The Field Trip Not Taken

Yesterday, I snapped this photo at 7 a.m., standing beside my car, before we got on the road for our long day of blessings — academics, music, soccer, friends, and a great audiobook. We made it home before midnight, but today, we’re opting out.

Today we’re not going on a field trip.

We won’t be touring Appomattox Court House, where General Lee surrendered and America’s Civil War ended. We won’t be with our friends from our homeschool co-op. We won’t be punctuating our study of American history by visiting this landmark.

Appomattox is a place I’ve long wanted to visit. A native Virginian, I always feel I’ve missed something important because I haven’t been there. My husband’s parents don’t live that far from there, and I’ve been geographically close over and over again.

But we’re not going.

And we’re glad.

Enough is enough. We’ve been too busy.

We’ve been out of the house day after day, and the coming days look just as full. I’ve been doing my writing on the road, in parking lots. Our consumption of audio books in the car is at an all-time high.

It’s time to stay home and watch the fog burn off the mountain as we have tea, give the dogs some of our presence and attention, work in the new math book, do laundry, get some writing done, regroup.

It’s hard for me to give up opportunities, especially educational opportunities. Especially educational opportunities that have been set up in conjunction with co-op, where Nick’s amazing history teacher has managed to put together a course that combines class discussion, historical fiction, great videos, and field trips.

Still, after checking with his teacher to make sure we won’t mess up any “required minimum,” we bailed.

(The scourge of homeschooling field trips is the last minute cancellation that throws the admission cost formula into disarray, or un-qualifies the rest of the group for a special presentation. I have organized enough of these to know to be thoughtful of how our decision impacts the group).

Sometimes, in homeschooling, too much of a good thing is not a good thing. I tend to be a go-er and a do-er, and contrary to the vision of homeschooling that is so pervasive but so mistaken, homeschoolers aren’t necessarily home all that much.

In fact, one of the laments of homeschooling parents is that in an à la carte educational world, it’s incredibly easy to build a plate that’s too full.

New homeschoolers and families with elementary age kids seem to be among those prone to “too much.” The homeschool population has a bulge here, with a lot of people with younger kids organizing great opportunities for one another in many communities.

When you’re parents of these younger kids, you tend to have periods of longing for days when having older kids might make things simpler. Of course, what you fail to account for, is that if you truly end up homeschooling with high school age kids, you will be assisting teens who may have serious and time consuming passions.

While homeschooling teens, there can be an impending sense of time running out. Certain accomplishments–like achieving a rank in scouting or reaching a certain level of proficiency in a sport–begin to feel like a race against birthdays.

If you have a child with a lot of focus, you spend a lot of hours taking advantage of that focus–driving to rehearsals, practices, part-time jobs, apprenticeships, classes, or field trips. If you have a child with less focus, you may spend a lot of time encouraging engagement, offering opportunities to see what might take hold.

Like our counterparts with teens in school, homeschooling families may be inclined to over-scheduling. Mostly, the revolving door feels healthy to us, while we recognize that some families have other tempos they prefer.

Still, the other night it hit me. If we go on Friday, we will be scrambling for clean clothes for the next week. If we go on Friday, there will be no chance I’ll finish a particular volunteer job in a timely manner. If we go on Friday, I’ll be looking for ways to squeeze in writing and editing work in parking lots again.

Yes, it’s a first world problem, borne of blessings and opportunity. There is every chance we’ll be able to create another opportunity to go to Appomattox.

After all, in the last couple years, we’ve been to Jamestown, Yorktown, Williamsburg, Burwell-Morgan Mill, Tredegar Iron Works, Pamplin Historical Park & The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier, Gettysburg, Antietam, Harpers Ferry, The Frontier Culture Museum, and the Virginia Holocaust Museum, just to name a few of our American history field trips so far.

Still, I remember many years ago when we were planning a move out-of-state, and my pre-move bucket-list included a visit to Thomas Jefferson’s home.

Somehow, we didn’t make it down the road to Monticello.

We might have been packing boxes, but maybe we lit a candle and had tea instead.

What I do remember, is once ensconced in our new home near Memphis, we made it to Vicksburg, Beale Street, Sun Studios, Mud Island, Tunica Riverpark, and Graceland.

Still, I have my own regrets for that part of the country — we never made it the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, and having had a long term interest in The Civil Rights Movement, I have remorse for this omission.

I know. I over-think. I try to do too much.

Today I am surrendering Lee and Appomattox for a day at home. But maybe the day will include Nick playing me some rock and blues on his electric guitar.

Nick actually doesn’t love field trips, but I remember taking special note of his excited reaction when we were upstairs in Sun Studio and at age five, he heard “Rocket 88” for the first time–a recording Ike Turner made in 1951 in that very building in Memphis.

So we keep going on field trips, because pieces of them stick.

But today, we’re sticking close to home.

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This entry was posted in Elementary Grades, Family Life, Field Trips, Guitar, High School, History, Homeschooling Boys, Music, Road Schooling, South River Valley, This Day, Uncategorized, Virginia and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Field Trip Not Taken

  1. Amy Wilson says:

    This is a great perspective, Jeanne, and one that is so helpful to remember! Sometimes we feel like we need special permission to say no to those special opportunities that we are fortunate enough to have. But those quiet days at home are important to our families, too — and, like amazing field trips, they are also one of the wonderful advantage that homeschooling offers us. Thanks so much for offering me this to read on a day when I am feeling like everything is too busy!

  2. Nancy says:

    What a great reminder! Sometimes, just enjoying the kids at home is good enough for today. Thank you for your lovely thoughts!

  3. “Nick doesn’t love field trips.” This sounds so familiar! In my own family, I was the field trip fiend — I adored field trips! But my kids, not so much. We eventually opted more and more for days at home. It worked out fine. My boys are grown now, going to college and exploring the world on their own for the most part. We have enjoyed some road trips recently and they are enjoyable travel companions. Still, I miss the field trips of homeschooling. Maybe we need to have special field trips for retired homeschool moms to get to all the places we passed up in favor of more time at home. Wouldn’t that be fun?

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