New Year, New Term, Some Tweaks

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I like a clean slate.  A break – to think, to assess, to make tweaks.  I do this multiple times per year and one of those times is the week following the new year.  We don’t start up with schooling until the weekend after Epiphany, which falls on January 6th, and so that week between the first of January and the beginning of school is for relaxing, spending time together, and thinking about what needs to be adjusted going forward in our school, our schedules, our home, etc.

I like to take an inventory of what went well and what didn’t go so well in the previous term. Do we have good habits that have slipped or what habits should we focus on?  What has changed since we last started a term?  Is everyone still waking up at the same time or napping consistently?  Is someone now old enough to take on an additional or different daily responsibility?  How is the chore schedule – did anyone age enough to be added in and taught how to do a new-to-them chore?

In our home, the last couple of years have meant a lot of moving around, but now we have been in our current home for four months and have settled in a bit.  I am realizing that our schedule will (God willing!) have the opportunity to be consistent as we plan on being in our current home for at least a year, if not longer.  With no moves, no newborns, no packing and unpacking, I want to be sure that our schedule has all the things that we would like to include in our days.  We aren’t in survival mode right now, and our days should reflect that.  I’ve ordered and used these schedule cards and they helped tremendously in making sure my i’s are dotted and my t’s crossed.

We also have a little boy who is freshly four.  While Charlotte doesn’t recommend starting school until the age of six, he is eagerly asking for the opportunity to “do school”.  I need to find the time in the day for more reading with mom (or older siblings) and time to play number games and learn letter sounds.  He can take on a bit of household responsibility and needs to improve in some areas of behavior.  I need to give him some dedicated attention and time.

In addition to our school time being scheduled well, I want to make sure we are making time for the chores that need to get done.  While everyone pitches in as needed, I’d like to get a system of morning, afternoon, and meal time chores on paper so everyone knows what is expected ahead of time and can do the jobs more independently.

On the other hand, what has worked extremely well is merging history time frames across all students. Learning about the same period of history has meant that my younger student doesn’t feel like the timeline is already filled in before she gets to add items to the wall. It means that we can have conversations as a family about what it would be like to travel with Lewis and Clark or along the Oregon trail.  We are making connections together and encouraging one another.  It is a huge win for us!

Another item that is working really well for us is a weekly hike.  We’ve been going on Fridays to our local nature center and hiking on the trails.  Everyone benefits from being outdoors and I like going to the same location over and over to see the seasonal changes.  We are beginning a new nature study club this term, so this will have to change to every other friday, but I want to make sure it stays in our schedule.

Next week, I’ll share a bit of our schedule and our book selections for the term.  I always like to see what people are using in their homeschools and I think it would be fun to share what we’ll be up to this term.

 

5 Steps to Begin Again After a Holiday

Happy New Year! It’s time to begin again in the Snell household after a full holiday season.

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Our Holy Family of Nazareth remains as a reminder of Christmas lessons

“Ordinary Time” sounds like a good idea after feasts, travels, a new puppy, family-time, a teething baby, gift-giving, and more. My 5 year old keeps saying, “I’m so tired and I don’t know why!”

But starting again is often easier said than done. I love Mason’s metaphor of “Laying Down the Rails,” because it rings true. When our whole system is up and running, it just keeps running. When the train falls off the track, it’s so hard to get it moving again…

So here are 5 steps I take to get back-on-track, after holidays, travel, extended illness, or at the beginning of a new term.

  1. Order and refresh your home.

  • Toys: Often on a break, I’ve let out more toys from our toy library or we’ve been given gifts so I take the time to go through play areas and bedrooms and return items to our toy library in the basement.

  • Food: I make sure we’ve restocked our pantry and have a solid meal plan. Over a break, it’s much easier to wing it, but since starting back is hard to do, having all of my meals planned (even breakfast and lunch), means I have one less thing to think about. Also, I try to purge all of the sweets and extra sugar that has made its way into our house and be sure we have lots of healthy snacks around instead.

 

  • Clothes: I try to do a quick purge of items that the children have outgrown or seasonal items no longer needed (Holiday dresses put away, for example). And then we catch up on laundry.

  • De-clutter Hot Spots: It’s easy for piles to start when everyone is in holiday mode–the stairs, the kitchen table, the mantle, a coffee table. We spend time to put things back in their places. After Christmas gift giving, there are usually a few items that need to find a new home.

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  1. Order and Refresh the school room.

 

  • Schedule/Timetable: I look over our time-table to be sure it is still will work for this new season. Has a new activity or sport started? Will the upcoming few weeks entail more travel or any disruptions I need to plan around?
  • Refresh Supplies: It sure is nice to begin with freshly sharpened pencils and to be sure all of our notebooks are ready to go.
  • Organize Bookshelves: I purge any books no longer needed and any books that have found their way to the school shelf that don’t belong. Books have a life of their own, don’t they?
  • Weekly School Prep Page: I walk through “my weekly school prep page” in my bullet journal
  • Pre-reading: I make sure any books I need to pre-read are up in my bedroom so I can skim them at night before bed.

 

  1. Choose one new habit.

Though we have turned the page of our calendar to a new year, for the Charlotte Mason mamma, not much changes…We think in terms of habits, not resolutions. The New Year is a natural time to pause and reflect, but we know that refinement is a slow, steady effort. Not a wild goal. Resolutions tend to be easily broken, frustratingly out-of-reach, quickly discarded. Big goals may help motivate us for a time, but we are in it for the long haul.

  • Habits are part of our regular, every day life.
  • Habits are consistent and reliable.
  • Habits become involuntary. Like eating, breathing, and making our beds
  • Habits are something we do because it is part of who we are.

“Learning How to Live” means we are in the Habit of Building Habits.

What new habit do you need most?

  1. Bullet Journal! (Yes, it’s a verb)

The bullet journal has truly revolutionized my life—I’m better organized and much more at peace. Here’s what I do:

  • Brain Dump: I just list out all of the things that have been swirling in my head—thank you notes, items to be returned, a check to send, a worry about a child, a goal I have. There is no rhyme or reason to the list.

 

  • Monthly Calendar and Project list: I migrate items from the brain dump that belong here and add anything that might be missing.

 

  • Weekly Calendar: I create the new weekly page.

 

  • Planning Routine: I look over my planning routine page just to be sure I’m not forgetting to do what I’ve planned to do to plan.

 

  1. Start with a modified schedule.

 

I plan to start at least a half hour later, if we’ve been sleeping in, so I cut back on a few blocks on our time-table for that day to account for the later start. I also know brains will be a bit sluggish so I lower my expectations. This might mean I read smaller sections than usual before asking them to narrate or I might allow a child who has difficulty writing, draw their narration. I might re-arrange the week to put the books and subjects that bring us the most delight on the first day.

I know the temptation to just jump back in and not take additional time off, but time and time again, I’ve seen this backfire. If education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life, it make sense that we need to think on these things for our days to go well. Putting things in place will mean that the train will chug smoothly down the rails and in the end much more will be accomplished.

Often, I am disappointed that I didn’t “accomplish more” when a break comes to an end. But it’s important for us as parents and teachers to take real breaks too. So now I just tack on a few more days at the end of each break and try to fully embrace each holiday. “Work while you work, play while you play, this is the way to be happy each day.
Remember school teachers have in-service days to plan and organize–homeschooling moms need them too!

So take that extra day or two or three, after you’ve gotten off the tracks, and you will find delight again in your home, your children, and your day!

The Delightful Home

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Amy and I love to chat about home.  We could go on and on about books, blogs, and tips we’ve heard from friends that can help us to make our homes more welcoming, more beautiful, and more efficient. Between us, we have nine children to feed, clothe, and love.  It takes a lot of work to keep our homes in order, and even more work when that order falls away!  We love it so much in fact, that a few years back we asked some of our friends if they wanted to meet to discuss our homes once a month.  To get breakfast as a group and have some time for what we considered to be professional development.  If we were going to be homemakers, we should allot some time to discuss it, learn about it, and do it well.  That group is still going strong and has been an enormous blessing to us, our families, and our homes.  We now want to bring many of those pages of notes, tips, tricks, and new ideas to you, our readers.

This is not about having a dream house, or a home that could be showcased in a catalog.  This is about creating a home that is delightful to you and your family because it is both functional and beautiful.  It is about making small changes that make a big difference in how you use your home and how well it serves the needs of your family.  It can be done in small spaces or large ones, a home you rent or a home your family has lived in for generations.  You spend most of your time at home, so let’s work toward making that time enjoyable.

Why does it matter to have a home that is delightful?  Isn’t it good enough to have a roof over your head and a place to cook meals – even if you can barely see your counters?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, because we should be grateful for even the humblest of spaces and no, because we weren’t called to live in disorder.  As mothers and homemakers, we set the atmosphere of the homes we inhabit.  The atmosphere of a home with a calm mother, who is not stressed by the chores because there is a plan in place to complete them, and who has an orderly home ready for drop-in guests will naturally be different than one with a frazzled mother, constantly feeling behind and downtrodden by her workload.  We want your homes to be places of delight for your families, but also for you!

We were inspired by the Home Organization Challenge going on right now.  That is a great site for inspiration and tips!  We also knew that dedicating 14 straight weeks to overhauling our homes wasn’t going to work for either of us.  We wanted to stretch it out over the year and do a great job in each room of our homes.  Taking a full month to dedicate to decluttering, giving some thought to how the space it used and making adjustments, then adding in beauty to complement the improved function.  We welcome you to join us!  We can’t wait to see your photos and comments on Instagram and Facebook.

Merry Christmas!

Well, it took until the third day of Christmas to get one of us on here to officially say, “Merry Christmas!” to our dear blog readers.  It has been so delightful to hear your kind comments and emails this year.  We hope to make this space a great resource for your and your families in the new year!  Since Amy and I both celebrate Christmas for the full 12 days, we’ll be back to posting after the Feast of the Three Kings on January 6th.

Nature Study in Winter

Getting out in winter looks different all over the country, but in Ohio and New Jersey, where we live, the winters mean cold and snow.  Sometimes just a bit, other times a big, heavy helping, but every winter is cold and snowy.  It is easy to think that in weather like this, we should stay in our warm homes until the season passes.  Hot tea and hot cocoa, books and warm slippers, movie nights and cozy blankets – all of this sounds pretty appealing when the weather is chilly.  With that said, if we prepare ourselves with warm and water-resistant clothing, winter is an especially beautiful season and there is so much to explore and learn.

Here are some ideas to inspire winter nature study:

Trees:

Buds: Did you know the buds on trees and many bushes form in fall, so they are ready to inspect and explore.  They will swell and become more visible in spring, but they are formed now.  Are they hard or soft?  Fuzzy or smooth?  What color are they in winter? Below are three that I found right in my front yard.

 




Bark: Being able to identify your favorite tree using the bark is a lovely way to know your favorite trees even better.  What better time than in winter, when you don’t have the benefit of seeing their leaves, fruit, or seeds?  I personally like using the book Bark, as it outlines the ways to look more deeply at the color, texture, and surface variations of the bark on trees.

Astronomy:

When the darkness comes early, its great to find a clear day and look at the skies after dinner.  You don’t need much knowledge to start – be able to find the north star or the big dipper and then see where your curiosity takes you.  If you are looking to go in depth during your winter term, check out The Stars or Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey (of Curious George fame, who knew he was an astronomer?)  Sometimes, I like to use my SkyView app as well to learn more about what I’m seeing.

Birds:

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Here, a wren and a Black-capped Chickadee get a snack.

Birds are easier to see in winter because the branches are so bare.  Head out for a walk in your neighborhood, at a local park, or at a nature center.  If you have a pair of binoculars, you’ll be able to spot lots of varieties of non-migrating birds.  Or, maybe where you live is “the south” for some varieties of birds that spend their summers in the far north?  My favorite idea blends my love of birds with my desire to stay warm – window bird feeders.  I’ve collected a bunch of feeders over the years and I really love to be able to have one right in my living room window.  I’ve found they work best when you have other feeders on a post nearby, then the birds eventually become brave enough to jump right over to your window.  Other sources of food are scarce in the winter, so I find my feeders full of delightful varieties of birds – right now I can see a nuthatch, junco, a pair of cardinals, tufted titmouse, red-bellied woodpecker, song sparrow, and a house finch.  In the past few days we’ve been visited by a whole murmuration of starlings, a red-tailed hawk (who did not have any seed, but perhaps was looking for all the song birds?) as well as a blue jay.

Is it truly just too cold to go outdoors?  A trip to your closet, thrift store, or donation pile might offer enough substance for a bit of nature study.  Find something made of 100% cotton, 100% wool, and 100% linen and get your magnifying glass.  Inspect the different fibers and then go in your encyclopedia or online to see what they look like when they are growing, how they are spun into yarn (both now and historically), and how they are woven or knit into the fabrics we wear.  This could also spur some handicrafts – be warned!  Suddenly, the kids might be interested in weaving, spinning, or knitting for themselves.

Lastly, study the snow!  Weather study is great most times of year, but especially in winter when the precipitation is so varied.  Is it snow, sleet, or hail?  Perhaps leave a few magnifying glass plates out in the cold and wait for a snowflake to land on them.  Can you get them in quickly enough to check out the flake magnified? Maybe a magnifying glass outdoors offers enough of a glimpse of the crystalline structure.  Try it out!  Why do icicles form and why does salt keep the streets from icing?  What kind of clouds bring the snow and what does the barometer do before the snow comes?  So many questions to explore around the weather in wintertime!

What is your favorite way to do nature study in the winter months?  If you aren’t in the snow areas, how does your climate and surroundings change during this time of year?

The Trivium, Making Honey, and Charlotte Mason’s Favorite Analogy

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I’m just popping in during our Advent break since I got a little window of time to think and relax with a good cup of tea.  In planning our spring term and participating in some online discussions regarding educational philosophy, I had some thoughts I thought you might be interested in reading.  I hope you’re having a lovely time preparing for Christmas!

Our chief concern for the mind or for the body is to supply a well-ordered table with abundant, appetising, nourishing and very varied food, which children deal with in their own way and for themselves. This food must be served au naturel, without the predigestion which deprives it of stimulating and nourishing properties and no sort of forcible feeding or spoon feeding may be practised. Hungry minds sit down to such a diet with the charming greediness of little children; they absorb it, assimilate it and grow thereby in a manner astonishing to those accustomed to the dull profitless ruminating so often practised in schools. – Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, p. 71 (emphasis mine)

A few years back, I read the book Desiring the Kingdom, by James K. A. Smith and it fascinated me.  I found myself alternately nodding in agreement and shaking my head in dissent, but I was so intrigued.  His ideas about education being the formation of a person rather than offering information were key in how I thought about my school day.  I vigorously agreed that we are more than our minds, we are embodied, and so what we do – our habits, our daily rituals, how we spend our leisure time, etc. – are as formative, or more so, than the facts we learn.  Also, the how forms us as much as the what of our learning.  This is also around the time I found Charlotte Mason.  I read her volumes and I delighted in the fact that she talked of learning through stories, of habits, being outdoors, learning handicrafts, having conversations, and that all of this was good because it was all from God Himself.  She talked of the mind, but she talked of the body as well – exercise, fresh air, proper clothing, and proper food.  She did not ignore the body, but rather found body and mind to be analogous in their needs – a proper diet being the one need she mentioned over and over.  Both body and mind needed varied food that they would then absorb, asssimilate, and would allow them to grow.

“…these virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions.”  -Aristotle

Another person who read Smith’s book was Jenny Rallens.  I watched her video on having a Liturgical Classroom (a term used not in terms of Divine Liturgy, but rather repeated practices or habits) and realized that this idea is so much older than Mason.  From the days of Origen, who claimed them to be based in Jewish religious practices, to the present day Christians have been practicing Lectio Divina, or a holy reading of scripture through the process of Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio, Comtemplatio.  In translation – to read, to think deeply, to pray, and to be changed (their definition of contemplation was more robust than ours is today – it was more a change of self that would result in an outpouring to others).  When the era of scholasticism came about out of the monasteries and churches, the ideas of Lectio Divina was simply ingrained in their minds as the proper way to learn.  The prayer was dropped when the texts were not sacred, and so the idea of Lectio, Meditatio, Contemplatio (Rallens uses Compositio – to write or create) was the mark of education in this era.  It was so common in fact, that it was often simply referred to as “making honey”.  From early times bees were a symbol of the Christian church.  A bee worked tirelessly and most of its work went to benefit others.  Man and animals routinely eat the honey the bees give their whole lives to produce.  How do they do it?  They gather nectar, digest it, and then it is changed to honey in abundance for the benefit of others as well as their own needs.

I found this on etsy.

Are we to believe it was in the Church that we first saw this idea? Perhaps.  I would propose for your consideration, that the Trivium might be the first model for this way of learning.  For moderns, we may think of the seven liberal arts as seven subjects, but that thinking could not be more incorrect.  The trivium, or three ways, were more an approach to learning than subjects in and of themselves.  It was through them that one could then hope to make sense of their experiences – to understand what they are taking in, to discern its value, and to communicate one’s thoughts.  Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric would be the way a student learned to read, to think, and to communicate.  The trivium has to do particularly with language, so a student would take in language reading myths, poetry, singing songs, and hearing the great tales.  They would learn the skill of reading and writing, surely, but it was much deeper than that.  They would have been taking in the Greek culture with the reading they did.  Logic was then meant to refine one’s thoughts for the ability to think and reason clearly were held in high esteem throughout Greek culture.  Socrates is quoted as saying, “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.”  However, what good are thoughts that one cannot express?  The effective communication of these thoughts to others comprised rhetoric.  To be able to share with others the lucid thoughts of a well educated man was the goal of the trivium.  Here we see again, the same pattern to take in, to digest, to be changed and grow.

In seeing this idea across the ages, it makes me look again at the way my school and home operate.  Am I trusting that what the children read and do throughout the day are enough to feed them, or am I overly concerned about packing more into the day or testing to confirm the “results”?  Do I give enough time for the Meditatio?  Is there enough free time for their minds to digest all that they have been fed?  Do they have ample time to be bored or quiet?  How can I protect the quiet in my home when six people live in this house?  Do I allow them my undivided attention when they are trying to share and discuss their thoughts or am I more likely to rush them or go about my own tasks, thus sending the signal that this part of learning is not important – that we are “done” rather than continually learning?

Pause and Reflect

In this time of Advent, Amy and I are spending some extra time with our families preparing for the Christmas season so things will likely be quiet here.  We may stop in with one or two more posts before the New Year and the feast of the Epiphany, but we also reserve the right to simply stay quiet the whole time and see you in 2017.  We hope you have a wonderful holiday season and we can’t wait to share with you all the great ideas we have for posts in the new year!  If you have any requests for posts or are curious about any specific topic, send us an email or leave a comment.

(As an aside, I highly recommend hanging your Advent wreath from a light fixture.  All surfaces are easily wipeable and no little hands pick at the wreath.  Also, its a big treat to light the thing and the kids will gladly have the table set and the dishwasher unloaded to be the one to stand on the counter to light the candle.)

Gift Suggestions for a CM Holiday – Nature

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We have created a few lists to help you get your Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Birthday, or any other gift giving day) shopping done and to help you in your quest for the things that with help you create and atmosphere, a discipline, and a life of education. It may seem a bit early, but we know many moms shop early so that job is done and they can enjoy the Advent season without the pressure of buying gifts.  If you’re a last minute shopper, bookmark this list and it will be waiting for you in December.  These are all items we have and love, or would like to have.  Most are not affiliate links and we are not sponsored by any companies.  We do however have a few Amazon affiliate links mixed in, which means your cost remains the same but we get a few cents for sending you there and it helps us with stocking stuffers for our combined nine children.

The Nature List

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John Muir Laws’ favorite binoculars.


I’ve been using this pocket watercolor set for years.  I love that I can refill it with different hues or better grade paint as I improve (though, for my level of skill, this is really great quality!) and it is so small that I can take it anywhere.

These water brushes have made all the difference for us! It used to seem so difficult to paint in the field, but now we can open our paints and begin with these brushes that hold a reservoir of water.

Wildflowers Poster

This beautiful wildflowers poster would be a lovely addition to any room in the house, and there are also versions for bugs, herbs, leaves, birds, and many others.  If you can’t fit a full poster, check out the nature cards.

Long Linen Pencil Pouch, Grey Linen Zipper Bag
How about a pretty pouch for paints and pencils?

How about some rubber boots that won’t break the bank, but will keep you both fashionable and dry?  Then you can step right into the creek with your kids or trudge through mud without flinching.  This is one of my favorite investments – now the kids don’t get all the fun! (Amy seconds the recommendation on these boots! They have held up better than any other boot brand we have tried and purchasing in black means they can be passed down from one kid to the next!)

My kids loved getting these 7-in-1 outdoor tools as stocking stuffers one Christmas. It features a whistle, compass, thermometer, led light, magnifier, viewfinder, lanyard and storage chamber.

We have used many different types of Nature Journals over the years, but have settled on these as our favorites. They feel good in your hands, are small enough to carry on a hike or on vacation, come in different colors which is nice for a big family!  (We’ve also used this one and this one,, if you are looking for a hard back edition.

One of the best purchases we’ve made are designated nature bags for each child to carry their own supplies when on a hike. With this many kids, it would be hard for mom to carry everyone’s water, paints, journals, etc.! Having everyone in charge of their own possessions is just one less impediment to getting outside!!! These are ultralight and durable and from the 2,000+ reviews and all the added videos and pictures, you can see how awesome they are.  A great gift was for each kid to get one of these in a different color.

 

This hummingbird feeder brought our family so much joy last summer.  I can’t even sing its praises highly enough.  Hummingbirds came right up to the window all day long!  They are amazing to watch.

If you aren’t in an area that hummingbirds frequent, what about a feeder for birds that do come to your area?  We love this window feeder to see them up close, but be warned that they won’t come right away.  We set up a few other feeders within two or three feet of this one (they were mounted on a pole) so that they would be bribed to come nearby and eventually be brave enough to jump to the window feeder.

 

Want to turn your iPhone camera to take amazing close up shots?  The easy macro allows you to take amazing shots of bugs, flowers, leaves, and all sorts of other nature!  Here are a few examples:

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Spaces to Think No. 10

The destiny of the child is ruled by his parents, because they have the virgin soil all to themselves. The first sowing must be at their hands, or at the hands of such as they choose to depute.

What do parents sow? Ideas. (Volume 2 p. 29)

 

Education is a life; that life is sustained on ideas; ideas are of spiritual origin; and,

‘God has made us so’

that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another. The duty of parents is to sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as they sustain his body with food. (Volume 2 p. 39)

In the early years of the child’s life it makes, perhaps, little apparent difference whether his parents start with the notion that to educate is to fill a receptacle, inscribe a tablet, mould plastic matter, or nourish a life; but in the end we shall find that only those ideas which have fed his life are taken into the being of the child; all the rest is thrown away, or worse, is like sawdust in the system, an impediment and an injury to the vital processes. (Volume 2 p. 38)

  • What ideas were sown in your child’s life this week?
  • Did you see their education as a matter of filling a receptacle and inscribing a tablet (checking off a box) or nourishing their life?
  • In what ways did their education nourish their life and form their vital processes?
  • Are you still hanging onto old ways of doing school, even though you know it will, at best, be sawdust or, at worst, be an impediment to true learning?
  • Are we patient enough to sow the idea and wait for the seed to sprout as it is meant to do or, in our impatience, do we seek the easy or quicker way for immediate results, even if it may prove detrimental to their attitude about learning and themselves?
  • Do we value immediate results even though we know that these won’t result in true learning and the formation of character?
  • Mason tells us that our duty is to sustain our child’s inner life with ideas. Do you know how to do this? In Artist Study? History Class? What about Science? Math? Copywork?
  • Any struggles with this that we can help you with?

 

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This post is part of our Friday series: “Spaces to Think” You can read the others here.

Being a Hometown Tourist

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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.