Shortly after we arrived in Oxford, I emailed my friend Mandy and said “I’m ready to find our Oxford normal.” She replied, “There is no Oxford normal, mama!” We’ve been here for more than 2 months(!) now, and I find Mandy’s words ring true almost every day. But if there were an Oxford normal, this is what it would look like:
1. School for the girls. We start most mornings with school — they work on math, verbal reasoning, writing, science, and social studies over the course of a week. Most days that means sitting at the table in the dining room, but the girls have done school on trains, in hotel rooms, and at the park.
2. Get out and about. Of course, one of the joys of homeschooling (or worldschooling, as we like to think of it) is that school isn’t limited to books and paper. In addition to getting to travel to different countries and learn about them as we go, there are loads of learning opportunities around town. One of our favorites is the Oxford Museum of Natural History, but we also love the Ashmolean, the Botanic Gardens, and the library. In science, JA has been learning about minerals, so she’s been exploring the displays and touch specimens at the OMNH.
Getting out and about isn’t just about school, though, it’s about sanity. We spend a lot of time together here in a relatively small space. It’s my absolutely favorite part about living here, but it also means that sometime we get a bit prickly. In addition, last weekend we turned our clocks back an hour. You won’t ever hear me complain about an extra hour of sleep, but it means that the sun started setting a little after 4:30 on Sunday afternoon, and that’s going to get even earlier in our last weeks here. For a mama who loves sunshine, short days can be hard, which means it’s essential to get out of the house, breathe fresh air, and take advantage of daylight every single day.
3. Grocery shop. It may seem strange that it such a big part of our normal routine, but the reality is that it’s a pretty central part to many of our days. We never have very much food at a time because (1) it’s a mile each way to the store, so we have to carry back whatever we buy, (2) food here has many fewer preservatives, or “nasties,” as the Brits call them, so food doesn’t last more than a few days, and (3) our fridge is pretty small. Therefore, walking to the grocery store is a pretty common occurrence. My favorite store is up in Summertown, so every other day or so, at least one of us walks up there for our groceries. (I usually manage to stop for a chai along the way.) You can order groceries online and have them delivered here — and many of our students go that route — but I actually enjoy the ritual of walking and carrying the groceries. I also love the smaller grocery stores with so many different options and so many fewer processed foods. And I don’t mind the chai along the way.
4. Oh, and I’m also teaching two classes and Bill’s working on a research project, so we manage to fit those things in, too. (Right now, I really should be grading and reading for class tomorrow…)