For Parents: How to Create a Field Trip Group

8116663666_a555a2d833_mField trips, or cultural excursions, can be a great opportunity to bond with your child. But these kinds of trips can also be a great time to build social skills. But in order to improve your child’s social skills, you need other kids.

You can put together a group, a posse, of parents and kids to teach your children about history, science, and their world. Here’s how:

Step 1: Brainstorm ideas for the trip

You can do this on your own. Think about where you’d like to take your child and what experiences might be best with a small group of children.

Step 2: Decide what you want the group to be

Do you want to just have an informal group of parents that get together every few weeks? Do you want to create a formal nonprofit so that you can apply for grants to fund the trips? Do you want a small group of just three families or something larger with a dozen families? Think about what you hope to accomplish, and what’s going to be best for your child.

Step 3: Approach like-minded parents

Think about the parents in your child’s life. Who do you get along with? Who do you think would have a similar goal to yours? Talk to different parents without committing to anything and see what reactions you get. When you find a few who seem like they can take your idea seriously, pitch the idea to them.

Step 4: Take the lead and work out the logistics

This step is kind of self-explanatory. Once you have a group of parents, you can have a face-to-face meeting or set up your first trip over email. You’ll need a date and time, location, method of transportation, and more. See my Cultural Excursion Checklist for more ideas of what you may need.

Step 5: Be friendly and send out reminders

Make sure you have every parent’s email address. If your group is big enough, you may want to set up a Facebook group where you can post updates. Send out friendly reminders, especially if you’ve delegated some responsibilities.

Step 6: Take your trip

Try not to stress the day of. Have fun! Try to balance spending time with your child and learning with leading the entire group.

If you follow these six steps, you’ll be well on your way to creating your own field trip posse. For more information on why parental involvement is important and how you can do it, check out 5 Ways Parents Can Get Involved in Elementary School.


(Photo Credit: Juergen Hartl on Flickr Commons)

For Parents: How to Create a Free Field Trip

This is what field trips usually look like. You can do something different for your child.

When you think of field trips, you may think of a buss full of kids on their way to a museum, national park, or battlefield. Those trips can be great experiences, but with so many schools enduring budget cuts, those trips are happening less and less. But parents can put together informal trips to teach your child important life and academic lessons.

There’s a three step process to taking your child on a free field trip:

Step 1: Planning

Decide where and when you’re going to go. Do you need to prepare your child or explain anything in advance? Definitely prepare a list of questions to ask your child about the experience once it’s over. That’s an important step.

Step 2: Go!

Get out of the house. Go somewhere and explore. Have fun. Ask your child questions. Express your own observations. This is a great opportunity not only for intellectual stimulation but also for emotional bonding with your child.

Step 3: Talk about it

Remember that list of questions I mentioned? Pull them out over a meal at home, or memorize them and start asking during the drive home. Get your child thinking about what he saw and experienced. This is the most important step. The conversations you have with your child will allow him to synthesize and start to analyze his experience. This is where the magic of the field trip happens.

Don’t leave the experience for just one day, especially if the field trip is to a place that you visit often. Bring it up at the dinner table. Make connections between a trip to the grocery store (maybe for a lesson on percentages) and a trip to the mall (where percentages also apply). You can also connect a trip to the grocery store to a lesson on cooking dinner or baking cookies.

Need some ideas? All of the ideas below offer you opportunities to teach your child something outside of home and school. And all it will cost you is the gas it takes to get there.


  • Grocery store
  • Farmer’s market
  • Restaurants


  • College campuses
  • Neighbor’s houses
  • Your place of work


  • Pet store
  • Local park
  • Dog park
  • Animal shelters

Financial Literacy

  • The mall
  • Grocery store
  • Department and discount stores

Things I Learned from Americanah

When I first picked up Chimamanda Adiche’s novel Americanah, I didn’t think I would like it. It’s long. It’s kind of heavy. And I wasn’t all that enticed by the summary on the back cover. But a professor of mine recommended it, so I picked it up.

I was hooked on the first page. And I learned a couple important lessons that are pushing my own writing to another level.

First, Adiche starts talking about race on the first page. The main character’s blog is titled “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black.” She’s explicit on her thoughts about race throughout the novel. There’s no need for political correctness. No thought for offending readers. The protagonist is simply sharing her experience, as it relates to race. This takes boldness and courage–something I’d been searching for as I work on my book.

Second, characters have to make mistakes. Ifemelu, the protagonist, makes a huge mistake that sets her life on a completely different track after she arrives in America. I knew the mistake was coming. I could sense it. But at the same time, I have a hard time letting my characters make mistakes. I think I love them like a reader instead of live a writer, sometimes. But Americanah taught me that mistakes are crucial not only to keep readers interested but also for character growth. Mistakes are how we grow in real life so why would I think my characters would be any different?

This is definitely a book I’m going to have to read more than once. It’s so rich, so full of intelligent craft and a gripping, raw story.

What are you reading?

What Novel Beginnings and TV Pilots Have in Common

I’m sick. I’ve caught whatever bug is going around. So, I’m laid up on the couch watching Netflix, trying to recover. I decided to go back to a favorite from my adolescence: One Tree Hill.

One of my favorite dramas from my youth

After I watched the One Tree Hill pilot again, I got to thinking. It’s a great model for the beginning of a novel.

All the main characters appear. 

I knew the main players Dan, Lucas, and Nathan would all show up in the pilot. But we also get to see other characters who play major roles: Skillz, Haley, Karen, Keith, Whitey,  and Tim. And not only do they all show up in the pilot but we get to see them in character defining ways. We get to see that Lucas has a soft spot and that Nathan is a bit of a jerk but is also under a tremendous amount of pressure. The characters are complex, right from the beginning.

The tensions are laid out and in your face. 

Lucas vs. Nathan. Nathan vs. Dan. Dan vs. Whitey. Karen vs. the World. These tensions are clearly established in 40 minutes. They pack a punch in a way that’s real and relatable but also intriguing. These tensions are why I come back to this series and why so many viewers were pulled from the pilot through the rest of the season. The thing about this tension is that it feels like it starts in the middle. They’ve existed for awhile, and we, the viewers, are stepping right into the middle of them. But there’s room for these tensions to grow, and we can feel that.

The stakes are clear.

Viewers, just like readers, need to know what the characters have to lose. The writers of One Tree Hill did this perfectly by putting Nathan and Lucas in conflict with each other at the basketball game in the pilot. (Check out the epic block in the video!) Both boys have something to lose, but there’s also the potential that they each have something to gain. The stakes are clear and played out in a way that keeps us glued to the television. The best books do this too.

What are some books or television shows that grabbed you from the beginning?

Problems with Identifying as English-Speaking

We are the worldAs part of my intellectual journey in graduate school, I’ve been doing some research into multilingual students and how best to teach them how to write. This has led me to several interesting journal articles. I’m currently taking a break from one that started as a mini-rant about how most academic writing is obscure and hard to follow (true) and students come into the classroom thinking their writing must also be obscure and hard to follow (true). Instead of pushing academic discourse into another direction, we, instructors, perpetuate this lie that obscure, flowery writing is good writing. I don’t know how much I agree with this, but I do appreciate a good rant in academic journal articles.

Anyhow, one article titled “Language Identity and Language Ownership: Linguistic Conflicts of First-Year University Writing Students” talked about how some students are hesitant to identify as English speakers even if English is the language they know best and use the most. Why? Because they don’t want to take on the culture that comes with the English language. It feels like a betrayal, especially if a different culture and different language are prominent at home.

And of course, I needed to make this about me, so I thought of how I identify. I am an English speaker. I am an American. I am a woman. I am also black. And it was that last one that caught my attention. I am black, but do I always want to be seen as black?

Personally, I don’t mind it. But I have known other black folks who like that people can’t tell their race from their name on a resume. I’ve known black people who take pride in the fact that people think they “sound white” on the phone.

And I think…is it really the skin color they have a problem with? Is it really darker skin that they’re trying to distance themselves from? Maybe. But I doubt it. It’s the culture. They don’t want to be lumped into a bucket with mainstream black culture that has cast an entire people as lazy, unintelligent,  or only good at sports and music.

How does one change culture? How does a people change their image? This feels like something the Olivia Popes of the world would have to handle. Perception is reality in most cases.

I don’t have answers. Just questions. But maybe you have some thoughts too.

Photo Credit: Sweet Trade

3 Uncommon Signs of Academic Trouble

This is a serious problem, but this comic is still funny.

It’s report card day! Your child digs through loose papers and crumpled fruit snack bags in order to find it and quickly hands it to you before running off to play. You take a deep breath and open it slowly. You both worked hard this quarter. You asked him every day if he had all his homework done, and he always said yes. His grades should reflect that…right?

Wrong. Your heart sinks as you look at the letters and look again. What went wrong? With all the investment that you put into your child’s education, it can be worrisome, and even anxiety producing, for him to continue to not do well in school. One way to avoid a devastating report card day is to catch academic problems before they get out of hand.

Low test scores or low homework grades are obvious signs that your child is in trouble. But there might be a few signs you may not think to look for.

Mood Swings around Homework or Test Time

I’ve tutored dozens of kids and one thing I’ve noticed with the vast majority of them is when they don’t understand something, their entire mood shifts. A child can come into a session smiling and completely pleasant but as soon as we start long division or I’m asking questions about their book report book, they either get mean or they start cracking jokes. It’s a defense mechanism, and if you think about it, you probably know adults who do the same thing. If your child has a hissy fit every time you ask about homework, it could be a sign that they’re struggling but don’t know how to ask for help.

The Magical Disappearing Homework!

I worked with one student for awhile who had the hardest time getting his homework into the teacher’s hands. The night before, I saw that his homework was done. His mother saw that his homework was done. But at some point between getting on the bus in the morning and the start of the class, his homework disappeared. His report card was a disaster that quarter, and it wasn’t because his test scores were low or he didn’t understand the material. It’s because in elementary and middle school (and even many high schools), simply turning in your homework counts for a lot of credit. When you don’t do that, your grades can plummet.

While he wasn’t necessarily struggling academically, this child was losing his homework and that was a sign of a larger organizational problem that needed to be addressed. Now, he’s finishing up his junior year of high school and is one of the most organized, disciplined students I know–all because someone recognized what was going on.

Test-Induced Illness

I’ll admit it…I’ve done it. You wake up the morning of a test and you can’t get your heart to stop pounding. The pressure of doing well and the overwhelming amount of knowledge that you simply don’t know creates a stomach ache. You do whatever trick you need to do to get the thermometer to give out an inaccurate reading (I won’t give anyone any ideas…) and voila! You bought yourself an extra day to study.

Test-induced illness could be a sign that your child doesn’t understand the material or he may understand it just fine. Either way, stress over tests at this level is unhealthy. This kind of anxiety around academics can turn into a serious problem later on, especially as the pressure increases in high school and college. Know when your chid’s tests and quizzes are and when projects are due. If you have these dates listed on your own calendar and start to notice a trend, do what you can to alleviate some of your child’s anxiety.

If you start to notice these or any other worrisome behaviors, check in with your child. Some children are hesitant to talk about what’s bothering them, so try to create an atmosphere that’s comfortable for them. You could go out for fro-yo and chat or take a yoga or martial arts class together or simply sit for awhile and watch his favorite TV show.

If your child doesn’t even know what’s going on (sometimes they don’t), talk to the teacher. Together, you might be able to pick out different trends that are unique to your child and determine if a tutor, academic coach, or psychologist can help.

Hang in there! And on report card day, don’t despair too much. Approach it with some amount of objectivity and you might be able to notice things on your own that you can do to help your child.

Homework comic
How many kids wish this would work?


I’d love to connect with you. Meet with me on LinkedIn. Check out my Twitter or Pinterest!
If you’re a potential client or editor, please feel free to check out my online portfolio or email me for my resume.