For many years I was a closet critic of big expensive school trips to other states. I viewed them as yet another way to divide the "haves" from the "have-nots." My heart broke for my kids when most of their classmates went to Washington DC for spring break while they stayed home. I told them that I was sorry I couldn't afford it and didn't understand why or how so many families could spend so much for their kids to go on what I viewed as an extravagant trip.
Fast forward a few years to this trip to Seattle with the Buchanan Orchestra...
This time I was in a different place with a different attitude as well. Not only was I able to afford to send my child, but also to go along as a chaperone. My eyes were opened and I was both humbled and remorseful for my prior attitude.
Although the price tag was a good chunk of money, the amount the students got for that money is easily worth twice that amount.
First, by putting 6 students in a room, they were able to reduce the nightly lodging cost significantly. This was not a big deal given the itinerary that left very little time for them to be in the room.
Second, traveling with a group enabled us to take advantage of special group rates for tickets at various locations.
Third, traveling in a chartered motor coach with a knowledgeable, friendly and flexible driver allowed us to learn about the things and places we were seeing during the drive.
All of this made the trip a great value from a purely financial viewpoint. But wait! There's more... You get all of this, PLUS...
Experiences worth far more than what would have been learned in the classroom. Students learned: the importance of being prompt so the group didn't have to wait, communicating with a small group about which exhibit to see, what restaurant to eat at or how long to stay at an attraction, compromise and that it's not always about what they want, how to share a bathroom with 5 others, conflict resolution and tolerance. For many students this trip was their first real experience managing and budgeting money. ( I hope everyone has enough money left for the last meal of the trip!) Some experienced more freedom than their parents give them which is important as they are getting closer to graduating and being on their own at college. Others felt like it was less freedom and had to be flexible and understanding of their limitations.
It goes without saying that all of the students saw places they have never seen and may never get the chance to see again.
But, why should they do these things with a school group instead of their families? The most obvious reason is simply that it is far easier to scrape together the money to send one, or even two children on this kind of trip than it would be to save enough for the whole family. Second, going on a trip where someone else has the first-hand knowledge or has done the research regarding where to go, what to see and what to do ensures the fullest experience of the area.
As I have gotten older I have come to the understanding that of all of the gifts we could possibly give our children, experiences are far better than things. This amazing experience will remain with my daughter for years to come. I am grateful for the opportunity, thrilled for the experience and inspired to encourage others to find a way to send their children on a "big expensive school trip." The dollar value is great, but the experience is priceless. My only regret is that I didn't learn this earlier. Maybe then one of my kids would have experienced Washington D.C. I still haven't.
Michele Cook, Parent Chaperone