Habits and Gratitude

After I was admitted to HGSE, I was very intentional about many of my choices.  Sure, I spent many hours with the course catalog and many more figuring out the logistics of housing and childcare for my kids, but I also thought about the big picture of my experience coming here.  I wanted this school year to be transformative, rather than simply transactional – not simply a master’s degree, but also a time of personal growth.

With The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg freshly in my mind, I created a few mini-goals unrelated to school that I wanted to cultivate while I was here.

1. Healthy living.  Since my budget would be tight, I bought a bento box for lunches and figured out what healthy meals I could pack on a weekly basis (my go-to is homemade granola with greek yogurt and frozen fruit, with a veggie side).  I resolved never to take an elevator or escalator, which adds about twenty flights of stairs to my days!  I started cycling during all but the worst weather days.  Finally, I joined the Harvard gym, which is super cheap and has a ton of free classes.  I’m not perfect, but making just a few of these changes from my former eat-out and drive-around lifestyle has been great!

2. Gratitude.  It is a privilege to be here for a year, and I try to be thankful every day for the opportunity to live here and for the people who have supported me.  I’ve developed a few times during the day to remember to be grateful.

First, any time I cross the Charles River, I’m sure to look up and take in the view.  It’s different every time.  You can take the Red Line, the 66 bus, the Harvard Shuttle, or bike across.  This is when I remember to be thankful for a year of living in Boston.


The Museum of Science as seen from the Red Line train window.

At dinner, my family also shares something we are grateful for – the Family Dinner Project from Project Zero has some great ideas!

Finally, I take pictures of the beautiful things that I encounter and make them my phone’s background screen.  Surrounding myself with everyday beauty reminds me to be on the lookout for magic moments.


3.  Adventure.  Don’t forget to go places!  Build in time for all of the amazing things around town and around the state.  I’ve visited most of the museums, DeCordova Sculpture Park, Walden Pond, most of the parks (with my kids), and I have Red Sox tickets purchased for later this month, as well as a camping trip planned in May.  My family celebrated Thanksgiving at Plimoth Plantation!


We’ve walked the Freedom Trail and gotten our passports stamped at the National Parks.


So many amazing things are free; be sure to get a local library card for tons of discounts and free passes!  I also use a few online lists of “best” restaurants and try to get a treat on occasion.


Clover Food Lab – a great local option.

Enjoy your year at an amazing school in a beautiful town!

Charlotte Dungan is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Learning and Teaching program. She has worked in home education networks, independent schools, museum education and summer camps. She has a passion for child-directed learning experiences and plans to start a Family School upon graduation.

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