March 11, 2011
I realized that, unless I wanted to put you all to sleep with a marathon blog post, I had better split this trip in two. Our Colonial Times/American Revolution trip to Virginia didn't stop at Colonial Williamsburg, although we did enjoy ourselves during their Home Educator's Week. We rounded out our trip with visits to Yorktown Victory Center, Jamestown Settlement, and the historic home of the Father of our Country, Mount Vernon.
(Note: I have included links to all of these locations. Even if you can't take your homeschoolers to these locations physically, many of them have virtual tours accessible from their websites. They also have some terrific learning activities and lessons plans for your educational enjoyment!)
Yorktown Victory Center was next on the agenda. We were scheduled for a family tour from 10am-noon, and then each kiddo had a one hour class after lunch. I was a little leary of the two-hour time frame for the tour, but Jackie Conrad (or Miss Jackie, as she preferred) lit those kids on fire. Now, I will preface this by telling your that our tour groups had all boys… I know… AND, they were all between the ages of 4 and 12… Luckily, we had tour guide extraordinaire and that whole group of boys was quiet and engaged for the entire 2 hours. I was surprised to look down at my watch and discover that it was also over.
We toured the farm (the turkeys were hilarious, docile and pettable – an unusual combination), as well as the encampment. Kiddo #1 was labelled "Insubordinate" and Kiddo #2 was a "Gambler" when we pretended to be soldiers gone wild. They didn't think that wooden horse looked any too fun to sit on, though. They decided that they would rather be noble and honorable like General Washington, rather than sitting on a pointy wooden horse for hours. Good choice, boys!
We packed a lunch and ate in the car. Yorktown and Jamestown are smaller than Colonial Williamsburg, and it is easier to get to the parking lot. We had just enough time for lunch before we were due at the classes. Kiddo #1 took on the Revolutionary War class for the 3rd through 6th grade set, and Kiddo #2 and the other K-2nds went to Colonial Life. These classes provided lots of reinforcement for what we had been learning throughout the week, which made them very worthwhile.
The next day, Jamestown was beckoning. Again, we had a two-hour tour, which took us through the Jamestown Settlement and the Powhatan Indian Village, as well as down to the wharf to see replica of the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and the Discovery. Did I mention the musket and cannon demonstrations? All three of my guys probably would have watched the weaponry all day if they could have. The classes this time were Culture at Jamestown for the olders and Powhatan Indians for the youngers.
One of the silly, little fun things about Jamestown for us was that the boys had made Jamestown replicas by Homeschool in the Woods. Amy Pak offers them for free here, and like so many of her other products, they are really well-done.
The ships gave us all a whole, new perspective on how difficult crossing the Atlantic was during those times. They were very small, and we didn't know that one of them was stuck in port at London for over one whole month! Once they were on the ship, the captain wouldn't let them off in case the winds became favorable. And, to think I get crankly when I am stuck on the tarmack at O'Hare!
On our final day in Virginia, we packed up the car and headed north to Alexandria area, host to George Washington's estate, Mount Vernon. The picture at the top of this post is the kiddos and me with the working oxen on the plantation. (We discovered that oxen feel softer than they appear!) Unfortunately, we were raced through our house tour – apparently, they were behind and had school groups coming in. Luckily, we always managed to stay one step ahead of the crowds and really got to explore the grounds and outbuildings.
For those of you who love old homes, as I do, the house was worth the trip. The plaster work was impressive and all of the details of manor life were very interesting. I also appreciated how a very private couple managed a very public life by tucking away compartments just for themselves. The Education Center on the grounds was very kid-friendly. There is an entire timeline of Washington's life that shows children now just what he did, but how he lived, as well.
The view from the back porch across the Potomac drew me. I almost had to yank myself away… it is no wonder Washington didn't like to leave Mount Vernon. I have a sneaking suspicion that, if there had been a White House during his presidency, he would have refused to live there:-)
We saw his old tomb, which he declared in his will was not situated ideally and directed it be moved. Then, we saw the new tomb. They were doing some type of honorarium on the day we were there, so we all were given red carnations to place at the entrance to the Mausoleum. It was a quite and poignant moment for Professor Dad and I. We were drawn to the history that seemed to surround us, and were moved by the amount of blood, sweat and tears that secured the freedom we enjoy today.
It was on this note that we trekked back to the car to begin the last legs of our learning journey. The boys had learned so much, as did we. The time period that we have been studying for the last few months came alive to all of us. How lucky we are as homeschoolers that we can show our children the history of this great country, as well as the character traits that went into its creation!