Balancing School Work and a Field Trip

Today we decided that we'd do some schoolwork while eating breakfast and head out for a half- day field trip.

It's not always easy balancing schoolwork with field trips.

We often go whole weeks without leaving the house and become quite focused on book work and traditional schooling.

Other times it seems like we're hardly home and running from one field trip to another.

We try to strike a balance and make sure we're getting in a lot of life learning opportunities while staying on top of our schoolwork.  Today's compromise worked beautifully! I had no idea how much work we could get done in less than 2 hours!

Traditional Schoolwork: 

    Evan:  We filled in another page in his Hold That Thought for Kids book and then he worked quietly on finding domino doubles.  He picked out the domino doubles that matched the answer on his printout.  At one point he could not find 9 + 9 for the 18 slot but told me it must be three rows of three since that was 9.  I was impressed!   He then worked on another 4 pages in his phonics book.  He filled in the missing words in the sentences and then read them all to me.  He's so excited that he only has 7 pages left.  He asked me to read a book with a him and chose Biscuit Wins a Prize.  His reading is coming along so nicely now.  Last night at bedtime he picked up the book Mice on Ice and read it through to me.  We had never read that book before but he really enjoyed the word family/ rhyming text and the short sentences.

Evan's completed work 
Alec: Worked on two pages in his math book.  He worked on finding the cubic volume and reading charts to answer questions. After math he went to get ready for the day and read Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and their Parents.  Alec worked on a part of a lesson in his Verbal Math book with me and then wrote 5 sentences about his best friend.  I couldn't believe we found a writing topic that didn't get ANY grumbling!  He also read aloud the rest of the Harry Potter chapter that we had started last night.
Ian:  worked with me in the Verbal Math book.  We also completed two pages in his fractions book.  He also wrote 5 sentences about his best friend (without complaining!).  Ian decided to plant his orange seeds and see if he could grow (or start to grow) an orange tree.  He pulled out a plastic cup and some potting soil and decided to give it a try.    I loved this self- guided science experiment.

Field trip to the Ecotarium: 

Once there we had a great time and spent over 4 hours exploring, reading, learning and playing.

We went to see the otters, the bald eagles, and the barred owls as soon as we arrived.  The otter was sleeping (and we were dismayed to only see one; we're still uncertain if the Ecotarium lost one since we were there last) and so we decided to try and check back later.

 Ian enjoyed playing with the time elapsed camera of the drive up Mount Washington, Evan jumped from rock to rock and tried his hand at their rock wall.  Alec played with fog and the effects of mountains and valleys on fog. They all enjoyed the wind tunnel and trying to alter the direction of the wind.

Blown away!

We headed to the bottom floor and found ourselves in Keva heaven.

We have a few boxes of these blocks but they had mountains of them!  There were many displays around of professionally set up designs, there were challenge cards, illustrations of architecture, art, and even more Keva designs.

We all started building.

Ian wanted to make a tower that was taller than me.  I thought that might prove to be to challenging but I was wrong.  He ended up with a tower that was, in fact, taller than me.

Alec had fun making patterns with his building.  Evan, whose more intimidated by these blocks stuck to simple structures like squares and made a rectangular portal of power for his Skylanders.  He helped his brothers here and there and cleaned up blocks left behind by other kids who had been playing.

When the boys were all done they wanted to measure their towers with measuring tapes. We converted the inches measurements to feet and inches-- all self guided!   Ian's tower was 6 ft 3 in. tall and Alec's was 1 ft 17 in.   The older boys then decided to use the blocks to spell out their names near their buildings.  All three boys took turns using my camera to capture our fun and I was impressed with how well their photography skills are developing too!

 Later in the day they saw another tower that they thought might have been taller than Ian's tower (which had since been destroyed) so they took the tape measures again and measured the new tower.  They figured out that it was a good foot shorter than Ian's tower.

Starting his structure 

Evan's creations 

Evan measures himself against  Ian's building 

Evan photographing Alec hard at work 

Alec wanted to photograph the INSIDE of his tower; it did look pretty neat!

Ian takes my picture with his tower; it's taller than me! 

Alec offered to take a picture of both of us
with the tower 

Measuring the building 

We went to a room with dioramas of animals.  We've been in the room many times and my boys have made up their own game to play.

Near the animals there is a board that lights up and labels all the animals and a few of the planets shown in each depiction.  They like to take turns quizzing each other to find each of the animals and plants.

It's pretty tough too since many of the animals are not commonly known.  We stopped to see the perpetual motion machine, watch the time elapsed camera on the crab tank, and watch the staff care for the ferrets.

We took a break to eat lunch and ended up learning right through lunch too!  We pulled out the map to see what was new since our last visit and saw that there was a new planetarium show called Mysteries of the Unseen World.

Not knowing what that was, since the description was vague, we looked it up on my phone.  We spent the lunch hour checking out all the different electron microscope pictures on my phone trying to figure out what they were.
After lunch we found these iPod's that were connected to these special cards.  When you scan the cards they show a hugely magnified portion of the picture.  You can zoom in further, zoom out a bit, rotate the object and read about it.

It went along with the new planetarium movie and the boys were intrigued with them and tried out every picture.  We explored the rest of the second floor playing with heat thermals, watched the parrot, checked out the painted dome ceiling, and looked at the plants and animals on display.

Add caption
 We saw that it was close to a presentation on snakes and sat down to enjoy it.  The boys all had a lot of fun learning about snakes.

They talked about how to handle snakes, the different types of snakes, the difference between poisonous and venomous, how snakes smell, and many more facts about snakes and reptiles.  The question of snakes in Hawaii and Alaska came up and Alec asked me to look it up on Google.  He shared what he learned with the whole room at the end of the show using the microphone.

Alec, of course, impressed the three presenters so much they stopped me to talk to me after the show.

He had many unanswered questions after the show and spent the next 20 minutes walking around using Google on my phone to find out the answers.  We discovered that there are no native snakes in Alaska (which is what he thought).  And then spent a bit more time reading about the three types of snakes found in Hawaii.

stretching out the snakeskin model of the largest
snake ever found 

We finished up the entire inside of the building and headed out to see the rest of the animals.

We saw the foxes and owls and decided to try one last time to see if the otters were out.  The otter was out and was playing in the snow; burrowing under the snow, popping up, sliding down the hills, making chirping noises and diving under the water and under the ice.

We observed the ice from the underside and watched the otter suck up air bubbled that get trapped under the ice as he swam around.  We guessed he did that to allow himself to stay under the ice longer.

the otter was so playful 

sliding down the hill 

Look at that cute otter face! 

On the ride home, Alec asked to use my phone and Google one last time.  He wanted to read about the world's longest snake (since they had laid out a model of the snake skin but the lady knew next to nothing about it).

He read most of it out loud and I was blown away by the ease with which he read words like metabolic temperature, exothermic, ambient temperature without pausing or stumbling.  He wasn't sure what metabolic and ambient meant so he asked me but he sure knew how to read them.

All in all we did a good job balancing schoolwork with field trip learning; but looking back they sure learned more from the field trip than they did from their traditional schoolwork.


  1. Wow! Homeschooling looks to be a very busy thing to do. Math alone would have me exhausted. I hate Math! But it also looks like the kids are having fun with learning and that's the most important thing:) #FamilyFunLinky

    1. We do keep very busy; and schoolwork is only a small part of it. I do try to keep it as fun as possible.

  2. Hands on learning is the best way! Creative play is their job. #explorerkids

  3. What an impressive museum, no wonder you spent so long there. It’s such a great way to educate children. #explorerkids

    1. It really is! I wish we had a few more like this around us. It's such a great museum and they change exhibits quite often too.

  4. I really love the trips that you guys do - kids learn so much this way. Mine are keen to go back to the Natural History Museum in London soon. Sarah #ExplorerKids

    1. Thanks! I do too; I'm actually kind of upset that since we've been homeschooling in our area so long I am running out of fun new places to try (or even places we haven't been to over, and over, and over again to the point that we're sick of them). I just LOVE field trips.

  5. If I was a homeschooler I think I'd do field trips all the time because I love them too! #ExplorerKids

    1. I am usually the one pushing for the field trips. I find I can't spent day after day cooped up in the house and learning together at a museum puts a whole different (and lovely!) dynamic to our day. We used to go on field trips a couple of times a week!!

  6. It sounds like you got balance just right. It must be hard homeschooling to make sure you’ve done all that you need to. I think field trips also offer great learning activities and opportunities for kids so it’s nice to embrace them too. Thanks for joining us at #familyfun

    1. It is hard to balance it all but I just can not pass up the opportunity to learn outside the home. Field trips are such great learning opportunities.

  7. What a great idea to be carrying a tape measurement with you. I think it is very handy. I love your snow. There are so much of it! I love watching the otto playing in the snow too. :)

    Thank you very much for linking up with us on #ExplorerKids

    1. Actually the museum provided a bin of rules and tape measure to go along with all the building supplies. I was so amazed that they thought of it; I never had. It was so fun to watch it get taller and taller. I had the best time watching the otters playing; we had never seen them in the snow before.

  8. It's amazing the amount of learning children do when left to explore in a very hands-free way, isn't it? I'd never heard of Keva Structures before, my kids play a lot with Kapla, which looks very similar.

    1. My kids love any sort of building blocks and while we had a few Keva blocks the amount of block available here was staggering. It was so fun to see what they could build.


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