2013 Summer Bucket List… 50 things to do while the sun shines

2013 Summer Bucket List THL

Although its only mid-May, it sure feels like summer is already in full swing!  With temps hovering in the mid-eighties and ball season going strong there is no doubt about it… summer is here.

This summer I am going to try to be a little more intentional about doing really fun (not necessarily super expensive) activities with the kids. Last year it seems like it was nearly August before we really got away to go do anything.  This morning I happened across The Happy Family Movements Summer Bucket List Challenge.  It reminded me the the best place to start was…. with a plan.  So the kids and I sat down today and made a list of all the things we would like to do this summer.  Most of their ideas made the list as well as a few of my own.

We plan on doing some schooling this summer but most of it will be fairly unstructured.  The summer schedule seems to be filling up so quickly with 4-H activities, Vacation Bible School, summer camps, art classes and ball games that I want to make sure we take time to simply enjoy the season and enjoy each others company. I know if we have a list, the kids especially, will be diligent about reminding me of all the things we said we were going to do.  Sometimes it takes a little prodding for them to remind me that they will only be small for a short time and that I need to put down the laundry and the dishes, pour a glass of lemonade and have some fun!   What about you?  Do you have plans for summer yet?

A Homeschool Field Trip to Chicago’s Field Museum

Day 1 of our Super Chicago Field Trip found us at the amazing Field Museum. We decided to do the Field Museum first mostly because we were tiring of Mowgli asking 10 times each day when we were going to go see Sue the T-Rex.  (That’s the downside of preparing the kids for what they are going to see, learn or do on the upcoming field trip.)

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There is a lot going on at the Field Museum!  There is a wealth of information about their exhibits available on the website.  It was very helpful for me to choose a few “must see” exhibits ahead of time for each child. I find that by doing so, the kids each get to see what most interests them. (Although I admit sometimes I am surprised at what exhibit they really enjoy, but I guess that’s the whole point, right?) It also allows me to relax and enjoy the experience more since I’m not so worried that we are going to “miss something.”  This Family Highlights Tour Guide covers several exhibits that we really enjoyed.

The Field Museum is great for exploring and thinking. Sunshine brought along a clip board and just really took her time with each exhibit, looking, listening and asking questions. I love that there is a lot of open space at the Field Museum. You can move from one area to the next without feeling like you are in someone’s way. In addition to the official exhibits, there are many “mini exhibits” along the way. As you are walking down a corridor your attention may be drawn to an interesting statue along the wall… and since there is open space not only can you see the statue but there is room to get to it to look at it more closely.

CHICAGO SOUND LAB

For the 6 and under crowd (and mom) the Crown Family PlayLab is a gem!  We were lucky enough to have the entire area almost to ourselves. There were only 5 or 6 other families in the Play Lab……however outside the main desk area were at least 100 preschoolers lined up to board school buses.  My recommendation…save the PlayLab for later in the day. (say 2:00ish) By this time of day my little ones have exhausted all of their self control trying to be relatively still and quiet while we looked at other exhibits. They are now ready to release some energy with some serious hands on activities and the Play lab is the perfect place to do so. Some of the areas in the Crown Play Lab include a Woodland discovery and dress up area, an art studio, an Amazing sound lab, a dinosaur dig and the Pawnee Earth Lodge. By the end of our visit to the PlayLab, (which also was the conclusion of our visit to The Field Museum) the little ones were ready to sit down in the reading area and explore their extensive collection of dinosaur books.  Who knew Sue the T-Rex had her own book?

The Highlights:

I asked each child which exhibit they most enjoyed and why.  Here are their answers.

Sunshine (10):  “I liked the Ancient Americans exhibit because I learned how the woman’s clothing told  the story of her life.”

Rose (5): “The Animals because they were really neat” ( Translation: The Nature Walk and Wild Animals Up Close.  We experienced this exhibit in its entirety twice, once to greet each animal and again to bid them farewell.)

Mowgli (3):  “Sue the T-Rex…..I a Dinosaur…Rrrrrrrrrr!”

Tips for Homeschoolers – Getting the most out of your field trip – I wasn’t able to locate much specific to homeschoolers on the website but when we arrived I spoke to someone at the membership desk who was happy to offer me brochures with additional information about many of their exhibits as well as a copy of the last few issues of In the Field, their member magazine.  The best resource is by far their website.  You will find so many interesting photos, videos and links on the website you will be amazed!

Money Saving Tip: Parking at the Field Museum lot is $19.00 for the first 4 hours, but if you park on the street, parking is only $2.00/ hour, if I recall. (Have your plastic ready… these meters don’t accept cash… yes crazy I know…don’t get me started!)

Sanity Saving Tip: We were at the Field Museum on a Thursday, which was awesome since I didn’t realize that the Crown Family PlayLab is only open Thursday – Monday. You don’t want to miss it!

Tips for getting the most out of your home school field trip

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.

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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.