Advanced Site Checklist
You can continue to collect only the Basic Information Needed from Site Contact provided under Basic Event Organizing if you wish, but many experienced organizers find that having a bit more information up front can make the whole event go smoother, so we've provided you with the following list of common pre-event queries. Remember, if the question doesn't apply to your event, just don't ask it!
You'll probably find it most convenient to use the PDF version of this checklist of questions to ask. The PDF is set up so that you can either ...
- print the PDF and fill it in with a pencil or pen
- open the PDF on your computer and type the answers into each form field. WARNING: Unless you have the full version of Adobe Acrobat (which is NOT the same as Acrobat Reader) you will NOT be able to save your entries. Once you've completed the form, you will need to print it out in order to retain your information.
The questions on the Advanced Site Checklist are listed below with explanations about why the information may prove useful and sprinkled with general advice on event organizing. We recommend that you read through the following before using the Advanced Site Checklist for the first time. Even if you decide to stick with the questions under Basic Information Needed from Site Contact, you'll benefit from reading over the discussion below as a number of helpful suggestions are covered here.
Before you call the location, you may find it helpful to complete the information you already know — information you've gathered from the location's website, brochures, emails, word-of-mouth. You can then make corrections to this information during your conversation.
Since conversations are often fluid and dynamic, you will not necessarily ask these questions in the order presented. At the end of the conversation, just say that you want to quickly review your checklist and make sure that you've asked all the question that you need answered, then take a brief moment to glance through the form scanning for blank spaces. You can also make a special notation (such as a star) during the conversation next to any questions that you want to revisit at the end in order to clarify or complete.
Date of Contact:
If there are any questions or confusion later, it can be helpful to be able to refer to the date of your conversation.
Site or Event Location Name:
Site Phone Number:
Site Location Address:
Site Mailing Address (if different):
Site Email Address:
All of the above can usually be gathered from the site's website before the call, but you'll want to confirm the location address and probably the email address during your conversation. Unfortunately, websites are not always actively maintained, so it is not unheard of for a former address or outdated contact information to be listed on a website.
Phone Contact Name:
This is the person with whom you are speaking on the phone; ask for it right away if it's not volunteered. This not only lets you address the person by name during the conversation, but allows you to identify your contact if questions come up later.
Site Contact Name:
This is the name of the person with whom you'll check in at the site itself. Sometimes it's just with whoever is at the reception desk, but other times you'll be directed to request a specific guide or instructor. (It's included on the PDF next to the Phone Contact Name, but it's usually a question asked later in the conversation.)
Date of Event:
To prevent miscommunications, confirm the date using the day and month format (for example, Tuesday, July 20) which makes it easier to identify common mistakes in recording dates (for example, July 30 would then be a Friday or Thursday would be July 22).
Start Time of Event:
Participants will arrive by: usually around 15 minutes early
In this case, you're really letting the site know that participants will be arriving about 15 minutes before the event start time rather than asking them when they want people to arrive. If the site is not used to working with homeschool groups, they may be expecting a bus to pull up in front right before the event starts (or later, as is often the case). To prepare them, you can something like, "Since this is a homeschool group, families will be arriving separately in their own cars. In order to make sure that everyone arrives in time to find parking, visit restrooms, check in with me, get their name badges, and otherwise prepare for our event to start promptly, I'm going to ask my participants to plan to be at your site by x:xx. Does that work for you?" Most sites will express pleasure at this suggestion, but a few will also express concern about keeping lobbies and entrances clear for other patrons that may be arriving or departing — or they may tell you that staff will not be onsite ahead of time or the building may not be open (a concern in colder or wetter weather). This opens the door for you to discuss how best to manage the group before the event. You're not likely to be told not to ask people to arrive early, but you may be asked to direct them to a specific area in which to wait or be asked to remind them to stay with the group (other than restroom visits) or to stay as quiet as possible during the waiting period.
End Time of Event or Event Duration:
Even if you don't care how long the event lasts, you are likely to get questions about the event length for those making plans for later in the day or just planning their route home, so it's useful to have the information up front.
Place to Meet
Lobby, main entrance, parking lot, etc.
Since the group will be arriving early, find out where the site would like you to gather before the event. This is usually in the lobby or by the front entrance, but you may be directed elsewhere in order to keep those areas clear.
You may have selected a program with a title from the website or a brochure. If not, ask if the program has a title as participants often find titles helpful in identifying events. If you will be using a title you have created yourself, let the site know what it is (in case someone calls and refers to it — participants should address all questions to you, but people have called sites with questions leading to confusion if they refer to an event by a name the staff has never heard). Of course, not all events have titles. (It may just be the site name or at most "Tour of Site Name.")
Again, you may have gotten this information from the website or a brochure, in which case you should review it with your phone contact to confirm that it is still accurate and complete. If not, ask for a description of the activities. Things that participants generally like to know in advance other than the topic of the program are ...
- is it lecture or hands-on or a mix (and then how much of each)
- are there any knowledge or skill prerequisites (for example, reading level, math level, physical health, or familiarity with subject)
- is there any preparatory reading or other investigations that can or should be done before the event
- are there any supplies that participants should bring along (a notebook and pencil are the most common)
- will the event be indoors, outdoors, or a mix of both (and how much time in each environment)
- do participants need to dress in any particular way (for example, good walking shoes, closed-toes shoes, art tunic, long pants, "for the weather" or warmer clothing or cooling clothing than weather might suggest)
Confirmation and Attendance Numbers Needed By:
Payment Needed By:
Group Size Restrictions:
Small Group size:
Because most locations are used to dealing with schools who know how many classes will be attending and how many students are in each class, you may be asked to state how many people will be attending up front. Explain that you need to announce the event first and then accept reservations and collect payments. You will need to know the minimum number of participants required to offer the program and the maximum number that can attend. If the site has never worked with a homeschool group before, they may be confused by all this, but if you explain it, they'll almost always be able to understand the situation. Don't get frazzled by this. Keep in mind that while schools may know that accommodate are thirty children in every classroom, they can't know that all thirty of those children will attend school that day or arrive with signed permission slips.
Once you know the constraints imposed by the location, you get to choose the maximum group size within those constraints. If the location can accommodate 30 or 60 or 500 people, that doesn't mean you have to try to bring that many. Sometimes large groups are fun, and sometimes smaller groups are better. Many organizers choose to set their maximum group size at the minimum number necessary. If you enjoy or want a large group, go for it! If you enjoy or want a smaller group, choose that.
Then set a date when you will call back with your final attendance numbers. For most locations, the confirmation deadline will usually be one to two weeks before the event. A few places may require a longer deadlines, perhaps six weeks, perhaps three months. You can still work with these locations, but you will need to schedule events further in advance.
Generally speaking, your confirmation date is the same as the cancellation deadline and payment deadline but not always, so it is best to ask about the site's cancellation policy. You might say something like, "I don't expect to need to cancel this event, but I know that things can go unexpectedly wrong, so I'd like to know in advance what your cancellation policy is." In most cases, if you cancel by the confirmation deadline, you will not have any financial responsibility to the site. If a very few cases, you may be asked to put down a non-refundable deposit; please don't do so unless you can afford to lose the money — while event cancellations are extremely rare, it is better to abandon your event plans than risk a financial loss you cannot comfortably absorb. (The most common reason for an event cancellation is because the site must cancel for their own reasons, but it does sometimes occur that an event does not get enough registrations to meet the minimum attendance numbers.)
While you're talking numbers, ask if the site wishes to have a larger group broken down into smaller groups as it will be easier to do so in advance rather than on site right before the event.
If this is an event that welcomes parental and sibling attendance, clarify to whom the maximum, minimum and small group numbers apply — participating children, all children (excluding babes-in-arms or not), parents and children, etc.
Inclement Weather Policy
This matters most in two circumstances: Outdoor events and events during winter when driving conditions do occasionally become treacherous. Most places have a semi-strict "Rain or Shine" policy — they won't cancel an event due to the weather unless it's really extreme weather (whiteout conditions or tornado warnings). A few won't accept a cancellation under any circumstances. If it's an outdoor event, they may ask that participants be instructed to dress for the weather, or they may have the ability to move the activity inside (it might become a different activity in that case). Sometimes they will permit a rescheduling but will not issue a refund. (This is, of course, very difficult to administer for homeschool groups as those available on the original date may not be available on the rescheduled date.) Whatever the policy, it's best to know it in advance.
Cost per participating child or cost per child over the age of _:
Target age range:
Cost per non-participating sibling or cost per child under the age of _:
Cost per adult:
Your event may be just for the participating children without the attendance of parents and siblings, in which case you just need that one price, but many homeschool events necessarily involve the entire homeschool family in which case you will need to clarify the prices for everyone. If you are planning a family event and the site balks at this idea, just explain that the parents are present as teachers and chaperones and that they cannot be expected to abandon one child so that they might accompany another.
The most common concern expressed is that children will not be welcoming of or tolerant of younger siblings. You can explain that homeschooled children are used to learning in multi-age environments. (You might be tempted to add that disdain for younger children is a learned behavior brought on by the nature of the school environment (particularly the hierarchy of age segregation and grade level advancement), but that might trigger a defensive reaction from your site contact, so try to refrain from saying it out loud.) You might also assure your contact that the average difference between siblings is two maybe three years, so there is unlikely to be a huge age range present.
Another common concern is that the younger or older siblings will be bored if the material is too advanced or not advanced enough for them. Again, explain that homeschool families are used to learning and teaching in multi-age environments. The teachers should just teach to the target age range or grade level and let the parents worry about filling in any gaps. Some guides will adjust their presentation to the youngest children present, so please plan to reemphasize when you arrive that the presentation should be addressed to the children in the target age range and that parents can be expected to fill in gaps for any siblings present.
You'll also want to clarify the role of parents and siblings in your Event Notice. Common phrasings include ...
- Children must be accompanied by parent or other responsible adult
- Parents welcome as chaperones and educators.
- Parents and non-registered siblings are not permitted in the classroom.
a note about Complimentary Chaperones
In general, for family events you can expect an average ratio of about two children per adult. You may be told that you can have, for example, one complimentary chaperone per ten children. Explain that there is no way for you to fairly and reasonably distribute that as you will not know the exact ratio of adults to children until you have accepted all registrations. You can ask if you might instead have a discounted adult rate for all adults — perhaps 5% or 10% off the regular price. Some places have prices specifically for homeschool groups; recognizing that the parents are there in the role of their children's teachers and chaperones, these places will usually admit parents for free or for a reduced rate. If the site doesn't have a homeschool pricing policy, encourage them to consider one!
In Advance or At the Door
Group or Individual
Cash, Check or Credit Card (VISA/MasterCard, Discover, American Express, etc.)
In general, an organizer can expect to make a single group payment in advance, usually over the phone via credit card, but it is useful to know in advance what the expectations and options are.
Please see the section on getting successfully reimbursed by participants for more information on payments including a discussion of why it will be easier on you, the organizer, to make a single group payment in advance rather than have individuals pay at the door.
Museum Adventure Pass:
Some locations participate in the Museum Adventure Pass program. In general, these passes cannot be used for group events, but in very rare cases their use is allowed. Rather than assume that they cannot be used, ask in advance. Someone will probably ask if they can use the pass, so you'll also be prepared to answer the question. (Additional discounts might also be offered to members of the site, but this is rarely the case as the group rate is usually already steeply discounted.)
Parking Cost and Location:
As the majority of your participants will be arriving via car, it is helpful to let them know in advance where parking is located and what the cost will be. Many sites have an associated parking lot or ramp. Other locations will require that participants find street parking. In the case of street parking, ask whether or not it is metered parking and what the hourly rate is for the meters, so that you can warn participants to bring along sufficient quarters for the meter.
Is MapQuest and Google Maps Accurate?
Nearest intersection and/or Driving Directions Notes:
If a person enters the street address of the site into MapQuest or Google Maps, will the resulting location be correct? Many locations know that it will not be and will be able to give you the corrected information such as the nearest intersection or other driving directions.
Nearby Bus Routes:
Since some participants may use the bus as their main or only form of transportation, you can ask if the location is aware of the nearest bus routes. You certainly don't have to ask this question as most frequent bus riders know how to find the best route on their own, but providing it will also garner you thanks for the extra effort. However, the most useful information you may glean from this question is that there are no nearby bus routes which will be essential information for those who rely on the bus.
Many locations will expect at least the participating children if not everyone to arrive with name badges applied. Others won't notice or care. Find out in advance what the expectations are. You can use pre-printed name badges as a check-in tool, or bring along blank name badges and markers for participants to complete badges their own — in which case, you'll want to plan sufficient pre-event time to do so.
Pre-printed name badges are also a useful way to break larger groups down into smaller ones — you can mark group names or numbers on the badges or use different colored badges or ink color for the different groups.
You can find templates for pre-printed name badges on the HSAdventures Yahoo Group site.
Some members of Homeschool Adventures face mobility challenges. It is helpful to know in advance whether or not a site is wheelchair accessible and to what degree. Some historic locations are not ADA compliant in order to preserve the historic integrity of the site, but most of those locations are willing to find a way to accommodate everyone with advance notice of the assistance needed. Most locations will want requests for assistance to be channeled through you the organizer rather than be contacted directly by participants, so you'll want to be clear in your Event Notice that anyone needing assistance should contact you directly and not the site.
Location, Handicapped Accessibile, Diaper Changing Stations, Family Restrooms
This is one of those questions that was added from experience. Most locations have a restroom on site, but if there isn't one, then anyone traveling with children wants to know that in advance and plan accordingly. The issue of diaper changing stations and family restrooms is usually only an issue for events for younger children who are more likely to have infant siblings or to require the assistance of an opposite-sex parent in the restroom.
Again, strollers are most likely to appear at events for younger children. Some locations discourage or do not permit strollers because (1) they occupy quite a bit of space and (2) they limit the mobility of the group. This last is particularly important if there is walking that involves stairs or unpaved paths. Rather than have a distraught parent told to return her stroller to the car or be left behind at the stairwell, find out in advance what the policy is and include the information in the event notice.
Kids, especially younger ones, get hungry, then they get cranky, then the event falls apart. Find out what the site's food policy is and give your participants advance warning as many locations do not permit food or beverages.
On the other hand, if the site can supply space and time for a post event lunch, scheduling one may provide your participants with a welcome opportunity for conversation and connection. Some sites also have a cafe or restaurant, but they may require advance reservations for groups.
After Event Activities:
For events at museums, parks and similar locations, find out whether or not participants are welcome to stay and explore on their own after the event or if they are expected or required to clear the premises.