Field Trip to the Chocolate Factory

It’s field trip Friday and today we really felt like Charlie when we went to visit a chocolate factory in a nearby town! The hour long tour started with a video on the history of chocolate, which was really interesting. I’m always intrigued to think about the first person to decide to try a food. I mean, who looked at that funky cocoa bean pod and said, “hmm, if I take out these seeds and dry them for 5 days, then grind them to a powder I’ll have something delicious on my hands?” According to the video, the Aztecs were the first to have this stroke of genius. They mixed cocoa powder with water and made the world’s first hot chocolate called chocolatl. Montezuma apparently drank up to 50 cups a day of the stuff! My kids decided a frozen version would be better in the 90 degree heat.

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Once we saw the video we started our actual tour, hair nets and all. While the company once had a huge factory and even contracted for the likes of Hershey, Mars, and Nestle, they sold all that off and today have a small factory that makes artisan chocolates. The man who started the business actually went to college with my grandfather, and with an engineering background he designed all the machinery specifically for their factory. He also invented the mold to make those chocolate oranges that fall into slices when you whack them on a counter.

We also got to sample several kinds of chocolates and learn about just how chocolate is made. The kids enjoyed pretending to be judges on the Food Network as our guide encouraged us to smell the chocolate and listen to the snap it makes when you break it before we ate. We were also supposed to let the chocolate melt in our mouths before swallowing, but it was really HARD. Nothing is as good as finely made chocolate!

To be honest, I never realized there were so many factories near us. Our town is big in service industries and shipping, but apparently there are a lot of really cool little factories that are doing international business right in our backyard. I got ideas on where to go by visiting this site that shows factories by state and city. Check it out and see what gems you can find near you. You might even get to leave with a bag full of yummy treats like we did today. Best field trip Friday so far!

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Special Field Trips: Homeschool Days

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For the couple of years my kids were in public school, they got to take some really neat field trips, and for some great prices. For example, there is an alligator farm near us that has regular admission at around $20, but on a field trip we only paid $7. I was bummed to not get the special school rates until I did a little digging around. Turns out, homeschoolers often get the same or better rates! All of the major theme parks have homeschool days that not only offer special discounts but also really great classes that give them behind the scenes education. Several museums near us allow homeschoolers to download education guides for their exhibits and get group rates with just a small group. I’ve listed some of the biggies below, but if you search on the websites of attractions near you, you might just find hidden deals that are not well advertised. I often find them on the education page.

Disney Homeschool Days: Disney offers classes before the park opens that discuss science, animation, and agriculture and how those who work at Disney use them. The price of the class includes admission to the parks.

Universal Studios: Universal requires a group of 15 to get the discount, but if you have a few families join in it’s a great discount.

Kennedy Space Center: The Space Center has a homeschool day in October that grants you behind the scenes tours and a meeting with an astronaut.

Busch Gardens: During September, Busch Gardens has a special discount for homeschoolers, and they have several educational programs all year.

The Biltmore Estate: One of my favorite places anywhere, the Biltmore has a homeschool festival in the fall that includes several activities on their farm as well as a tour of the fabulous mansion.

Fort Menendez St. Augustine: This very cool recreation of a Spanish settlement in St. Augustine is one of our favorite places to go. During January they do a homeschool event with even more crafts and experiences. We’ve made our own candles, spun twine for rope, and played a type of checkers that the Spanish settlers played in the 1600s.

LegoLand: LegoLand has an amazing offer for homeschoolers that allows you to come to the park for only $8 a student!

As I said, these are some of the biggies near us, but if you look around online you’ll find tons of resources and discounts that are available to us as homeschoolers.