I was a parent chaperone on a field trip with Haley’s class when she was in first or second grade. They were studying penguins. I think every kid in America studies penguins; there must be a very strong penguin
mob lobby. So these kids had been reading about penguins, drawing penguins, basically doing everything they could about penguins in the classroom and now they had a chance to see them up close at the zoo. In order to justify field trips I know teachers must state what educational goals will be met. I’m not sure what they were for this trip but I’ll never forget how all the kids got off the bus clutching this worksheet the teacher had created, designed to get the kids to read the informative plaque or observe the penguins or do something related to those educational goals. I was rather stressed helping the kids find the exact answers and we didn’t get a lot of time to just enjoy watching the penguins. We were too busy trying to find answers to our questions, find a pencil or a flat service to write on, or making sure the paper didn’t get lost or ripped. We were very distracted by this silly piece of paper, not the penguins. I do remember that the penguins were super stinky. But I’m pretty sure that was not one of the questions on the worksheet. That’s a pity, we could have rocked that answer.
So that field trip was a little disappointing. I didn’t see the “aha” connections that we hope to see when we put kids in the middle of something real that they had been learning on paper. I don’t fault the teacher at all. I’m sure she would have loved to have no curriculum linked to the journey but she had no choice.
But in our school we have a choice. And I’ve learned that our field trips don’t have objectives and they don’t have paper. And we are pretty realistic in our expectations. It’s never really a question whether the excursion was worth doing; it always has some value but it’s definitely not the objective-driven trip from public school.
Last week we went to a farm. It involved getting up early and doing the “Playa Shuffle”. That’s what we like to call the roaming around that always happens before trying to find some new place in Playa del Carmen. But today there wasn’t so much shuffle and the farm was only halfway to Playa del Carmen. So already it’s good. It was a warm day (duh) but at least there were no mosquitoes. More good.
We fed chickens, we gathered eggs, we held baby chickens and bunnies and pigs. We fed cows and sheep and Zoe milked a cow. We saw stinger-less bees and tasted honey directly from their hive. We chatted with other homeschoolers in English and Spanish and we had a little snack on the grass. It was a great day to do something a little different and the lack of educational goals looming over us was really quite nice. I’m not quite sure what the kids learned but if history is any indication of the future, someday they’ll just spontaneously mention something they learned a while back. It happens a lot.
As with all field trips, you win some and you lose some. Our loyal readers will remember Chichen Itza, where Haley was fascinated but Zoe was bored. That’s OK, I don’t expect the same things to interest both of them. At the farm it was the opposite. Zoe was at the front of the group with each new animal we went to, but Haley held back and just watched. My former self, Public School Mom, would have been a little stressed that Haley wasn’t enjoying this rare opportunity at a field trip. But Worldschool Mom knew that there would be plenty more field trips in our future and we didn’t have to make each one a Kodak moment. That kind of “no big deal” attitude might sound logical and expected but it doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s taken 18 months of homeschooling (which I had never done prior to this journey) to get to a more relaxed approach to education. But it’s a process and even 46 year old School Marms can learn new things. For example, some bees have no stingers. Who knew!?