Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thomas Jefferson's Presidency

Yesterday we had a great discussion over the events of Thomas Jefferson's presidency, which the kids had read about.  Since a lot of my friends are always looking for extra resources, I thought I'd share one that we used after our discussion yesterday.  In 2004 we got to meet the actor/interpreter who portrays Thomas Jefferson at Colonial Williamsburg. He does an incredible job.  He even looks like Thomas Jefferson! 



There are a lot of articles, videos and podcasts about Thomas Jefferson at the Colonial Williamsburg web site.  We've used them quite a bit since we first started our study of him last spring when we studied the 1700's.  Specifically, after our discussion yesterday, we viewed some videos where he answered some questions about his presidency

Jefferson covered every key event of his presidency, all of which our readings and discussions entailed.  The first transfer of power between differing political parties occured, from a Federalist president (Adams) to a Democratic-Republican (Jefferson).  Though peaceful in action, it was emotionally charged.  Then there was the Louisiana Purchase, dealing with the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean, the wars between Britrain and France, the agonizing Chesepeake Incident, the doomed Embargo Act and the hopeful Non-Intercourse Act. Finally, Jefferson brought an end to the slave trade. 

We had read about all these things and more (the Hamilton/Burr duel, the Burr Conspiracy, Marbury vs. Madison, John Marshall and Napoleon).  In our discussion we compared Jefferson's views before he became president to his actions while he was president.  

To follow up with Jefferson's intepretation of his presidency (albeit through an actor/interpretor who also has a history degree!) after our reading and discussions. allowed us to evaluate his terms even deeper.  Although Jefferson argued for America to go to war to the aid of the French Revolution before he was president, he adopted varying policies while he was president.   He did have the navy go to war against the Barbary Pirates and squelch that problem with the muslim terrorists of the 19th century.  However, the problems of our ships being "raided" by the English and French and having our sailors impressed, caused Jefferson to hold back for the protection of our young country.  After all, England was THE worldpower at this time and Napoleon wasn't far behind.  England had conquered Napoleon at sea, but Napoleon was predicting that he would conquer the land.  Napoleon said, "To France the Fates have decreed the empire of the land; to England the empire of the sea." 

 In the end, it wasn't Jefferson's peaceful Embargo policy that solved the problem.  During Madison's term of office, the War of 1812 was launched to attempt to put an end to the "sea raiding" and impressment.  That will be our topic of study next week.   

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Science and Alchemy

My son has been excited to start Apologia's rigorous science program with seventh grade General Science. 



The first module is a review of the history of science (and you thought you'd escape a history lesson!  lol)  He had fun reviewing ancient cultures, like Egypt and China,  who dabbled with science before they knew what science actually was.  He reviewed how the early Greeks started to get a foothold in scientific discovery, just to be overshadowed by the Dark Ages.  During the Dark Ages, alchemists enjoyed playing with various chemicals, creating strange concoctions that produced amazing effects (chemical reactions). They had no idea what was happening or why.  Nevertheless, they attempted to produce gold from lead and other substances. Vainless attempts at this is what comes from not understanding science. 

Last year my kids read a great literature book, The Trumpeter of Krakow, while learning about the Dark Ages in history. This is a wonderful 1929 Newberry Award book set in Poland with the main plot line about an actual historical event in Krakow that caused the trumpet's broken note...that is reenacted even today if you visit the city.  A side story was of one alchemist, who scared off the bad guys with his eery concoctions (chemical reactions).  My kids had found this scene most thrilling!

Recently I read aloud GA Henty's A March on London: Being a Story of Wat Tyler's Insurrection.   The hero, who helps to tame the insurrection, has a father who is an alchemist.  When he leaves his father to fight for the king, he is worried about leaving his father defenseless against the impassioned mobs who were certain to threaten their home.  The father assured his son, that with his various chemicals, he had a plan.  My kids anxiously awaited this scene (which didn't come until towards the end of the book), when the hero came home, victorious from taming the insurrections.  On arrival home, the son listened to the story of how his father scared the bejeebers out of the attackers with a glowing, gibbering skull and flashes of light emanating from the property.  Every detail hysterically delighted us!  The book explained in detail how nothing supernatural was going on.   The alchemist merely knew that certain substances produced glowing effects (chemical reactions), although he had no idea why.  

My son got to do a lab to show chemical reactions.   He boiled some cabbage leaves in water.  Then he put some of that and vinegar into an empty soda pop bottle.  He had baking soda in a balloon, which he put onto the neck of the bottle.  When he dumped the baking soda from the balloon into the bottle he got to see all kinds of reactions.  The fizzing  (chemical reaction) produced gas which inflated the balloon.   The cabbage water had been pink.  But after a while it turned blue, because of yet another chemical reaction.   

One thing I like about the Apologia books, is that Dr. Wylie explains exactly what is happening!  My son was able to write a great lab report on the checmical reactions in the experiment and the connections he learned between real science and alchemy. 

Monday, September 22, 2008

Duels: D'Artagnan, Hamilton, and Burr (and more)

     This week our history study focuses on President Jefferson's second term in office.  One infamous event we'll be studying will be the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.  Over the course of our history studies, we have learned how men of different eras fought for honor.  Although knights usually jousted for fun with blunt instruments, there were times when heated words led to one on one combant while on horseback with sharp lances. Then there's the wonderful story of The Three Musketeers.  Who can forget D'Artagnan being challenged to separate duels with Athos, Aramis and Porthos, one after the other on the same day!  Fortunately, this led to a long friendship which inspired my son to portray D'Artagnan at our Renaisance history presentation last year.



    While we previewed this week's information, my son was certain he knew exactly how the Hamilton/Burr duel was done.  So I told him to act it out with his sister.  They successfully acted out an Old West shoot out!   I showed them a slide show of the infamous Burk Duel portrayed by actor/interpreters from Colonial Williamsburg.  After going through the slide show, I read aloud the commentary from the CW Journal (linked in the "Burk Duel" above).  It was a wonderful opportunity for the kids to make lots of connections with the various topics they've been studying the last few weeks. 

     John Daly Burk was a radical Irishman who created conflict wherever he went.  He came to America, to the relief of Great Britain, in 1796.  Settling in Boston, he fervently wore his politics on his sleeve.  Burk was an ardent supporter of Thomas Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, who believed in freedom for the peoples at all costs, arguing for America's whole hearted backing in the French Revolution.  John Adams attended one of Burk's plays in Boston, which was about General Warren and his death at the Battle of Bunker Hill.  If anyone has seen the movie, "Johnny Tremain", you'll remember Dr. Warren, one of the masterminds behind the beginning of American Independence in Boston, who surgically frees Johnny's fingers.  Yes, Dr. Warren died at the Battle of Bunker Hill.  John Adams did not like the play.  "My friend, General Warren, was a scholar and a gentleman...Your author has made him a bully and a blackguard."  My son immediately spoke up and said that the Alien and Sedition Acts were going to be the downfall of John Burk.  (I just love it when one of my kids make these connections!)  And yes, we got to that later in the article.  

     We have studied President John Adams' impassioned justification for the Alien and Sedition Acts, which most historians agree, were unconstitutional.  Adams, like Washington, wanted to keep America out of war with other countries, feeling that America was too fragile to survive another war.  When Adams was president, he put the Alien and Sedition Acts into effect, punishing anyone with fines, imprisonment and exportation who printed slander against the government. (More particularly he was trying to calm all the "hotheads" who were trying to inspire America to go to war and help the French with their revolution.) Adams felt the acts were necessary to protect America from getting caught up in foreign wars, and in the process, being destroyed.  During this time, Thomas Jefferson was Adam's vice-president and he ardently disagreed with Adams.  Their tatterred relationship came to a bitter end, as Jefferson's Democratic-Republican ideas contrasted with Adam's Federalist ideas.   

    Indeed, Burk's Anti-Federalist newspaper articles, that protested America's lack of support of the French Revolution and slandered President Adams, nearly put him in prison under the Sedition Acts.  Burk's friend, Aaron Burr, tried to help him avoid prison and leave the country instead.  In the end, Burk fled to Virginia to hide.  He found a new home in one of Virginia's anti-Federalist towns, where Burk continued to be outspoken.  While in a tavern in 1808, a frenchman by the name of Monsieur Felix Coquebert overheard Burk defame the French as "a pack of rascals."  For the sake of honor, Coquebert made his prescence known.  Angry words led to the challenge of a duel...and Burk met his demise.

   Today, the kids are reading about the events leading up to the Burr/Hamilton Duel and the aftermath which led to Burr's trial for treason. Apparently he was trying to take over the Lousiana Territory so that he could rule it as king.  The kids will be evaluating Jefferson's response to the Burr Controversy.  Hmmm,  didn't some of his actions go against the very beliefs he held when he debated President Adams? We will also evaluate Supreme Court justice John Marshall and his decision in the Burr Treason Trial.  Will the kids agree with his decision or disagree?  We should have an interesting discussion on Wednesday!   

    Update posted 8-19-09 This morning my kids and I listened to the latest Colonial Williamsburg podcast on The Code Duello, which is about the history of duels.  This presentation is done with excellence!  Even though it's been nearly a year since we've studied about the Hamilton/Burr duel, this adds another layer to my kids' understanding of this historic tradition. Through the podcast, duels were explained to be quite common not only in Europe, but also in the course of history. During our TOG studies, we got a smattering of reading time on duels in Year 2 (Middle Ages-1800).  Our Year 3 studies (19th century) reverberated with duel after duel after duel. This supplemental podcast helps to cement the concept.    Be sure to check the podcast, dated August 17, 2009, called "The Code Duello"  as well as the podcast for August 24, 2009 called "History's Most Famous Duel." It ends with some highly unusual duels from the pages of history. 


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trips

It has taken my mind quite some time to get back into the 21st century swing of things after a wonderful vacation to the 18th century. It has helped getting back into the history and literature books (my favorite part of school).  When we finished studying the American Revolution last year, I was really sad.  I felt that everything would be down hill from here historically.  I wasn't getting excited about this school year like I usually do.  This year in history we'll study 1800-1900.  As we have read our books and had our discussions, I am seeing that I still sort of have a foot in the door of the 18th century.  After all, we've been studying the presidencies of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson...the Marquis de Lafayette is still around...and James Madison's presidency is around the corner.  

To top it all off, I have found a wonderful opportunity for homeschoolers via Homeschool Buyer's Co-op.  They are offering a reduced price to access the award winning Colonial Williasmburg Electronic Field Trip series.  I've been eyeing this for years, but it costs $500 per school!  (gasp) Through the homeschool co-op, I was able to sign up for $50! (yea!) This window of opportunity closes on Oct 6.  At that time, depending on the number of homeschoolers that join, I might get in for even cheaper!  Last I saw it was down to $49.  Those who wish can also purchase individual series for a reduced price.

About once a month for seven months, we can access streaming videos on-line that are produced and acted out by the fantastic Colonial Williamsburg  actor/interpreters.  Then some of the actor/interpreters will answer questions live from students around the country! (My young historian has already started forming questions!) Lesson plans, on-line interactives, etc will also be provided.  These videos can be accessed at any time after the original session.  Also there is a forum where the students can ask questions that will be answered by one of the wonderful historians at Colonial Williamsburg.  We watched some samples on a series on slavery.  During the question and answer session, I was extremely impressed with how this sensitive subject was handled and quite pleased with the stance that was taken.   We even recognized a few of the actor/interpreters whom we met last month. 

The first one in the series will be Oct 16. Called "The Will of the People," Thomas Jefferson will discuss bitter presidential elections. Ahem, anyone know about those???? A few weeks ago we had studied the brutal presidential campaign between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  Connections will be made between the past and the present.

On November 13, "Yorktown" will air.  The kids are hoping the Marquis de Lafayette will be in this one.  We think we heard his voice in the preview.

"Making History Live" will premiere on December 11.  We'll go behind the scenes to learn how Colonial Williamsburg prepares their actor/interpretors.  This one should be a lot of fun, since we posed lots of questions amongst ourselves while we were at CW in Aug.

Then "In Pursuit of Science" will be aired on January 15.  From seeing the previews, this one also looks like a lot of fun.  We recognize some of the science from our books on Benjamin Franklin last spring.

On February 19, "Freedom Bound" will premiere.  Covering slavery and the Underground Railroad, this will be perfect timing for our studies on the same subject leading into the Civil War.

"Remember the Ladies" will air on March 26.  My daughter, especially, should enjoy this one.  Something she and I have realized in the last couple of years, is that history is full of lots of "guy" things.  It will be fun to get a lady's perspective!  ;)

Finally, "Soldier of Liberty" will air on April 23.     

I plan to accomodate the rest of our subjects around this.  It should be a terrific way to interject a little fun of a different venue each month.  I like the fact that this isn't "canned" but provides an opportunity to use higher level thinking skills. Additionally it will give the kids (and me) a chance to relive some great memories while making new ones, making connections between yesterday's history and today's.     


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Colonial Williamsburg Dreams

Our Grand Tour of Virginia sadly came to an end.  As my husband drove west from Monticello, he commented he could just as easily head east. Hmmmm, precisely what I had been thinking.  Apparently, George Washington also thought we should drive east!





We had had a marvelous time touring Washington DC, Mount Vernon, Montpelier and Monticello.   However, our favorite was definitely Colonial Williamsburg.  Engaging with people of yesterday at the living history museum made the pages we had read in books pop-up with technicolor and surround-sound!  

Even though we had a wonderfully memorable time in all of Virginia, we liked Colonial Williamsburg best.  We'd love to live there.  We even talked about working there someday.  Last spring, while I was making curriculum choices, it suddenly occurred to me that I only have 4 years left to teach my daughter and 6 years to teach my son.  I've been heartbroken about that.  All summer I asked myself what in the world would I do when they left for college?  I'm not interested in going back to teach public school.  I don't even want to work in private school.  While we were at Colonial Williamsburg, I realized how much I loved everything that was going on and that it seemed to be a perfect fit for me.  What a classroom! 

The American Revolution is my favorite time in history, because I feel that it is pivotal to all of history before and after.  We've been studying history from Creation to 1800 for the last 2 years, as if through a microscope.  Instead of reading textbooks that make students feel like they are walking across a rickety bridge, with large gaps between the slats. across a huge ravine, we read real books that make the bridge of understanding concrete.  Making connections between historical events, reading the literature of the era, and studying the worldview of the times has put depth to our understanding of each new piece of history we study.  Reading, thinking, discussing, writing, experiencing and portraying events of the past have put light to our feet on the road of understanding. Everything we studied up to the American Revolution foreshadowed the desire of the populace for independence.  Last year, while we studied the Middle Ages, I kept telling my kids that the feudalism in France was keeping the peasants in bondage, while the kings were getting stronger, and this would escalate into the French Revolution.  All year I kept encouraging my kids that their studies would get them ready for Revolutionary City, so that they could engage with the actor/interpreters.  I was thrilled to see that my son "got it" when he asked the Marquis de Lafayette about the Hundred Years' War impacting French and British tensions during the French and Indian War and American Revolution. The focus of my teaching last year had been that the Norman Conquest was the root of British and French tensions.  However my son is an independent spirit, much like fiery Patrick Henry, and had formed his own conclusions, which I admit are valid. (In other words, I did not prompt my son to ask this question!) Even the Marquis agreed with my son, so of course I must concur!  LOL  Teaching comes alive when students (especially my son), are able to independently make connections of the various events that have been taught.  

We have 2 years left to examine the rest of history to the current day before we hit the next rotation of world history at the rhetoric level.  We picked up school this year at 1800 and have been studying John Adams, the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the Industrial Revolution, Napoleon, the Code Napoleon, and now Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase.  So far with everything we have studied, we have looked back at the primary source documents during the formation of our new country: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  Even today, our current events reflect the interpretation, right or wrong, of those documents.  This is what drives me in teaching history.  One simply cannot understand today's history unless they understand the past.       

I met a man at Colonial Williamsburg while we were waiting for Generals Washington and Lafayette to address the troops.  We stood in the shade of the capitol, while he asked me why in the world we were visiting Colonial Williamsburg.  He was from Canada and was married to an American. She and the kids wanted to come and were having a blast, while he stood alone in utter confusion. He had no idea what anyone was talking about.  I tried giving him a synopsis of Colonial Williamsburg history.  Then he asked where we were from. When I told him that we were from Texas, he incredulously asked me why in the world a Texan would be interested in Virginian history.  I smiled and said that Virginia's history is America's history.  He walked off, shaking his head in utter disbelief.  Well, too bad for him.  I hope he loosened up and eventually had a good time.  One does not need to be a history buff to enjoy Colonial Williamsburg. Programs are designed at all ages and interest levels to engage one as they please.  Also, one does not need to be American to enjoy it.  We met visitors from China speaking in Chinese among themselves, yet asking great questions in English.  They were obviously understanding the experience and having a great time.  

I don't know if I would ever have anything to offer the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.  But I can dream, can't I?

Up Close Inside the World War II Memorial

 One of the many sites we got to visit while in Washington DC was the WWII Memorial, partially because of my husband's insistence. Of course the kids and I highly approved of visiting as many military sites as possible   Imagine some music from the Glenn Miller while looking at the vintage scenes.

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World War II was a horrific war to fought to destroy tyranny which is once again raising it's disastrous head. Thank you to all military members of all the services who have served our country. The few freedoms we have left today are here partly because of YOU!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Monticello

Waking up to a gorgeous morning, we drove to Thomas Jefferson's unique home in the Blue Ridge Mountains.



Visiting Monticello gives one a glimpse into the Thomas Jefferson, Renaissance man of America: statesman, architect, inventor, scientist, horticulturist...  President Kennedy once said to a group of Nobel Prize winners at the White House, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of human talent (ever) gathered at the White House-with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."

Throughout the house, we got to see his clever inventions. Because he wanted to educate his guests, Jefferson displayed his souvenirs from the Lewis and Clark expedition in the entrance hall.  When we were in the family sitting room, where Jefferson's daughter taught her children, I noticed a picture of the Marquis de Lafayette. (His picture is over the desk to the left of the fireplace in the photo in the link.)  Since this was not mentioned by the tour guide, I asked her about it and she was surprised that I knew who he was!  The kids thought that was funny! Throughout the tour my son asked numerous questions, again amazing the tour guide.  On some of them she said she had to do some research.

Jefferson filled his home with many paintings in the parlour, both to educate his family and to remember his very special friends, including the Marquis, George Washington, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Paine and others.  The tea room had Houdon busts of the Marquis de Lafayette, George Washington, John Paul Jones and Benjamin Franklin.  

The Marquis de Lafayette visited Thomas Jefferson here at Monticello while on his Grand Tour of 1824.  One hundred twenty mounted horsemen accompanied the Marquis up the winding roads to Monticello.  James Madison and others gathered in hushed expectation to witness the historic meeting of two men responsible for our country's freedom.   

The Marquis and Jefferson had interacted a bit during the American Revolution, particularly while Jefferson was governor of Virginia towards the end of the war.  In 1784, Jefferson became Minister to France and Lafayette offered his home and family to Jefferson while Lafayette went to America to visit George Washington at Mount Vernon.  When Lafayette returned to Paris, he and Jefferson visited often. 

Jefferson continued to reside in Paris through the beginning of the French Revolution.  Lafayette, a moderate trying to mediate between King Louis XVI and the revolutionaries, was made commander of the newly formed National Guard.  He led the National Guard to bring down the Bastille on July 14, 1789. 

One of the most special items hanging on the wall of Lafayette's home, was a copy of America's Declaration of Independence.  Lafayette left room for a similar document of France to hang next to it.  Thomas Jefferson helped him to draft such a document.  The Declaration of the Rights of Man was adopted by the French National Assembly on August 26, 1789.  My daughter and I studied this document a few weeks ago for her government course.  We compared it to our Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.  The similarities between the documents made a fascinating study.  

While Lafayette visited Jefferson during his Grand Tour, one of Jefferson's slaves drove the two friends daily. Israel recalled with fondness and hope the Marquis' frank comments to Jefferson.  Lafayette financed and fought in the American Revolution because he believed that all peoples should have independence.  Lafayette admonished Jefferson that slaves should be educated and freed. 

During the Marquis' visit, Jefferson gave a toast at a banquet held in Lafayette's honor.  "When I was stationed in his country for the purpose of cementing its friendship with ours, and of advancing our mutual interests, this friend of both, was my most poweful auxiliary and advocate.  He made our cause his own, as in truth it was that of his native country also.  His influence and connections there were great.  All doors of all departments were open to him at all times.  In truth, I only held the nail, he drove it."

Influenced by Classical architecture, Jefferson enjoyed designing and building Monticello, often tearing down original ideas to try something new.  "Architecture is my delight, and putting up and pulling down, one of my favorite amusements." 





Founded and designed by Thomas Jefferson in his later years, the University of Virginia opened in 1825. "...this institution of my native state, the hobby of my old age...based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind to explore."  



Today one can still see the university through the trees from the pavillion.



The gardens at Monticello have been reproduced from Jefferson's meticulous gardening journals.  "No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden...,though an old man, I am but a young gardener." (1811)  He enjoyed experimenting with seeds from Europe and from those discovered by Lewis and Clark.  Jefferson felt that "the greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture."  Today the gardening staff package seeds from the heirloom gardens.  I bought several types; we'll see how they make it in Texas!  One can only hope!

Here are pictures from the terraced garden overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The vegetables, orchards and vineyards grew here.





Here are the flowers from the winding walk behind the house. 



Finally, we went to Jefferson's grave,



marked with the epitaph he wrote himself.