Planning the Homeschool Year: Field Trip Fun, Part I

School-PlanningIt’s back to school season! While we don’t have to be on the curb at the crack of dawn or make sure our children have their lunch money, we do need to plan out our coming year of homeschooling. Let’s get started!

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Who doesn’t like a good field trip? There’s nothing quite like fresh air, a change of scenery, and a little exercise to rejuvenate your learning routine. While field trips can be a lot of fun, they can quickly turn into a frustrating mess when not planned properly.

The first step to getting out the door, is knowing where you’re going so you can plan accordingly. How does one find great locations for those nature walks you’ve dreamed of? Which local museums offer free days or homeschool discounts? Might there be more to explore than meets the eye?

Our family is always on the go, looking for new places to discover and explore. Some we’ve found completely on our own, while others have been passed on to us from family and friends. Here are a few of our favorite field trip resources:

Field Trip Guides

Field Trip Factory
Crosswalk
Homeschool Buyers Co-op
Online College

Nature Walk Guides

Storm the Castle
Bringing up Learners
Hands On As We Grow

For California Residents (like us)

The California Geotour
SoCal Pocket Memories
SoCal Field Trips

If I had it my way we’d go on one field trip a week, at least. Unfortunately, life does get a little busy, preventing us from taking as many trips as I would like. However, my goal is at least one a month, with a nature walk once a month as well.

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With a little research and a dose of planning, field trips can be stress-free and tons of fun! We highly encourage changing up the routine on occasion and getting your family out the door for some ‘in the field’ training. You never know what you might discover and learn!

For additional field trip tips see ‘Getting the Most Out of Field Trips‘; a series we ran a few years ago to help with this aspect of our homeschooling routine. We humbly offer up our tips for stress-free planning, establishing a field trip routine, helps for getting out the door on time, and more!

🔔Time to Chime In: Is there one field trip (or location) that stands out as a family favorite? Share it with us; we’d love to hear all about it!

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Summer School: Field Trip Fun

Thinking back on my own childhood education, I can count on one hand how many field trips we went on. Once we got into high school, field trips stopped altogether. One great aspect to homeschooling, that both my husband and I love, is visiting all the places we never had an opportunity to see before. We have been on more field trips than I can recall. In fact, sometimes we wonder why homeschooling is called just that. We are always on the go!

Visiting the Butterfly sanctuary in Monterey

Visiting the Butterfly sanctuary in Monterey

No matter what area of the country you are in, there is always something worth taking a look at and exploring. A simple Google search can help you narrow down your choices and point you in the direction you are looking for. From museums, to galleries, to amusement parks; there is always something worth taking a look at.

If searching on the web isn’t your style, try Field Trip Factory. This website has put together an extensive search of possible field trips, they also help you book your tickets and plan the whole trip.

 

IMG_7604Going on field trips can often be a bit pricey. In order to conserve funds, make sure to research the site to see if they offer a Free Day. Most museums and galleries offer one, and others offer group discounts. If you are in Southern California, Discover Los Angeles has created a wonderful calendar to help you take advantage of their free or discounted days. You can view the website HERE.

Believe it or not, Disneyland is even getting in on the bandwagon. As part of Disney’s Youth Education Series, students can learn physics, production arts and sciences, ocean discoveries and more, all while in the park. Astonishingly, their prices are pretty reasonable and the field trips very extensive. For an additional amount, but still very reasonable, you can spend the remainder of the day in the park. The best part: the field trip, plus the extra time in the park are still less than a normal day’s ticket!

Our homeschool ISP has two awesome coordinators who handle most of our field trips IMG_7677during the school year, but come summer we are on our own. I usually try to do one field trip a week, making the most of our time and creating memories with our kids. It is nice to know that there are a variety of ways to go about searching for them and that I don’t need to go broke doing it.

I hope you have fun this summer. Whether it’s galleries, museums, Disneyland, or a park you’ve never been to; take these moments to create some great memories. Get out and explore; you won’t regret it!

Getting the Most Out of Field Trips, Part V: Take Cues

Who doesn’t like a good field trip? There’s nothing quite like fresh air, a change of scenery, and a little exercise to rejuvenate your learning routine. While field trips can be a lot of fun, they will quickly turn into a frustrating mess when not planned properly. Join us as we share tips on how to make the most of any field trip and explore ideas for a smoother day.

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Field-TripsYou’ve finally arrived! All your hard work has paid off and you are busy exploring your field trip destination. One might think this is the end of the line; your job is done. However, there are a few more things we might want to consider.

How Are The Kids Doing? – It would be great to think everyone is having a good time, but is that really so? While we are exploring our venue, I want to keep tabs on all my kiddos and make sure they are getting the most out of this excursion.

Is it Time For a Break? – Somewhere amidst all our fun, we might need to take an occasional break for the kids to let off a little steam or run off that excess energy. Staying quiet, listening carefully, or sitting still can be quite taxing; we want to make sure we’re taking breaks to also be a little active, if possible.

Is it Time For a Snack? – Exploring is hard work! Make sure to take occasional breaks to refresh your body and nourish the tummy. If the kiddos are getting a little testy, it might be time to have a snack.

What Do the Kids Want to Do? – ACF made an excellent point the other day! While on your trip, keep the kids involved by finding out what they would like to see. Perhaps there might be a special exhibit, a piece of artwork, a kids’ zone, or the gift shop the children might like to make a point of visiting. Try to work these into your day. Adding these stops helps everyone feel involved and contributes to the fun.

California Science Center

Take cues from your group. There is little point in pushing through a field trip if no one is enjoying themselves and very little learning is being accomplished. Even the best planned event sometimes needs a little revamping. Be prepared and willing to flex with the situation, using the change to the benefit of all.

Think we’ve covered everything? Nope! There is one more important reminder for all of us. Can you guess what it might be?

Getting the Most Out of Field Trips, Part III: Routine

Who doesn’t like a good field trip? There’s nothing quite like fresh air, a change of scenery, and a little exercise to rejuvenate your learning routine. While field trips can be a lot of fun, they will quickly turn into a frustrating mess when not planned properly. Join us as we share tips on how to make the most of any field trip and explore ideas for a smoother day.

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Field-TripsIt’s nice when everyone is on the same page, isn’t it? Everyone has an idea of what the set goals are, what the time-table looks like, and what is expected. This is true of most organized events; field trips are no different.

Know Your Plan – If you are attempting to be at your venue by a certain time of day, it helps to have a game plan. Pencil out a tentative itinerary to help keep you on track. Knowing what time your trip is scheduled for (e.g. eleven in the morning), estimate your drive time and plan a time to leave your house; continue working backwards from this point. (For example: Our trip starts at eleven; the drive time is one hour, so we need to leave at ten. However, I know it takes my kids fifteen minutes to get themselves in the car; so, we need to get in the car at 9:45. It takes my kiddos an hour to be up, dressed, fed, and ready to walk out the door; so, they need to be up and awake by at least 8:30 in the morning. I usually get up before them; I will need to be up and awake by 7:30.) Knowing our tentative plan for the day helps eliminate stress.
One additional thought: If others are joining in, add an extra half hour to your plan. Leave plenty of time to meet, expecting people to be a little late, and hand out directions before actually getting on the road. To doubly ensure you are ahead of schedule, throw an extra fifteen minutes into your plan, somewhere along the line. This way, if you happen to run a little late, it’s no big deal.

Share Your Plan – A plan has little chance of success if you are the only one in on it. Let your family, and all others who plan on attending, know the game plan . They don’t need all the details, but a general outline will help them understand your plan of attack and ensure they know what time they need to be ready to walk out the door or at the meeting point. The night before a trip, I usually let my kiddos know what time they will be waking up and what time we are walking out the door. This eliminates constant reminders from me, they are given a wakeup call and they know our family plan. We work as a team to meet our goal.

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Stick to Your Plan – As much as possible, stick to your plan of attack. If things go a little awry, just take a deep breath and keep moving forward. Remember, you planned those extra fifteen minutes and perhaps you can make up for lost time along the way, with a little help from the family.

There’s no accounting for little mishaps on busy mornings, but having a tentative plan for your day will help everyone stay on track and prevent unwanted stress. Your routine doesn’t need to be set in stone, but penciling it out doesn’t hurt either.

Do you usually have a plan for field trip days?

Getting the Most out of Field Trips, Part II: Preparation

Who doesn’t like a good field trip? There’s nothing quite like fresh air, a change of scenery, and a little exercise to rejuvenate your learning routine. While field trips can be a lot of fun, they will quickly turn into a frustrating mess when not planned properly. Join us as we share tips on how to make the most of any field trip and explore ideas for a smoother day.

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Field-TripsHow often have you jumped in your car, ready for a day of fun, only to realize you now need to stop to fill you gas tank? Oh, and by the way, you might need to stop at the ATM for a little cash, too! These last-minute remembrances can put a damper on your outing and put you further behind. A well prepared plan eliminates last-minute changes and helps getting out the door run smoothly.

Homework – Depending on the nature of the field trip, we sometimes like to do a little homework before attending. If, for example, we are studying early Renaissance and plan to attend a museum showing of stained glass windows, we might choose to do a few activities at home which will reinforce this. We might do a few art projects, watch a few films, or read a few books. The field trip itself will be the icing on the cake.

Print Shop – If little kids are going to be joining our trip, we often try to have printable activity sheets relating to our expedition ready and available. Sometimes there are Bingo games with items they cross off as we walk the exhibits, often there are drawing exercises for them to create, or hidden items they are to look for while we explore. Fo the bigger kids, there might be questionnaires which need to be completed as they read pertinent information or sketches to be drawn. Anything which might keep them engaged and participating in the event is welcome.
One additional thought: If this is a group trip, make sure to have directions and a map printed for all those attending. This will eliminate having to give verbal directions and prevent others from getting lost.

Packing – The day before any event, we make sure to gather all items we might need for the following day. Mom makes a list of snack items and puts them all in one spot; making it easier to scoop them all up and be out the door the next day. The kiddos are advised of how long our drive will be so they can pack their own small bag of entertainment items, such as books, coloring pages, and more. Little to no packing should need to be done on the morning of our field trip; this prevents last-minute forgetfulness and added stress.

Money Run – Added errands on the morning of a field trip can be frustrating for everyone. To eliminate this problem, we make any bank runs the day before. If possible, we highly recommend this step.

Packing Preparation

Fill Up – As with the money run, if our gas tank needs a fill, we do this the night before our outing. This is especially helpful for those early morning trips, when things often run a little late or when meeting up with others. I don’t know how many times we’ve met up with others for a trip, only to have half of our party leave to get gas! This is very frustrating for all involved and adds stress to the event.

Get Some Sleep – This the hardest preparation of all, I believe. There is no accounting for our internal clocks and excitement usually doesn’t help. Some kids have an especially hard time sleeping when they know they are going somewhere fun the next day. I often have a hard time sleeping when I know I have to be up at a certain time. Do your best though, to get a solid night of rest. Your body and your mind will thank you when doing all that driving and running around the next day!

By doing most, if not all, of your preparation the night before an event, your field trip will run much smoother. Now, to stay on schedule….

Which preparatory step do you find most essential for any field trip?

A Red Letter Day

Today was a full day of adventure in our household. We had two field trips and some shopping fun!

Our homeschool group decided to split into separate groups for a dual trip; the younger kids heading into the LA library and the older ones to the LA Times.

LA Times #1

The big kids had an adventurous morning exploring the LA Times.

LA Times #2

A linotype on display.

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Copies of previous editions of the paper.

LA Times #4

My oldest gal having a great time. (One mommy joked that this field trip was just for her.)

LA Times #5

Old photography paraphernalia on display.

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Darrell, the tour guide. He was fantastic!

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The outside of the Times building.

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A water powered printing press.

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The printing floor of the Times.

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In the lobby of the print building, are these neat statues. We couldn’t walk away without taking some fun pictures!

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One of our mommies having fun.

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The first paper printed at the LA Times (well, a reproduction anyway).

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The paper room; it holds enough for two and a half, perhaps three, months worth of paper.

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Learning about paper weight and the amounts of paper on each roll.

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This ought to give you an idea of how high and how big these stacks of paper are. They each way approximately 1500 lbs.

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The printing presses.

LA Times #18

This is the room where the plates are made for each day’s printing.

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Processing the plates takes precision and time.

LA Times #20

The processing room, where the papers are checked (right off the line) and then put together.

LA Times #21

Uncle Sam helping out with some handy printing.

LA Times #22

Darrell and our gang, as the day was ending.

LA Library #1

The littler kids spent some time at the library. This has got to be one of the largest libraries I have ever seen! There are seven stories in all.

LA Library #2

The children’s section reception desk.

LA Library #3

The picture book section of the library; JUST the picture book section. This does not even begin to cover the non-fiction, fiction, reference, or board books. WOW!!!

LA Library #4

My middle girlie having a good read.

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It seems no matter which library we are in, this book must be found and read. So, here we go!

Our day was definitely full. We met up with our friends at nine this morning and didn’t actually finish our tour until about three.

Afterwards, my girls decided they needed to see the library where their brother had spent part of his morning, so back we went; they were amazed and delighted. It took quite a bit of cajoling to get them out the door. (Which turned into a fiasco in-and-of itself! The parking structure system is hideous!)

While it might seem like this should be end of our day, it wasn’t over yet. We had another side trip to make on Olvera Street.

For those who haven’t read American Girl books before, it seems all the characters are turning ten in the books; one book out of each set is dedicated to their birthdays alone. My daughters are huge AG fans.

When my oldest girl turned ten, we treated her to a day at the LA American Girl store, lunch and all. To top off the day, we bought her the outfit which matched her favorite character, Kit Kittredge.

My second little lady is turning ten in another thirteen days! Unfortunately, AG does not sell an outfit for her favorite character, Josefina. Thus… a trip to Olvera Street was in order. Olvera Street (for those who have probably never heard of it) contains a plethora of all things Mexican. Josefina is a Mexican-American character and we knew we would find the perfect outfit right here.

Sure enough we did! She looks absolutely adorable! The outfit fits her beautifully, closely matches the character in the book, will last for quite some time, and was extremely affordable. (I will post pictures of her, in all her cuteness, on her actually birthday.)

Whew!

After ALL this fun, it was most definitely time to return home and get some much deserved rest.

After sitting in loads of traffic, we are finally here. The kiddos and I are relaxing with some tube while the man gets forty winks. After a good meal and some rest, I might just be ready to tackle what looks like another extremely full day tomorrow.

Wish me luck!

Exodus Steps

In order to better help our children understand the Passover, we thought a trip to a very special, local museum might be in order. In the heart of L.A. lies one of the most remarkable places you will ever visit; the Skirball Cultural Center.

Hailed by The New York Times as “a lesson on how to connect the eye to heart and mind,” the Skirball Cultural Center has established itself as one of the world’s most dynamic Jewish cultural institutions, and among the leading cultural venues in Los Angeles. Its mission is to explore the connections between four thousand years of Jewish heritage and the vitality of American democratic ideals. It seeks to welcome and inspire people of every ethnic and cultural identity in American life. Guided by our respective memories and experiences, together we aim to build a society in which all of us can feel at home. – SCC

 

While we have visited this museum on a number of occasions, a new exhibit prompted our visit yesterday… Exodus Steps.

Exodus Steps is unlike any exhibit we have experienced before. There we were able to, “Follow a colorful trail of vinyl footprints, handprints, text bubbles, and artwork across campus in order to re-enact the journey of the biblical Jews from slavery in Egypt towards freedom in the Promised Land…. Riffing off teach-yourself-to-dance floor mats, Exodus Steps is a theater piece entirely performed by you—a fresh, family friendly way to retell the gripping and time-honored Passover story.”

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A portion of the “Visions and Values…” core exhibit. Here we are able to learn more about Jewish culture and history.

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A reproduction of the priest’s podium in the synagogue.

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Several copies of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible).

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A portion of the Torah, with the instrument used for reading the Word of God. It also taught us how the priests made ink for the writing of the Word.

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Hebrew school; our children were able to sit at a table and spend some time learning as Jewish children might.

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My little man trying on traditional clothing of Jewish young men.

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The Exodus Steps begin at the front entrance of the Skirball and walk you through almost every exhibit. Let’s begin!

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These word bubbles lead you throughout the center, telling you the story of Exodus and Passover; engaging you in the fun.

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A portion of the Exodus Steps takes you out-of-doors to the Rainbow Garden. So far, we were having a blast and met a few new people along the way.

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Part of the Exodus Steps leads you to archeological dig (reproduction) sites. Here you learn about ancient Persia and Mesopotamia.

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Here we were able to learn the alphabet in four different ancient languages. Lots of fun!

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Learning how to weave fabric, as women of old would have done.

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Creating works of art, using recycled materials and plants, in the Craft Room. This hands-on area helped the kids learn a little more about spring and the many ways we can reuse the materials around us to create something beautiful.

Unfortunately, we were unable to see the final exhibit at the Skirball, Noah’s Art. It seems that because it is vacation time around this neck of the woods, tickets for the exhibit were gone.

(This was especially frustrating for mommy, since I had been on the phone for several days with the museum attempting to get tickets. Oh, well!)

We have seen Noah’s Ark before though. It is an outstanding hands-on exhibit for children, which helps them gain a better understand of the flood experience. Every time we visit this museum we make a point of stopping in. I suppose missing it one time isn’t that big a deal.

All-in-all, the afternoon was an enjoyable one. We visited some favorite spots and learned some new things. Most of all, we walked away with a greater appreciation for what the upcoming holiday is all about.

Gazing at the Stars

For most homeschoolers, learning never stops and it certainly isn’t contained in the home. Our family is no different, a great deal of learning is accomplished “in the field”. This past Saturday, our family invited another to join us on our adventure to the Griffith Observatory to take in the sights and wonders of God’s creation.

The Planets AlignFor those who have never been, Griffith is a wondrous place filled with something to learn at every stop. Should you ever hit the west coast, you might want to make a point of stopping in.

On Griffith’s first floor, you are free to examine the history of science’s exploration of space, take a look at the sun through a special red lens, learn more about stars, and discover which elements compose the celestial bodies.

While you’re there, you might wish to purchase a ticket to the planetarium. (We keep saying we’ll do this, but it never seems to work out. Unfortunately, little kids are discouraged from the later shows and we hardly ever seem to arrive before noon. One day, though!)

On the basement level, you can catch a glimpse of life on each planet! With stations for each, not only can you watch special films to help you learn more, but you can weigh yourself as well. Griffith went the extra mile with scale recreations of each planet, helping give visitors a visual guide to how they compare. Exploring Planets

In the center of the basement level is a “drum”, which represents the sun. Inside the drum, is the Leonard Nimoy Theatre which currently houses a film on the expansion of the Observatory. Our visit would not be complete without a quick viewing of this informative movie.

On Griffith’s top-level is the best view in town, a first class look at the moon. With two high-powered telescopes in operation, looking up at the night sky has never been so beautiful.

Our family chose this past weekend in particular as a wrap up to a unit study on the solar system. We especially chose Saturday because it coincided with a star party Griffith was hosting.

We weren’t sure what to expect, but we weren’t disappointed. Volunteers from all over So Cal showed, with telescopes of various magnitudes. We were able to not only see the sun (during the day, obviously) through an eclipse lens, but also through a red lens. In the evening, we spotted Saturn and Venus with four of its moons.

Planetarium MachineThere was a small possibility we might spot a comet flying over that night, but unfortunately it was too overcast, due to a late-night cloud bank, and the cold weather had us leaving before its arrival.

The afternoon and evening were very fun. The observatory is always a good time, but having some friends along and being able to test several telescopes were the cherries on top!

Perhaps we’ll revisit Griffith sometime over the summer and show up extra early. Then, not only will we get to see the planetarium, but we might be able to hike some of the nature trails as well!Milky Way

Is there an observatory in your town? Which exhibit do you like best?

Calico Ghost Town

Our homeschool support group decided to take a long trek into the desert and visit the Calico Ghost Town. It seems a Civil War Reenactment was taking place, so it was the perfect time to visit.

The family headed out into the wilderness for an afternoon of fun, joined by my mother and our awesome support group.

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Aren’t these little things cute? They are socks turned into little coin purses for kids! Going to have to add this to the list of “to do’s” for the summer!

Calico Ghost Town 5 Calico Ghost Town 4 Calico Ghost Town 3 Calico Ghost Town 2

This trip was a long drive, but it was a fun adventure for the family. We had never visited Calico before and it was fun to learn some of the history of our state.

I find it amazing how the Lord works out even the smallest details. I plan out our year according to His leading, but I have no control over our support group’s field trips. He orchestrated this event so well, it came at the end of a unit study on rock classification. It was perfect timing to visit a mine and get some hands on experience. “T” has just finished up a geography unit on states which took part in the Civil War.

This field trip was definitely a blessing on all counts! We were able to touch some of the geodes we had just been learning about, take a tour through a mining town, learn some state history, AND learn more about the Civil War.

I call this a highly successful homeschooling day and a wonderful family adventure.

Bethlehem Marketplace

There is nothing quite like hands on participation to teach kids history. Tonight, we took a tour of Bethlehem without ever having to leave the state. Not only did we travel to another country, we traveled to another time.

Just for tonight it wasn’t the twenty-first century, it was the beginning of a new era. An event was about to change the course of the world and we had the privilege of being present.

On our tour of Bethlehem we were able to sample the wares of various merchants and “purchase” mementos of our trip. (The kids are actually given fake shekels which they are allowed to use in order to purchase small items at the bizarre.)

Throughout our trip, we had to beware of soldiers, tax collectors, and thieves. We made our way through the town and began to follow a brilliant star in the sky, which led us to a tiny manger and the birth of a baby king.

Vegetable Sellar

This booth at Bethlehem Marketplace gave samples of vegetables for the kids.

Fish Seller

One of the merchant booths was selling fish.

The Three Kings

Here is the tent in which the three kings sought repose. The kings were very generous in helping us obtain a gift to offer the newborn baby king who was being born. 

Papyrus Maker

One of the merchants allowed the children to help them make papyrus. It is a long process, but the children loved learning.

"Wine" Maker

The children were able to watch someone make “wine” and sample some of the fruits of the worker’s labor.

Sea Salt

The children were able to see salt in all its various forms.

Music Merchant

The kids learned about various instruments the Israelites would have used and helped play a tune.

Scribe

The children were able to have something written on parchment with a quill. (This wasn’t quite as impressive as in previous years when it was actually written in Hebrew, but still fun to participate in.)

Our Names

A closeup of the scribe.

Basketweaver

This booth offered tiny baskets the children could purchase.

Leather Merchant

Here the children learn about tanning leather and are able to purchase small drawstring bags with their “shekels”.

Great Grains

Here the children were able to sample nuts, grains, and lentils from the grain merchant.

Baby Jesus

The last stop during our tour of Bethlehem was the stable where the baby Jesus had been born. We had been following the star during our journey and it was special to finally reach the stable and offer our gifts to the newborn king.

Bell Players

Outside the marketplace, these wonderful players charmed us all with their marvelous playing.

 

Visiting the Bethlehem Marketplace is always a special part of our Christmas season and an important part of our homeschooling year. Our children always love this event and learn so much.

Has your family ever attended a living nativity?