My recollection of field trips as a student is that after having been forced to read textbook entries about a given subject (Ms. Borland - begin at paragraph blah blah on page umteen) and then tested to death about people, dates and facts that were meaningless to me. Then, occasionally, we were permitted to board a bus to a museum to view artifacts about a topic that was already thoroughly boring. I recall caring very little about what I saw - but was very happy to be out from within those four walls.
I like to call my approach to 'field trips' as 'Reverse Field Trips'. We just go - we head out to museums near and far. We go to exhibits and shows freely.
We visit gardens, farms, nature preserves and historical sites without regard to a 'unit of study'. I enjoy watching the boys gravitate to artwork, artifacts, and experiments that fascinate them. I like watching them discover things for themselves.
I visit places with the boys because it's what we like to do. They desire to play with things, experiment, see the sights, view the art, and investigate. I have no agenda for what they need to look at. I have often picked a specific venue for one thing only to find them intrigued by another. I give them time to stay in front of something as long or as short as they like. That can be hard practice if you are not conscious of it.
I watch to see what peaks their interest. I wait and watch to see what pieces of information they grab on to. Once they've seen and touched something it becomes a much more tangible topic. Gavin and Mikey are very open about what interests them. 'How do architects draw floor plan?', 'How did the Ballentine family get so rich?', 'How old is this art work?', and 'How can air be so strong?' Their questions give me a platform from which to provide them more info. I have a spot on my iPhone and a dry erase board at home that I jot down topics that come up - eclipses, wood chucks, high-altitude cooking, etc. I use that to decide where to visit, what books to reserve for them, and our favorite - movies, documentaries and websites dedicated to their interests. And people ask where I get 'curriculum' from! Netflix, of course ;)
One of the goals that I have for my kids to being able to pursue knowledge joyfully and on their own accord. I do not want to send them the message that I am the one with all the knowledge and that my job is to 'teach' them - I would fall sorely short of that expectation. I do not believe you can 'teach' someone anything they do not wish to learn. Sure, I could make them memorize something in the short-term, but I do not equate that to embracing and understanding. I could make them sit through videos they don't want to watch or fill in workbooks just because it's the next thing on the list - but I believe that as homeschoolers we have to opportunity to break out of this paradigm and instead of creating a 'school' model at home we can bring them into a model of life-learning.
The 'Reverse Field Trip' is taking kids to places and exposing them to experiences first and branching off of their interests to facilitate the learning they want to do.
The world can be your classroom - just get out and go, see, touch, do - and learn.