Super Busy at Home

Family blog about homeschooling, autism, saving money, mom blog, travel, vacation, budgeting.

Review: Conner Prairie

Each school year we enter into the sacred time with new hopes and expectations for the future.  It's always a feeling of excitement and with fervor we rush into the newness of our schedules: armed with the unspoken promise that our efforts will indeed bring forth a new era of accomplishment into our lives.  

Each year as a homeschooling family we try to carve time out of our schedules for two field trips each month for the duration of our school year.  Sometimes we fail, other times we flourish.  No matter what the future within our new year may bring, for the past several years our inaugural field trip has been to a place that has never failed to invoke a feeling of wonder and to evade our schooling with excitement. 

What is this place?  

It's Conner Prairie.  

Located in the heart of Indiana (which is the heart of the Midwest, keenly inside the heart of the heart) is a place that has evolved over the years into something nothing short of magical.  

We had the joy of being hosted this year by Conner Prairie in exchange for this, my own words about the place called Conner Prairie.  

First let me tell you about our trip this year: 

The Prairie opens each day at 10 am so we planned to be there right at the beginning.  Arriving in the morning is always so fun because the animals haven't met the full heat of the day yet.  We found frolicking lambs, squealing piglets, and playful kids (in the goat variety) wherever we turned.  While we are not strangers to the barnyard scene, we certainly are not accustomed to it on a daily basis.  Conner Prairie's farm life comes in just the perfect way...lots of experts to explain things and buckets of hand sanitizer.  

After saying hello to the animals we scoped out our map and decided that Treetop Outpost was the next place for us.  

The thing I love the most about the Treetop Outpost (or the treehouse as my kiddos call it) are the amount of activities there are to do within the area.  Kids with varying interests can enjoy different activities at the same time while mom is nearby.  Our kids are 10 and 12 and I love letting them wonder through the Outpost without me, giving them a sense of adventure and independence while mom is waiting at the bottom for their return.  

After lots of fun running, making music, digging, and exploring we decided to partake in a Make and Take craft.  For only $5 per child they were each able to construct a wooden treasure box.  We adore Conner Prairie's crafts because they are solid objects that the kids can take home and treasure.  I always walk away amazed by what they were able to construct and at how much of a value each craft is. 

If you decide to do a make and take craft, be sure to make it a point to talk to the workers who oversee the crafts; they truly are a plethora of knowledge from the history of Conner Prairie to the best places to eat once you leave, I've had some very interesting and insightful conversations with these wonderful people.  You can tell that they are deeply invested in Conner Prairie and not just an employee.  

Our day progressed and as the heat intensified I felt we were slowing down, like a little family moving through glue.  

We stopped to play in a tug of war game in the Prairietown area outside of the general store we explored.  

After that I was losing Cal.  Most of you know he has High Functioning Autism.  We reach a point where enough is enough and he just needs some quiet and alone time.  

Last year was when I discovered Conner Prairie has these Quiet Spots.  I adore that they don't have just one but several throughout the prairie.  Because let's be real, can be worse than trying to move a child in a full panic all the way across the complex to a quiet area. I've done that at other places and let me tell you, it's not fun.  I counted no less than 5 Quiet Spots on the Conner Prairie map but there could be more.  I can't say enough about these areas you guys...they are a godsend! 

We found one right on the edge of the town by the restrooms and for a momma in crisis mode it is a dream come true...quiet, well lit, cold, with a box of sensory resources to use.  I am highly impressed by Conner Prairie's attention to detail in this department.  Weighted blankets and fidget toys are calming for us and they had both.  Amazing, you guys! 

After our break we refueled (Conner Prairie allows outside food to be brought in) and then we headed out to the Civil War Journey area.  

If you have older kids learning about the Civil War, this is such an ideal destination.  First of all, let's be real, there just aren't many field trips you can find within Indiana, or the Midwest for that matter, about the Civil War.  And while it was very neat for us in the past to travel to places like Gettysburg or Savannah to learn about the civil war history there, in reality it's just not practical in most time frames of life.  

The Conner Prairie Civil War area does an amazing job of transporting you back in time by having you walk across a real covered bridge to enter.  There are a couple fairly intense representations of Civil War action, a house to explore, and more!  

With the heat in the mid-nineties when we visited we also enjoyed their new splash pad, and their new water play feature (again, we stayed here forever because this is always super calming for Cal).  

Conner Prairie is located in Fishers, Indiana, which sits as a cute little hat on top of Indianapolis.  It is very close to the interstates and very convenient to get to.  I think it would be impossible to make it through everything in one day (we only covered two and a half areas this trip!).  Below is a carousel of photos from a previous trip we had to Conner Prairie, just to give you a look at other things they offer: Tomahawk throwing, Fun Science activities (indoors and out!), the William Conner house (that started the entire place!), there is so much to do.  

If you are a homeschooler and would love to visit, I have good news!  

They offer various homeschool activities throughout the year that are focused on an indepth look at various sciences or historical eras.  Water filtration, civil rights, and lunar landers are some of the topics on their calendar. 

And every August and September they offer special homeschool days so homeschool families can come at the field trip price without the amount of students a field trip normally consists of!

You can read all about their homeschool programs and their upcoming homeschool day here.  

I hope you enjoyed our little tour and review!  We love Conner Prairie and we know you will too!

Our Winter Trip to the Indianapolis Zoo

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day we went to the Indianapolis Zoo.  I wasn't sure what to expect going to the zoo when it was only 7 degrees out but we went anyway.  It was amazing.  Even though not many animals were out we had an amazing experience.

As I mentioned in this previous blog, to get in we only had to pay with canned goods to help the local food bank.  How amazing is that?

The first thing we went to see was the indoor aquarium. 

Winter Trip to the Indianapolis Zoo.  Super Busy at Home.

There is something so magical about taking the time to just let the world go by behind you while you gaze at the fish swimming contentedly around.  And then there is something to ethereal about watching your children be able to do the same thing.  It is such a joy to watch them enjoy God's creation and to discover all of the attributes about it.

Winter Trip to the Indianapolis Zoo.  Super Busy at Home.

I think our favorite part was getting to watch the Dolphins.  They have this walk through thing where the tunnel is under the water and the dolphins swim by. Because it was the winter and there was hardly anyone else there we had the whole place to ourselves and the kids and I laid down and watched the dolphins swim over us.  At first Emma thought I was crazy but after we left she said that was her favorite part.  See?  Sometimes it pays to be the weirdo mom :)

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Other things the kids loved were the penguins waddling around,

Winter Trip to the Indianapolis Zoo.  Super Busy at Home.

the walrus under the water eating his fish and then spitting it out at us (I refrained from posting those pictures on here.  You're welcome! :)  ).

Winter Trip to the Indianapolis Zoo.  Super Busy at Home.
Winter Trip to the Indianapolis Zoo.  Super Busy at Home.

The orangutan exhibit was so neat and we spent lots of time there watching the apes (not monkeys as we learned!).

Winter Trip to the Indianapolis Zoo.  Super Busy at Home.

We also saw a polar bear,

Winter Trip to the Indianapolis Zoo.  Super Busy at Home.

a tiger that looked like he just wanted to be pet (or eat our face off but you know, whatever), and more!

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All in all it was a super fun day.  I think our most memorable thing though were the dolphins. After lunch we returned to the zoo for the dolphin show.  The kids had no idea that dolphins were capable of performing and doing all of the neat tricks.  They were squealing with delight, it was so precious.

So there ya have it, our fun, freezing trip to the zoo.  If you go in the winter I do highly recommend it because we were able to have so much more interaction with the cold weather animals and with such low attendance it practically felt like we had the place to ourselves.

Have you ever been to the zoo in the winter?  Did you like it more than other times? Comment below, sweet friends!