Houston is often an underrated and undervalued city. It is the 4th largest US city based on population. However, Houston’s size in terms of square miles is larger than the state of New Jersey. Houston is a foodie city as Houstonians eat out more than any other US city. And, Houston’s theater district is second to New York City. More rankings can be found here. So, yes, Houston has more than people know. In this blog, I’m going to highlight what we’ve seen in the city and what these places offer to homeschoolers. We are truly blessed by the amazing and abundant resources of Houston!
Stages Repertory Theatre They have a variety of types of shows but usually at least one of their performances is appropriate for younger children. And they have special group pricing for select show times for groups of more than 6. We have taken our son to a show here as well as having friends who work here.
Company on Stage In addition to have many shows that adults will enjoy, they also put on special kids shows. We have been to a couple shows as well as having friends who work and perform here.
Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) In addition to their regular performances, they also put on educational/school performances. And, homeschoolers are treated just like schools by being allowed admittance at the same school rate. They put on 4 special student matinees that target different school aged groups. We go to at least 2 shows each year.
Alley Theatre In addition to their regular performances, they too put on educational/school performances. And, homeschoolers are allowed the same access. They put on several student matinees and host other special programs. We go to one show a year.
Houston Ballet In addition to their regular performances, they too put on educational/school performances. They put on 3 student matinees. They also hold dance talks, studio dance series, and building tours that are for free. We go the nutcracker and a studio dance series every year.
Da Camera This is a chamber music and jazz performance group that plays at Cullen Theater, Wortham Theater Center, and various venues throughout Houston. They also have many free concerts and music education initiatives. We have heard them perform within the community.
Houston Symphony The Houston Symphony performs at Jones Hall as well as special events throughout the city. They often have special performances on the weekend and during the summer that include an instrument petting zoo. They host many special school performances that homeschoolers also get to attend. They hold special themed school performances broken down by grade level (lower elementary, upper elementary, middle school, and high school) as well as special kids and family events. We attend their open house yearly as well as go to at least one school performance and one community performance.
Broadway at the Hobby Center They put on a variety of shows but don’t specifically list out school performances. However, they do have group discounts so it is cheaper if you can go as part of a larger group (minimum 10). And, they do have study guides for all of their shows.
Houston Grand Opera They put on a variety of performances and put on at least one student matinee. In addition, they have community programs to bring opera into the schools and the greater community.
AD Players They have a main stage season and a children’s season. They are very home school friendly. We go to their holiday show each year.
Main Street Theater They have a main stage and they have a special theater for youth. As part of their theater for youth they have special school group performances and prices. We go to at least one show a year here. They also run special events and classes that are also very home school friendly.
Fort Bend Theatre They run a variety of shows of which many are family friendly. Their shows are very affordable and they are the closest theater to us which is why we go to one show a year here.
Interactive Theater Company They run very family friendly and interactive performances throughout the year. They also have special home school happenings with its own registration process. This theater is very different in that kids can volunteer for various skits on stage and the whole audience is included in the performance. We went to our first show with them this year and plan on coming back yearly.
Society for the Performing Arts (SPA) SPA has a variety of performances and student performances. In addition, they hold a select number of seats for students for their night time performances through the student series.
The Theatre Report has a great list of the smaller community theaters in the Houston area. We know there are even more theaters than we listed. But as you can see, Houston has lots of options. We view using the theaters as a great way to get music and art exposure as well as great lessons for social studies and developing social skills. If you are not in Houston, research what your community has. If you are near Houston, check out a show! Using the theater as a home educator has been an excellent and affordable experience thanks to the substantial discount schools get.
Houston Museum of Natural Science This museum has its big main location in the Museum District of Houston but has a satellite branch in Sugar Land and has George Observatory at Brazos Bend State Park. Special events happen at all 3 locations. Only the main site offers a free time one day a week (Thurs. afternoons). Supposedly both sites offer classes for home school. However, we go through Homeschool and Beyond for classes at the main site. Our son absolutely loves the home school classes the science museum offers. They have classes for 1st through 12th grade. Every year he does 2 to 3 dissection classes on top of 2 to 3 other hands on science classes. In addition, the museum runs all kinds of special educational programs and guest lecturers.
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft This is a small museum but it offers monthly Hands-on-Houston event on the first Saturday of each month. We have attended numerous of these programs. In addition the museum provides free educator resources for incorporating craft into various subjects. It is also very close to the Contemporary Arts Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, and the Lawndale Center making it very easy to combine with other art museum visits.
Museum of Fine Arts This is the big arts museum of Houston with two large campuses connected by an art tunnel. It also includes a few off campus locations and an art school. The art school offers home school classes in addition to their regular schedule of classes and weekend classes. The museum is free every Thursday. Children 12 and under are always free. And any child up to 18 is free if they present a TX public library card. Their Cullen Sculpture Garden is always free. Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens is free the 3rd Sunday of every month and when they hold their special Bayou Bend Family Days which is loaded with activities. The Kinder Foundation Education Center is located on the lower level of the Museum of Fine Arts has free educational resources that can be used during your visit. In addition, on their family days and during the summer they offer sketching and kids activities for free. We definitely enjoy all the various collections and locations the Museum of Fine Arts has to offer. They even have a website dedicated to all the home school resources they offer.
The Menil Collection This is a collection of 6 sites all within walking distance of each other and all are free. In addition, there is a separate Photography Museum and Rothko Chapel all nearby. We make a day yearly and visit all the sites. For adults and those interested, they hold many special events and guest lectures or talks too.
The Health Museum The Health Museum is located next door to the children’s museum. It takes part in the free Thursday afternoons, holds special events, and it runs home school programs. They run classes throughout they year for grades preK-12th grade. Our son has enjoyed their dissection classes
The Children’s Museum of Houston This museum offers an amazing membership perk at the Explorer Level in that you gain access to the ASTC Travel Passport Program participants for free (100’s of museums participate). We have taken full advantage of this when traveling around the US to visit family and friends. The passport program gains you free access to museums in the ASTC program. The Children’s Museum also takes parts in the free Thursday afternoon program. It also offers special home school only days twice a school year where it is closed to the general public and only open for the home school community along with special classes. The museum is always having special programs and events.
Houston Zoo I actually blogged on the Houston Zoo recently. We take full advantage of their Swap Shop and special home school activities as well as special events. If you are not a member, the Houston Zoo has several free days throughout the year.
Space Center Houston (NASA Johnson Space Center) The Space Center is a day trip all by itself. They run special events and host an annual home school day. In addition they have tons of educational resources (all free and from the Educational Center located on site), NASA resources, and special programs. At the educational resource center inside space center they will copy their videos on DVD’s for free (you provided the DVDs).
There are significantly more museums than listed above. I only listed the ones that have special programs that we have actually used. The Houston Museum District has 19 museums alone in 4 different walk-able areas or zones. In addition, each zone has a special event in which all museums in that area are free. Our son has been inside all 19 of the Houston Museum District Museums. Many of them have special days or times each week that are free which we fully take advantage of. Visit Houston lists 63 museums and 18 historical sites in the Houston area. Wikipedia has a list of almost 100 museums in the Texas Gulf Coast region which is including an area of about 1-2 hour drive from Houston. We have visited over 60 museums or historical sites/plantations in the greater Houston area. If you are willing to drive to Beaumont (about 2 hours away from us) there is another 19 museums and historic sites. Our son has been to 5 of them and we plan on visiting more. We had to make a special trip out there in order for him to see the Edison Museum. As you can see, there are plenty of museum choices for all, many of which are free. We find the museums as a perfect way to cover science, social studies, art, and social skills.
There are 4 historic plantations close to Houston. George Ranch, Liendo Plantation, Varner-Hogg Plantation, and the Washington the Brazos State Historic Site. Each of these plantations hold special events and living re-enactments throughout the year as well as special school days and home school days. We have attended events at Liendo Plantation and George Ranch. We plan on visiting the other two sites as well.
There are 8 state parks all within a short drive of Houston (1 to 2 hours depending on which side of town you live on). There are even more if you are willing to drive 2 to 3 hours. All of the state parks run various ranger programs and different special events. In addition, many of the state parks have junior ranger programs for the kids to complete. Another benefit from the TX state parks is their resources available to teachers, both public and home school. They have a loaner trunk program that is loaded with educational resources that can be borrowed for 2 week periods. We have done their water and bat trunks so far. They also have lots of free lesson plans and activities that can be downloaded. We have been to 5 of the state parks with plans to go to more.
There are 11 federal parks within a 2 hour drive of Houston (some might be longer depending on which side of Houston you are coming from). There are even more parks within TX. Here are the local ones: Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, Big Boggy National Wildlife Refuge, Lake Texana National Recreation Area, Anahuac National Refuge Area, Big Thicket National Preserve, Sam Houston National Forest, McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge, and Texas Point National Wildlife Refuge. We have taken our son to 5 of these parks with plans to go to more.
I know this list of Houston resources is not exhaustive. However, I’m hoping it inspires you to research what is around your city. And, if you are close to Houston, maybe it will inspire a Houston road trip. For those of you living in Houston, I hope I have provided you with field trip ideas. Houston is really a great city to live in. And, as a homeschooler, it is filled with awesome and affordable (if not free) adventures! Go and enjoy Houston!