a group of young children pet a baby calf

Starting Homeschool Field Trip Co-ops

Great, wide, beautiful, wonderful World,
With the wonderful water round you curled,
And the wonderful grass upon your breast-
World, you are beautifully dressed

The wonderful air is over me,
And the wonderful wind is shaking the tree,
It walks on the water, and whirls the mills,
And talks to itself on the tops of the hills.

You friendly Earth! how far do you go,
With the wheat-fields that nod and the rivers that flow,
With cities and gardens, and cliffs, and isles,
And people upon you for thousands of miles?

Ah, you are so great, and I am so small,
I tremble to think of you, World, at all;
And yet, when I said my prayers to-day,
A whisper inside me seemed to say,
“You are more than the Earth, though you are such a dot:
You can love and think, and the Earth cannot!”

A pale green pointy seed pod lies on the dirt

What is a Homeschool Field Trip Co-op?

If a homeschool co-op is truly a support group, then a Homeschool Field Trip Co-op is a traveling support group headed out for fun. And, perhaps incidentally, learn something. Like other co-ops, a Field Trip Co-op agrees on rules, dates, destinations, and dollars, then divies up the work of setting up field trips. The might additionally add a communication, payment, photo or social media platform.  All said, it’s truly about having fun exploring the world with your community. And while any group of people can meetup for a field trip, having a grounding in common values, expectations, purpose and interests helps maximize a groups experience.

Does a Homeschool Field Trip Co-op have any advantages over a playgroup or formal (academic) co-op?

A homeschool Field Trip Co-op has several advantages over a playdate/park group  or an academic/extracurricular co-op:

  1. No lesson plans or supplies are needed. Just kids, a car, some money and a camera.
  2. This is a low-level commitment – outside of the initial setup, the only real planning is choosing the field trip your family found most interesting.
  3. The cost can be kept relatively low, especially if group discounts are given. But keep in mind that this type of co-op is advised to have additional insurance. (Co-ops don’t need legal organization to do this via NCG insurance – more below).
  4. In the digital age, vendors can be paid directly without having to deal with gathering money from everyone.
  5. There are no buildings to clean and re-order.
  6. This is a terrific way to get to know people in other homeschool circles. You might have several academic or play group co-ops represented in your Field Trip Co-op. This allows for more support and networking.
A catepillar crawls up a blade of grass

What steps are involved in starting a Homeschool Field Trip C0-op?

1. Decide your purpose and frame a loose group mindset.

For example:

  1. Explore nature settings for hikes or recreational areas for specific sports; 
  2. Explore the arts, theaters, circuses and or any local culture/events;
  3. Explore museums , community service agencies, farms, science-themed, history-themed or other expressly educational sights;
  4. Explore longer day trips with older children.
  5. Any of the above might be best done with a group of like-minded people: a religious group, an inclusive group, a secular group, etc. Such groups are more likely to have similar views on the importance behind the destinations visited.
  6. Finally, your group may want to have just social days at a park. This allows for time when no one has to focus on driving or counting kids, etc. It also makes field feel more like community.

2. Decide how many families you would like to start with.

Keep in mind:

  1. Requiring each parent to plan a trip means your family groups are limited to the number of trips you plan. If two moms plan a single trip, your group doubles in size.
  2. A smaller pool of families allows more room for relationships to grow.
  3. A smaller pool of families is easier to coordinate.
  4. A larger pool of families makes it easier to obtain discounts. Keep in mind that if one person is handling money for the group, it may be a good idea to become a non-profit to avoid (more complicated) tax headaches. (There is also a podcast here.)
  5. A larger pool of families can lend a bit of social “wiggle room” in the tween & teen years when groups can unintentionally (or intentionally) grow cliquish.
  6. Finally, a larger group helps ensure you still have enough to move forward with a trip if several families drop out due to illness or weather. (Think “stomach bug” and “hurricane”)

3. Decide what rules you think are necessary.

Obviously, everyone needs to be in agreement on some basic expectations. And, while this isn’t an icebreaker discussion, it is needful. Really. Remember: fun trip + other friends to ride with + a completely different schedule + fresh turf = Rule-Stretching. This is a bona-fide sport, and my children are Olympians.

Here are a few jumping off points in your discussion:

  1. How will your group communicate? Is everyone required to be on one social media app? 

2. Will your co-op have a t-shirt or color to help find your group members quickly? What should kids do if they are separated from the rest of the group? 

3. How many field trips must each family participate in? Once a month? Only the ones they plan?

4. Disagreements will come up. How will  your co-op handle disagreements between parents?

5. What about rules for the car: the use of cell phones (only at red lights? not at all?) What about riders – would parents rather kids talk while riding and leave the phones off/away?

6. And, finally, everyone’s favorite topic after taxes: insurance.

What a Traveling Homeschool Co-op Needs to Know about Insurance.

Insurance is probably the stickiest point of forming a Field Trip Co-op. But does your co-op really need insurance? If it has General Liability insurance already, does it need anything more? In an enlightening interview with Tina Crawford of NCG Insurance – (a homeschool co-op insurance specialist), I learned:

1.the answer is almost always “yes.”   If children ride with families other than their own, liability issues increase.

2.) ‘Traveling co-ops’ should consider Accident Medical & Liability insurance to protect the co-op and its participants against potential claims.  This is best provided by a Special Event policy, offering protection for that activity only or for several activities.

3.)  The co-op should avoid organizing transportation or carpools for the participants. General Liability policies usually exclude claims arising from automobiles.  This is because as a rule,  insurance always follows the vehicle; in other words, the owner and/or operator of the vehicle are generally responsible for bodily injury or property damage caused by that vehicle. Organizing transportation for the activity can render the person organizing those rides and the co-op liable in an accident. Organizers are expected to do checks to ensure the safety of the drivers, their vehicles, and the sufficiency of their insurance. Not the relationship building you envisioned, right? 

3.) To avoid this snafu, Field Trip Co-ops are advised to issue a disclaimer to the effect that each parent is responsible for finding their own child’s transportation, checking driver’s insurance sufficiency, and driving record before the event. Then organizers need to NOT organize this area, but let parents figure out their child’s rides.

4. Decide what dates and times you will offer outings.

  • While Fridays are a very popular day, remember that public school students frequently schedule the same day. Times will end up varying somewhat with venue, but again, remember that many venues for kids are pretty empty in the late afternoon.
  • By the same token, if public/private schools are out, it may be a great time to plan a co-op that is usually dominated by those students during the school year. Popular ones, like the FSU planetarium, popular plays, or Joe Budd may have a half-year lead time for booking.

5. Decide how venues will be chosen, scheduled and paid.

    1. Your co-op may ask each family to come up with one or two destinations per month/semester/year and take care of all these details. 
    2. Your co-op may divide the tasks, and possibly rotate them through the year: researcher/planner, scheduler, communicator, carpool arranger, and social media persons. The available apps for said tasks are mind-boggling. Also, for younger children especially, a road trip activity planner can be a boon. There are places that allow you to print up a word search, car games, as well as a free printable car scavenger hunt activity. This also gives kiddos something to discuss and do that’s not digitally isolating them.

6. Decide on Emergency Contact Info Sharing

Accidents happen. Decide ahead what emergency information needs to be shared with whom and how. Having a spreadsheet with emergency info makes like a lot easier when the unexpected happens. (A downloadable file for cell phones is even better.) Aside from auto accidents, this may mean managing another’s children while either a sibling or parent goes for medical treatment (I’ve had that child and been that parent.) 
A fringe benefit is such a file helps families that click well together connect between field trips. What could be better?

a light brown calf nuzzles a bystander's hand

7. Invite families to your Information Meeting

Facebook, Insty, Pinterest, email loops, etc, all come in handy here. Consider when you would like to start your co-op. Given a certain number of field trips, there will also be only a certain number of slots for parents to plan for, so if each parent is also required to be a planner group size will be automatically limited.

  • Will membership be “first come, first served?”
  • Will there be a membership questionnaire?
  • What date will you start & stop accepting new families for the year?

Be sure to advertise across multiple platforms – not all families use Facebook or Pinterest or any multitude of others. Also, if you know that there will be a mandatory meeting, you may want to include that information ahead of time.

What are some local field trip ideas?

a white plastic spoon scoops ice cream out of a small paper cup

Check under Tallyhops.com/outings for an ever growing list of nature, art, farm, history, community service and science outings.  Facebook and Google are also great resources. Perhaps the best resource is other moms/dads in the homeschool community – especially the ones you are most comfortable with, or ask for advice. That networking and support is what co-ops and community are all about.

  1. Decide your purpose and frame a loose group mindset.
  2. Decide how many families you would like to start with.
  3. Decide what rules you think are necessary.
  4. Decide what dates and times you will offer outings.
  5. Decide how venues will be chosen, scheduled and paid.
  6. Decide on Emergency Contact Info Sharing.
  7. Invite families to your information meeting.

Subscribe to Weekly Wonderings

Have Tallyhops blog + local venue updates + awards info + service opportunities delivered to your inbox weekly. Contact info is never shared or sold @ TallyHOPS.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Weekly Wonderings Newsletter

Subscribe to the Weekly Wonderings Newsletter for Friday’s Tallyhops blog posts and info on co-ops, sports, classes, interest groups, outings, support & more for the 10 county area surrounding Leon – all delivered to your inbox!