Toward a Thousand Places (The Travelling Homeschooler)
Recently, while visiting my sister in her picturesque Eastern Townships village, I flipped through her copy of 1000 Places to See in the USA and Canada Before you Die, by Patricia Schultz. I was very heartened to immediately discover that I had already been to two of them: "The Hermitage" in Nashville, and the Gatineau Hills at my doorstep in Ottawa. "And you're sitting in one", said my sister. Sure enough, North Hatley, Quebec, was listed. That's three. I have no plans to try to see them all; but to find out that I hadn't seen any might have sparked a mid-life crisis.
As I read through the book more carefully, I found out that I had actually been to many of the places that are described there; but I still bask in the good feeling of finding three on first-flip. As homeschooling parents, we have an opportunity to deposit in our children the seeds of future good feelings. We can do this by simply showing them around.
I've heard of two families who homeschooled while sailing to distant places; and I met a family who had homeschooled for a year while flying an airplane all around the world. These are worthy adventures, but showing-kids-around does not have to be lengthy or exotic in order to accomplish its goal. I once spoke with a homeschooling family from Eastern Ontario who was spending each summer weekend visiting every lock of the 202 kilometres of the Rideau Canal Waterway (49 locks in 27 locations). This waterway begins (or ends, depending upon your perspective) in Ottawa, and travels to Kingston. All along the length of the canal, each set of locks attracts parks, quaint villages, and historic sites. This simple touring plan was an enriching opportunity for that family. Fortunately, I've already been to five of those Rideau Waterway locations; and a mid-life crisis has once again been averted.
Most of us live within reach of interesting sights for our children to see and remember. I'm grateful for all the opportunities that my Ottawa homeschooling support group has provided over the years. Alone, I am a limited resource; but thanks to the enthusiasm of others, my homeschooled kids have spent time in many of the noteworthy parts of our region. More recently—thanks again to the homeschooling community—I found out about some of the local natural areas and trails… and then went looking for more. Now, as the physical activity portion of his curriculum, my son goes on Gatineau Hill hikes with me, whether he wants to or not.
Along with the collective imagination of a homeschooling community, it's a good idea to let the Dads loose. Because of my Dad, I was always watching ships go by in the St. Laurence Seaway Canal; and I distinctly remember riding the Montreal Metro when it first opened, just for fun. A friend of mine reports that, thanks to her husband, her children have seen every dam in any region they've visited. My husband is the reason that my kids visited such obscure places as the abandoned site of a "Pine Tree Line" RADAR station, in Foymount, Ontario. The nearby village is the highest populated community in Ontario (a fact that would make my Western relatives, living in the Rocky Mountains, laugh), and it's nice to know that we have been there. Giving the grandparents a free hand can also have some interesting results. Thanks to my Dad, my children have ridden every glass elevator in Downtown Montreal. These adventures all contribute to the good feeling, in the future, that the world has been seen.
Our homeschooled children have the opportunity to get a start on getting out and seeing sights with their own eyes. It's important to show them that there is more to the world than what is immediately around them, or what they have already seen. I can't show them everything-anymore than I myself can visit every one of the "1000 places"; but, I can give them a start, perhaps even planting in them a desire for more.