got the hang of the brush, I decided to move on to regular paint. My 2 ingredient recipe for that is next!

DIY paint


  • Water
  • Kool Aid packet

That’s it! Mix & enjoy.

My son LOVED watching the different colors mix!

My son LOVED watching the different colors mix!

The Kool Aid produces a vibrant color, especially if you use a slightly more concentrated amount.

The Kool Aid produces a vibrant color, especially if you use a slightly more concentrated amount.

The finished product!

The finished product!

After my son had an epic painting session involving like 8 packets of Kool-Aid, we ran out! So we substituted regular food coloring instead. He loved watching the drops of coloring diffuse out into the water. It turned into a bit of a science experiment!

Other paint making ideas:

  • Using water mixed with spices and flavorings
  • Using water with food coloring & salt, for a glittery effect

Another variation: sprinkle the Kool Aid on the paper first and then paint with water – your child will be able to see the powder mixing in a bit at a time. My toddler was mesmerized!

If you homeschool multiple kids: Your older children will enjoy writing secret messages in white crayon and then painting over it to reveal the hidden words! Or, how about a secret “math code” using number sentences or patterns?

Speaking of practicing math and reading, I’m a big fan of using manipulatives and hands on materials to make abstract concepts more concrete. This next project will provide a sensory experience for little ones, while your older child can use it to make numbers and letters, or even cut it up to model fractions!

DIY Playdoh

There are plenty of recipes for playdoh, but many of them use salt – which doesn’t work for my son’s eczema-prone skin. Here’s one that was gentler for him, and still used food-grade ingredients.

Because this recipe uses heat, you won’t want to prepare this one with your toddler’s help. Once it cools, you can enlist your child’s participation for mixing in colors.

Bonus: This recipe is gluten free, if that’s a concern for you.


  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Food coloring of your choice (if desired)

Mix the ingredients and cook on medium heat. Stir constantly and watch for when it begins to thicken. When it thickens enough, take it off, allow it to cool, and then mix in the colors.

This playdoh recipe is easy on sensitive skin.

This playdoh recipe is easy on sensitive skin.

My son was actually willing to touch the playdoh - big victory!

My son was actually willing to touch the playdoh – big victory!

The texture of this playdoh is soft and a bit sticky at first (if it’s too sticky, add more cornstarch). We were able to keep it in the fridge for several weeks. We allowed it to warm up a bit before playing with it.





Lisa of schoolathomemom.comLisa has been a special education teacher for 15 years and is looking forward to wrapping up her final months of her teaching contract so that she can homeschool her young son. She is also eager to help other homeschool families who can benefit from her years of experience working with children with many different learning styles, strengths, and needs. If you are new to homeschooling, her 100 Day Countdown begins on April 21, 2015! In addition to her years in the classroom, she has also traveled to 6 continents and participated in endangered sea turtle conservation projects and archaeological digs. Lisa currently works for the Museum of Natural History developing curriculum and teaching enrichment courses and camp sessions to children ages 5-10. You can learn more at her website,

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Filled with Gratitude



A new year is almost upon us. How was your 2014? Victorious? Struggle-Filled? A little of both, or more one than the other?

I admit, the last two haven’t been my best, and on many days I find myself searching for the silver lining. I rarely make New Year’s Resolutions. They always seem rather hollow to me. I mean, if you need to do something differently, why wait until one particular day of the year to decide to make a change? It always seems like the ultimate act of stalling.

I’m making an exception this year. Many of you may have seen the idea of a Gratitude Jar. If not, here is one example. If you Google “Gratitude Jar” you will find many ideas, in some cases free printables are included. The idea is simple. Write down on a slip of paper things that you are grateful for and place them in a special jar. When you get to the end of another year, pull out your “gratitude” and relive the high points. What a great reminder that even in the toughest times we are surrounded by good things, too!

I don’t think it’s necessary to write something each day. Let’s face it, some days we just don’t feel grateful, and there’s no use forcing the issue. But, how about every three days, or every week? Don’t let a week go by without counting at least one blessing.

The end of every year is also an excellent time to reflect on our homeschool journeys. I began mine a longish time ago. My oldest is 15 and has never been to school. His brother is nearly 12, and from the beginning, was difficult to “school.” Working with two completely different personalities and customizing a learning path for each has been exhilarating and exhausting…and the best years of my adult life thus far.

My oldest is almost entirely self-taught (which is different from self-directed in some respects). He still likes me to direct his learning–selecting books and curricula that I know fit his learning style, but otherwise he is in charge of mastering the material and completing his work in accordance with a pre-determined timeline.

The youngest resists schedules and timelines and curricula. He is creative, and visual, and a darn good writer for a 12-year  old. We re-evaluate each year what we want to work on and how we can approach it to make it relevant to his particular learning style.

My own personal evolution as a homeschool parent is on-going. I’m not sure I’ll ever really figure it out entirely. This got me to thinking about some of the articles I’ve written over the years for The Homeschool Post that reflect some of my better “Eureka” moments. I share them with you here:

Your Greatest Work

Lessons From the Library

Teach Me to Play

100 Hours

The Joy of Self-Directed Learning 

What will you reflect on this year? Did you have a “Eureka” moment?

Will you join me in filling a Gratitude Jar for 2015? Commit in the comment section! Let’s hold each other accountable. We’re in this homeschool journey together.
Angela (30 Posts)

Angela is co-founder of Mosaic Freeschool and a homeschooling mom to two never-been-to school kids. Born in Southern California and raised on the East Coast, Angela had a bit of an unconventional education, but did not consider homeschooling seriously until her first child was born. Believing that young children learn best from those that love them most, Angela and her husband John chose homeschooling for their two boys. She is dedicated to the advancement of alternative education choices, creating the web-site Raising Autodidacts in 2011 to further explore the idea of fostering the self-taught individual. In June of 2013, she started an instructional writing service called Gathering Ink .

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