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The Shape of Our World

My due date had arrived. I was 40 weeks pregnant and about to have my third baby, so I set out walking around art galleries and outdoor shops trying to get labor started. The night was cool and the stars were shining brightly—just what I needed to get fresh perspective after the VERY long wait.

I saw it first out of the corner of my eye—a beautiful framed world map—a representation of the “old” world, circa 1400s. It was a large rectangle, with no indication on it that world is NOT actually flat. I stopped and stared, my husband questioning my sanity but playing the supportive role due to the the intensity of my overly pregnant state.

It’s so… flat. I don’t see the world like that. It’s not right. I don’t want my kids to think this is how the world is. Flat. With edges. With limits. Can you believe the early explorers thought it was like that? How one dimensional.

My husband bit back a small grin, probably thinking how crazy I sounded (he knows better than to argue with a women going into labor). It was just a map, after all.

Many ancient cultures believed that Earth was a flat plane. But for seafaring people who used the stars for navigation, it was clear that we live in a spherical world. When travelers sailed south, they saw constellations rising above the horizon and when ships came into the harbor, the idea of a spherical earth was the only way to explain why the tip of the mast was always the first for them see.

Because they traveled and explored, they understand the scale and scope of the world. For them, it was anything but one dimensional. Because they traveled! The learned by experience the shape of the world around them.

When kids are small, we spend hour after hour reading books to them. The world is in their imagination based on the stories and descriptions we give them until they actually see and experience those things for themselves. So when we talk about a giraffe, they may think it’s the size of a kitten, or when we talk about a piglet, they may think it’s skin feels much like a lion’s fur.

They don’t know the scale and feel of these things until they have discovered them for themselves, firsthand. Nothing can replace that.

I remember as a child reading about the “jungle”. I assumed a jungle was where a lion lived in African lands, which, of course is far from accurate. I was surprised when I visited Kenya in my teens to learn that there was no jungle in the African plains. It was a few years later, in my early 20s, when I hiked at night in a cloud rain-forest in South America and discovered that jungle is usually a wet rain-forest where monkeys and panthers and macaws live.

Never have I been more amazed and impressed with the world around me as I was that month hiking in the South American jungle. The scale. The colors. The animals. The sounds. I had to experience it for myself! Then a “jungle” was real and alive and SO different than how it was in my imagination.

I love books, don’t get me wrong. But they are merely a starting place. They are for INSPIRING to then go and see and feel and touch and know the world. With kids, we have the ability to let the world be one dimensional—or make it all 3-D! That happens when they get to explore and touch and feel as many things as possible. Their world expands and there is shape and size to everything.

Monkey Adventure

I remember when we took fifteen Adventure Clubs moms and kinds on an adventure to see the monkeys. The kids were able to let the monkeys come to them and climb around their shoulders and legs. They were shocked at how light the monkeys were, and how friendly and curious too!

Those little adventurers who experienced that know a “monkey” so differently now. No longer a picture in a book, they now have monkey friends.

Urban Garden Adventure

I remember when we took ten families on an adventure to an urban garden to plant seeds and dig up carrots and learn about the harvest of the month. The kids learned how things grow and how to know if vegetables are ripe and ready to pick. They learned the smell of the earth and the power of water.

To those little adventurers, an “urban garden” became more than just a pretty picture. After that, their city’s garden became a living, breathing part of their lives. It’s sheer size and shape and smell and color was known to them as much as their own home.

Horse Jockey Adventure

I remember when we adventured to see horse jockeys training for a big race—the thunder of the horses all bunched together and racing at lighting speeds, the sound of the whip cracking the air and the focus of the jockey standing high in the stirrups. The kids were mesmerized! They met the jockeys, saw their small stature and loved their fierce determination to WIN the race.

To those little adventurers, a “horse race” became more than just a video clip on YouTube. Now it has has scale and speed and people they know involved.

I Bought the Map

Maybe I was a little crazy that night walking around and staring at that flat world map. (My baby was born the next morning!) But I bought the map and hung it in my dining room. I wanted a reminder that the world is SO MUCH MORE than flat and limited. I want my kids to personally KNOW the three dimensional world around them. And it’s my joy and privilege to discover it with them to introduce them to all that BEAUTY AND LIFE!

Care to join me?

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