La Brea Tar Pits – Homeschool Days

The La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles has announced its “Homeschool Days”! This a great chance to take your family to see what the museum has to offer. For details, click on the links above to take you right to their site. They have a page about how to get there and how much it costs, what’s available, and a link to resources for your family to use before and after your trip!

Meet the Mammoths – Wednesday, October 19, 2016
L.A.’s Carnivores – Friday, January 13, 2017
Bugs and Botany – Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Dig It! – Wednesday, June 7, 2017


Do you like trains?

The railroad had a huge part in our part of the country so there is a lot of very interesting history there even if you aren’t interested in the locomotives themselves and we have a huge resource for everything railroad right near by!

The Southern California Railway Museum in Perris has several events coming up this fall, not to mention it’s a great place just to come and wander around. There are lots of hands-on exhibits and even a real train to catch a ride on. Take the family and check it out!

Here are some links to train activities and ideas to help you make the most of the day!

NEA’s Transcontinental Telegraph and Railroad

DIY Homeschooler’s Unit Study on the Transcontinental Railroad

The Great Railroad Race Game

Riley’s Farm Homeschool Days!

Here is a great “Not Back to School” activity for the whole family! Young kids, older kids? First year? Preschool aged kids and just considering homeschooling? This might be just the kind of event that can show you (and your kids) how much more fun homeschooling can be!

Riley’s Farm in Oak Glen has it’s annual homeschool days ready for sign up on their website! Scroll down a bit on their main page for dates and an online reservation form. Click HERE for information about what the “tour” entails.

Next Year’s (2016-2017) McCallum Shows!

Michelle from the Morongo Basin School District’s independent study program helps us all out by organizing the free McCallum Education Field Trips each year. Reservations will be put in on August 9th this year for the coming school year, so check out the line up below and send an email to to sign up. She’ll need the name, date, and time of each show and how many people will be attending.

Please remember, these tickets are free to us but the shows cost money to put on, paid for by donations, and seats are limited. If you say you are going, please make every effort to be there or find someone else to take your spot. If we consistently reserve far more seats than we fill, the theater may have to stop offering them to us.

There are no tickets to hold. You just say you’re coming and she will make the reservation for the whole group. On the day of the event, tell the docent at the door that you are with the homeschoolers (they usually can guess!) and they will direct you to your seats. Be sure to come a few minutes early so that you can be ready to watch the show at show time!

The following is from Michelle’s post to the Facebook group and the Education Department of the McCallum. Please email info@californiadeserthomeschoolers with questions and requests!

“Greetings from the McCallum Theatre Institute in Palm Desert CA! The last few days in our lovely desert valley has felt like the hottest place on earth, but before we know it, Fall 2016 will arrive and we will forget all about these scorching summer days and nights.

Accompanying the arrival of fall is the ever-popular field trip series at the McCallum Theatre! Our 2016-17 season will prove to be no exception to our rule of Artistic, Educational, Informative and Entertaining presentations for the young people of the Coachella Valley and beyond!

We begin the season at the end of September with Shanghai Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China for a total of 4 performances – Tue, Sep 27th at 9:30am & 11am and Wed, Sep 28th at 9:30am & 11am – (recommended Grades K – 12)

We then present a sweet, funny and thought-provoking play – “Walking the Tightrope” by 24th Street Theatre on Tue, Oct 4th at 11:30am – (recommended Grades 3 – 12) 

Followed by 4 timely performances of “Rock the Presidents” by Childsplay on Thu, Oct 6th at 9:30am & 11:30am and Fri, Oct 7th at 9:30am & 11:30am – (recommended Grades 3 – 8)

In November Roseneath Theatre will bring their play “The Incredible Speediness of Jamie Cavanaugh” to the McCallum stage for 3 performances on Mon, Nov 14 at 11am and Tue, Nov 15 at 9:30am & 11:30am – (recommended Grades 3rd – 12th)

Soon after the Thanksgiving holiday, we will have the ukulele aficionado Jake Shimabukuro for 2 performances on Tue, Nov 29 at 9:30am & 11am – (recommended Grades K – 12)

Our last field trip of 2016 will be a visual arts performer from Los Angeles – Miwa Matreyek performing 2 of her solo works: “This World Made Itself” & “Myth and Infrastructure” on Mon, Dec 12th at 11am – (recommended Grades 6 – 12)

We are still finalizing booking additional field trip shows for Spring 2017. As a result, we will accept reservation requests for Spring 2017 field trips in December 2016 (date is TBD).

We currently have 1 performance scheduled in March 2017, which is the one-woman presentation of “The Pianist of Willesden Lane” performed by Mona Golabek on Wed, Mar 22nd at 11am – (recommended Grades 5 – 12)

We will begin accepting reservation requests FOR THE FALL 2016 PERFORMANCES ONLY on Tuesday, August 9th at 8am, so that you and your students can attend another year of amazing performances presented by the McCallum Theatre Institute.”

Whitewater Preserve

Here’s something fun to do before the weather really warms up!  The Wildlands Conservatory, Whitewater Preserve.

It’s a great place to take a hike, have a picnic, or go bird watching. I was amazed the first time I took my boys there. It was like finding a whole other world tucked away in a canyon in the desert. It looks like there are interesting group programs to attend at certain times of the year. I’ll be adding that to my list of field trip ideas for sure!

Places like this are wonderful for homeschoolers. You can print out one of the animal or plant checklists and spend the day looking for creatures, bring a big picnic, lay in the shade of the giant cottonwoods and read out loud, do some outdoor science experiments like tracking the sun with a small sundial made of sticks and rocks, or bring some paper and make paper boats to float down the river. The possibilities are endless!

This kind of thing isn’t something you and your family can do if you finish your regular school work. It’s the kind of thing that IS school work for homeschoolers. Just remember not to make it a chore with too much academics and explaining. Bring a bag of supplies like magnifying glasses, notebooks, pencils, a nature guide, string, little containers or plastic bags, and give the kids plenty of time to explore this microworld in the desert!

Civil War Reenactment in Perris

Here’s an amazing living history opportunity coming up on May 21 & 22 at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, CA! The Civil War period of American history was a fascinating time. The people who put on these reenactments love their history and love talking about it. This one is coming up in a bit more than a week, so you have time to read a short book or watch a movie about the time. That will give you a heads up on what you’ll be experiencing in Perris!

My sons loved “Rifles for Watie” by Harold Keith when they were about 10 years old. It says the book is for teens and young adults, but we read aloud together and they truly loved the story. It is a war book, so more sensitive youngsters might find the story troublesome. “The Red Badge of Courage” by Stephen Crane is another awesome story. Perris is about an hour and a half way from our part of the desert. You could find an audible file of the story and listen to it on the way there and on the way home!

It also looks like there are a lot of Civil War video, card, and board games available on Amazon. My sons had the XBOX one and enjoyed playing it. They said loading the guns and cannons was the part that really got them. It really slowed down the battle and gave them way too many places to get killed. I can’t imagine fighting like they did!

If the war aspect isn’t your thing, there will be a civilian camp at the reenactment with women and children. Why would they be there you ask? They have the answers and it’s not just because the reenactors thought it would be fun.

Also, don’t miss a ride on the big steam train around the grounds. The engineers love talking about their engines!


29 Palms Creative Center & Art Gallery

There’s all kind of art going on out at the 29 Palms Creative Center & Art Gallery!

“The Creative Center offers a wide variety of art activities for children, adults and groups to celebrate birthdays, ladies-night-out and school field trips.”

Mini Maker Fair in North San Diego – June

You have to add this to your calendar! I realize that it’s not in the desert but it should be well worth the drive to Vista for the day. Not only is there an Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum SHOW but there will be a Mini Maker Fair as well!

The show is on the weekend of June 18 & 19 in Vista, CA. The cost is $10 per person. Click here for more details and purchase tickets!


Field Trip Ideas

I’ve been contemplating putting together a few field trips for my local group. At first I was excited about it. Remember when we were kids and got to go to the zoo or the post office? But then I thought maybe it wasn’t a good idea because I did remember going and it wasn’t very fun. We just had to stand there and listen to what the docent or worker was telling us. And then they asked if we had questions and I was too shy to ask in front of all those people. Maybe it would be better if homeschooling families just assumed everything was a field trip. Going to the post office for stamps? Kids wonder where the mail goes? Ask! Grocery store? Lot’s of stuff to explore there. We can go to the zoo all day and stay the whole time in front of the zebras watching and asking questions. If we can’t find a docent, my smart phone may have the answer.

Our family has taken advantage of group discounts with other homeschoolers many times over the years. Whale watching on a weekday morning, the zoo, the science center’s new exhibit and IMAX movie, lots of stuff that we might not have done otherwise, we have done because someone has organized a group trip. Many of them have been amazing experiences.

But what about the little field trips like when we were in elementary school? The post office, the pizza place, the grocery store, etc. Could we somehow do these kinds of group activities in a way that would benefit us? I think we can! I was talking to a local pizza shop owner the other day and asked about doing a homeschool field trip. He asked what we would want to know. I mean, any of us can make a pizza, right? He could show us how they do it with their big oven. Then I thought of something. What might our kids want to know? Why did they decide to open a pizza place? What kind of experience did they have? Did they go to college? Was it hard to do? Our older kids might ask questions that us parents might ask. Did they have to take out a loan to start up? Have they started a business before? Bottom line for me would be “What’s your personal story? Why are you here doing this?” He was excited about that! And we’re totally booking the tour.

What other places can we explore? How about the Chinese Restaurant, the health food store, the rock climbing adventure place, the little book store, the local realtor, or the sheriff’s office? All these little places in our town have interesting people and stories. We want to know about them. And I bet we’ll be doing a little homeschooling outreach as well. Some of these people probably don’t know any homeschoolers and I bet they’d be pretty impressed to meet our crazy bunch of kids. I can’t wait to get started!

Field Trips & Group Tickets

Homeschoolers are notorious for two things: being late and backing out. It can be incredibly frustrating for people that attempt to organize a group tour or field trip. I think there are two things we can do to minimize the effects.

The first one is for the organizers themselves. We need to understand that a few of the reasons most people decide not to send their kids to school are because they are fairly independent people and they desire more flexibility with their schedule. An even bigger reason is that they hope to focus on their child’s individual needs instead of the groups. We need to remember that when we schedule an event and people sign up. Things we can do are:

  1. Be sure to let people know as far in advance as possible. The farther out we plan, the more likely they are to have time for it. And send reminders as the event gets closer; i.e. one month out, two weeks out, one week out.
  2. Give them an excess of information about the event. When? Where? How much per person? Do parents need to pay too, or just students? Do we need to stay together as a group when we get there, or can we enter together and go at our own pace? Do we need to pay in advance or have cash on hand when we get there? Can younger or older siblings come?
  3. Know that some will back out and plan accordingly. If you need a minimum group size, be sure you have more than enough. If there will be no refunds after a certain date, be sure to say so right up front.

The second one is for those that sign up for these events. We need to remember that in homeschooling groups, it is typically another parent setting up a field trip, not a paid professional. Typically, a parent finds something interesting they’d like their children to attend, so they voluntarily take time and energy away from their own families to set up and organize a trip for a whole group. They are just as busy as you are and just as dedicated to homeschooling their own kids. They are not professionals. They have the same faults that you have. They may not be as organized and communicative as they hoped they would be. So we all need to be a little understanding when things don’t get done perfectly.

Here are some things to think about it before we sign up in the first place.

  1. Is this going to be something my kids actually want to do? You may be interested in the tour of a nice art museum, but your toddler and six year old may not be. Interest is so important in successful homeschooling. Uninterested kids can be terribly distracting to others who might be very interested in the topic. We need to be respectful of other families attending.
  2. Is this something my family can do on our own? I love live shows, art and history museums, and parks but sometimes my sons are interested in other things. I want them to experience other cultures, different kinds of art, live performances, etc. These things can sometimes be experienced much cheaper if we are able to get a group/school ticket and we have to take advantage of that. But sometimes it’s only a few dollars more to experience things on our own. It may be worth that extra money to be on our own time table. Check the website of the event you’re thinking of attending and see if you can’t swing going on your own as a family instead of a group.
  3. Where is it? Will it be worth the drive? Is this event too early/late in the day for my family’s lifestyle? I’ve done this a thousand times. I get invited to an event, see that it starts at 9am, decide it’s no problem for us, and sign up. Then I see that it is over two hours away with traffic making it sometimes three hours. We’ll need to be up by 5am, dress and eat, and be in the car by 6am to get there in time. Be sure to look at how far away the event is and what time it starts. And don’t forget to schedule in “getting moving” time, especially for the little ones. One of my sons has no problem waking up and getting in the car to go somewhere, but the other one needs at least an hour to wake up before he can even think of getting ready to go. That’s one of the best parts of homeschooling, the fact that we can cater to our own styles. We use these “school age” years to help our children learn their needs and get them met on their own, conforming to what everyone else is doing only when we feel it’s something very worth while.
  4. Remember when we sign up that we are making a “commitment”. It’s understandable when life gets in the way and we can’t make it to something we signed up for. Kids get sick, cars break down; that’s just life. The fact that you just don’t feel like getting the kids together and moving around that day isn’t an excuse to back out. The rest of the group may be counting on getting that minimum number of people to get their group discount.

Above all we all need to be extra polite, kind, and communicative when we plan and when we attend field trips with our homeschool friends. We are all working outside the box and could probably use some kind words of support even when things aren’t going as smoothly as we had hoped. If you have to cancel, let the organizer know as soon as humanly possible and be understanding when you don’t get a refund. They probably have no control over that and if they did refund you, it might have to come from their own pocket. If you’re organizing and attendees are backing out more than you figured they would, try to be kind and compassionate about their reasons. They may not be good reasons to you, but they are to them.

Group tickets, field trips, tours, and other events are a big part of what makes homeschooling so much fun. Let’s try to keep it friendly. The more fun it seems, the more people will want to plan more of them and that is great for ALL of us!