Thursday, December 11, 2008

(Surprise) Field Trip: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

December 2020 perspective update: After I posted this, I was contacted by my local museum about my experience. They wanted to talk to me about how to make it more kid-friendly. I kick myself every day because I didn't go talk to them! In 2008, I was in the trenches of parenting and homeschooling 4 kids and having a ball with it and didn't want to leave them crying at home to go have a meeting. I caught some crap about even taking my kids to a nice museum in the first place, so I took this post down. Here it is again though, because I believe in taking kids to museums! In fact, you'll find an entire category about it on my blog now! Happy historical hunting!

Photo taken at Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art January 2020

I’d found these cute cartoon DVDs at the library that let you “meet” dead artists like Picasso and Matisse and learn about their art. I can’t draw to save my life, but my kids got some artistic talent from their dad, which is another reason why I homeschool. I don’t think one hour a week for art in school is enough. On the rare occasions when I sit my butt down and color or attempt to draw or clumsily do a craft, it relaxes me and I lose track of time just like the kids.

I love going places with my kids. When I have a tiny baby, it’s certainly a challenge, and I usually have to schedule things around having a helper come places with me (Mom, Dad, Aron, my cousin Zee).

Otherwise, I don’t mind taking them to the pool by myself. I don’t mind taking them to Target. I LOVE taking them on educational and fun trips. Even driving to Phoenix (and San Diego) from Kansas City this summer for a 3-week adventure was a great way to get out of the house and just be with my kids.

So one day last week I washed the sling, put the double stroller in the trunk, packed PB&Js and yelled for the kids to get in the van. I had decided the day before that we were going on a Surprise Field Trip to our local museum.

I told them we had to go out for chocolate, which we did. Then the whole way to the museum all I heard was, “Where are we going?” so I turned up the Christmas music louder. We ended up staying for two hours. I called it a reconnaissance mission. The goal was to familiarize them with the museum so we could go back again and see other things and maybe stay longer the next time. Admission was free (donations gladly accepted) and parking was only $5, so it seemed like a deal to me.

Once someone asked me if I left my younger 2 kids with a sitter while going on a homeschool field trip to PetCo. And I asked her this:

Why does a field trip have to consist of 1 teacher, 3 parents, 1 guide and 25 kinda bored kids who are just SO excited to be out of class that they don’t pay much attention anyway? It’s true that Joel enjoyed the museum more than the little ones, but they did okay. Next time I may send Joel along with just his dad or a grandparent, though, so he can see what he wants without being rushed.

But how cool is it for a kid to spend an afternoon with his mom and siblings being unrushed and learning what he wants to learn about? All too soon my kids won’t want much to do with me (eeek … the teen years!). I need to love on them as much as I can right now, today. I dig being a mom, and I want my kids to feel that.

The only incident was when Callie couldn’t keep her hands off sculptures and paintings at the end. I told her she’d go to Art Jail, but it didn’t work. When she full-on fondled a painting called Bikini from 1964, a mean older guy guard barked at me that I “might want to get control of that one.”

Yes, Readers, you know me. I first said, “You have no idea how right you are, Sir.” Then I got mad as I left and was muttering things like, “I’m gonna get control of YOU, dude!” and “It’s a PAINTING; not life or death. Jeez. Maybe if you had some stuff they COULD touch they wouldn’t want to touch EVERYTHING.”

So that’s my biggest beef with the museum: that they just did huge and expensive expansion but didn’t do anything for kids. I realize the Nelson is a grown-up art museum and I took a 3-year-old there and told her not to touch anything (so I was totally askin’ for it), but Phoenix’s museum at least has a nook for kids to touch stuff and read about art and draw.

A good lesson was learned today, though. On the way to the museum we drove through a very ritzy neighborhood with lots of what Joel called “mansions.” He said, “I’ll bet the people who live in those are really happy.” I said, “Not necessarily. I wouldn’t be happy in a house like that because I’d have to clean it. Also, we’d never see your dad because he’d have to work all the time to be able to afford our home.”

I believe that if I teach my kids that all there is to life is attending college and making lots of money, then the homeschool experience will have been a complete and total failure.


  1. Tell Callie I'm right there with her on wanting to touch stuff at the museum. I went to the Nelson Art Gallery last month with Colin. He had an art project he had to do and it required a trip to the museum which I more than happily went along [chance to spend time with my 20 year old child]. Anyway I couldn't resist touching one of the walls to see it if was wood or stone and as I put my hand on the wall to feel it - around the corner comes the "art police" to holler at me "not to touch." Of course, Colin was like "Mom, please behave!" So then I had brought my camera with me so I could take a picture for Colin of what he was writing his project on and when I snapped the picture - again the "art police" were on me like flies telling me "you can't use a flash camera." Colin looks at me and says "Jeez Mom I can't take you anywhere!!" So then Colin said we had to leave.

    So I know how Callie feels - you should be able to feel the artwork in the musuem and the "art police" should only be able to holler at you if you are running out the door of the museum with a piece of their artwork in your hands.

    Go Callie - I'm right there with you and I totally understand your need to touch stuff - you go girl!

    1. I love this. I would hate to have the job of security guard there!


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