Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Colonial Williamsburg in Inappropriate Shoes

Colonial Williamsburg has an amazing program for homeschoolers, three times a year. During "Home Educators Week" homeschooling kids and parents can get tickets for $5 each that normally cost a whole lot more than that. I meant to take the kids last spring, but Ahno was working on colonial outfits for them, and she hadn't finished Benny's. This time around, she had still not finished Benny's, but she sent me on a mission to find a really great three-cornered hat to go with it when it's done, and inspire her to get it off the table and onto the hanger. So we went.

And we found one:

While we were there, since apparently there is more to history than fashion (or whatever), we decided to learn some things. I hadn't prepared the children for the experience, we had not read about the American Revolution or made baskets or turned geese on a spit or anything, and the truth is that I have only a loose grasp on history myself. I'm expecting myself to learn a lot as I help Benny learn about it. That is my expectation. At this point, though, I am no natural expert, unless I've recently spent some time in a book on the subject. So I put Benny in charge of directions:

When you put a seven year old boy with endless energy in charge of a map, he will want to visit locations with maximum distance from each other. That is to say, if you're at one end of Williamsburg, you'll need to next go to the other end, and then back to the first end, and back to the other end. Also, if you put a seven year old boy in charge of directions, you will spend a lot of time looking at various colonial animals.

We lucked out at the brickyard, and arrived just as another group was leaving. So Benny got a private lesson in making bricks, which was awesome. They build a kiln each year by stacking up last year's bricks into an oven, with this year's raw bricks inside, then plastering mud all over it, and lighting fires underneath for a week. Benny was able to answer a lot of questions about, for example, why these three bricks, all baked at the same time for the same duration in the kiln, came out three different colors? Answer: Distance from the actual fire. I thought that was pretty astute. He and the brickman were eye to eye on many issues, and Benny learned the material so well that he went ahead and pompously explained it to the next kid to arrive, raising a little ire. Here he is getting his lesson:

Sadie on one of the walkways at the Governor's Palace:

Benny getting to be a juror at the courtroom in the capitol building:

This was cool -- we have been studying about wind power and we got to see a post style windmill, with a wheel sticking out from it so that the miller could turn the whole thing into the wind if the wind changed direction. This was one of those cool moments where Benny spent a few minutes kindly instructing me on the way windmills are operated. It also dovetailed nicely with our gears discussions, related to the Lego League topic of the week.

Here are the children doing some colonial laundry:

Sadie's pigtails, getting some instruction:

I'm very glad we went. I hadn't been to Colonial Williamsburg since I was about Sadie's age myself. We will definitely be back for the next homeschool week, and the next. At that price, anyone in driving distance would be foolish to stay home. Benny had a blast, and Sadie enjoyed herself too, from the cellar of the Shields Tavern to the jail cell where they held Blackbeard's pirate crew before hanging them (yes, we locked Benny in, yes, he was thrilled and talked about it all the way home). I will also say that the place was crawling with some of the most mannerly, thoughtful, lovely little children. I don't think it was just a homeschool thing -- I made the conclusion that children whose parents would drag them through Williamsburg are just a cut above.

Of course, in this case, it was me getting dragged. :) Next time I'm wearing my colonial tennis shoes.

Edit: Visit this awesome photo album from another homeschool family that visited Williamsburg at the same time we did, and miraculously took incredibly better pictures!


  1. Wonderful report and fun pictures; thanks very much for sharing it!

  2. I enjoyed very much seeing your pictures and reading of your experiences at Williamsburg. We had a great time. Hopefully, I will get my pics to post from there. Thanks for commenting on my blog. Glad I met you as well. I love Autumn. That's why all the pumpkin pics. Thanks again for you comment

  3. i enjoyed reading your blog about colonial williamsburg. it has been years since i've visited it. what a wonderful program for homeschoolers. i would love to take my son there one of these years. do they post far enough in advance for those that live out of state to plan a vacation for it?

  4. I want to go! Thanks for sharing your trip. I can only imagine how much the children enjoyed it.

  5. Anonymous5:21 PM

    Why in the world is the title "Colonial Williamsburg in Inappropriate Shoes" !?!?!?!

    That's dumb