Girl Scouts

My daughter has been active in Girl Scouts since she was in 1st grade, and loves the program. She has made close friends there, friends who I believe she’ll carry with her at least until adulthood. We’ve enjoyed watching her grow in Girl Scouts, and what she’s accomplished. In many ways, I’ve found Girl Scouts to be a great supplement to her homeschooling program, and I’ve been able to incorporate the things her troop is working on into our program at home, and I think she’s only benefitted from being able to do that.

For the past two years, Teresa’s troop was working on earning the Bronze Award. This award is fairly prestigious, and to get it her troop had to choose a service project and devote 50 hours each working towards it. The girls chose helping the homeless and needy, which was a great choice. They had to think of ways to do so, so they decided to collect hats, mittens, coats, and other cold weather gear to donate. Then they chose to collect toiletries such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, hair brushes, shampoo, etc. And finally, they collected food to donate to the local food pantry.

Here’s where it worked right into our homeschool curriculum. To collect all of these items, the girls had to write multiple letters to local businesses: churches, dentists, hair salons, and grocery stores to ask for them to donate these items, or to let them set up donation boxes in their places of business. So Teresa sat down with a phone book, and I showed her how to use the yellow pages to look up area businesses and get their contact information. Once she had that information, she had to make a list with the businesses, their addresses, and their phone numbers. So she learned to use the phone book and had to make a nice neat list, which was a nice bit of writing practice.

At that point, Teresa had to draft letters to each of these businesses on the list. What better letter writing practice is there than to have to write multiple letters to actual local businesses, and because it was for a worthy cause she didn’t mind at all. We worked on those letters for a few days, and she came out the other side with a much better understanding of letter writing, so that was a real life application o f a great 5th grade language arts skill.

And she earned that Bronze Award!

Field Trips

“But what do you do about field trips?”

Sigh. I can’t begin to tell you how many times in our homeschooling journey that I’ve heard those words. I can only assume that some people equate homeschooling to never leaving the house, or perhaps they think only public schools are “allowed” varying educational experiences?

In fact, homeschooling uniquely allows so many more opportunities for a “field trip,” learning opportunity, or whatever you might want to call it. You don’t have to schedule ahead, deal with permission slips, coordinate 20 or 30 children at a facility, etc. And it is so much easier to learn without 25 of your classmates screaming for attention.

But this begs another question: what is a field trip? I mean, yes, we all know what a field trip is. But in a way, anything can really be a field trip as long as it takes you outside of your normal learning environment, whatever that may be. For instance, I’ve sent the kids exploring in the backyard to learn about the plants and animals. They collected leaves and other interesting plant life, and found animal tracks. When they came inside they looked up their discoveries on the internet and then we talked about them. Yes, they were still home, but if a classroom full of kids had gone to the local nature trails and done the exact same thing it would be a field trip.

Granted, not every field trip can be a backyard adventure. We have the luxury of living in an area rich with history, and can go at any time, almost on a moment’s notice, to any of the wonderful historical sites in the area. We live less than two hours from Boston, the Mayflower, Concord/Lexington, and the site of the first settlement of Pilgrims. There are many museums in the area that are ripe for learning opportunities as well. The Boston Museum of Science, the New England Aquarium, and the Museum of Fine Arts are all close enough to drive to, just to name a few. The local library even gives out free passes to go!

Just two weeks ago I took the kids to the SEE Science Center, a local children’s science museum. Our trip illustrated how great homeschooling field trips can actually be. We planned our trip for about noontime, and met another homeschooling family there on a weekday. It was completely empty except for a few others. My children had the entire place to explore and learn!

The kids thought they were having fun – which they were – but through that fun they learned about electricity, sound waves, gears, motors, shadows, light, and so many other things. We went into a special experiment room and conducted experiments with water, vinegar, baking soda, and seltzer mixed with food coloring. They added various ingredients to different cups and wrote down the results and what their conclusions were. Their favorite part was the simulated moonwalk, where they could jump in “low gravity.”

So to the next person who asks how we do field trips, all I have to say is we have more and better opportunities for field trips than you could imagine.