Field Trips are a good way to have "Educational" Family Fun. Depending on where you live, there maybe many options for Field Trips. We live in the Chicagoland Area and have access to many, many options for Field Trips. I even told my husband a couple months ago it would be fun to do a week of "School Around the City".
Being that I am a "Frugal Queen", I do everything on the cheap and that includes Field Trips. The first thing we do is to look for FREE activities in and around our area.
I discovered something "new to me" a couple years ago. The Forest Preserves have nature centers that are free and they have family fun activities for free or very low cost. We live in and around lots of Forest Preserve Districts, sometimes we use them for "backyard play". They are a great place for Nature Studies. I was born and raised in the City of Chicago. I now live in a suburb of Chicago, surrounded by Forest Preserves, so I have come to love the Forest Preserves and the fact that they are "not just for picnics"!
Chicago is known for its museums and we do have plenty museums here! Many of the museums have a weekly FREE day or a couple days a month that are FREE. Usually we can plan ahead and attend a FREE Day. I love the Museums in the Chicago area. I grew up going to many of them and now share that love with my boys!
We have 2 Zoos in Chicagoland. Lincoln Park Zoo is downtown and has FREE admission every day. Brookfield Zoo is only 5 minutes from our house and it does cost, although we get a membership every year for $108/yr. It pays for itself within 2 visits. know, I know I do pay for that pass yearly but it is totally worth it for our family. We go at least 2x or more a month. My boys have never been to Lincoln Park Zoo, but I think we will take a visit there soon, for a change of pace!
I also pick up a copy of Chicago Parent magazine each month from our library. The back of the magazine has about 10 pages of activities for all over Chicagoland for every day of the week. The listing includes free, low cost and more, even some homeschool specific activities. Many cities across the country have this magazine. Just do a google search for "(nearest big city) Parent Magazine" and see if this magazine is available near you.
A great national resource for Field Trips is Field Trip Factory. Field Trip Factory has teamed up with National and Local companies to provide FREE and fun field trips for groups, big and small. The process is very easy: Search for places in your area, select the location, book online and then Field Trip Factory takes care of the rest!
Some ideas for Field Trips include:
Candy Factory, Dairy Farm, Apple Farm, Radio Stations, News Stations, Newspapers, Revolutionary or Civil War Reenactments, Courthouse, Ice Cream Factory, Bakery.
I have seen many Zoos, Museums, and other "field trip" destinations become more Homeschool Friendly and now offer the same "Benefits" to Homeschoolers as they do to Schools. Check your local area establishments for their policy on Homeschool Field Trips.
Chicagoland and IL Homeschoolers:
The Chicagoland and IL Homeschoolers have a few new FREE or Cheap options for Field Trips that you may or may not know about. A couple of these have been in place for a while, although some are new.
Brookfield Zoo: I found out in the Spring '11 that they now allow Homeschoolers to schedule a field trip day and admission is FREE.
Brookfield Zoo Homeschool Policy
Museum of Science and Industry: The Museum of Science and Industry offers FREE admission to Homeschool families and have for about 5yrs. The Museum recently changed their policy and now asks that Families register at least 24hrs in advance. You can find more info and register here: Museum of Science and Industry Homeschool Policy
Art Institute of Chicago: I recently learned that Homeschooling Parents qualify for the Annual Teacher Pass from the Art Institute of Chicago. I called a couple weeks ago and verified.
Art Institute of Chicago Teacher Pass
Legoland Discovery Center: The Legoland Discovery Center has a special admission price for Homeschoolers. The cost of admission is $10 per person. You will need to preregister and provide proof of homeschooler status. Here is more information: Legoland Discovery Center Homeschool Policy
Forest Preserves in and around Chicagoland:
Forest Preserves of Cook County
Forest Preserve District of DuPage County
Forest Preserve of Will County Homeschool Program
Forest Park Nature Center, Peoria Park District
Forest Preserve District of Kane County
Forest Preserve District of Lake County
North Park Nature Center, Chicago
The Chicago and Suburban Library Systems have a Museum Pass program. You are able to check out "passes" to get FREE admission or other discounts at local Museums.
The Chicago Public Library has the Kraft Great Kids Museum Passport Program. The program allows City of Chicago residents who have a valid library card and are over 18 to check out a pass valid for admission to a museum. 14 different museums participate in the program. Each museum has different limits and rules concerning the use of the pass.
The Suburban Library System has the Museum Adventure Pass. Each participating Museum has different requirements and policy for admission.
I mentioned above that the various museums in Chicago offer FREE days each month. Check out the Free Days for 2011.
I really enjoy living in and around Chicago. I really enjoy the Cultural Attractions and the Cultural Diversity here in Chicago. Our family can keep busy with all the fun Family Activities and events that Chicago and the suburbs provide for the residents. I am looking forward to many outings and field trips with my family, friends, and other Homeschoolers. I promised the boys that after having such a "bad" summer weather wise, we are going to plan a couple field trips a week for September and October.
Have a fun and adventurous Homeschooling Year!