Sunday, November 24, 2013

Living Geography ... Learning about the world through real life experiences

I recently wrote a post about learning math naturally.

I am a pretty firm believer in our ability to learn things in a relaxed and natural way. We can (and do) learn just about anything in this manner. I mean, if one can learn math naturally, then one can certainly learn about the world naturally, wouldn't you say?

We were lucky enough (thank you, Mom) to go to Germany for a couple of weeks last year (that reminds me ... I really need to finish posting those pictures, don't I?). Now, I was blessed to live there for three and a half years when I was younger. Those were truly the best years of my pre-married&children life! But, my daughters and husband had never been out of the country. To say the girls fell in love would be a massive understatement. They loved every waking (and sleeping) minute that we were there.

Coming back to reality was difficult and sometimes we miss it so much that it physically hurts in our chests to think about it. What's a mom to do about such "pain"? Well, seeing as how we don't have many local castles that we can tromp around and there aren't any half-timbered villages nearby that we can walk through with cobblestone under our feet and Gelato and German Beer at our fingertips, we have to make do.

We've had German theme nights a couple of times. Momma's made German fried potatoes (without the bacon, of course) and German purple cabbage and Spatzle with Champignon Rahmsauce. We've gotten some good German beer (bier) at the local European Street Cafe and fixed up Apfel-schorles for the girls (apple juice and seltzer water). And, we've enjoyed traditional German music. We've learned German words and spoken German to each other as much as we can. We've looked up pictures and videos online and looked at Google Maps regularly ... looking at the towns we visited and looking up Hamelin (when we read about the Pied Piper) and mapping the distance from Nanu's house to Hamelin and Bremen and the Grimm Brothers Museum.

In short, we've had a ton of fun with reliving our trip to Germany the best we can.

But, the girls' interest in living European geography did not stop there. They became fascinated with all things Europe. My mom travels a lot and every time she goes somewhere new, the girls and I look up those places on maps and our globe and online. We've read books from the Middle Ages (because you can't get much more European than Medieval history). We've listened to music from Europe and watched videos.

A few weeks ago, we started a "Travel Journal" where we plan to map the entire continent of Europe. We started in the British Isles and the girls can easily tell you (as can I) where Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland are on a map. We enjoyed some cheese that was imported from the Isle of Man (in the United Kingdom) and watched a lovely video all about Ireland. We ate at an Irish pub and enjoyed Irish Nachos, Boxty chips and good Irish beer for mom and dad. We read a beautiful picture book about an Irish Traveling family (Megan's Year) and I see the girls pulling it out and re-reading it often.

I actually have many more plans for just this tiny little area of the globe, but I am holding off until after Christmas. But, as luck would have it (or I like to believe it is Divine Intervention), we were recently blessed to be a part of a lovely festival celebrating the Celtic heritage of the Seven Celtic Nations. You better believe that the whole family went and participated and loved every minute of it!

From their website:

About the festival

The Jacksonville Celtic Festival scheduled for Nov. 16, 2013 is the premier, one-day Celtic heritage event at Jacksonville Beach. Sanctioned by The Gathering - the official Tourism Ireland 2013 campaign - the Jax Celtic Fest will showcase the best of the seven Celtic nations of Europe and the United States in a unique celebration of culture, music and heritage in Northeast Florida.
We first joined the festival on the beach for some Highland Games. We watched as men (and women) in kilts picked up giant logs and tossed them. We watched them throw heavy weights and stones in the same fashion as throwing a shot put. The cool part? The girls got to try both events! 
After the Highland games, we headed into the festival. We set up our chairs and enjoyed wonderful live Celtic music from The Gothard Sisters and Colm Kirwan and The Willis Clan. We enjoyed the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Pipes and Drums between sets. Not very Celtic, but the girls enjoyed the giant bouncy slide and the rock wall. And, of course, Momma and Daddy each had some yummy Irish beer.
A truly wonderful family day filled with learning and fun and culture.
And, you know what? That kind of stuff inspires more learning. The next day we found ourselves looking online to determine what nations make up the Seven Celtic Nations. We found those nations on the globe. We listened to Celtic music on Pandora. The girls played with their Irish Drum and their Irish Flute (both wonderful gifts from my mom at some point in the past several years).
If you want to start learning things in a natural way in  your home, search out those opportunities to spark interest in your children (and yourself) and then take it wherever it leads you! Most importantly ... have fun!
Until next time,
~ Irie Momma

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