As our girls get older we, as a family, tend to spend less time together. They have interests outside of us and our home. They also have devices that attract their attention at home. We still eat dinner together as a family most nights, but time beyond that isn’t as certain as it used to be.
This has made me realize how much I appreciate the shared experiences we have and how powerful they are. Some of those experiences are huge, like this summer’s trip to the Pacific Northwest and last summer’s trip to Harry Potter World. Other shared experiences are briefer: the Mamma Mia performance our oldest and I attended last week and the multiple Doctor Who episodes our youngest watched with her daddy while we were gone, seeing The Big Sick together, watching West Wing and Series of Unfortunate Events episodes, and reading. We still read books as a family. We don’t manage to do it every night anymore, but we still value that shared experience. (Our current read is Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive which is great fun as it’s divided into sets of three pieces, two of which are true and one of which is not. You get to try and figure out which one is the lie.)
Reflecting on what these shared experiences have meant for us as a family has me thinking about the classroom. I read aloud many, many books throughout the year: some picture books, some nonfiction, some novels. Those experiences bond us as a group. We return to them throughout the year, referencing stories or things that happened as we read.
Field trips are similar. Sometimes it’s the bus ride that is remembered and recalled throughout the year. Other times it is something specific we saw or heard or did. Whatever it may be, that shared experience shapes our time together far beyond that day.
Some shared experiences are unexpected. A surprise visit from a former classmate. Snowflakes falling during a fire drill. A funny comment that hits us all at just the right time and place. A question that prompts a challenging or heartfelt conversation.
I think it’s a given that we, as a class, will have shared experiences throughout the year. We spend so many hours together I believe it is inevitable. I’m grateful for that. The shared experiences I plan, the read alouds, the field trips, will be important for us. But I think the unexpected ones might be the most fun and might bring us together as a class, as a group, as a family, even more.