As a homeschooling mom, I’m sometimes asked how I do it all. The answer? I don’t. In fact, I can’t. Any good teacher, classroom or homeschool, knows there’s no way to be an expert on everything. Sometimes kids don’t need an expert to teach them; if we teach them the basic skills they need to research and think, they can become more knowledgeable about their passions than we are. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to have others available who excel in their fields to share their knowledge and inspire our kids!
Another question that’s common for homeschoolers to hear is, “Do you just stay home, or do you go out and do things, too?” Do we go out? Yes! In fact, we go out a lot, because I believe that one of the big advantages of homeschooling is that we’re not limited to four walls and a desk or to whatever field trips or speakers the district has approved. If there’s a place we can visit that’s related to what we’re learning about, we get in the car and go, even if it sometimes requires an absurd amount of driving to get there. Oklahoma and the surrounding areas are full of so many interesting and unique museums, parks and other sites that relate to almost every content area you can think of and I try to visit as many of those places as we can.
Here are some wonderful metro area venues that offer excellent programming that is specifically geared toward homeschooling families. If you haven’t taken part in these programs before, I encourage you to check them out and give them a try this spring. You don’t have to homeschool your children to enjoy these fabulous resources that let every family learn outside the classroom.
The Harn Homestead is dedicated to preserving a historic Oklahoma homestead and teaching children about life in territorial Oklahoma. If you’ve ever tried to organize a field trip, you know that many places require you to have a certain number of participants. Sometimes that can be a challenge for homeschoolers, especially if you aren’t an active part of an organized group. Harn Homestead offers a homeschool day each month from September-December and March-May with no required number of participants! All you have to do is call ahead to register, and for just $8 per child, your kids can participate in a morning full of farming fun.
There is a dairy barn where kids can milk model cows, work the corn sheller and grinder, rake the stables and gather eggs. In the schoolhouse, children take part in a lesson just like students would in the late 1800s. There is also a farmhouse full of hands-on opportunities for kids to experience life in the past, from toys and games to dress up clothes. It’s almost like a life-sized historical playhouse for kids!
Oklahoma City Zoo
If you’ve lived in the metro for any amount of time, you’ve likely visited the Oklahoma City Zoo. If you haven’t participated in any of their classes, though, you’ve been missing out. The Zoo’s education department is absolutely amazing. The staff works hard to create classes that are age-appropriate and engaging. At $7 per class, they’re very affordable, too. From September through March on the first Friday of the month, the Zoo offers homeschool classes for three different age levels. Children are divided into preschool through second grades, third and fourth grades and fifth and sixth grades with each class having its own theme. Classes last from 10 to 11 a.m. and you can register by calling Jordan Long in the education department at 425-0218.
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
The Oklahoma City Museum of Art has offered multi-week classes for homeschoolers for a while, and starting this semester they will have single-session classes available, too. So if you can’t make a weekly commitment, your kids will still be able to participate in high-quality hands-on art classes. Over the next few months, multi-week classes scheduled include “Design, Sculpt, Create” and “Draw, Paint, Print.” Single-session classes will be based on special exhibitions visiting the museum, such as an Andy Warhol class in April.
Both types of classes are geared toward kids ages 6-13 and include time in the galleries and time in the studio for students to create their own art work. Multi-week classes are $35 per month for members and $45 for non-members; one-time classes are $10-15 per child. Sign your kids up online at www.okcmoa.com or by phone at 236-3100. If you just want to tour the museum, call ahead and ask about special rates for homeschool groups.
Although it’s a few hours north of the metro, huge discoveries and tons of fun await homeschoolers willing to make the drive to Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks. Four times a year, the world class aquarium hosts Homeschool Day, where homeschool students and their teachers can take in all the facility has to offer at a discounted rate.
On March 10, discover life underwater with thousands of creatures swimming all around you. From tiny invertebrates to a collection of the largest bull sharks in captivity, the aquarium is bursting at the seams with exciting displays.
On Homeschool Day, the aquarium education staff members set up stationed themes with hands-on activities for added learning and insight. Reduced admission is offered from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and homeschool activities are scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon. The aquarium is located at 300 Aquarium Dr. in Jenks and can be reached at 918-216-FISH or by visiting www.okaquarium.org.
If you haven’t been taking advantage of all the wonderful places our great state offers, I’d like to share a few tips to get you started.
First, look over your plans for the semester and see what topics you’ll be covering. Chances are, you’ll be able to find some related field trips within a short drive.
Once you’ve decided on a site you want to visit, check out their website thoroughly and make phone calls if needed. I try to plan bigger trips on days when nothing else is scheduled so we have plenty of time to see everything instead of needing to rush.
If you’re going to make a drive, check to see if there are any other venues nearby that you might want to visit while in the area. Though I like to coordinate our trips with our learning topics, I’m not opposed to visiting sites that aren’t related to our current studies. They may provide the opportunity to revisit something we’ve already studied or they may lay the foundation for future lessons.
Prepare your kids for the field trip. I often show my kids any interesting pictures from the venue’s website and point out where we’ll be going on a map if we’re going out of town. Because my kids are five years apart, they’re not always learning about the same topics, so if we’re going on a trip related to something one child has been studying, I often try to find some related materials to share with the other child, usually my five year old, so she has some kind of background knowledge before we go. Hopefully your preparation will make the trip a little more meaningful.
Decide on your main goals for the visit and share those with your kids before you go. Do you want them to be able to tell you certain facts at the end of your trip, or are you just going for the sake of the experience? Will they have an assignment they need to complete? Sometimes I do give my kids an assignment directly related to the trip and sometimes I don’t. Honestly, that’s up to the teacher. Don’t feel obligated to give written work if you think discussion is good enough.
Besides these great places, many other venues will offer student or group discounts or arrange special tours for homeschool groups, so don’t be afraid to ask for help; the venues are almost always more than happy to work with you. Oklahoma City is such a great place to be a homeschooler, so make sure you take advantage of some of the wonderful opportunities right at your doorstep!
[Editor’s Note: Jennifer Geary blogs about her homeschooling experiences at www.metrofamilymagazine.com/Adventures-in-Homeschooling]