Field Trips and Vacations

Due to some fortuitous scheduling we decided to skip a little ahead in our history sequence and start with our state history. Utah history. It would have been nice to do this in a month or so but, like I said, fortuitous and fortunate scheduling made it all come together a little early. Schedule flexibility. We homeschool. We can do that.

For Utah history this year I am planning on making it all “hands on.” We aren’t writing any papers. We kind of read a few books and although there was a bit of new information we gleaned I’m not planning on reading any more. We will do state history again and there will be other opportunities to write reports and whatnot. But this time we are learning about our state all through field trips/vacations! We homeschool. We can do that.

These last few days we have been in the St. George area, the most southwestern tip of the state right next to Zion National Park. Now, if I were superhumanhomeschoolmom I would have had the children study the geography and history of the land BEFORE we went. We would have taken maps down with us and had the kids follow along in the car with where we were on the freeway. Extra credit: use your math skills to determine the mileage to our destination all along the way, then calculate what time we will get there, how much gas we will have used, and how much that will cost us if oil is $30 a gallon. (Sheesh!) I would have had little “passports” for them to put check marks in each time we visited something they had studied about previously. We could have collected “specimens” (not the ones you aren’t aloud to pick, of course) and back at home we could have created a diorama of a red rock desert landscape. We could have kept little journals about our adventures – things we learned, questions we had for when we got home to internet access. In fact, we could have studied the ecology of the area and the native wildlife. Those little animals could have been in our passports, too! Check one off when you see it on the trail! They could have each picked one person in St. George history (George Albert Smith, Brigham Young, Jacob Hamblin,  etc.) and written bios about those people. We could have done SO much.

But we didn’t.

There is only so much a person can do. In the beginning of my homeschooling adventures – an entire 3 years ago, I’m not much of a veteran 🙂 – I would have felt guilty for NOT having done a lot of those things. All of those activities and projects would have been really fun. And they are valuable and worthy. I wrote them all there to help give you an idea of the possibilities of learning on vacations. There is so much to see and do and ALL of it can be a learning experience.

But we still didn’t do any of those things (there’s that honesty thing again). I know my limitations. I know my kids’ limitations. I know that just BEING there and exposing them to these things, asking the right questions at the right times, THAT will be enough for us right now. Part of me is sad about missing some of those opportunities (like the diorama! I’m kind of nerdy and really like stuff like that.) But when weighing the responsibilities and logistics of time limitations, meeting with two different sets of great aunts and uncles, grandparents, babies and toddlers with no naps, plus an overwhelming list of possibilities, and a husband who has an opinion too, you just have to prioritize. This is school. But this is also life. They are the same thing. So missing out on a report here or there doesn’t have to mean missing out on learning and becoming educated.

What did we do? Glad you asked.

We hiked in the desert. In a dried up riverbed to be exact. We saw a jackrabbit, lizards, and a huge yellow butterfly landed on my daughter’s shoe. We experienced outside like never before – red rock, hot sand, and sage brush. And we spent quality time with each other and with grandma and grandpa.

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We visited the Jacob Hamblin home. Jacob Hamblin was instrumental in keeping peaceful relations between the Native Americans and the Pioneers moving west. He was honored, respected, and trusted by everyone there. We would all do well to strive to be a little more like Jacob Hamblin – faithful, trustworthy, loyal, and fair. Touring his home gave us a great glimpse of early Utah settlers down in Utah’s Dixie. The tour was short but very educational. I would consider it a springboard tour for more book learning ahead (aka bio report for older children.)

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We visited the St. George Temple. This historic building meant so much to those early Mormon settlers. The dedication and sacrifice that have gone into that building are remarkable. You can’t very well learn about Utah history without learning about the Mormon settlers. (We didn’t go to Brigham Young’s winter house or the Relief Society House in Santa Clara because we didn’t have enough time or energy in all those little feet, but there is always next time. I was especially interested in the Relief Society house!)


We spent some time hiking in Snow Canyon. I’ve been to Zion’s a number of times, but this was my first time at this park. We saw pioneer names written into the rock with axle grease years and years ago. That was very interesting. We we climbed over and between and among big boulders and cacti. It was warm and beautiful. Just a fun time to be outside seeing things we haven’t seen before.

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On our way back (we were only there for 48 hours and we had to sleep twice!) we stopped at Cove Fort and took the tour given by the cutest missionary you’ve ever seen. She was so great with the kids, pointing out all the different tools, technology, instruments, and practices of Ira Hinckley and his family – and guests – who lived in the fort. This tour was a little long (for little people, I mean) but fascinating! We saw real old Navajo blankets. We saw a real buffalo hide. We learned about the telegraph system and morse code. We learned about pioneer ingenuity – from blankets to clothes to woven rugs to ashes to soap. We learned about generosity and hospitality. We learned to not “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and that “pop goes the weasel” and how to “sleep tight, don’t let the  bed bugs bite!” It is an excellent historic site.

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And we made it back home again. Like I said, we aren’t writing any reports or anything this time. But when the kids started getting too rambunctious in the backseat (aka annoying) my husband started getting them talking and remembering: “Tell me 5 things you saw at Cove Fort that you had never seen before,” “Which was your favorite room in the fort? Why?” “Would you rather live at Cove Fort or at the Hamblin Home? Why?” and so forth. When your kids are trained to listen and learn they actually do listen and learn. My personal feeling is that if you are doing it right, homeschooling facilitates curiosity and a desire to know and understand, not just in children but in the adults too.

And you know it was a good vacation when your little one starts crying as soon as you pull up to the driveway, “No! I don’t want to be home yet!” (even though 2 hours ago in the car he was crying like THIS!) Next stop – This is the Place Heritage Park!