By Jessica Hulcy
As a high school junior, I was a foreign exchange student to Northern Ireland, experiencing the ultimate field trip by living in Ireland. My Irish father was a butcher raising cattle, so this city girl learned to drive a tractor, pitch hay bales, and tend cattle. I was the first female ever to want to visit the slaughterhouse. I learned about socialized medicine and witnessed the Catholic/Protestant conflict that dated back centuries. I baked tea cakes once a week with my Irish mother on a cast-iron stove. I traveled to Scotland with my Irish father and brothers to buy the smallest car I had ever seen. I learned Irish songs and dances. My Irish grandfather took me to climb the Giant’s Causeway, a geological wonder . . . and the entire family and friends watched me water ski in the North Atlantic in a wetsuit, thinking this Texan would love it. All I could think about was Jaws! What an incredible, unforgettable, living unit on Northern Ireland.
The Sandwich Approach to Field Trips
Fast forward: When I first began homeschooling, I remember a homeschool mother telling me how wonderful it was to go on field trip after field trip, seeing sight after sight. I grimaced. Why? Hadn’t I loved my Irish experience? Why the grimace? Then I began to remember my fresh-out-of-college, public school teaching days when I piloted a hands-on science program that taught children strictly through experimentation—with no lectures. What I thought I would love, I hated, until I realized what the program was lacking . . . wrap-up or summary. The science program was very different from my Irish experience. Pre-Ireland, I read about the country extensively, and then I had plenty of wrap-up through journaling and speaking engagements post-Ireland. Read more →