When you’re homeschooling your children, you may look for a number of opportunities to get your children out of the house for field trips and other activities. Certainly, there are plenty of free activities available—libraries, and parks, and other local resources—but there are also field trip style opportunities that, in the long run, wind up costing quite a bit of money.
Take a typical visit to the aquarium, for example. If you have two children, your admission (assuming that only the parent who stays home with the children attends) will be approximately $55 (though with Ripley’s homeschooling discount, if you provide proof that you are a homeschooling parent, you will pay only $21 for admission for three of you). As a trip that occurs only every once in a while, this isn’t a bad option—but what about a spur of the moment, need to get the kids out of the house and engaged in something sort of trip? That’s not the kind of price that you can come up with on a regular basis.
Or consider a trip to the Knoxville Zoo. There is no homeschooling discount, and admission for one adult and two children is already $54. It’s a fun trip; but $54 is a little bit steep for a couple of hours of wandering around looking at animals and listening to, “Mom, I want you to buy me….” Anything that they see, hear, or think might be an interesting diversion. There will be another $5 parking fee on top of that, too. These prices are especially problematic for families that may well be one-income in order for one parent to stay at home with the children.
So what’s a homeschooling mom to do?
Take stock of what you have available around you. In the case of Knoxville area residents, this may include the zoo, the aquarium, and, for the summer, the pool—or perhaps the Oak Ridge Museum of Science and Energy. All of these are fantastic options for getting the kids out of the house for a few hours, depending on the weather. Is it too hot to be outside all day? Raining? Too cold? Try the museum or the aquarium. Is it the perfect day to spend outdoors? Head on to the zoo.
However, you’re not going to want to pay $50 or more every time you take a field trip, either—especially if this is something that you plan to do regularly over the course of the year. In this case, you’ll want to take a look at annual options for admission—and consider not only the cost of that admission, but what it will be if you don’t.
For example, an annual aquarium membership is $50 for adults and $30 for children. For $110 (or the cost of two regular days of admission, the homeschooling discount not being taken into account), you can make the aquarium your go-to field trip for the duration of the year.
The same is true of the zoo—and without a homeschooling discount to add to your list. For an entire family annual membership, the cost is $110. This also includes free parking every time you go—and it includes not only the parent who stays at home with the kids (a single parent membership is only $85) but the other parent, as well—and up to four children. For a family of five, this is barely over the cost of a single admission! Becoming a zoo member also has the additional benefit of making their weekly homeschooling classes ($6/student) available.
The American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge also offers a family membership. For $40, you can visit the museum just as often as you want, all year long—and if you know it’s something you’ll keep using, $70 will make it a two-year membership. Many other museums will also offer free admission with this pass. You’d have to use it a little more often—day admission for one adult and two kids works out to about $11—but once again, the more you use it, the better the value it is.
For a homeschooling parent, these annual passes may be invaluable. It makes it possible to decide on the spur of the moment that you’d like to get out of the house for the day, and to take the kids to do something both fun and educational. For the summer, consider a pool membership. John Sevier and the Alcoa pool offer a family pass (4 members) for $125. This is, however, another pass that would have to see a lot of use to be valuable—it works out to around a dozen visits for one adult and two children.