Explorer Field Trips – A Charter Family’s Dream Come True

Charter School families, this news is HUGE!

I’m a mom of three and my oldest just started kindergarten this year. In her reminder to families about end-of-year funding utilization, our Education Specialist (ES) was good enough to let us know about a new vender on our school’s Approved Vendor List, Explorer Field Trips.

Explorer Field Trips Logo

Note: Taylor of All Trades does not have an affiliation with Explorer Field Trips and is not being paid to advertise for them. 

Here’s how it works:

  • If Explorer Field Trips is an approved vendor with your charter school (which can be arranged if they are not already), you take a look at their website to determine which field trip you’d like your child(ren) to attend. They have so, so many options, ranging from theme parks to museums to fairs to discovery centers (here is a quick snapshot of a small number of field trips offered by Explorer Field Trips, but they offer so many more and can create custom field trips upon request)…

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  • Once you determine how much your trip will cost based on the field trip you would like to take (and how many vouchers you will need), you submit a Purchase Order to your charter school and they will process payment to Explorer Field Trips. It took roughly two weeks from the time I submitted my PO to my ES for me to receive my Voucher e-mail from Explorer Field Trips.
  • When Explorer Field Trips receives funding for your child(ren) from your charter school, they will send you an e-mail with specific instructions about how to redeem your vouchers as well as a link to the printable Field Trip Guide your child(ren) will complete during the trip. Each Field Trip guide includes prompts for the four core learning categories: Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies – the Physical Education requirement is also present in most of these field trips because of the high level of activity involved in the children experiencing everything there is for them to see and do (here’s a snapshot of one of the Disneyland pages…screen-shot-2018-04-20-at-10-53-32-am.png
  • One you receive the e-mail from Explorer Field Trips, you will follow the Voucher Redemption Link provided in the e-mail and they will get digital tickets to you within a few days if they are able to. If they are required to receive actual tickets from the participating venue, they will get those printed tickets to you within two weeks. They do suggest that you request your tickets at least two weeks before your intended trip date(s) to avoid any issues receiving your tickets in time.
  • While on the field trip, your child(ren) will complete the Field Trip Guide and you will submit it to your ES as a sample at your next meeting. Explorer Field Trips may also require you to submit receipts for their wrap-up, so please confirm with them via e-mail inquiry (rachel@explorerfieldtrips.com). They have a lightening fast response time, so don’t hesitate to submit any questions you may have at any time!
  • One last note: All charter schools will have their own set of limitations for things like this. For instance, our charter school will only approve one theme park field trip per student per semester and there is a cap on the amount they will approve for each child, so you couldn’t request a month-long trip to Disney World or anything like that.  Our charter also does not approve any trips involving transportation by boat. It will be best for you to check with your ES about your charter’s parameters for these trips to avoid any issues down the road.

Otherwise, that’s it! I cannot tell you how thrilling this is for our family! I am blessed to have been introduced to my charter by my sister so we are already planning family field trips through Explorer Field Trips and the kids are over the moon about it!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

Homeschooling Basics: A Simple Curriculum Plan for the First Year

Homeschooling Basics2017 was a year of firsts for me. One of those firsts was becoming a homeschooling mother. My sweet girl started school for the first time when we were in the thick of my dad’s hospitalization. He had his first of nine strokes at the beginning of July and it would turn out to be a very long road to recovery for all of us, a road we’re still on and will continue to be on until God calls Papa home.

Now, I’m a planner. I do NOT function well without a written plan in place. When Dad had his strokes, I hadn’t yet begun planning our school year because two months seemed like plenty enough time to get that job done before we started school in September. But life is rarely as tidy as we would like it to be and I wasn’t the kind of teacher I’d envisioned.

It was heartbreaking, really.

For the first two months we hit all of the topics we were supposed to, but Evie’s curriculum was haphazard, disorganized, and topically chaotic. I knew she was learning, but there wasn’t the kind of coherence and order I knew we both needed.

That didn’t last forever, though, and once I finally had the chance to sit down and really think through what we needed to do, I was able to plan out a Kindergarten curriculum that has been working very well for us. It isn’t perfect, but our charter is great at providing all the information we need to succeed, our Education Specialist is a dream, and we have been able to access many of our curriculum books for free through our charter’s resource center.

Depending on which charter you use, you are required to provide samples of coursework from four or five content areas which are based on your state’s content standards for elementary education. Our charter requires Evie to receive instruction in all five content areas — Language Arts, History (Social Studies), Math, Science, and Physical Education — but many charters do not require instruction in PE. We are also required to submit samples for any extracurricular instruction that Evie receives if it has been funded by our charter.

I have been blessed to have an older sister to walk me through pretty much every step of our homeschool journey and I chose our charter specifically because she has had such a positive experience with them. I have also used most of her suggestions regarding  curriculum selections and have found them to work extremely well for Evie. It’s also a bonus that Evie and her cousins are using the same curriculum because having schooling in common is something they excitedly discuss when they see the same books in each others’ homes.

Once I was able to, I created a learning plan (excel spreadsheet) for Evie that spans her first year of school. It includes core curriculum selections as well as her learning path across the four basic learning areas and a list of all our meetings with her ES. Her PE curriculum is not included in this list because it is constructed mainly of local sports team  participation, park play, and at-home exercise programs that she and I do together.

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Our curriculum selections for Kindergarten are as follows:

1. Language Arts

  • Sight Word Flashcards (Aurora City School District)
  • Sight Word Readers (Amazon.com)
  • “Help Me Be Good” Character Stories by Joy Berry; These books double with the Social Studies requirement. My mom gifted me most of the set, but I was able to find individual ones on Amazon. Complete sets can also be purchased on Amazon.
  • Letter writing practice sheets (see below)

2. Math

  • Math-U-See (Primer Level: Teacher Book, Instructional DVD, and Student Workbook)

3. Science

  • Magic School Bus (DVD’s and Student Activity Guide by Scholastic)

4. History (Social Studies)

  • Story of the World (Volume 1: Textbook, CD Audiobook, and Student Workbook)

We also implement the following worksheets which I print almost exclusively from Education.com because the printables on that website are the most comprehensive and effective:

  • Letter practice
  • Number practice
  • Counting practice
  • Shape practice
  • Color practice
  • Concept practice
  • Fine Motor Skills practice

Finally, we use ABCmouse as a “treat” for Evie and she absolutely loves it. I find that it reinforces what she is learning in a fun, interactive way and it is always the last thing we do in our day as a reward for her hard work in areas that don’t come as easily to her as ABCmouse.

Creating a spreadsheet was the easiest way for me to wrap my mind around everything we had to accomplish throughout our first year of homeschooling and I am happy to share a template with whomever it might help — feel free to shoot me an email at taylorofalltrades@gmail.com if you’d like me to send you the template. Otherwise, feel free to use the images provided above as a guide for one way you might structure your first year as a homeschooling family.

Teaching Evie has been such a joy. We have had our fair share of hiccups, that’s for sure, but getting a plan in place and figuring out which curriculum selections worked best for us has proven to be the foundation of a successful learning experience for both of us.

May you find what works for you and may you enjoy every step of your homeschooling journey!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades