A common theme I read when going through the volumes is that children should know their surroundings and have a sense of place, topophilia if you will. They should be aware of the nature that lives in their backyard and the surrounding countryside – what trees, wildflowers, and creeks are present, when they bloom and when they fade. She also uses their local towns and neighborhoods as the perfect starting ground for geography lessons. What better place to learn east from west than where you see the sun rise and set each day?
I can’t help but notice however, that all too often, we mothers don’t even have this deep knowledge of our own place. Perhaps it is due to a recent move, or perhaps due to the fact that we didn’t learn about our own surroundings well when we were growing up, but we just don’t know if our street is lined with ash, or elm, or maple trees and we aren’t sure if Elm Street runs north and south or east and west.
May I invite you then, to become a local tourist? Why daydream of traveling afar, when the local surroundings may be just as new to you?
First, it could be helpful to find a local Nature Center. The center itself will probably have plenty of helpful information about the local flora and fauna – more than you can learn in a day, so consider getting a membership and making this a spot to visit often. Sometimes these are privately owned and other times they can be found within state parks. Learn the surrounding trails, creeks, and the trees and plants that grow there. Immerse yourself in the native species around you.
When you know a bit more about your area, it is easier to spot local species in local parks and on your local street. Pick up a field guide to help you if you don’t have one specific to your area and climate.
Next, grab a map of your neighborhood (printing a map from google maps is easiest) and acquaint yourself with your immediate area. Did you know there was a pond behind that house, or a creek? Are you surprised by how much forest-like growth covers the neighborhood? Next, explore your town center, or the neighborhood of a close relative or friends. Walk it, don’t drive. Don’t use a gps, but just your printed map and your senses. Bring a compass and keep an eye of the movement of the sun during your walk.
If perhaps, you find yourself in an area that is new to you or that you don’t really love, consider this your chance to learn to love it. Maybe the location is temporary, or out of your comfort zone (speaking as a northeastern gal who lived on the west coast and the deep south, I feel you) but there are tactics to loving it more and making wonderful memories there!
Once you learn a bit about nature and geography, learn a bit about the people. Make an attempt to find local shops and restaurants and meet the owners. It is all too easy to come to a new place and order all the stuff you need from Amazon so you can unpack, homeschool, cook, and clean. Choose to lean into the local resources of your neighborhood and the people of your town instead. Find a great book store, a great coffee shop, and the library. Attempt to have a conversation at each place. When you find your church, make an attempt to walk there if you live close enough. If not, then just try to spark a meaningful conversation after the service.
Soon, you’ll find yourself feeling a deeper sense of place and a deeper curiosity as it changes through the seasons and the years. Being a hometown tourist will help you find real joy and contentment exactly where you are right now.