What Counts as School?

What Counts as School?

by Evelyn Bickley, May 2022

When I was a public-schooled child in Pennsylvania, the best day of the year was the one day we went on a field trip. First grade was the Philadelphia Zoo. Second was Washington’s Crossing State Park.  Third was a visit to the Audubon Center. Fourth was Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. To me, those days felt like play, but they were certainly learning experiences—and obviously memorable!

As a homeschool parent, I have continued to love field trips and count them as school days. Field trips to museums and places of historical interest are easy to identify as school. Williamsburg for a week—no brainer that this fits into American history. But what about some less usual things? When we travel to the beach, I don’t count playing on the sand as school—but I do count going to an aquarium while we’re there. Going to Disney World doesn’t count—but your students participating in Disney Imagination campus workshops would. What about touring a factory like the BMW plant in South Carolina? Yes! What about something cultural like the Greek Festival in Charlotte? Yes! What about the state fair? Well—did you just ride the rides and eat funnel cake? Then, no. But if this activity broadened your child’s horizons like getting to interact with farm animals, engaging with animal exhibitors, and learning more about what they do, or even taking a first-ever train ride to get to the fair, then I’d say yes. Whenever and wherever we travel, I try to include at least one learning field trip day into the itinerary.

Summer camps are another area that you may—or may not—count as school. If the camp is more on the recreational side (think sleep-away camp featuring swimming, crafts, and games), I would not count that. But if your community offers a day camp at the local nature museum or science center, I would. Summer camps are also a great way to see if your child wants to pursue an interest for a longer term. My kids each tried week-long summer theater, robotics, culinary, equestrian, and athletic camps, and I happily recorded those on our school days calendar. What about Vacation Bible School?  Yes, the kids are learning something, but, personally, I did not count that anymore than I counted weekly church attendance. The choice, however, is up to you.

Many students, especially as they are in their teens, engage in community service work. These opportunities give the student the chance to learn about work ethic, showing up when expected, taking supervision from a “boss” other than the parent, and putting in a full-faith effort. These hours, as well as hours worked eventually at part-time jobs, do not count as “school” even though they are learning a lot. On the other hand, documenting these activities (especially the number of hours served if there has been significant commitment in some areas) should be included on transcripts and activities resumes if your child is going on to college.

What about other skills of everyday living? Laundry/cooking/yardwork/car maintenance? Time management?  Financial management? Price comparisons in the grocery store? Compassion for a sick or injured friend or relative? I categorize these into just things you pass on to your kids regardless of the kind of public/private/homeschool in which they are enrolled. Education does not stop at the edge of a textbook for all facets of life are true learning opportunities. We cannot and do not need to quantify everything we pour into our kids or encourage them to explore.  The opportunities to help them grow and learn can be boundless.


After homeschooling and graduating all four of her children from birth through high school, Evelyn Bickley continues to invest in students and their families by serving as NCHE’s Activities Director and the advisor for a teen Gavel Club.  She enjoys the hobby of letterboxing and traveling to just about anywhere but especially places that have historical significance or scenic beauty. 


photo credits: laundry photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash, kids with parachute photo by Artem Kniaz on Unsplash, museum photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

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