F.O.P./C.H.A.O.S. Homeschoolers

F.O.P. / C.H.A.O.S Homeschoolers and Friends:
2013 -2014 Field Trips



Please read this before requesting tickets!

"A good education for every child does not mean the same education for every child."  

Our organized outings for this year are:

Other possibilities for you to explore on your own include:

If you are interested in an event, please contact the person listed. 

Penn Presents: Student Discovery Series/Dance Celebration 2014-2015

Join us for some great dance in the 2014-2015 school year! Here's a peek at the schedule, as of June 2014. (Obviously, subject to change.)

This series features hour-long performances from some of the world's best dance companies, at the low price of about $6 per ticket. (Specific 2014-2015 prices TBA.) If your student is a serious dancer, see also the master classes that accompany this series.

I am putting together a small group this year; other homeschoolers are also organizing groups. To go with my group, check back in late August. Then print the order form (I will link it here) and send it to me with your check as per the instructions on the form. I need your order form by mid-October, at least two weeks before the first performance for which you need tickets. Some shows do sell out, so plan ahead.

For more details on the series, see the Student Discovery web pages at Penn Presents and at Dance Affiliates.

  • Ballet Boyz
    Friday, October 24, 2014 @ 10:30 AM
  • Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company
    Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 10:30 AM
  • Parsons Dance
    Friday, December 5, 2014 @ 10:30 AM
  • Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre
    Friday, January 16, 2015 @ 10:30 AM*
  • Black Grace
    Friday, February 13, 2015 @ 10:30 AM
  • Jessica Lang Dance
    Friday, March 20, 2015 10:30 AM*
  • RUBBERBANDance Group
    Friday, April 17, 2015 @ 10:30 AM*
  • Pilobolus
    Friday, May 8, 2014 @ 10:30 AM

All of these events are part of the Dance Celebration Series. Each show is an hour long, and the Dance Celebration performances usually include a “talkback” with the dancers after the show. All shows take place on the University of Pennsylvania campus, in the Annenberg Center, 3680 Walnut Street, Philadelphia. These have been excellent in the past.  The performances are intended for a "school field trip" audience. The performers sometimes do a shorter version of their normal evening performance, and sometimes do a completely different “school” program.  There’s no way to really know in advance what they will be doing.  This is contemporary dance - sometimes it is a bit modern/obscure.  They don’t dumb it down and they don’t clean it up. Specifically, now and again there may be sensual dance moves, skimpy costumes, etc. Some performances are more "entertaining" than others; some are more abstract.  

• Which to choose? Some families go to just one, some pick a few, and some go to the whole series. Keep in mind that the companies may do excerpts from their evening show in the daytime performance we will see, or they may do something completely different.

Here are a few resources to help you choose; they may not be updated yet for 2014-2015:

  • ~ Take a look at the Dance Celebration video at the top of this Dance Affiliates webpage for a sample of each company. (Click the link, on the top of that page, that says "Dance Celebration 2013-2014 Season Video".)
  • ~ Go to the Dance Affiliates site and click on the dance company names along the right side of the page. There will be a description of the company, and links to some videos.
  • ~ Go to the Annenberg Center site; find each dance company's name and click for more info.
  • Take a look at the descriptions in the Student Discovery Series brochure. The age suggestions are theirs, typically based on both content and whether younger kids are likely to be interested in the material. (This year's brochure is not yet out.)


~ Be aware that what the company will present for these school-oriented performances can and often does vary from these descriptions of the evening performances.
~ If you have seen one of these companies in a previous year, please note that they may present the same performance, a similar one, or something completely different than they did in the past.

If you're very interested in dance, I'd consider going to many of them; the price can't be beat. Keep in mind that my descriptions are my best guess at what to expect after talking to the Annenberg staff and reading up on the companies, but things can and do change, and what they end up presenting can be quite different than what we were expecting, so you should be open to whatever the company decides to present.


Details for Student Discovery shows:

* Unskate: If you enjoy going to the UnSkate homeschool rollerskating in Christiana, DE, note that the performances marked * are on third Fridays, typically UnSkate days. For 10:30am performances, it is possible to do both in one day by driving directly from Philly to the rink (eating lunch in the car); however it is a long drive.

Directions to the Annenberg: Directions are here, parking and public transport info is here. Sometimes you can find street parking, especially on 38th street. (Allow extra time for this.) Philly now typically has parking kiosks instead of meters; they take cash, credit cards, or the parking Smart Card available online). Typically, 25 cents = 10 minutes or so. If you park on the street, watch the time, and be sure you read all of the signs and comply with them; parking tickets can be expensive and it can sometimes be tricky to understand what is and is not allowed, and where to pay. I usually park in the garage at 38th and Walnut; garage parking can run about $16-$18, which isn't cheap, but avoids the risk of a ticket.  

Nearby the Annenberg: There are often traffic jams at this time of the day - allow extra time to get to Philadelphia. If you arrive early, you can browse the Penn Bookstore. After the show, you can eat your lunch in the Annenberg's adjacent courtyard. There are street vendors on 36th street; my favorite is Magic Carpet, which has a great selection of vegetarian food from a variety of world cultures. See if there's an interesting exhibit at one of Penn's libraries or at the Institute of Contemporary Art (both free). Consider a visit to the Penn Museum, which features artifacts from Egypt, Greece, and Rome - this is a "must see" museum if you are studying ancient history.

Show Day Tips:  Generally, your tickets will be held for you at the theater. Before each show, you can pick up your tickets from the table in the lobby before the show. Make arrangements to meet friends in the lobby if you want to sit with them. 

Arrival Time: Plan to arrive a bit early (10:00-10:15 for the 10:30 shows) so you can get a good seat.  THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE FOR PERFORMANCES THAT ARE SOLD OUT!  The show starts promptly. If you are late, you may have to wait until an appropriate break in the performance to be seated. 

Rules: No food, drinks, or gum in the theater.  They may ask you to leave obvious lunchboxes and coolers at the door.  No recording or taking pictures.  Turn off cell phones during the performance.  Minimize talking during the performance.  (You may need to explain things to younger children – the best way is to whisper directly into their ear, and ask them to do the same to you.) 

Very Young Children: If shows are chosen carefully, this can be a good venue to expose younger children to theater performances. Most of the dance shows are usually fine for most younger children; see the suggestions in my descriptions above. These are school-oriented performances; the audience is mostly children and/or teens. There are often preschool children in the audience. Note that the theater requires each person to have a ticket, regardless of age, even lap children. Note that most performances are aimed at school-aged children, so the interest level of different performances may vary for younger kids. Visit the rest room before the show; you may have trouble re-entering the theater during the show.

Traditional Cheer: At each Dance Celebration show, they welcome visiting schools by name.  It’s traditional to applaud/cheer loudly when they mention the "Homeschool Associations"! 

Giving Your Tickets to a Friend; Lost Tickets: If you want someone else to use your tickets, let me know and I will let the theater know who to give them to.

• SNOW NOTE: In case of bad weather, including a serious snowstorm, you can assume the show will go on regardless.  Contact the theater to verify. Please use your own judgment in deciding to attend.  Take this into account when purchasing tickets, as there are no refunds, even if there is a snowstorm!

Orders Received:
I will post this year's orders here, as I process them, so you know I got them.


Other Ways To Order: If you are not ordering through me, you also can order tickets through the box office, call 215-898-3900. Prices vary based on the number of tickets you are purchasing. You can also put together a group order. You need to buy at least 10 tickets to be a group, the price goes down depending on how many different shows you see, and three shows gets you to the lowest rate. (I think I have that right, but you'll want to double-check.) Call group sales at 215-746-7997 and speak to Edward Epstein for more info.

FREE!   Dance Celebration Master Classes

If your child is serious about dance, they may enjoy taking a free Master Class with one of the visiting Dance Celebration Series companies.  These are usually held just after the company's Student Discovery Series performance. I know of two homeschooled teens who have attended these classes – they both found it to be very inspiring, and both went on to dance professionally.  (Actual Teen Quote:  “That was the best thing I’ve ever done in my whole life.”)  Please schedule these on your own.

Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater

This year, I will not be doing a Shakespeare order. If you wish to go, please contact the box office to purchase tickets. See here for details. I have left the information below, from previous years' trips, to give you an idea of what to expect.

The show this year (spring 2014) is Romeo and Juliet. Tickets are $15 each.

Even though they are not until the spring, these shows sell out early in the fall, so plan ahead, especially if you have a larger group. These plays are consistently excellent – we’ve had a group at almost every play they’ve done for many years!

Read a summary of the play. Before you go, be sure to read a summary of the play with your kids, or you will be hopelessly lost, as they use Shakespeare's original language.  We like Lambs' Tales From Shakespeare because they use a lot of the actual play's text.  (Here is Romeo and Juliet.) The theater also develops EXCELLENT study guides, which you can find on their web site here. One past year's study guide included a summary of the play, background on Shakespeare and theaters of his time, questions to discuss after seeing the play, and even a short version to put on yourself! Even if your kids are younger, you'll find something useful in this guide.

Arrive early. The theater will begin seating at 10:15am, so plan to arrive by 10:00 so you can be in your seat and settled in time. The play will begin promptly at 10:30am. If you anticipate that you will be late please call the office at 215-496-9722. If you are late, they will do their best to seat you at an appropriate interval in the play; however you may have to wait until intermission. Allow plenty of time for driving and parking. Remember that there are often traffic jams on the way into Philly. (Many families allow a lot of extra time, then go for a walk, perhaps to the nearby Rittenhouse Square park, if they arrive very early. In the past, some families have missed part of the show due to traffic problems. Plan ahead.)

Tickets: There are no paper tickets. When you arrive, check in with the group leader, so she can verify that everyone is there. (If you go as an individual, check in at the box office.) It is important that if, at the last minute, you cannot attend, you call the box office or your group leader, so that they do not stress about you not being there on time.

Duration: Typically, performances last approximately two and a half to three hours with one 15-minute intermission. Afterwards, there is usually an optional “talkback” question-and-answer session with the actors, who are quite knowledgable about the play and their characters, as well as acting in general. This is usually an excellent part of the experience, so allow time for it if you can. 

Lunch: Please note, there are no lunch facilities available. Because there is limited gathering space, please make meal arrangements elsewhere for before or after the performance. Usually, you can/should bring a small snack/lunch and eat it during the very brief intermission. Because the church may be using the rooms downstairs for programming, or setting them up for something later in the day, you should assume that we will not be able to use these rooms during intermission. Expect to eat standing up in the lobby, in about 10 minutes; plan your food choices accordingly! No eating in the theater, please, or in any of the large rooms downstairs. Pack your lunches in small containers you can put under your seat; the box office cannot hold them for you.

Younger kids: Please read Are your kids ready for Shakespeare? to help you decide if this event is appropriate for your younger children.  This theater is quite small – it seats only about 120 people, and the actors are only a few feet away - so children will need to sit very quietly for as much as three hours.  It is not always easy to slip out of the theater without interrupting the show, as for most seats you'd have to walk across the stage to get to the exit, plus the exits are used by the actors during the show to enter and leave the stage. Interested, well-behaved younger children who are used to the theater and have some preparation for the particular play may be OK. We've had children as young as 4 or 5, but for most children I'd wait until 8ish for comedies, 10ish for tragedies (or older if they are particularly sensitive). Romeo and Juliet is a bit of both; younger children who know the basic story and won't be upset by death may be ok. (Last year's Much Ado would fall into the comedy category; Othello is a good first tragedy as there is not as much bloodshed as in some others.) Depending on the play, there might be romance, though nothing too demonstrative, and there is usually well-choreographed swordplay. Both of these will be the case for Romeo and Juliet.

2111 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103.  The theater is in a church. They usually have a sandwich-style sign or a flag out front. There is a parking garage next door, and one across the street. I've been told there is a cheaper one down the street, but I'm not sure where. Parking details and directions are at the theater's web site - see "plan your visit" in the upper right corner.

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UnSkate Roller Skating --

For over 15 years, the UnSkate has been hosted by Unschoolers & Others. U&O is an inclusive group of parents who welcome all styles of homeschooling/unschooling methods. All are invited to join in the monthly Unskate. You do not need to be a member of the group in order to skate. So feel free to come out, bring a friend or two and have fun.

Tentative dates for 2012-2013 are: Sept 21, Oct 19, Nov 16, Dec 21 (?), Jan 18, Feb 8 (2nd Friday because of President's Day weekend), Mar 15, Apr 19, May 17.

1-3 pm on the 3rd Friday of each month (date varies sometimes around Easter, Christmas, President's Day, and other holidays) at the Christiana Skating Center, 801 Christiana Road, Newark, De 19713. Cost is $3.50 per skating child, which includes rental of traditional roller skates. Inline-skates are available from the rink for an additional $3 charge.  (Or you can bring your own skates.) Parents skate for free, and non-skating children can come in for free. 

No outside food or drinks please (except for bottles for babies and toddlers). (Skate Center policy.) Soda, water, and snacks are available in vending machines. There is also a water fountain. Snack bar and video game areas are closed during this skating session. Please enjoy your snacks in the car before or after skating. 

This is a very casual event, with kids from tots to teens. If your kids can't skate, don't worry - this is a good place to learn, and most kids catch on after a few visits. There is a large carpeted area for kids who are new to skating to wander around. Moms enjoy skating and/or chatting in the seating area; it's a great place to meet experienced homeschoolers. Babies and toddlers abound.

If you go to the Unskate a few times, you might want to join U&O. They are a loose-knit group of families from the Maryland/Delaware/PA area. They also hold a well-attended weekly Park Day. Contact: 
Carol-from-U&O or join the U&O Yahoo group for current details.

Directions:  Christiana Skating Center, 302-366-0473, 801 Christiana Rd. (Route 273), Newark, DE 19713  The rink is very easy to find, since it’s just off I-95.  From PA, take I-95 South to the Route 273 exit.  Stay in the right lane of the exit ramp – you’ll curve to the right onto Rt. 273 West.  Once you're on the actual road, you'll want to move into the left lane. Go West on Rt. 273 about 2 blocks and turn left into the Pizza Hut parking lot.  (You probably won’t see the skating center before you turn – have faith!)  The skating center is just beyond the Pizza Hut; drive through the parking lots to get there.


FREE!   Pennsylvania Ballet Dress Rehearsals

I will not be putting together a group for this in 2013-2014. If you are interested in this program, I encourage you to contact Mr. Juska in September and ask to be put on his mailing list. See here for details. Consider putting together your own small group! (It's easy.)

PLEASE DO NOT REQUEST TICKETS UNLESS YOU ARE REASONABLY SURE YOU WILL USE THEM. CHECK YOUR CALENDAR FIRST, and be realistic about your schedule! What to expect: Typically, you will see the dancers rehearse half of the show, often with live music. This is a working dress rehearsal, so there may be stops and starts, dancers may not dance full out, etc. In rare cases (injury, etc.), they may end up doing something different than advertised. DETAILS:
There are no paper tickets. Generally you meet the others in your group in the lobby and go in as a group. Make sure you know the name of your group; sometimes there are several homeschooling groups in attendance. The ballet provides very nice workbooks for each participant. The shows are at the Academy of Music or the Merriam Theater on the Avenue of the Arts in Philadelphia.  You may find street parking, but you will probably end up in a parking garage ($).  There is one in the hotel directly across from the theaters. Expect to pay around $15-$18 for parking. (Consider carpooling to minimize the expense.) Allow extra time for parking!

--"There is a minimum age for the Academy of Music and the Merriam. Please make other arrangements for infants and toddlers." The ballet has asked that we not bring kids under age 5. Kids of any age who attend should be the kind of kid who will sit very still and quiet during these working dress rehearsals.

--If you are not sure that your child will be able to sit still and quiet during the performance, please consider the Dance Celebration series as a better first introduction to dance. The DC performances are a bit more accessible to those who are new to dance, and there is a bit more leeway as to noise & movement during the performance. --The usual behavior rules apply. The PA Ballet provided the following guidelines, most of which should be obvious: “Some teachers use the experience to reinforce for their students appropriate social behavior for young ladies and gentlemen, and even have them dress up for the occasion.”  [Note: dressing up is not required, but it can be an opportunity to do so if you wish!]  “Your students’ behavior at the theater is your responsibility.  Behavior that causes distractions for the artistic and technical staff and/or interferes with another school’s enjoyment of the performance is not acceptable.  Talking during the performance, eating, excessive noise entering and leaving the theater, sleeping, disrespect to theater staff, dropping items over the balconies, and immature comments are inappropriate and indicate that some students are not being adequately prepared or properly supervised or both.  Chaperones/parents should be actively engaged in enforcing these rules. Food is not permitted in the theater.  All cell phones and other electronic devices (Discman, walkman, gameboy, etc.) should be turned off and kept out of sight.  Photography is not permitted.  No eating, no talking, no sleeping, no using or looking at electronics/cell phones, no texting. If students have to use the restrooms, they must be supervised...If you have students who are not interested in the ballet, please make arrangements to leave them at school."
In the many years I arranged trips to this program, we never had a problem with any of these issues with our group, but the ballet is very concerned that some groups in the past have not followed these rules, so I'm passing these concerns on to you as they have requested. As guests at the theater, it is wise to behave appropriately and not disturb the rehearsal, or we risk losing this great opportunity.

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology

If you are studying Ancient History, a trip to the Penn Museum is well worth it. They have a significant number of artifacts from the ancient world, especially Ur (Mesopotamia), Egypt, and the Etruscan/Roman world. Visit on your own, or organize a docent-led tour for a small group of friends. Tours include a docent-led tour of a particular gallery, as well as time to explore on your own. This is a nice add-on if you are going to a Dance Celebration performance.

There is a nice lunchroom you can usually use; you will likely share it with visiting schools. There is a coatroom area where coats and lunchboxes may be stored while you tour the museum.

If your tour is in the afternoon, you can arrange to enter the museum galleries earlier so you can look around yourselves before (and/or after) the tour. Parents should accompany children in the galleries; be sure everyone is back at the entrance by tour time!

For directions, see here. The Penn Museum is on the corner of 33rd and South Streets in Philadelphia. It is across from Franklin Field and the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. It is easily accessible by public transportation, including the Regional Rail SEPTA trains - the University City station is very close to the museum.

For guided tours you usually need to enter through the Kress entrance. The driveway to this entrance is located on South Street between the east side of the Muesum building and the nearby parking garage.

Museum Rules: In the galleries, there is no food, no drink, no gum, no videotaping, no backpacks or large bags, no running or disruptive behavior, and no touching of the artifacts or their cases. With some exceptions, non-flash photography is permitted. Children should be chaperoned at all times.

Hay Creek Valley Fall Festival 

September 6 – 8, 2013 (rain or shine), 10 am to 5 pm.
"The Hay Creek Festival prides itself on the recreating and interpreting the 18th and 19th century living and working lifestyles on the Joanna Furnace Iron Plantation. Throughout all three days of the event almost 1200 craftsmen, interpreters, and volunteers bring this significant iron producing community back to life."

Definitely worth the trip.  Bring a camera and fill that portfolio – you can knock off history, science, music, and have a great day out! See their web site for details.

They offer significantly discounted admission to homeschool families on Friday (2012 prices: teachers $7, students free), but you need to fill out a form from their website and bring it with you. (You can also check the website for a discount coupon for weekend days.) We don't go as an organized group, but you're sure to see someone you know; there are always a lot of homeschoolers there on Friday.

Activities include archaelogy, rubber stamp and rubbing stations, mechanical technology (vintage working equipment such as antique cars and tractors, engines, pumps, grain threshers, lathes, cord weavers, and washing machines), early American crafts (spinning, weaving, papermaking, blacksmithing, broom making, glassblowing, and many more), musical performances, a Civil War encampment, and a craft market. The festival features excellent food, usually including soups, Schnitz Un Knepp (apples & ham), farmhouse sandwiches, mac-and-cheese, chicken pot pie, ice cream, pie, fresh fruit, and apple cider. One of the fun parts for many young homeschoolers is riding a school bus from the parking area to the festival grounds.