Friday, October 24, 2014

The Ultimate List of Free or Low-Cost Field Trips

{Read my disclosure policy}

The Importance of Field Trips for Learning

Field trips are an important aspect of education as kids get to see, hear, and do as you explore your community. Oral histories and hands-on experiences lead to discovery learning, and this kind of learning really sticks. My kids recall things they’ve heard from the people who experienced them much more than from simply reading about them.

From perspectives of World War II as a young Jewish girl or as a young American soldier, to walking around in Shoeless Joe Jackson’s house, these real experiences leave a lasting impression on kids.

When I taught in a public school classroom and ventured out to a museum with my classes to see a Holocaust exhibit, not only was it the first time most of them had even been in a museum, but the artifacts and displays immersed them in the history we had been reading about. They got to see first-hand that history is real. Those kids will never forget that.

I’ve learned that all you have to do is ask, and people are more than willing to provide a field trip for you. (Don’t forget to send them a thank you note!)

The Ultimate Homeschool List of Free or Low-Cost Field Trips:
  • Art museum
  • American Legion museum
  • History museum
  • Baseball museum
  • Professional sports team training camp
  • U-pick farm
  • Organic farm
  • Alpaca farm
  • Goat farm
  • Dairy
  • Plant nursery
  • Grain mill
  • State parks
  • Fish hatchery
  • Horse stables
  • Zoo (membership saves money if you go often or have a large family, and is often reciprocal)
  • Veterinary clinic
  • Dental clinic
  • Nursing home
  • Restaurants (cost of food only, usually w/ a group discount and educational talk/tour included)
  • Grocery Store (Behind-the-scenes tours)
  • Local colleges and universities
  • Library tours/talks/classes
  • Post office
  • Fire station
  • Police station
  • City Hall (meet the mayor)
  • Airport
  • Television station
  • Radio station
  • Newspaper office
  • Book printer
  • Civic center
  • Free children's concerts given by the local symphony
  • Children's theater performances
  • Historical homes
  • Historical monuments
  • Manufacturing plant
  • Recycling center
  • Waste-water treatment facility
Click here to take a look at how I keep records of our field trips for school credit and print my field trip form.

Have any ideas to add to the list? Add them in the comments and I'll put them on the list!



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hearts for Home Blog Hop #88

Welcome to the Hearts for Home Blog Hop!

Every Thursday over 20 bloggers host the Hearts for Home Blog Hop
The blog hop runs from Thursday through Wednesday, so please be sure to stop back by and share your family friendly posts throughout the week! As wives and moms, our hearts are focused on our homes, and we all can use inspiration and encouragement from time to time! 
So please share your posts on topics such as: faith, homemaking, marriage, homeschooling, crafts, DIY projects, recipes, parenting, and anything else that can be an encouragement to someone!  

The most popular post from last week's hop was:


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Curriculum Choices
from Monster Ed Homeschooling

I hope you'll play along and share your posts this week, and maybe you'll discover some new ideas from all the fabulous links! Use the form below to enter your links. Please just kindly link back to this blog or display our Hearts for Home button in your post or on your sidebar.

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If you were featured this week, help yourself to one of our “I was featured” buttons to display on your blog!

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Happy Hopping!



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Interest-Led Learning for High School

{Read my disclosure policy}

My son is passionate about filmmaking, from script writing to directing to camera-operating. He started with a flip camera, then added a camcorder and a stop-motion animation program with a webcam.  He worked all summer one year cutting grass to save money for a "really nice" camera, and everything on his Christmas list was related to that (boom mic, lights, reflectors.) He now spends most of his free time writing scripts -- pages and pages of scripts. Because of his passion for the art of filmmaking, I decided to craft an interest-led learning elective course for him for high school fine arts credit.

Stop Motion Animation


My son has already produced both live-action and stop-motion movies to the delight of all of our family members (grandparents make an especially appreciative audience.) Stopmotion Explosion: Animate Anything and Make Movies- Epic Films for $20 or Less has been a great jumping off point into the live action stuff that he really wants to do.

For part of his literature/language arts and elective studies, I scoured the internet and other avenues to find resources to fit into our curriculum. It hasn't been easy to find resources appropriate for teens, but I have managed to put together some things that are working so far.

Free Resources


Educational guides and lesson plans for movies such as Because of Winn Dixie, Hoot, Where the Red Fern Grows, Bridge to Terabithia, Narnia, Holes, City of Ember, and more are available as free downloads from Walden Media. We have used these guides along with the novels and the movies as "going beyond the book" studies.

We also found resources for teachers and students at Oscars.org, including screenwriting, animation, visual effects, cinematography, and more. Although I don't have any filmmaking experience, I've been able to piece together enough resources to help my son pursue his interests.

Film Curriculum

I've found some filmmaking books and curriculum as well, such as Filmmaking for Teens: Pulling Off Your Shorts and Movies as Literature curriculum from Design-a-Study. These are the base for our coursework, with all the other above-listed resources as supplements to this course.

The Movies as Literature course is an intensive study of movies as short stories. This program is not just about watching movies. Each movie studied includes 25 discussion questions, including topics for compositions and extended activities with either reading assignments, history research, or other movies related to the one being studied. Movies include both classic and modern selections, including ShaneThe Quiet ManRear WindowThe Maltese FalconE.T., The Philadelphia Story, and several more. For Shane, we read the novel before watching the movie, then the topics studied in this lesson included:
  • Character development vs. stereotypes
  • Film techniques
  • Plot development
  • Character motivation
  • Foreshadowing
  • Setting
  • Mood
  • Symbolism
  • Underlying messages about:  what makes a man, what makes a hero, whether or not the end justifies the means, whether 'A man who lives by the sword, dies by the sword,' the positive contributions of God-fearing families to settlements in new territories.
The student workbook isn't required for the program, but I bought it so that I could make notes in my book and my son could have his own book to follow along in as we discuss the material.  Although this is a high school level course, a child strong in language arts could easily use this for eighth grade.

Enthusiasm for Learning

Above all, I want my kids to be excited about learning. If I can incorporate their interests into our curriculum, a huge plus to homeschooling, they are more enthusiastic and motivated. I love it when they ask me to "do school."

I'd love to hear what you do for interest-led electives in your homeschool!



Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Embracing the Teen Years

{Read my disclosure policy}

First steps, first words, first birthday . . .

We celebrate these milestones and look forward to them from the day our children are born. The teen years seem so far away, but they arrive before we know it.

Many homeschool parents look upon the teen years with dread. They worry about how they’ll teach more difficult subjects, how hard it will be to keep track of grades, and [gulp] Driver’s Ed. Unfortunately, some parents believe that they cannot even continue to homeschool the teen yearsWhat if my teen is weird and unsocialized for life?

I’d like to reassure you that:

1. You can teach more difficult subjects. When my oldest was in kindergarten, I began having the inklings of doubt for his high school years. Algebra and upper level science scared me to death. A funny thing happened, though. As my son grew older, he also grew to become more independent. I don’t have to do the algebra and science; HE does. I am here to help him, and I coach him and facilitate lessons, but the real work is up to him. And, thankfully, there are plenty of wonderful homeschool materials out there that make these subjects not only doable, but interesting and even fun.

Some math curriculum is computer based, with a virtual teacher to lead the student through the lessons (DIVE CDs for Saxon and Teaching Textbooks). Dr. Wile’s Apologia science texts are written to the student, so I really only have to help by gathering materials for experiments and discussing the study guide questions with my son. The reading is up to him.

Spanish is pretty much self-taught using a computer based program as well. And, supplementary CDs are benefitting the entire family as we listen to them in the car and all learn new vocabulary. (Rosetta Stone and SPANISH in 10 minutes a day® with CD-ROM).

History is similarly written to the student, so he does the reading, and I follow the prompts in the teacher’s guide for discussions (Sonlight, TruthQuest, Beautiful Feet). We’ve learned that there are tons of “helps” out there if we need them, such as supplementary notebooking materials, study aids, and tutors. (Donna Young’s free science printablesHarmony Arts free notebooking pages, and Khan Academy’s free tutorials).

However, even though my son is working more independently, I am finding that I am actually enjoying learning many things alongside him. I didn’t enjoy some subjects very much when I was in school, but I am discovering that homeschooling is producing a love for learning in me as well as in my kids. Don’t forget to sit down with your teen and learn alongside him! It will benefit you both.

2. You can keep track of grades. The only thing I do differently for middle and high school grading is to switch over to a system for letter grades instead of the Satisfactory/Needs Improvement/Unsatisfactory elementary grading system. There are many free resources to help you figure out how to do this, but don’t over think it too much. Establish a grading scale in the beginning (see your state’s department of education website for requirements in your state), and use the numerical grade on the progress report and report card. Include the letter grade alongside it if you’d like, but the numerical grade is what you will use to calculate GPA and class rankings.

3. Driver’s Ed is scary, but inevitable, so you might as well face your fears. When your teen is ready to drive, start out slow – baby steps! It isn’t easy to sit in the passenger seat, and I am still learning to trust my teen. I asked our insurance company to send us free materials for teen drivers. They sent us a booklet with mini-lessons based on driving scenarios and a DVD with tips and safety measures, along with warnings about driver distractions. There is also a pledge my son signed before getting behind the wheel the first time, promising never to text and drive, etc. (Some driving schools even offer discounts to homeschool families.)

4. Teens are weird anyway. They are goofy and gangly and want to stay up all night and sleep all day. Their rooms are disaster zones, and they eat everything in sight. They can be moody, stubborn, and too silent at times.
But, they are also delightful.

You will discover how fun it is to listen to their opinions on things, to get to know them as emerging adults, and to just hang out with them. Their independence gives you more room to trust them with greater responsibilities, which is an enormous help with household tasks, caring for younger siblings, and running errands.
Just remember that they are still children, and they still need your guidance, your time, and your love and affection. They never get to old for these!


Help your teen get organized with a planner of his own.
There'e even a Well Planned DayHigh School Planner

 that includes all 4 years in one.
That's the one I use for my high schooler,
and it makes creating his portfolio super-easy.

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years
Linking up