view from Peace Arch park
On Monday, we will be entering our 6th week of our move, outside of Lincoln and settling in Blaine, Washington, directly south of the Canadian border. Stefan and I can still hardly believe this, since it has gone so fast, and have said on more than one occasion, to more than one person who asks how we're doing, "It feels like we're still on vacation, with our kids here and stuff in the closets." This, in my opinion, is a pretty great way to feel about a new town that is 1,600 miles away from one's hometown.
When we first started to look outside our apartment, to find things to do in the area, I knew I needed to be connected to a homeschool group like I was back in Lincoln. In fact, before we even moved I had emailed the head of the Whatcom County Homeschooler's Association, just to find out if I could be sent a newsletter to check it out from afar. I'm so glad I decided to (wo)man up and go to the local homeschooling conference that took place on March 16, less than a month after our move date.
Within this conference not only was I granted a full 8-4 day away from the children (something I, and they, really needed), but I got to listen to 5 wonderful presentations on all things homeschooling, from storing children's art (hello iphone app, more on that in another post), boyscouts, scientific data presented on how our culture praises children (and what we should be doing), book lists, and even a spot on unschooling. I had a great day meeting some of the members of the WHA, and took it to heart that even far away, I can find my niche with a little guts and a strong wifi connection.
It has come easy to me to find things to do here that are free, because we're so interested in our surroundings, and we have to do it sooner or later. Our family runs a tight financial ship, and we save for years for big-ticket items (i.e. sport goods like a canoe coming this summer!) and it is my job to make sure the rest of the time we are living life in fun and healthy ways with very small price tags. Some call this 'living simply' or 'frugality' but it's just a discipline we've had to do, and that now comes second nature. I find many homeschoolers, who often are only one-income families, do this also.
view of "0 Ave" behind us, or 'hop the fence and we're in Canada!'
I was a little nervous, while still in Lincoln, that homeschooling might be a harder thing to do up in Washington state, as red states (majority Republican) are usually more lenient to homeschooling than blue (majority Democrat) . This, however, has not been the case, and I have been pleasantly surprised just how homeschooling friendly this area is. There are multiple homeschoolers even in Blaine, which has a population under 5,000. While at a women's bible study I've started attending, I got a great tip from a previous teacher in the Blaine school district, who told me that there is even a homeschooling co-op that meets twice a week for fun classes such as music, etc. and that they give you a monthly stipend for homeschooling here and what luck--it meets at the church we've been attending right around the corner! Please re-read that. They are going to pay us (art supplies, books, etc.) to homeschool our children. I've just died and gone to heaven.
A few years ago, I wouldn't have known where to start completely displaced from familiarity in a new town. I would have probably said things like, "there's nothing to do here!' when I got bored, multiple times a day. Being a homeschool parent has really helped me to think outside the box in this regard, and look at every simple, small, and outdoor recreational activity as an opportunity to learn and enjoy my family, while getting some good old fashioned fresh air in my lungs. With my participation in my past homeschooling group, and putting myself 'out there' to learn, I have found the confidence and ability to do the same in my current surroundings. If I am not able to enjoy the city I'm in, how can I possibly grow as a person, learn more about my own interests, and help my children try to do the same? I think this all goes back to the lesson of learning to live contentedly.
Stefan and I, for the last number of years, really focused on being content where we were in Lincoln, even though we had always wanted to move up to the Pacific Northwest. This included the jobs that we both had, the neighborhood we lived in, the church we attended, and the geography that surrounded us. When you learn contentment, your life will burst with gratitude and joy, you appreciate small, daily gifts (I'm talking so simple here: birds chirping in the morning, a nice spontaneous walk with a neighbor and her kids, and making a good meal), and your life feels full. We will look for that, whether we're in Blaine for a few years, or just under one. We will make that our attitude, we will choose and work at it, wherever we end up.