Creating a System for Adventure: Building a Master Calendar

by ChristinaPilkington on January 7, 2012 · 11 comments

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In my last post, I talked about how to create a master list of places you might want to visit with your family this coming year.

It’s really important to create a link for each place you list. This way as you go through the list, you can just click on each link and be taken directly to the website.

 Step #2 Listing Dates & Places on a Master Calendar

 Those of you who read this blog regularly probably think the above step is a little contradictory since I recently wrote a post about Effortless Learning and how not to have fixed plans.

However, I use my calendar mostly as a suggestion board.

I like to have a visual layout of all my possibilities, so we can pick and choose those things that interest us at the time and go along with our mood for the day or week.

So, the first thing I do is go down my list, clicking on each link and noting several things:

  • If the place has opportunities for group tours, or labs, classes or workshops
  • Any special events that take place over the year
  • Any exhibits that look interesting, noting the beginning and ending dates
  • If there are any free dates during the year

Group Trips

 I want to talk specifically about group trips for a minute. I personally find that I like to go by myself and the kids alone or occasionally take a grandma with when we visit places. I like having conversations with the kids and having them open to asking questions. I find the bigger the group the less likely we are to do this.

Here’s a good example: we went to a nature class at a historical center.  For the most part the kids had fun. There was a skunk there they could pet and they learned a lot. They had lots of questions. Their hands were up a lot of the time, but the people in charge didn’t answer even half their questions. I guess they felt they needed to get through their  pre-planned talk – that it was more important than answering the kids’ questions (although my kids were asking a whole lot more questions than anyone else).

So, I think it’s best to go on as many mini-adventures as possible with just your family. But, there are some things that just won’t happen unless you’re in a group. Some places will only give behind-the-scenes tours and provide access to certain people unless you’re with a group. So it can be valuable to plan “field trips” with other homeschooled students.

Here are some examples of fun group adventures we’re thinking about for this year to give you some ideas:

  • a Stories in Art program at the Art Institute
  • an Old Times Farm program at the Elk Grove Historical Society
  • a learning lab called Animals in Action at the Shedd Aquarium
  • a Planet Explorers lab program called Spacesuit Engineers at the Adler Planetarium
  • an ice cream shop tour where you can make your own ice cream

These are just a few things we’re thinking about for this year.  I don’t like to have a lot of things that we commit to during the year because I like to be as flexible as possible.

When you look into planning group activities, here are some things to keep in mind:

1.  It’s best to set up the trip for a few months in advance. Most places require this anyways, but it’s good to give people enough time to get money to you.  You have to decide if you want to collect money before the day, or are comfortable collecting it the day of the trip.

2. Ask the place you’re visiting what is the least amount of kids that you can bring on the trip. Then I would stick to that number. With a smaller number, the all the kids will have more time to ask questions and participate in the activities. But sometimes, if the trip is expensive and a larger group will significantly lower the cost, it might be better to have a larger group. This is good, for example, when watching a performance.

3. Ask about parking, what is best to bring with, how early to get to the place, refund policies and any material that might be fun to look at before you go. Then write this up in an e-mail you can send to others in your group that are going.

Planning your Family Trips

 After I’ve checked a place for group possibilities, I note any special events that might take place over the year and write them on my calendar.

I love using Google Calendars for this. I have a Master Planning Google Calendar for places we’d like to go to and things we like to try someday. Then if we make a decision and decide we want to go somewhere, I switch the date over to my more permanent Google calendar. That calendar is still very flexible, and we wind up switching dates, not doing things, or adding things at the last minute.

In notes on the Master List next to each place, I also jot down exhibits or special programs that look interesting but take place over a longer time period and don’t have one date attached to them. For example, there was a whale exhibit we wanted to see last year that was up from June-December. This way each month (which I’ll talk about in more detail in the next post), I can look over each place quickly to see if there’s something going on that month we might like to do.

Finally, I have another Word document list where I list all the free days for each place.

Making your master list and then listing all these dates will probably take some time, especially if you have a long list of places you’d like to visit, or to keep track of special events taking place. But if you put in the time to do this, than each month finding new things to do or places to visit will be easy and take no time at all.

In the next post, I’ll share how I do my monthly and weekly planning for our adventures and trips.

 Photo Credit: Ben Pike

How do you keep track with all the places you’d like to visit and adventures you’d like to have?

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