Field trips for homeschooling parents are great things. They break up the monotony of the day, allow children to explore new and different places, and provide a welcome break from the normal course of lessons. They can also be hectic, with children running everywhere and getting into things, breaking rules, gathering negative attention from the people around them—and the more children you have, the harder it can be to keep things under control. It is possible to manage multiple children, even of varying ages, all at the same time—but it takes a little planning.
Hungry children are cranky children. If you’re going to a place that typically has food available, you can choose to eat there—but it tends to be expensive, and it may well cause arguing over treats. If you have snacks already packed—healthy, protein-packed goodies that you know are family favorites, but which do not have a tendency to cause out-of-control behavior in your children—you can avert that particular tantrum before it begins.
Take your trip when your children will be cooperative.
If you have a child who is not a morning person, a field trip first thing in the morning probably won’t be your best approach. Skipping naptime for a field trip is equally counterproductive. Know when your children are more likely to be cooperative, and plan your trip accordingly. Also, don’t be afraid to leave if you need to. You can always return at another time.
Bypass the gift shop completely.
This is a hot spot for temper tantrums and behavior problems no matter how well-controlled your children typically are. Shiny, brightly-colored temptations are left right at eye level, where children can see them easily. They will reach, they will grab, and they will want—and if you aren’t intending to buy, it’s not worth even looking. If you do intend to buy, again, discuss the rules ahead of time. How much does each child have to spend? Does that include tax? (For young children, you might want to set a limit that doesn’t include tax for ease of explanation.) How long will they have to decide?
Plan your trip off peak hours.
As a homeschooling parent, you already have an advantage in this area. Many field trip locations are much less busy during the day, during the week, than they are on evenings and weekends. A call to your location of choice may also tell you what days they have fewer visitors if you really want to avoid crowds. Remember, the fewer people there are, the less likely there are to be witnesses to a meltdown—and the less your children will have to fight through others in order to see the exhibits.
Discuss the rules ahead of time.
Discuss them when you are planning the field trip; when you’re getting ready to leave the house on the way to your location of choice; and before you get out of the car. Let your children know what type of behavior is considered acceptable and what type isn’t. If they will be in a location where they will be expected to use “inside voices,” practice using an “inside voice.” If they will be in a place where they can not touch the exhibits, discuss that. Many zoos have policies against climbing the fences or enclosures, while many aquariums want your children to avoid banging on the glass. Be sure that they know what is expected of them before they ever set foot through the door, and a quiet reminder will be much easier to issue later.