We had planned this all winter . . . this was the year we could finally take the kids to experience Winterlude in Ottawa. Our youngest had just turned 5 and I’d taken her skating every week to practice so she could keep up with her older sister. We even incorporated a bit of our family business into the trip by having IronKids team up with the YummyMummyClub to promote Winterlude and families getting outside and being active together. Our trip to Ottawa was going to be an event full outdoor fun and learning about a new City! Was I in for a surprise, I had no idea how much they had to learn!!
I went to university back in the late 80’s in Ottawa and fell in love with the city. I skated from my little apartment to my classes and spent many winter weekends on the canal. I loved the old buildings in the downtown and on Parliament Hill. I got used to the cold and enjoyed many of the outdoor patio’s and the Canadian pride on Canada Day! I couldn’t wait to take my kids and show them all the great sites, the canal, the BeaverTails, Jacque Cartier Park, the Mint and the stray cats that still live behind the Parliament buildings as they had 23 years ago.
Imagine my surprise when I asked my kids as we drove down the 417 approaching Ottawa, “What is the Capital of Canada?” . . . . and from my 9 year old in the back seat, “C!”
Once we stopped laughing (it was a great answer!!) I couldn’t help but wonder why my 9 year old, who is in grade 3, didn’t seem to know much about Canada. How did I miss that? I am a pretty involved parent. I volunteer in their classrooms, I make their science project booklets, I study spelling with them, I help with math homework and I test them when a quiz comes up. I read over everything that comes home in that zippy bag and I guess I hadn’t realized that I hadn't seen much come home about Canada. My kids sing Oh Canada at school and know about pioneers and bartering, they know about the 4 states of matter, about Indians and holiday traditions around the world, but they know very little about the country they live in!
It became my mission that weekend to teach my children about the Parliament Buildings and Canada! We talked about voting and government, counted dozens of Canadian flags atop every building, studied the flags from every Province flying in a row near the canal, toured the Mint and we talked at length about Quebec as we crossed the bridge into Gatineau. What started out as a fun family trip to skate on the Rideau Canal turned into a lesson in history, geography and social studies.
I always wanted to travel as much as possible with my children and show them the world. I am a firm believer that they can learn as much on a family vacation to a foreign country as they can in the classroom . . .I just didn’t think I would start teaching them in Ottawa !!
What do your children know about the country you live in?