I've previously written about doing organized cemetery scavenger hunts with my kids, but we also LOVE cemetery freestyling, especially when we travel to different places. It's a great way to learn about local history, people, and burial customs. We've done it with our kids in Memphis, New Orleans, and even just a county over in Indianapolis, but we had never done it in our own town until this past weekend.
We are not locals to this town, and neither I nor my husband have any ancestors who ever lived in this area. We've lived here for only about five years, but, to our kids, this is really the only home they've ever known. My 3rd grade son had mentioned that they have talked a little bit about town history in school recently, so I thought, 'Why not take a little walk through the local cemetery and see what we can find?'
One of the great things about not looking for anything specific is that you can let the child(ren) guide your path through the cemetery. They are then free to gravitate towards what appeals to them aesthetically, explore what they find interesting, and formulate their own questions about individual graves and grave markers.
Indeed, the first aspects of the stones that kids tend to notice are the differences in shapes, sizes, and colors. As we walked through the cemetery, I asked my kids questions like, "What shape do you like best? Why do you like it? Which stone shape do you think was the hardest to carve?" I think when we adults are on a mission to find a particular stone or family plot in a cemetery, we tend to bypass some of the wonderfully beautiful and artistic stones and stone carvings that belong to other families, so I highly recommend cemetery freestyling for adults as well!
I followed along next to him and coaxed him to look at information beyond just the surname. He discovered that one stone listed the grave's occupant as a member of the Ohio Cavalry, while another was written in German, so we talked about how a person might be born in one location, but buried in another. Stones can give important clues about a person's place of birth.
I also encouraged my son to use the years listed on the stones and figure out how old a person was at the time of death. So, we had some practical math mixed in there, too.
©2016 Emily Kowalski Schroeder