Unconventional Education

Almost every town has a Parks & Recreation department, right? And there are city and community events planned as well, like summer concerts and holiday celebrations. This stuff is a gold mine for private homeschoolers!

I recently picked up Yucca Valley’s Activity and Events Guide while I was at the library. It made me wish my kids were little again! You can find it online by clicking HERE or drop by the Library or Community Center to pick up a printed one.

When I opened it up I thought of all the subjects the events listed inside would cover, so I thought I’d share my thoughts with you. Private homeschooling in California can be cheap if you don’t buy a pre-made curriculum. Classes and events like these are a great way to offer the same subjects the public school’s offer but in a different way.

The Summer Music Festival is the first event I saw. Free live music all summer. Can you think of a better way to introduce your kids to some performing arts? Different styles of music. Live performance etiquette. They may find an instrument they’d like to learn to play or a new genre they love. When we’d go to concerts like this, I’d be looking up the music, where and when it came from, who was playing, etc. If they liked it, we’d usually find a CD for our collection. And there’s more music at “Chamber Music at the Museum” in June! This event does cost some money to attend, but you don’t hear classical music live much anymore. Pay up and support these folks! This could cover the subjects of music, performing arts, history, social studies, and math (music is totally math).

Earth Day celebration? Not much needs to be said about that! Science, social studies, a little history, all rolled into one day.

The Hi-Desert Nature Museum has an exhibit all about toys all summer. Yes, toys are education too! There’s some serious exploring to be done there! That’d be science, history, and even some language arts if you decide to write about it or read many of the signs and displays.

Dance classes, karate, yoga, there’s a ton of stuff to do that would cover P.E.

Did you know Yucca Valley has a Youth Commission? That sounds like a great way for a homeschooled kid to get involved in the town they live in. You may be raising the next mayor! Civics, economics, language arts…and social skills!

If you’re a little new to this homeschool idea you’re probably wondering how in the world do you document this type of learning, right? In the elementary years especially, tracking can be as easy as keeping a student calendar or a journal. At the end of the day, write about what you did that day. Take pictures and make a scrap book, blog, or just post it to Facebook. I urge you to write about daily activities even if you think you could never forget that glorious day. I’m looking back at my blog posts about my son’s activities from ten years ago wishing I had written more details! And many times I’ve looked back on the last weeks activities and thought it felt like we were laying around in the yard more than we really were. A look at my student calendar (the big notebook ones you find at Walmart or Target in September) showed that we were incredibly active after all!

One more thing, it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is or what time of year. And it doesn’t matter what grade your child is in. Like I’ve said before, institutions need grade levels, homeschoolers don’t. If a California history event comes up when your child is 6 or 12, go experience it and then maybe experience it again in a couple years! If it’s Saturday morning when you head to the science center or go hiking in the national park, it’s still education for a homeschooler! That’s what makes it so great. That’s what makes it ok if you spent a week vegging in front of movies with a bucket of popcorn. We are educating our kids year-round, 24/7…but that’s another post!

Printers Fair in Los Angeles

The International Printers Museum in Los Angeles is hosting it’s 8th annual Printers Fair on October 1st! Check out their website HERE for details on the fair.

The museum is only open on Saturday’s but they are open by reservation Tuesday through Friday. It also looks like they have some wonderful interactive tours! If you’d like to book one and invite people to join you to make the minimum number of students, we’d be happy to promote your tour for you here and on Facebook. Just send us an email about it to info@californiadeserthomeschoolers.com

 

Civil War Reenactment – Huntington Beach

Want to escape the heat of the desert and need a legitimate excuse to drive to Huntington Beach? How about Southern California’s Largest Civil War Reenactment?! This a great event for the whole family.

September 3rd & 4th at Huntingbeach Central Library

Afterwards, you can drive north through Buena Park and stop at Farrell’s for ice cream before you head home!

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

 

Learning Together

Do you do things with your kids or do you take them to do things? I’ve found there is a big difference. As homeschoolers, we have many opportunities to take our children to classes and events that are “good for them” or that we expect them to learn something from. The kids do get something out of those activities but I’ve found that they get so much more out of it when we put aside the ideas of school, put aside the notion of an “educational” activity, and just experience something together.

Take for instance a field trip to the zoo. Which do you think your child will get more out of, an organized field trip with a bunch of children grouped together and led by a docent of the zoo or a spontaneous trip the zoo with the family? I think it’s the latter.

When we attend a “field trip” with a group the parents tend to flock together and chat while someone else leads the group of kids. We can’t help it. Parents want to socialize as much as the children do. We crave it. So when a child needs extra attention, isn’t interested in what the docent is talking about, or just needs to do something else, we don’t notice. We’ve created “school” in a homeschool environment, with the same problems as the local public school.

When we take our kids to the zoo, we are more involved. We can follow our child’s interest, answer their questions (thank God for smart phones), and be there to notice when they’ve found something to pull them into the deeper waters of learning. And the best part is that we are doing it ourselves, right along with them.

We aren’t educators when we homeschool. We are fellow learners with more experience, communications skills, a driver’s license, and some cash. We ask questions. We find new interests and expand our minds. We’re there to show our kids what real life-long learning looks like. It’s so much more than school.

The next time you think about attending a field trip or class, consider attending with your child as if you are the student as well. Show your child through your actions what giving yourself an education looks like. They will be learning so much more than what the tour guide is leading you through.

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.

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.”

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!

Nearby Homeschool Groups

A local homeschool group is a wonderful resource and thanks to the internet and especially Facebook, getting in touch with other homeschoolers is easier than ever! But what about groups in adjacent areas? Where we live there are a limited amount of field trips available just because there isn’t much out here unless you like rock climbing, hiking, and off road riding. So I belong to some other groups outside my immediate neighborhood that are specifically set up to create field trips and let people know about events that might be of interest to homeschoolers.

A two hour drive is about all I’ll do for a day trip (not for weekly or daily thing), so I set my radius at about 120 miles. For something really special though, I’ll drive three hours! I looked at the map and started searching for homeschool groups in cities and counties inside my circle. I have been able to tag along on lots of field trips that I would never had known about if I hadn’t been a part of that group.

Here is a list of some that I’ve found for our area. Of course, your driving tolerances will be different than mine, so think about that and create your own circle of influence!

San Diego Homeschool Field Trips
This may sound far, but going the back way down the 15 freeway really has very little traffic and it takes about two and a half hours to get from the desert to downtown San Diego.

Inland Empire Homeschoolers
Great stuff is posted here and usually with an hour an a half from home.

SoCal Field Trips
All kinds of events posted from all over the southland, just be sure to look at the start times for events! You don’t want to say you’ll be there on time at 8am for an event that is three hours away. Traffic in Riverside and going into LA can be a bear!
They can also be found on the web at the SoCal Field Trips Website.

There is a Meetup group called Riverside Area Homeschoolers. This one has a small membership fee but they plan wonderful group trips.

Last but not least is SoCal Roving. It is also a Meetup group but has no fees unless you sign up for an event. I have found them well organized and easy to contact.

Once last thing I wanted to mention. When I first started signing up for homeschool field trips online, I was worried about sending money to a stranger. Most of the events are paid through PayPal accounts and you are emailing a stranger money. The beauty of the Meetup and Facebook groups is that there may be a scammer among us once in awhile but people catch on to them pretty quick and spread the word. Look at how many members are in the group or how long the group has been around for reassurance. You can also google the name of the poster or group organizing and see if there is any negative feedback floating around the web. Anyone that jumps on a group, posts a field trip, asks for money, and then flakes on everyone usually gets talked about and won’t be able to do it again. Personally, I find this an amazing advancement!

Field trips are one of the BEST parts about home education! There is nothing like living in the world to learn about it. Zoos, aquariums, amusement parks, shows, etc. It’s all there! Go have some fun!