Monday, August 03, 2009

Setting Sail: Why We Take Field Trips

You raise them to be independent, then you’re heartbroken when they are. –Shirley Hobson (my mom)

The Woodland Park children share experiences; routines, expectations, rules, art projects, sensory table play, building, dramatic games, music. These day-to-day experiences are the threads that weave the sailcloth of our community. Because the children already have a year of Woodland Park experience behind them by the time they reach our 3-5’s class, they tend to arrive on the first day prepared to trust our community.

That’s why this is the perfect time to hoist our sail and test it in the wind by sharing extraordinary experiences, like field trips.

Our maiden voyage each year takes place in October and is usually some version of visiting a pumpkin patch. As the big day approaches, invariably some parents tell me their children are nervous -- these tend to be the parents of 3-year-olds. And that makes sense. We can't expect the younger members of our crew to yet have complete confidence in the stability of our little boat on the high seas beyond our little harbor. It might tip over out there in the choppy waves! On the other hand, having already experienced a year's worth of these kinds of extraordinary journeys, our older kids have a footlocker full of evidence that the boat will hold together.

I know that parents worry as well. That makes sense too. After all, their child is heading out into the world, riding public busses and visiting public places with our whole gang of kids and only a handful of adults. I can try to reassure them by mentioning that I've been taking monthly field trips with preschoolers for over a decade and have never lost or hurt a child.

I can say that every single adult is constantly either counting children or talking about counting the children.

I can point out that their kids are out in the world all the time and already know the basics -- like staying on sidewalks and keeping their adult in sight.

But the only thing that really helps is experience.

Like their children, parents will feel more and more comfortable as the year goes on. Like it or not, the older our children get, the farther out into the world they will go, increasingly without us -- believe me, as the parent of a 12-year-old, I know! We raise them up to set them free, and as a parent, at some level, it will always be terrifying.

That, more than anything else, is why we take field trips: it's another baby step toward independence for both parent and child.

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sproutsinthekitchen said...

Good timing, this post. I just bonvoyaged my 3.5 year old on a "field trip" of sorts this morning. I dropped him at his first story drama class at Seattle Children's Theatre. When I picked him up his teachers told me he cried off and on throughout the one hour class which of course BROKE MY HEART. Not sure what will break my heart more, though. Knowing that he missed me, needed me as an anchor, or facing that time that I know is coming when he doesn't need me (that intensely) any more. Either way, I hope tomorrow will be a better day for him (and for me). I think it will be.

Teacher Tom said...

Man, I'm sorry to hear that. It's hard on everyone. Learning is hard! >:/

jaimeep said...

So right Tom...we do this over and over again I am now learning. The first field trip Ella took without me will forever be etched in my mind. I was kind of freaking out on the inside, but trying to maintain my composure on the outside for sure. Growing up is hard for moms and dads! But, I must say I feel relief and pride when I see my kiddo confident and independent....ah the dichotomies of parenthood.

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