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.     

Together, Ireland and the science program laid the groundwork for my approach to homeschool field trips within a unit: the sandwich approach. If one slice of bread is the pre-field trip research and the other slice of bread is the post-field trip summary, then the field trip experience is the meat.

Bunker Hillwas where I instituted my sandwich approach. Our family went on an American history tour for three weeks in the early 1990s, and our van was ankle deep in library books and National Geographic magazines. I had researched what we would see at the top of Bunker Hill, but before we could get out of the van to experience the fabulous diorama, I wanted to make sure the kids knew what breastwork the colonists built, how Col. John Stark was defending the beach from being flanked by the British, how many assaults the Redcoats made, how Abigail Adams watched the battle from a rooftop with son John, and how Dr. Joseph Warren died that day. As I explained and read, the van began to fog up. Jason, my oldest, wrote, “Help!” in the fogged up window. Okay . . . I may have over done the research slice of bread!

Preparation Yields Appreciation

Once atop the hill, my older kids were on their own, but I kept my 5-year-old close to me reviewing the diorama. A lady approached me and explained that her daughter had a Bunker Hillpaper due tomorrow and would I please talk to her daughter like I was talking to my son? At that moment my oldest appeared and informed the lady that we were a homeschooling family and I was his mother and that I wrote KONOS curriculum and had taught all my sons this information, etc. Wait . . . was this the same son who had just written “Help!” on the car window? Amazingly, preparation prior to a field trip has repeatedly yielded appreciation. As we were studying Honor/China in our homeschool, the Lord sent an exhibition of Chinese craftsmen to five American cities, and Dallas was one of those cities. Because our children had done batiks that had been miserable failures, the kids were blown away by the batik lady’s work when we visited the exhibition. Despite the language barrier, she understood their appreciation of her skill through their hand signs!

Preparation Enriches Experience

Because my high school students had read The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall, they not only appreciated his signing their books on my American history tour, but they also could carry on an intelligent conversation with him at a Plimoth Plantation dinner. Preparation enriched conversations with Holocaust survivors as well as with 9-11 first responders, the New York firemen of Ladder 1. A tone of awe and respect transferred from kids to those revered, through thoughtful questions asked and words of appreciation spoken.

Preparation places kids in the skin of those they meet and allows students to express gratitude and respect that enriches not only the field trip but also the life of the giver and the life of the receiver. So . . . don’t forget the sandwich!

Jessica Hulcy, co-author of KONOS Curriculum, the first curriculum written for homeschool, is an educator, author, and formerly popular national homeschool speaker prior to her near-fatal wreck in 2009. A graduate of the University of Texas, mom to four grown sons, and “Grandear” to grandchildren, Jessica lives with her husband Wade on acreage in Texas. Recently Jessica and Wade started the ultimate online help for homeschooling moms called Homeschool Mentor. Visit  and .

Copyright 2012, used with permission.  All rights reserved by author.  Originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine.  Read the magazine free at or read it on the go and download the free apps at to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

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