March 9, 2011
We just returned from our Colonial Times/Revolutionary War learning trip to Virginia, where we were happy to see the first signs of spring had begun to pop out. (When we left Wisconsin, it was a frigid 10 degrees!) We packed our week with all kinds of events and experiences that gave the kiddos a hands-on look at what was happening during one of the most eventful times in our country. The entire experience was terrific, and I highly recommend it for anyone studying Colonial Times and/or the American Revolution. Sonlight's Core 3 and Tapestry of Grace's Year 2, Units 3 and 4.
Last year, when I attended the Midwest Homeschool Convention – probably one of the best conventions I've been to – I happened upon a booth set up by Colonial Williamsburg. They had flyers for Home Educators' Week, which they put on twice a year, once in spring and once in fall. The spring session focuses on Colonial life and the fall session concentrates a bit more on government. The rates are deeply discounted, and nearby Yorktown and Jamestown also offer discounted rates and programs at the same time.
We started our trip by heading down to Lexington to stay the first night with friends, and then hit the road again early the next morning. First stop… Monticello, the incredible home of Thomas Jefferson. We toured the mansion, especially enjoying the library and study, where we saw a tabletop, rotating bookholder that held 5 books open at a time. My son decided he needed one of those (I was thinking the same thing!) Even though everything was still pretty brown, the grounds were beautiful and the views were amazing.
After leaving Monticello, we still had about 2.5 hours in the car before reaching our hotel. We have decided over the years that staying in a hotel/condo/timeshare type of location works best for us because of the kitchen. It is so nice to be able to have my morning tea in pajamas and eat breakfast first thing without hunting down a restaurant. We can also make lunches for our day trips if we choose. At the end of a long day of walking, it is so nice to grab some food at Trader Joe's and have a simple – and healthy – dinner of chicken salad on spinach with fruit. Yum!
The next morning, after our healthy and convenient breakfast:-), we headed off to Colonial Williamsburg. We purchased the 2-day home educators pass, which gave us just enough time for us to enjoy everything without burning out. Note: Colonial Williamsburg involves alot of walking. If you have small children, do yourself a favor and bring a stroller. We were able to wander the streets and listen to the interpreters at the various sites, such as the gunsmith's shop, the milliner's, and the weaver's. Of course, we had to stop and pet the carriage horses, Gunner and Trooper. Kiddo #2 was petting one of them when we realized that he had fallen asleep (the horse, not the kid.) It was very funny because Professor Dad had just been telling the boys that horses sleep standing up. They were able to see it firsthand… isn't this one of the reasons we homeschool?
The kids wore the costumes that we made before we left for the trip and felt very period-appropriate. Unfortunately, my textile skills are less than stellar, but the kids didn't seem to mind. We also enjoyed the costumes worn by many of the other families there… some of those moms should win a medal, the costumes were just beautiful.
Over the course of the two-days, we saw both the Marquis de Layfayette and George Washington give talks at the Kimball Theatre. The actors were amazing… 45-minute presentations flew by. The kids were spellbound, and had questions and pictures with them afterward. The Marquis was especially good. I didn't realize how young he was when he came to the States to fight for freedom… he was only 19. I call that purpose! I suspect the boys secretly want to be him when they grow up!
We also toured the Governor's Palace and learned that Lord Dunmore (the governor) didn't think it was much of a palace compared to his real home in Scotland. Maybe that made him a bit crabby?? The grounds were very pretty, but one of the neatest parts of the Palace area was the maze in the back. Be aware, your children will want to spend hours chasing each other around back there… it's a little mini-fantasy world for adventurous young people.
The Capitol building was equally impressive, and the guide there was fantastic. We were also able to participate in a mock trial at the courthouse. My role was a wealthy widow who was sewing a workman for ruining her tobacco. Very dramatic, yes?
So, that was it for the Colonial Williamsburg portion of our trip. Except for the sheep. That's right, the sheep were a big hit. For some reason on both days, we happened to be walking past the sheep pen around feeding time. Those sheep took one look at the boys hanging over the fence and started up a chant of baas heard round the world (I know, wrong colony.)