Family Memberships = Awesome Education

November 18, 2006 @ 7:59 am | Filed under: Best Gifts for Homeschoolers, Fun Learning Stuff

My parents flew in from Denver last weekend to check out our new digs and enjoy the perfect weather with us. So much fun. On Monday, we all (except poor Scott, who had to work, sniff) went to the zoo. It was every bit as wonderful as I’ve heard. Who doesn’t love the San Diego Zoo?

Python
We didn’t make it to the pandas because we spent so much time with the reptiles and monkeys. But that’s okay, because my fabulous parents bought us an annual membership for Christmas. For a family our size, the membership costs about as much as one and a half trips to the zoo. It comes with guest passes and other discounts, plus a zoo magazine. It’s a perfect arrangement: now we can drop in for an hour or two whenever we feel like it, without feeling pressured to see the whole thing in one swoop.

The first year we lived in Virginia, I bought a family membership to the Frontier Culture Museum, which was about 40 minutes from our house and five minutes from our church. I took the kids at least once a month, often dropping by for an hour on our way home from Sunday Mass. We got to know the costumed interpreters by name, and when new lambs were born that April, we got to cuddle them on our laps. Going by numbers, the membership paid for itself in two visits, but its real value to our family would be impossible to tally. My girls would don their bonnets (purchased at another living history museum* before we left Long Island) and make-believe their way through barnyards and thatched houses, having the time of their lives. They got to spin wool, card fleece, shell peas, and chase hoops. Best fifty dollars I ever spent.

The zoo membership promises to be just as much fun. We got a real treat on this first visit—we happened into one of the aviaries just as a zookeeper was beginning to feed the birds. She was carrying four or five little tubs of food: crickets, worms, peanuts. She’d cluck and call the birds by name, and they clustered round her in anticipation of their particular favorite tidbits. My girls clustered round, too, and the extremely kind zookeeper told them all about the birds. It was a glimpse behind the scenes, and we were thrilled.

When she finished, the zookeeper told us she was about to feed the flamingos, and did we want to come watch? You bet we did! She told us the best place to stand, and on our way to the prime spot, she opened her access door to the flamingo pool area and invited us to the threshold for a quick meet-and-greet with some of the birds. We were charmed by "Handsome," a flirty scarlet ibis who likes to stick close to his zookeeper friend. My kids can’t wait to go back to visit him. Our plan is to scope out when the feeding times are for all the different  animals, so we’ll know where to go whenever we drop in.

This year, when relatives ask you what the kids would like for Christmas, I highly recommend that you drop a hint for a membership to the zoo or museum or science center closest to you. Charlotte Mason encouraged mothers to take their children to the same park or woods on a regular basis, so that the place and its denizens would become familiar, and changes in season easier to observe. The same principle applies to places like museums and zoos!

*Readers of the Charlotte books may be interested to know that the hatmaker in Charlotte’s village was inspired by the hatmaker at Old Bethpage, the place where we got our bonnets. Bushy eyebrows and all!


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Comments

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  1. “This year, when relatives ask you what the kids would like for Christmas, I highly recommend that you drop a hint for a membership to the zoo or museum or science center closest to you.”

    I second that emotion.

    What you didn’t mention is that you got 2 parks for the price of one. The pass is good for the zoo and the wild animal park. If you liked the zoo, the wild animal park is going to blow you away. It’s like going on a mini safari.

  2. Totally agree on season passes (and the Christmas present idea) and I’m so glad you had such a great first trip to the zoo. It’s funny, when we were in San Diego, we finally sprung for a season pass maybe six or eight months after we moved there and used it for all it was worth – usually an hour or two at a time. It was SO worth it. The one year membership (plus two free months for the deal we happened to hit) expired exactly three days before we moved to Wisconsin.

    We ended up spending more time at the Wild Animal Park than the Zoo – it was closer to us, they didn’t charge extra for parking or the monorail ride (not to be missed – and you have to try it out several times because a few of the driver/guides are particularly …memorable!) and tended to be a little less crowded. They’re both fabulous and what a deal for the pass to include two local world-famous zoos!

  3. My m8um+ dad have always got zoo passes and museum passes, in here in Oz that gets us to all the government zoos and all the government museums! And we get special ‘members only’ days and a whole lot of other extras!

  4. Urgh! Typos!

  5. Urgh! Typos!

  6. Oh, I’m with you on the passes! Paying for a day’s admission always makes me feel obliged to stay the *whole* day. Cue overtired children. Cue frazzled mum. Being able to just pop in makes such a difference. We used to alternate between the local zoo (country branch of London Zoo) and kids’ farm but hadn’t bought passes for a while … and now we have passes for the farm because 8yo dd won them in a Halloween competition. :)))))

  7. Oh my gosh! I grew up going to Bethpage Restoration Village. I laughed when I read that they still sell bonnets…very hot commodity on the 4th grade field trip! That and the sarsaparilla stick candy…

    We’re actually back on Long Island now after years of being away…we have memberships to the Riverhead Aquarium and the NY Hall of Science. I love the way they enter these places: excited and with a sense of ownership.

    Wonderful gift idea, you’re right.

    (PS: We hear the aquariums are awesome out there!)

  8. Oh my gosh! I grew up going to Bethpage Restoration Village. I laughed when I read that they still sell bonnets…very hot commodity on the 4th grade field trip! That and the sarsaparilla stick candy…

    We’re actually back on Long Island now after years of being away…we have memberships to the Riverhead Aquarium and the NY Hall of Science. I love the way my sons enter these places: excited and with a sense of ownership.

    Wonderful gift idea, you’re right.

    (PS: We hear the aquariums are awesome out there!)

  9. We squeeze the annual membership fee for our local children’s zoo out of our budget each year. It’s not much and it’s so worth it. We originally bought it because the hand-carved merry go round became my two year old’s obsession and at $2 per ride, it was breaking us. But now we take them several times a year and it’s like home to them. Sometimes we see every last thing from start to finish, sometimes we run to our favorites — the penguins, the monkeys, the underwater cave.

    I sometimes think about how different my daughters’ childhood is from my own. I grew up with my entire extended family nearby and surrounded by cousins. My girls have us and their grandma, and cousins they see every few months. But creating new memories like these make me realize things don’t have to be the same, and we can create our own traditions.

  10. Yes! Yes! It’s worth it, absolutely.

  11. I’m so happy you visited the SD Zoo. It’s fabulous! (My girls love the aviary too.) If you’re ever up in the Pasadena area, you MUST visit the children’s garden and conservatory at the Huntington Library. It is not to be missed!

  12. we love the San Diego zoo, it’s much nicer than the Los Angeles zoo. We have a family pass too, we love the avairy, oh we would have loved to be there when the birds were fed! How wonderful you got to be in on that.
    What great memories. We are 1 1/2 hour away, so we don’t get to visit the zoo as often as we would like.

    Jenny

  13. […] Family memberships to zoos, museums, […]