Inside the Mommyvan

Homeschooling & Life Inside the Mommyvan - an old dog learning new tricks

field trips

We spent some time at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa yesterday. One topic of discussion this morning was the high-wire bike, and why the kids woule never ever go on it.

We did a little science project about center of mass and how it affects balancing, and now they can’t wait to ride!


We had an exciting performance experience just sa our summer is wrapping up. The crew is signed up for a week of summer musical camp at our church. A couple of weeks before that began our music director send around a message asking if we could get a group of children together to sing our National Anthem at a baseball game… the following Sunday!

We did, the kids rehearsed hard, and they had a marvelous experience (as did I, videographer & assistant kid-wrangler) going “backstage” at the stadium and then out onto the field to sing in front of a sellout crowd. Take a look!

Visiting the pumpkin patch at a local church has been an annual event since the kids were babes. They each pick one pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern and one mini pumpkin for decoration. I try to get a few nice photos while we’re there, since we don’t get much fall color anywhere else here in Florida.





Faced with the ever-present challenge of motivating my little darlings to do schoolwork instead of, oh, watching endless episodes of My Little Pony (thank you, Netflix :p ), I had an idea. Time will tell if it actually works, but my most reluctant reader is excited (and was, in fact, the first to add a title to his “stage”), so I am hopeful.

Today we made a Reading Rocket! When all three kids fill up their “stages,” we will have a field trip to Kennedy Space Center to see some real rockets and maybe even meet an astronaut or see a launch.

For those of you who don’t have a space center as a day trip, the rocket could be any shape representing a fun  field trip: a Book Bunny (for a petting farm visit) or Reading Rollercoaster would do the trick just as well.

My charts have space for the title, author, and date read, and I am requiring 25 books fo each child to earn the trip. The recordkeeping and requirements to count a book “read” can of course be adjusted to fit your students’ reading levels, and you could easily use this with readers of different levels.

Get started by downloading my reading record chart (PDF).

In my desperation to do some Christmas shopping that didn’t involve a web browser and a UPS truck, I packed up the kids and took them to the mall. Christmas was still a couple of weeks away, so this is not quite as insane as it might otherwise sound.

We did succeed in picking out a few gifts for the kids to give Daddy and their big sister, and I even managed to work in a brief lesson about money, price tags, receipts, and credit cards over lunch. This was a powerful reminder that I really can find those teachable moments anywhere, if I slow down and look around. I am certainly guilty of rushing ahead toward a goal or destination, completely missing all the things my children could be learning along the way!

We’d pretty much finished our shopping when we walked past the new movie theater, with its Wreck-It Ralph posters. I decided that 1pm on a Monday would be a great time to take them to their second movie ever (on the big screen, anyway; we watch plenty at home). In the empty theater, I was able to point out to them that most other kids were in school while we were shopping and going to the movies — those little nuggets I like to tuck away in their brains for the times they think that they want to go to regular school instead because I’m working them too hard that day.

OK, so it’s not a terribly exciting field trip for an adult (unless you are, like me, a book geek), but for the kids it’s a pretty big deal. Getting library cards with their own names on them made it even better. With a little bit of paperwork and some help from a kind librarian, they each had a shiny new card onto which they carefully printed their names. I had a happy moment of nostalgia, remembering my own well-used childhood library card (which may well be somewhere in my parents’ house still :)).

On many of our library visits, the kids are more interested in the toys that populate the play alcove than in picking out books, but that all changed yesterday. On a previous visit, I had showed them the aisle with all of the ‘Easy Reader’ labeled books, but they were happy to let me pick books out for them.

This time, new library cards in hand, we raced straight to the Easy Reader aisle and they browsed the titles and cover illustrations for something interesting. After they had each chosen a book, we went back up front and they learned how to use the barcode scanner to check out their books (libraries have come a long way since I was their age!).

Libraries vary in their policies and requirements for children to have a card of their own, but in most cases there will just have to be a parent or responsible adult to sign for their cards and be responsible for books they check out. If your kids are anything like mine, they will be eager to begin reading ‘their own’ library books even if they’re not yet fluent (or even interested) readers.

We had a field trip yesterday to a fire station, thanks to an organizer from a local homeschool group. These are always fun for the kids, and this trip taught me a few things as well.

20120927-105130.jpgFirst up was a video, Be Cool About Fire Safety, which you can watch on YouTube: Part 1 and Part 2. A few key points that my crew remembered were:

  • Don’t touch matches or lighters, tell a grown-up if you find them
  • Make a fire escape plan and a meeting place outside
  • Stop, Drop, and Roll if your clothes catch fire, covering your facew with your hands
  • Check that your house has enough smoke alarms in the right places (in each bedroom and hallway, near — but not in — the kitchen, in living areas — living room, playroom, etc. — and in the attic)
  • Fall & Crawl: if there is smoke in the house, get down on the floor and crawl out

Along with a great tour of the fire station and the ladder and rescue trucks, we got to experience their ‘smoke trailer’, set up to resemble a miniature 2-story house. The kids (and a few adults) sat up in the ‘bedroom’ and then artifical20120927-105713.jpg smoke (stage fog) started filling the room. When the smoke alarm sounded, we all practiced scooting down the stairs and crawling to the front door.

The firefighters told us that once we make our plan, we should practice it, sometimes even in the middle of the night to be sure the smoke alarm will wake the kids (if not, there are alarms available that will play a recording in a parents’ voice). They emphasized to the kids that they should not stop or go back inside for anything, not toys, pets, not even for their favorite stuffed animal. You can leave doors or windows open so that pets can get out. No one should stay inside to try putting out the fire either. The first priority is to get out, then call 9-1-1 from a cellphone or a neighbor’s house and gather at the meeting spot so that you and the firefighters know that there isn’t anyone still inside.

If someone is in an upstairs bedroom and cannot get out, open a window and throw toys, clothes, or anything else that is nearby out the window. When firefighters walk around the house, this will be a signal that someone is trapped in the room above.

In making the escape plan, parents should identify two exits from each bedroom, think about the shortest way out and explain to children how to kick or push out a window or screen. Upstairs bedrooms should have an escape20120927-104845.jpg ladder handy, and kids should practice using it. For a real test, try crawling out of the house from your bedroom at night with no lights on, or even while blindfolded!

Toward the end of the tour, one of the firefighters put on all of his gear including an air tank and mask. He looked frightening, and sounded like Darth Vader! This was to help make a final important point to the little ones: if you hear the smoke alarm or see a firefighter, even if they look scary like this guy, don’t hide!

A house fire is not something that anyone likes to think about, but knowing what to do can save the lives of you and your family. If you haven’t had a fire station tour like this, call (the non-emergency number) and find out if you can set up a date for a group of friends or even have a tour just for your family.