The kids and I were lucky enough to spend the past week on an extended field trip in Chicago. We had an amazing time visiting museums and seeing the sites. As you can imagine however, travelling to the “big city” with a 10, 5 and 3-year-old can have its challenges so I thought I would share some of the things I learned on this, our first out-of-state field trip.
Unfortunately the Handyman was unable to travel with us this time; I was lucky enough to have my mom join us which was incredibly helpful. While in Chicago we stayed with my sister who not only hosted us in her home, but also chauffeured us all over the city and accompanied us on most of our adventures. I am so blessed to have the most amazing family!
While we were in the windy city we visited The Field Museum, Shedds Aquarium, The Museum of Science and Industry, The Chicago Botanical Garden, The Lincoln Park Zoo and The Lincoln Park Conservatory as well as took the girls shopping at American Girl Place. It was an amazing, busy, fun, and educational trip. Here are a few of my take away thoughts.
1) Have a plan but be flexible.
I spent hours researching and organizing for our trip. I put together a binder with all of our worksheets, info sheets, maps and menus. I actually had hoped that we would be able to also go to Legoland, Adler Planetarium and Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, but after the first day it became obvious that less was going to be more. We limited ourselves to one “destination” each day. We started early and were done by about 3:00 pm each day. (which was really 4:00 pm at home) We spent the evening playing and relaxing. We went to the shore one evening and the local playground another. Everyone had a good dinner and got to bed at a decent time.
2) Make the most of your budget by taking advantage of reciprocal membership benefits.
Most zoos, children’s museums and science centers offer some type of reciprocal benefits with your annual membership. If you have a membership to a local museum at home there is a good chance there will be some benefit available at other museums. With our COSI membership we have access to hundreds of other ASTC (Association Science-Technology Centers) museums. In Chicago, the local libraries also have a limited number of free passes available to their library members for many of the local attractions. You can also check for “free museum days” but know that many others will likely be taking advantage of these days as well.
3) Plan to travel when there will be lighter crowds.
One of the best parts of homeschooling is that we have the flexibility to make our own schedules. Take advantage of it! High traffic “tourist attractions” are so much more enjoyable when there are fewer people, during the week and when the public schools are still in session. Early spring and late fall are great times to travel with your homeschoolers.
4) Extra hands are extra helpful.
With an age span of 3 to 10 years old, our kids are at very different places in their educations. They have hugely different personalities, interests, and attention spans. Having an adult with each child allowed us to move through the museums and exhibits at the right pace for each child. It was so much more enjoyable for me and they got so much more out of the experience. Obviously, this is not possible on every trip but for as much as we could, it was wonderful.
5) Do Your homework ahead of time so they get the most out of the visit.
Many places offer discounted admission and workshops for homeschoolers, but you have to ask! Check the website of the location you are planning to visit for educator specials both for special pricing and for materials that will make your trip more educational. When you arrive be sure to ask if they have special guides or materials available for homeschoolers. It was helpful for me to visit the websites of each location we were going to visit and get an idea of which exhibits and programs would be the most interesting and applicable to what we have been studying this year.
Sunshine and I are working our way through our photographs, notes and worksheets to put together a special Chicago Field Trip notebook. Since I wasn’t with her for all of the exhibits it has been fun having her tell me what she learned and enjoyed about each different exhibit. I’m looking forward to sharing some of our favorite photos and experiences with you.