Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wagon Trails....Or "How to Make History Real for Your Children"

When I was in high school, my parents took us on a trip out west. My mother, the schoolteacher (also just a generally interested-in-history-person), kept throwing in "extras" along the way. Like, museums. One late afternoon, on which I remember being particularly anxious to move along and get to the hotel (pool), we made a "detour" and drove to the site marking the start (portion?) of a famous wagon trail, where many pioneer families made the journey west. Quite literally, there was a small area in which to park, and then you got out and looked at a large grassy plain, and then you walked to the spot where you could see some ruts in the ground, and a sign. Now, my mother will stop the story at the point and tell you that - ahem - it is worth noting that I remember the wagon trail. This is true. It is also true that experiences such as those has made me somewhat conscientious of how we present "history" to our children, and made it very interesting to see how they did on what was really our first history-type trip. On Tuesday of the trip we went with some others from the MOMYS group and got a tour of the Jamestown Settlement - the reenacted Jamestown site that is more kid-friendly than the actual historical Jamestowne. Levi hung in and seemed to retain quite a bit from our private tour guide, but the others faded quickly as it involved standing for long periods in the wind, just listening. They were also distracted a bit because they could see the Indian homes and the large ships and the fort, but we weren't going in them yet! They did really enjoy it all once we started exploring and it was great to see them connect what they were seeing to some of the things we had learned.

Jesse, grinding corn the old way.
One of the replica ships - the Susan Constant (note: random girl walked into picture beside Eric at the last second!)

Tuesday's hands-on history wasn't done, however, as the retreat organizers had planned a girls/mothers tea and a militia drill for the boys/dads in the afternoon back at the resort. Our outside picnic/tea was cold but absolutely beautiful in its set-up and planning. Each lady got a custom-made mug with raspberry lemonade plus wonderful "crumpets" in a basket.

The boys had their replica muskets and LOVED the drill instruction time. We had quite the time the rest of the trip getting them to stop "drilling" and remember that the dear people of Virginia Beach/Norfolk/West Virginia/Ohio did not know they were pretending to be minutemen.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Monday, Monday

So, because we attempt this whole literature-based, Charlotte Mason-influenced, global curriculum around here, the kiddos never get the pleasure of pop quizzes, except when they are in the van with their father, or when my dad checks to see if they are actually learning math. Therefore, to satisfy my deeply-ingrained love of multiple choice questions, and to cover more ground, I'm blog-quizzing.

1. Did you survive dressing up in your colonial outfits and meeting the other families?
a. No, we took one look at ourselves and fled.
b. Yes, our outfits were 100% authentic and everyone complemented my exceptional sewing skills.
c. No, the kids were desperate to put their regular clothes back on and flee far from the dancing.
d. Yes, everyone was so welcoming and we were pleasantly surprised at what a fun evening we had.

Answer: d. The kids looked great. We adults? Well, we tried! I will hold off on the "big reveal" of all pics of our colonial wear until the end of these posts, but will give a few glimpses now. Some of the families were completely authentic and that was neat to see, and some didn't dress up and that was great, too. The best thing was that it was all good and everyone had so much fun as one of the dads, who is a well-versed dance caller, taught us all many customs of the dancing and many dances. All ages were on the dance floor and it was a blast. Eric, who looked quite comfortable in his chair against the wall, did not disappoint his three daughters, and was a willing dance partner for each of them. The real joy was watching the twins, who took to colonial dancing like nothing you've ever seen. When Jesse was completely lost, Sara would just grab his hand and drag him through it all. But he caught on, and when the rest of us were too tired to keep learning, they would just grab each other's hands and head back out for the next one.

2. What desserts did Brenda and Heather pick at The Trellis, a wonderful restaurant in historic Williamsburg?
a. White Chocolate Truffles
b. Dark Chocolate Tart with sea salt and pecans
c. Turtle Pudding with Toffee Cream topping
d. Seven-layer Death by Chocolate

Answer: b (Mom) and d (me). I was headed for the dark chocolate but the waiter talked many of us at the table (all the moms' went out for an evening dessert after the larger get together and we got to know some wonderful ladies) into their award-winning death by chocolate. It was huge, it was decadent, very glad I got it.

3. What's the strangest difference between the Williamsburg, VA walmart and the Richmond, IN walmart?
a. A much bigger store
b. You couldn't find it from the road - like everything else in this very-zoned city
c. Nearly all the "junk" food was compartmentalized into its own area between the grocery and clothing sections.
d. The bread section.

Answer: d. I know, I know, analysis on Wal-mart differences is totally not pertinent to our trip and anything historic. But I have never seen a bread section with so little wheat bread. And I have not seen that much white bread since the 1980s. Seriously, people, the bread was IN the junk food section with the chips and candy.

As promised, a few pics from the Monday get-together:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Retreat

Would you like to hear about how we were all pretty worn down by now from the drives, living out of the clothing tub, and managing the pig-sty level in the van? No? How about how, by the time we were headed to our resort on the 1st Sunday of our trip, I was about to throw up if I had to bend down one more time and scour my bag (or under the van seats) for the right map or more gum or a pencil, and Eric was probably ready to throw me and the GPS out the window? Yes?

Well, too bad, because we're going to do positive highlights and happy pictures.

This Williamsburg retreat has been going on for about 10 years through an email group of which I am a member: MOMYS - Mothers of Many Young Siblings. You have to have at least 4 children within 8 years to be a member; we are one of the smaller families, and in fact, had one of the few minivans in the parking lots. Most were 12- or 15-passenger. My mom and dad joined us on the road when we were heading to Williamsburg, and the kids happily separated into 2 vans. : )

We checked in that evening at the Historic Powhatan Resort between Williamsburg and Jamestown, and we have to say that the accomodations were great. Spring was springing, and we all spread out into the 4-bedroom, 4-bath townhome, and then explored the grounds a bit. It had indoor pools, game rooms, tennis, a historic manor, a general store and many ponds in which to fish (I think Levi caught a stick). Some of the week's planned activities (militia drill, tea party, dad's breakfast, etc.) were on site, and others (tours, mom's dessert, etc.) were in historic Williamsburg or surrounding areas. One of the great parts of the week was meeting the families in the buildings beside us (all MOMYS families had their names on their doors) and watching as the kids took over the parking lots/grassy areas through the week and played together.

We didn't remember to take a lot of pics at the resort, but you can get some idea of what it looked like.

While waiting for check-in time, we took the Colonial Parkway and hit the "beach" on the James River. Similarly, we found no gold.

We did find rocks.
On our "street" at the resort, our first day there.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Washington D.C. Meets the Nortons

So, the whole trip was really set for this year because the kids and I have spent the year studying history between the explorers and the early 1800s. Before the trip, we had just finished up the Revolutionary War and the creation of the Constitution. AND, the selection of a large tract of land from both Maryland and Virginia to be the home of the nation's capitol; you know, a spot in the "middle" of the country. Such foresight. ; )

So, considering we took one day and saw the Smithsonian American History museum, Union Station, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Senate and Supreme Court buildings, and the Botanical Gardens, what do you think the kids' favorite memory of D.C. is? Only if you guessed the mode of transporation that took us to all of those places (or if I've talked to you) would you have the correct answer! Yes, they love the Metro. Seven one-day passes to ride the subway was money well spent, let me tell 'ya. The rest was just icing on the cake for them.

The excitement of the day produced well-seasoned Metro riders.

What are we most interested in at the Smithsonian? Hmmm... I blame Eric.

We really, really want this Liberty Bell replica to ring.

No taxation without representation!

The irresistible urge to touch the cactus was only magnified when the mother said, "No, for goodness sake! Don't touch the cactus." The Botanical Gardens was an unplanned (Dad, looking for a shortcut) but very lovely stop.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Home Again, Home Again, Fiddle-Dee-Dee

I'm sure it's obvious to my huge reader base by now that blogging the vacation didn't go so well! Once I couldn't get pictures to post on here through Eric's phone, and once the wi-fi service at the resort was spotty at best, and...anyway, you get the point.

I am going to try to get a few stories/pics on here for posterity. A lot of our pictures ended up being on my mom's camera and Eric's phone, and I don't have all those on my computer yet, so I'll get that organized first and then tell the vacation in order. The pics I do have ready are of the wonderful friends we stayed with along the first few days of our trip. Thanks again, Carters and Cassadys!

Leaving our house on 1st day...ready to ride!

"NLC" back together...music could happen at any moment.

Everything we need to know we learned in 3rd grade.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

all i have to say right now

70 degrees and sunny today!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

trains, trains and automobiles

Whew! We've had a great but busy couple days. The best part has been enjoying the amazing hospitality of friends on our journey. Thank you to those who opened their homes and took in this vagabond 7.

Today, our nation's capital! It was great to see it all through their eyes as they matched up what they had read with what they were seeing. But, as we figured, their biggest excitement was riding the metro and mastering the stations. It was a great way to see the city.

Now, to sleep. In. And in. Will attempt pics from e's phone.

Friday, March 11, 2011

road trip!

Awesome time with dear friends last night to start the trip.

Just paid $3.65 for gas.

Snowy mountains of west Virginia. Beautiful!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Packing Haiku

Take this, don't take that
Frustrating. Scream-inducing.
Honda minivan

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Sweet Seven-Year-Old

There is not a cliche available that I would not be willing to use tonight to describe how strange it is that my youngest child is 7. We so love our humming, cuddly, cat-carrying, twig-thin, not-a-morning-girl, hugging, doesn't-know-a-stranger Leah. Happy Birthday, girl!