Our Top 10 Homeschool Field Trips
In last month’s blog article, I listed 26 words of wisdom from 26 years of homeschooling experience. I want to highlight and combine two of those items. First on that list was “Go on one more family vacation before the month ends.” And number 24 on the list suggested that you “Plan a secret field trip and surprise everyone when the date arrives.”
You probably already know the value of a family vacation. You step away from the distractions of life and get a chance to focus on each member of your family and share a memory—typically at a noteworthy destination like the beach, the mountains, a national park, or a grandparent’s house. While the value of field trips can be easily overlooked, I am inclined to put them in the same category as vacations. They have high value, especially for homeschooling families. Why? For one, the history that happened at a given location comes alive. You and your kids are there! Your kids will remember standing on the Gettysburg battlefield, walking the sand dunes where the Wright brothers first took flight, hiking the Grand Canyon, or rafting those river rapids. They might even be able to say, “I was there when [fill in the blank],” which is the main point I’d like to make here.
After polling our kids, we present you with the list of our family’s top ten field trips (some of which counted as vacations).
#10 – Andrew Jackson State Park, Chimney Rock, Mount Morrow, Mount Airy, and More
When we weren’t visiting a national park, we frequented the many small camping and hiking locations across North Carolina. I distinctly remember camping at Mount Morrow during Easter of 2006. It was the first camping trip for our youngest child. The original plan was to stay four days and three nights, but we were having such a grand time that we decided to extend the trip for another three days and nights. I took a picture of all seven kids standing on a log in birth order (ranging from ages two to fifteen). Precious memories!
#9 – Texas Pool Parties
I have a collage at home with a picture of all seven kids at Grannan’s and Paw’s for what we affectionately called “The Texas Pool Party.” We’d hang out at Rachael’s parents’ home and spend most of our time swimming and napping by their pool. The last day would typically include various swimming contests. Great fun!
#8 – North Carolina Apple picking
An annual September favorite was loading up the van and traveling two hours to Hendersonville, North Carolina. We had a tradition of stopping at Stepp’s Orchard. During many autumns over the years, we sat on hay bales in a trailer pulled by a tractor, walked the corn mazes, shot the pumpkin guns, and picked apples to our heart’s delight. We’d load up on our favorite—Honeycrisp.
#7 – March for Life
We took most of our kids to the March for Life event for several years leading up to the reversal of Roe v. Wade. We didn’t just say we were pro-life. We helped our kids participate in the work to protect the unborn. This gave them a unique perspective and desire to pursue working in organizations and ministries that promote life personally.
Our family can say, “We walked the sand dunes where the Wright brothers first took flight in December 1903.” In my book, that’s priceless!
#5 – The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Living in the Carolinas has allowed us many opportunities to camp and hike in America’s most visited national park—almost 13 million visitors per year (more than twice the visits to the Grand Canyon, which is ranked number two, with less than five million visitors per year).
#4 – Plymouth Plantation
We did this field trip when all seven of our kids were young. We were all shocked at the small size of the Mayflower. This gave a whole new perspective on what the Pilgrims experienced traversing the Atlantic Ocean
#3 – Yosemite and Sequoia National Park
The beauty of El Capitan and Half Dome will fully satisfy any nature lover. Sequoia National Park, with its giant redwoods, also happens to be nearby. Don’t pass on seeing one of the biggest trees on the planet (General Sherman) in person.
#2 – Grand Canyon National Park
We had six of our seven children on this trip. We hiked down the canyon trail and then back up. Rachael and I thought that it was going to be much harder hiking up compared to going down, so we were anxious to reverse course before a mutiny broke out. On the way back up the canyon trail, we sang marching songs and never stopped. We feared that even a short break would cause us to lose all momentum. Talk about memories we still replay. It was awesome!
#1 – The Great American Eclipse
I’ll start by asking you a question. Where were you on Monday, August 21, 2017? It was a perfect day for a field trip of epic proportions. It was the day of the great American solar eclipse.
I drove Rachael and my three youngest kids from our home near Charlotte, North Carolina, to Columbia, South Carolina, to witness this amazing event. We went to a Colombia Fireflies minor league baseball game, which started at 1:05 p.m., and it was a beautiful sunny day.
Using special eclipse sunglasses that we got at the stadium, you could see the moon beginning to pass in front of the sun at 1:25 p.m. By 2:30 p.m.; it was clear we were in for a sight, although you really couldn’t see the action in the sky unless you safely looked through the special eclipse glasses. They stopped baseball play at 2:35 p.m. When the final portion of the sun was covered at 2:41 p.m., we were literally in the shadow of the moon. The whole place went pitch dark. This was not like a cloud being in front of the sun. It was completely dark. For two-plus minutes, you could see the sun’s corona around the perimeter of the moon.
It was literally breathtaking. The packed baseball stadium erupted in cheers. I want to believe the fans were doing the only natural thing—praising God for His wonderful works of creation. Then the sun peaked out, and a solar flare like nobody’s business let you know to put the glasses back on. Suddenly, we were back in the light of the sun, and the shadow moved down its path toward Charleston.
I easily rank this as one of the top five events of my life—right up there with being baptized, getting married, and the birth of our first child. If ever possible, I will make a point to go out of my way to see another full solar eclipse.
2023 Solar Eclipse
Another solar eclipse is set to occur in the southwestern portion of America on Saturday, October 14, 2023, from 11:52 to 11:56 a.m. Our nest is now empty since we graduated our seventh and youngest child in May of 2022. That’s why it will just be Rachael and me going on a field trip for old time’s sake. We’ll be in Texas that week, visiting the Texas State Fair, hiking and star-gazing in the hill country near Fredericksburg, and then stopping in San Antonio on Saturday to take in another total solar eclipse.
Stay tuned. I’ll tell you all the details in my October blog. This upcoming solar phenomenon is sure to be just as memorable and awe-inspiring as I remember it being six years ago.
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Homeschooling News of Note
The Christian Home-Schooler Who Made ‘Parental Rights’ a GOP Rallying Cry
Colorado School Releases Powerful Commercial For Why You Should Homeschool
The Babylon Bee (a satire site) wrote this piece about a recent real-life incident in a Colorado school that unintentionally makes a good case for homeschooling.