The homepage for this blog states that “Neighborhood Homeschool was born from a desire among parents to see the day-to-day stories of families homeschooling in urban settings. Homeschooling changes a family’s relationship to its community and environment. After all, every nook of our surroundings becomes a classroom.” An experience in our homeschool this week embodies that description better than anything else I have written for the blog so far and I would love to share it with you.
We did a unit on maps and map reading this week. As a capstone activity, I set up a treasure hunt of sorts for him in our neighborhood. We are lucky to live a block away from one of the longer business districts in the city. We have three blocks full of independently owned businesses working together to make our community a fantastic place to live. My husband and I are huge proponents of the shop local movement and make every effort we can to shop on “the boulevard” for everything we can. As a result, most of the owners of those small businesses know us and our son and were willing to be my accomplices in the treasure hunt. It pays to know people!
There were a number of challenges including the fact that I had to get away from my son to set it up and my son can’t read yet. My husband helped out with the first problem by distraction the little guy for a while so I could go plant the clues. The second challenge was a bit trickier. I decided to make the map largely with online clipart images which he could recognize as representing a business he is familiar with or the name of a street he knows. In the image below, the stack of money is the bank and the coffee mug is the coffee shop. I was feeling particularly clever about the images for Castlegate Avenue!
He followed clues which led him up and down the business district until he ended up with his treasure of chocolate ice cream. Each business owner along the way engaged him in a conversation about homeschool, about maps, about treasure hunts, or about puzzles before they gave him the envelope with his next clue and a puzzle piece. Each clue had a short verse to indicate where we were going next and the image of the next location on the map on it. He glued the puzzle pieces onto a piece of cardboard to reveal the final clue – an ice cream cone.
We both had a great time and so did everyone we talked to along the way. I was absolutely thrilled at how involved all of our friends in the neighborhood got. It’s a good day when a five year old boy on a treasure hunt stops by and you can be part of the adventure.
So many things I love about urban homeschooling happened in this treasure hunt. Not only did we get to use a map in a hands-on activity which got us out of the house, but we got to collaborate with our friends and neighbors and support our community in the process. As stated in our blog description, our community became our classroom. What a treasure that is! ~P.L.H.