Sunday, February 28, 2010

Behind the Scenes with the Curator at Colonial Williamsburg: A Historically Accurate Treasure

 We arrived in Colonial Williamsburg this weekend to celebrate my husband's birthday. We arrived Thursday night, a few days early, to see a special program I thought my son would be interested in. In the end, we were all fascinated with it. Namely, the first curator program I shall share is all about...swords and other military treasures!

After a cozy tavern dinner, we walked through the snowflakes to the Hennage Auditorium at the Publick Hospital where one of the curators gave a power point presentation on the military treasures in the CW collections. I knew swords would be involved. When I found out about this, I knew it would be perfect for my son, who has been researching specific information about 18th century swords.  My son pulled out his notebook to take notes and asked me to do the same in my notebook. He wants to perfect his note taking methods and wanted to compare notes with me later. We did a lot of scribbling about fascinating information! 

This talk was more than showing a descriptive catalog of military items. The greater story of historical authenticity was told. The curator began with a picture of the infamous entry hall of the Governor's Palace which is full of military weapons. He told us how that was recreated with accuracy. He told us where the items came from.  He told us why these locations were chosen.  He told us about the purchase of other objects, which told a greater story of history, after careful examination after the purchase. For a long time I have known and appreciated that CW seeks to make each aspect of their living history museum as accurate as possible. And yes, I do remember the older look of the entry into the Governor's Palace, which to my eye was far more grand than the current display which quite disappointed me when I saw it again since it was all changed. Although the interpreter during that tour explained the reason for the change, and I understood and agreed with the need for historical accuracy, this curator gave so much background information including slides of research of similar period entries in England (after all Virginia was an English colony and the Governor's Palace was the home of the representative of the king), I really got on the bandwagon for historical accuracy and appreciated even more the attention to detail (though I still miss the fomer look! lol)  After this talk, my appreciation was incredibly deepened. As for my son, he enjoyed every aspect of all of the information presented.         

    
The next day after numerous visits out and about in the historic area, we went to Bruton Heights for a behind the scenes tour. This tour even more specifically and in an interesting fashion showcased how history is carefully researched, preserved, archived, and presented. At Bruton Heights we toured the production studio where the Electronic Field Trips are made.  The guide for this part asked who the teachers were so I raised my hand.  Then she asked if we knew about the EFTs and I said, oh yes! Lots more questions were asked so I finally told her that my kids were the first Skypers. She paused, looked at my kids and exclaimed that yes, she recognized them! Later when we were touring the offices a lady came running out to introduce herself and meet the Skype kids!  My kids really enjoyed all of that attention!  

Our next stop was to go outside and across the paths to another building where many of the pieces of the Colonial Williamsburg collections are restored and stored away until ready to be displayed. This part of the tour always changes, in that one time we might meet a conservator of fabrics and another time a conservator of paintings. We see their work in progress of restoring an object and get to ask all the questions we want! We also walk by the vast closets of storage for historical items just waiting to peek out  and reveal their story to guests!

Our final stop is to the Rockefeller Library where we were free to continue our research...with one of the most incredible book collections we've been invited to touch and see! Being classical homeschoolers, my kids and I had a blast!

Not only was this tour enjoyable, it also built upon our continuing appreciation for historical accuracy. Over and over again we were shown displays and concrete examples of research that had been done to accurately retell the story of America's beginnings!  Our current history studies have juxtaposed Stalin's practice of rewriting the history books to glorify himself, exchanging self-glory over truth against Colonial Williamsburg's quest for historical veracity. When you go to the trades and ask questions, you will learn that everything they do is based on documented information that the interpreter has deeply researched to continue recreating authentically historic items as well as accurately answering guest questions. When you visit the houses you hear the history of the people who lived there, sometimes with primary source documents. When you meet actor/interpreters, whether they are engaging with you one on one or acting out a scene from Revolutionary City, their character interpretation is not contrived but carefully researched at places like the Rockefeller Library.  When you visit Colonial Williamsburg, you are seeing history from the pages of a book come to life. Colonial Williamsburg is indeed a historically accurate treasure!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

WWII Radio Show/USO Show for the Troops Dialectic History Presentation

(Disclaimer:I just discovered that in the video clip below, photobucket tacked on some links to other videos at the end.  I have no idea where those link to.  I cannot vouch for the "innocence" of the material in the links.  I can only upload photos and videos here through photobucket, so I am a bit at their mercy. I apologize for any inconvenience.)    

Welcome to our USO history celebration about the era from 1929-1949, covering the Great Depression, WWII, the onset of the Cold War, and the establishment of the nation of Israel. Ask us anything you want to know! That is one of the things we encourage in our history presentations. The kids enjoy pretending they are actor/interpreters at Colonial Williamsburg, so they carry that into the different eras of our history presentations. They try to stay in character and answer all questions about the era. Of course neither they, nor I, can answer every question. However we can answer quite a few and carry on a respectable conversation with an expert in the field, because of all the books we read in our studies and the wonderful teacher guide in the curriculum that helps me to lead the weekly Socratic Discussions that guide the students in making historical connections.  Now we get a chance to let loose and have fun with it!



     WWII on the Homefront

     We had two sets of costumes and characters in order to pull the two parts of the celebration together into a cohesive theme!  First we did part I: WWII on the Homefront. Instead of having everything for dinner perfectly in place, I left dinner in the kitchen ready to receive final touches and taken to the dining room table, to incorporate dinner preparations into the history presentation.  Also instead of making a grand entrance, I merely came downstairs to welcome my husband home from work at the War Department (he really works at the Pentagon, which did not exist yet.)  My husband was laughing! We cut the action to go downstairs for a photo op!  Here we are...Rosie the Riveter with her children, who are dressed for a school presentation later that evening.  (My son made the microphone and we got the poster at the Quantico Museum. It's hard to see, but BBC is on the grey part of the microphone. I think it shows up better in a later picture.)

,

      We goofed off trying to get a good picture of me recreating one of the Rosie the Riveter posters.  Because of all the laughter I had difficulty keeping a straight face.  Due to a need for more women to work in the factories to support the war effort, Rosie became a fictitious symbol representing a woman who could do it all: be patriotic, productive, and pretty!  





      Then we set the table for dinner. While doing so, I asked my husband to turn on the radio, since I thought there was a special program of Glenn Miller music from Europe.  (Actually my husband popped in a CD that we got from the current "USAF Airmen of Note: The direct descendant of Glenn Miller's Army Air Forces Band of WWII.")  The food became the centerpoint for our conversation. You'll see why in a moment.  Also, while I chatted about the food, I explained about some of the dishes I used. I tried to use everything I had that was representative for the era.  Some I think are self explanatory.  

We had carrot meatloaf...



carrot potatoes...



carrot biscuits...



carrot salad...



carrot fudge (yes this is a real recipe from WWII...see the link below).  I mentioned that this was served in a Polish pottery piece, sent to me by a dear friend in Germany (this is true but really happened a few years ago. We weren't actually born yet!)  I said, "We must pray for those poor souls caught in the middle of this horrible war. I hear stories of death camps over there."



and carrot cookies. This is served in a Depression era glass serving plate.   



My husband stated the obvious like we had hoped..."There must have been a lot of carrots during the war."  This began the conversation on the patriotic duty for Victory Gardens and the encouragement to grow carrots. Carrots weren't much of a commodity before the war.  The British advertised that their pilots were so successful against the Germans in the Battle of Britain, because they had excellent vision due to eating carrots. In fact the British purposely used this line of advertising to fool the Germans and keep them from guessing that the increased marksmanship was actually due to technology. My son drew this free hand from this great web site full of information and recipes about the carrot in WWII. You can download actual copies of the recipe booklets from WWII. The picture was part of the table centerpiece for discussion.

       The rest of the centerpiece was these quilt blocks of a Sunbonnet Sue pattern for a new bed quilt that my daughter made with fabric from old clothes. Reusing fabric was part of one's patriotic duty.





     During the course of dinner, my husband asked great questions, to which my son had extremely deep and well informed answers! Where did he learn all this stuff?!  He knew everything from factories to airplanes to I don't remember what else! He is a deep well of information!  Actually he's like this all the time. Ask him anything you want and he'll likely bend your ear for over an hour!   

     Then the kids pretended to practice the piano and fife with their latest assignments from their teachers. These songs were released in the 40's. My daughter played, "It is no Secret." This was actually released in 1949, but it was the only one with no sharps and flats!  We didn't dwell on actual dates.



My son played "This is My Country."



Then he played "He Lives."



Part II-USO Show for the Troops

Then my son invited Dad to the school program (Part II)...a USO show for the troops. I exclaimed that I wanted to run upstairs to change!  My husband hopefully looked at me and asked, "You don't need a shower after all that work riveting today, do you?" I laughed and said no.  Rosie is not only strong, efficient, and pretty, she doesn't even break a sweat!  After I changed we came downstairs and stood behind the curtain. The troops (my husband) were (was) seated on the couch on the other side. My son became Glenn Miller (musician before the war and for the Army Air Corps during the war) and opened the USO Show!




He announced Gladys Aylward (my daughter), Lt. Kenneth A Walsh (my son's other character) and Ginger Rogers (me!)

 

     Then my daughter did her first person interpretation of Gladys Aylward, missionary to China during the Great Depression. She took over a hundred Chinese orphans to safety, over rugged mountains and crossing the Yellow River, escaping the invading Japanese.



Then my son did a quick costume change to become Corsair Ace Lt. Kenneth A. Walsh. (Notice he put on his wool collar and took his glasses off.  It was a subtle costume change. Besides, military pilots do not wear glasses.)  Incidentally, he is not in the Army Air Corps (no Air Force yet) but a Marine!



He used this corsair, which we got at the Quantico Museum, for a prop. The corsair is his favorite plane. He had a blast working on this project!



This is another version of the Corsair. He bought it over a year ago. When he started learning about Corsairs, he learned that it wasn't accurate, so he has been reworking it. This has taken a long time on top of an art contest he recently entered for the Mariner's Museum and the carrot picture. As a result, it isn't finished. So he said it was in for repairs.



 My son did another costume change, from Lt. Walsh to Glenn Miller (glasses on, like Glenn Miller, and collar off.) Then we sang a few Glenn Miller songs, "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree". During the prelude we pretended to play trombones! My husband loved it!



      I tend to get caught up in the flow of things and not look at the script or lesson plans and just go by memory...thereby creating an entirely new flow to things.  What I did next wasn't supposed to be done until after my first person interpretation. Oh well.  It was still great and I suppose it didn't really matter.  My son, as Glenn Miller, announced, "How about Ginger dancing with one of the troops while we have a little Moonlight Serenade."  The "band" (CD) started playing Glenn Miller's famous composition, "Moonlight Serenade" while I went to my husband and reached my hand out for him to dance with me. Boy was he surprised! As we started dancing I told the kids to take a picture of us but my husband said no way, due to the way he was dressed.  As "Glenn Miller" directed the "band", the kids serenaded us.  It was so funny, yet warm and touching at the same time. Can you believe this was my son's idea?

     When I did my first person interpretation, that my son insisted I do and I stayed up to research the night before! Did you know Ginger Rogers grew up in Texas?  She always wanted to be a teacher! She was always told she could dance before she could walk. She is a natural redhead! I was perfect for the part...except I am a teacher and I grew up wanting to dance! Her first name was really Virginia but a little cousin couldn't say that, calling her Ginger instead. I tried to put the Ginger attitude into my interpretation. I engaged my audience, including my kids. My son was behind the curtain for some reason and he'd shout out answers.  I kept teasing that voice behind the curtain. The hit of the show came when he stepped out and said, "Now Ginger will sing, 'Bluebonnets over the White Cliffs of Dover." to which I teased him, "Now I'm a Texas girl and I like bluebonnets but I've never seen them fly over any white cliffs!" Everyone was laughing!  Then he said, "Mom!" in that teenage fashion to which I replied, "I am not old enough to be Glenn Miller's mother!" We were laughing because my son usually catches me getting out of character at the wrong time!

     Finally we sang "Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover." , played once again by the Glenn Miller Band. This is a beautiful song dreaming of peace, that one day the horrible war would be over. On that note, we thanked all the guys and gals over there, for their sacrifice to our country!.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Thread Button Sewing Class at Colonial Williamsburg

     My daughter and I took a class with the Colonial Williamsburg Costume Design Center last weekend to learn how to make colonial buttons. These classes are part of their 75th anniversary celebration. We received a bag filled with all of the materials needed for the class, including written instructions to take home.



First we made the type of button that goes onto a colonial shirt.  First we made large buttons, using a bangle bracelet and yarn. This way we could learn the technique with a large item before getting tangled up in white linen thread on a teeny tiny item.



 Then we graduated to getting tangled in white linen thread while working with a small ring.  You can see my teeny tiny button, which looks like a wagon wheel.  It's made of nothing but the ring and thread!   



  

Now if that was not challenge enough, we were instructed to try another one, using our finger as a form. Um, not as good...yet!



Then we made a button that would be seen on a gentleman's coat or waistcoat (vest).   The CDC staff told us that the tailor can whip these buttons up in ten minutes while talking to guests and not looking at what he is doing. First we practiced on a large wooden form and yarn.



Then we graduated to smaller wooden forms and silk thread. 


Here is my first button on a proper wooden form with silk thread!



We were asked if any of us would like to make the 30+ buttons this weekend for Mr. Jefferson's coat? Me, me, me, me! 

     These classes are absolutely wonderful, to learn how to make historically accurate costumes. Although I already had a huge sense of appreciation for the craftsmanship of the workers at the Costume Design Center, my well of awe deepens as I attempt the techniques which they have perfected. Their superb craftsmanship can be seen walking around the historic area on a daily basis, as the interpreters recreate life for us in the incredible living history museum which we fondly know as Colonial Williamsburg!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dialogues in Revolution at the Capitol in Colonial Williamsburg

     The kids and I went down to CW last Friday.  My daughter and I had a sewing class on Sat and I needed to pick up the tickets Fri. So why not turn it into a CW school day?  
    It was a cold and windy day! What happened to the warm weather?  We attended a program at the Raleigh called "Drive the Cold Winter Away." That's my kind of program!  It was about the entertainment the colonists enjoyed during the long winter months. I'm from San Antonio, Texas, so believe me, the winters in Virginia are l-o-n-g. I thought they were only long further north but I have quickly learned that any entertainment that the colonists enjoyed, like music, performing plays, and dancing, can put a positive spin on being cooped up!

        Later that afternoon we returned to the Raleigh, for a program called "In the Course of Human Events 1776-1781: Revolutionary People." Two of the town's citizens shared the latest news with us about the revolution and we got to ask questions of the citizens. That turned into a very interesting discussion!

     Then we went to the Capitol for a program called "Dialogues in Revolution: 1776-1781."  My son took lots of pictures of the capitol.  Isn't the blue sky gorgeous?  However it was freezing due to all the wind, even in 50 degrees!  Nevertheless, the detail on this building is stunning.





 



 Once inside we got a tour of the Capitol.  On the table was an Indian beaded belt which was a symbol of a peace agreement with the Cherokee. 



In the last room of the tour, where the House of Burgesses met, we got to meet two of the burgesses! They talked with us about their role in the current events of the revolution.

    

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg Snow Flurries

    After being snowed in the DC area, we braved the snow to head south to warmth...sunshine...no more snow! Right? Wrong!  We awoke at our hotel Saturday morning to a fresh dusting of snow and snow flurries in the air. Colonial Williamsburg has gotten more snow than usual this winter like the rest of the Commonwealth of Virginia. After leaving the arctic of Northern Virginia, I was praying these snow flurries would not become more.  Thankfully they left only a light dusting.

 





Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg President's Day Weekend

     Last weekend we left the Tundra (otherwise known as Northern Virginia) to head south to Colonial Williamsburg for President's Day Weekend.  Guess what? They got snow for the third weekend in a row! Thankfully it was not a blizzard.



Pam, do you recognize this house with the creek in back? I thought you'd like to see this with a bit of snow!

     

      In the warmth of the Capitol we moved from room to room to meet with each of the three presidents from Virginia who spent time in this building: Washington, Jefferson and Madison.  We met them in different time frames, as they reflected on their work within the capitol and the political events surrounding the time frame. 

     First we met with Colonel George Washington in 1775 who was a burgess in Williamsburg.  After sharing a bit about that, he opened the floor to questions. One was about whether a story, where George Washington cracks walnuts with his knuckles, was true.  Washington proceeded to tell us about the deficiency of his teeth, of which he is ashamed. He told the story of how he used to crack walnuts with his teeth as a child. At this point I nudged my son and looked at him with "the look" because he has used his teeth to open things in the past.  While I nudged my son, Washington asked my son if he ever used his teeth to open anything.  He laughed when my son looked at me, because I was nudging him, and said to the audience, "Look how he turns away when I ask him this." I motioned to my son to look at Washington, who repeated his question. My son said no, but I emphatically nodded yes! This was really hilarious! My son insisted he doesn't do this anymore, and true, I haven't had to tell him anything for the last few years. Then we went upstairs to meet James Madison who talked to us about his part in the writing of the Constitution. 



Then we met with Thomas Jefferson downstairs about his time as a lawyer and Governor of Virginia.

     Later we had the difficult decision of choosing between meeting with Patrick Henry or George Washington. Being Washington's birthday, we decided to meet with the first president. My son even had a question for him!



     The next morning, as we walked down Duke of Gloucester Street, a horseman approached us. It was my son's favorite actor!  He was so kind to give kind words to my son. Then he told us he was on his way to the Magazine to get the Dragoon presentation put together.  He has always been a huge encouragement to my son, who now firmly desires to major in history when he attends college! This is a recent development, which he told all the guests about that weekend.  I'm surprised he didn't tell the actor. 

     Then we went to the Governor's Palace to meet with the presidents again, at yet another stage of their lives.  First we met with General Washington to discuss the need for ratification of the Constitution. Then we met with Thomas Jefferson. He walked in looking quite elegant. He started speaking to us in French before he realized we were his fellow Virginians. Then he welcomed us to Paris.  Paris?  When did we take a boat to France?  Time not only flies in CW, but locations do too!  He told us about his time in Paris and about his thoughts on the Constitution for America.



     Then we hurried to see the dragoon demonstration. This was different from other dragoon demonstrations we've seen in the past.  Brandishing swords, they demonstrated how they would charge through the British line, which appeared absolutely terrifying, as it was meant to appear. 



    Then one of the dragoons told us about the importance of the care of their horses, which was extremely interesting.  I got to take care of my cousin's horse one time, so I could relate to much of what he said. The horse stole the show, though.  While the dragoon pulled out the empty grain bag to demonstrate the need to carry the horse's food, because they cannot survive on grass alone (Hmmmm, so how do they survive in the wild? I wish I had thought to ask that, but it was a cold afternoon and I had a brain freeze!) the horse perked up and looked really cute, while longingly looking at the bag and even trying to reach for it.  



     Then there was an opportunity to ask questions. Since there are always a lot of great questions asked, I always like to hang around and listen to them.  One fascinating fact was about the size of dragoon units. In the American Revolution they were small, I think maybe as large as 100. However Napoleon would have as many as 10,000. Can you imagine that many dragoons charging at you if you were in the front line? No thank you.



      Late in the afternoon we attended Salute to the Presidents.  My daughter felt honored to be chosen by President Madison  and President Washington to hold their walking sticks so they could fire the cannons.



While the fife and drum corps played, the cannons were fired for all the presidents, grouped according to state.



     That evening we went to a special event, Evening with the Presidents. There was a moderator who introduced each of the presidents: Washington, Jefferson and Madison. After introductions, the moderator gave the first question for the men to answer.  Then the audience got to ask questions. They were interesting and wonderful to hear. Some questions reflected 21st century events. They even shot great one-liners back and forth which were absolutely hilarious! My kids and I got all the jokes and comments because of our history studies. My son had his hand up for a question. The moderator had a big smile and pointed out the young man wearing the regimental uniform and asked him to stand (so all could see) as he asked his question. This was a special honor because the moderator is the director of historic programming and we've gotten to know about him through his excellent work in EFTs and Revolutionary City, although he doesn't know us. We see him around town sometimes, while managing Revolutionary City. This presentation was absolutely incredible, a night we will never forget. I cannot even begin to describe it.  You have to come see the program for yourself! I guarantee you will not be disappointed!

     We stayed through Monday, despite the threat of more snow predictions where we live. We met with Lafayette...



   Then we went to the Tucker House and had a great conversation with the birthday guy himself...George Washington! Sadly it was time to go home. 

     We drove home in a bit of rain but the clipper that was supposed to dump a few inches of snow on our home shifted further north.  We only saw a few snowflakes coming home. A week after the first of two blizzards, our neighborhood streets are still full of snow and ice.  Home sweet home at the Tundra.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Note Taking

     I have tried time and again to teach my kids to take notes. Sadly it's not been sinking in.  Recalling an educational theory, that 80% of learning is modeling, I have decided to start taking notes when the opportunities arise so that my kids can see how it is done. 

     I have purchased a blank book at Colonial Williamsburg, that goes with me whenever we go sightseeing.  In the front I have new things I've jotted down. In the back I have questions the kids and I are storing up for different historical people we may chance to meet. I've been primarily jotting down recommended book titles on historical topics and any colonial sewing information I can glean.  However it still was not making an impression on my kids. 

     This past weekend we attended Colonial Williamsburg's Presidential weekend events.  Since arriving back home, otherwise known as "the Tundra", I had forgotten all about these notes, as I try to catch up on details here and navigate icy unplowed neighborhood roads.  Tonight at dinner, the topic somehow came up and finally, I had my kids' attention!  My son asked if note taking meant writing everything down.  groan  How many times have I told the kids that notetaking entails writing key words, like we have learned in IEW.  There is greater value to showing than telling. 

     I pulled out my notebook and shared my notes for the weekend. Wow! What a discussion we had! They remembered a lot of points and we talked how each one could be developed into a five paragraph paper.  This is heavy on their mind right now, since they are developing their first person interpretations for their next unit celebration this weekend. I continually pointed out how a few key words can jog the memory for fuller detail, which is no different from the techniques used in IEW.

     At Colonial Williamsburg Sunday night we attended a great program with past presidents Washington, Jefferson and Madison.  The theme was massive. Someone who likes the 19th century must have written it! All I got was:  "Balancing the will of the people while advancing.....politics."  Anyway as I read my notes, we talked about how I could have asked questions for clarification or extension of ideas to develop an assigned paper. That way they would be even more engaged than they already were.  My husband jumped in and said I should assign a paper like that to prepare the kids for college.  My kids were extremely attentive.  Besides this prodigious topic I also shared my notes from the Lafayette talk we attended yesterday, where we heard yet another aspect to his life.  I could see the wheels turning in my kids' heads.

    This led into a discussion of how I used to have to do this in college quite a bit. When I attended Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, past president Gerald Ford came to speak.  I was taking political science at the time and had to attend and write a paper on his talk. A few years ago, I took the kids to Trinity University to listen to past president George H. W. Bush!  Although my kids understood how important people come to universities to speak, they never considered it could be assigned as a written paper in college.  I gave more examples of how I attended other seminars, like one with a famous enironmentalist for my Environmental Studies class.  Then I mentioned the critiques I had to write for numerous college plays I attended for my theater arts appreciation class.  

           The kids are currently busy with lots of writing for their history and literature, but they still need refinement of technique and lots of practice to make this easy to think out.   Right now we are going through "The Elegant Essay" to refine their writing. After our history studies for the year are complete, we might develop the idea proposed by my husband on an incremental basis, using opportunities at CW, where we get to listen and ask questions.  We'll probably start with comparing our notes, then developing a key word outline, then eventually writing an actual paper. It's good to learn how to synthesize and analyze information that is not only read, but learned from an oral source. Stay tuned! 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

CW EFT: The Slave Trade

    In recognition of Black History Month, Colonial Williamsburg's latest Electronic Field Trip was "The Slave Trade."  Last year my kids and I intensely studied slavery, abolitionists and the Underground Railroad, but knew very little about the slave trade apart from the efforts of William Wilberforce to end it in Britain and Thomas Jefferson's eventual ending of it during his presidency. 

     We had an extremely busy week in our regular history studies the week of the EFT, but the week before was light. Therefore we actually started our EFT studies the week before, on Friday. First we watched the EFT broadcast and question and answer segment from two years ago, featuring Sojourner Truth, a New England merchant who profited from the slave trade and a navy captain who's job was to patrol for slave ships.  There was also a historian. 

    Then we read the background notes from the Teacher's Activitiy packet.  We learned about specifically where in Africa slaves came from and where they went. Actually this was a review for us, however the percentages of where they went was a surprise. Only 5% of all the slaves were sent to the United States.  We learned why the different names of the coast of Africa (Ivory Coast, Gold Coast, Slave Coast) got their names. We learned about the Triangular Trade, which surprisingly included Rhode Island.   We learned more details than we knew before of the horrors of the  Middle Passage.  We also read about the changing viewpoint of the slave trade over the years, leading to it's ultimate end.

     Then we did a few of the activities in the teacher packet.  We read a couple of primary source documents to get two different points of view of a slave ship.  One was from a British physician (pro-slavery) and the other was a freed African American, who learned to read and write and wrote his autobiography. He was the son of a tribal chief before his capture. We looked at a picture of an interesting medal.  Oddly the front had English and the back had Arabic. The kids got to make connections between the two as to the actual message of the medal. 

    I never did the games this time but the kids did. There were three of them and the kids really enjoyed them. One of them was Capture the Slave Trader and my kids really enjoyed doing that!  

     Thursday was the live broadcast.  Again for the question and answer were Sojourner Truth, the pro-slavery merchant from Rhode Island and the captain who was against slavery and patrolled the seas to stop slave ships.  They were terrific, sometimes getting into heated debates that needed to be stopped by the 21st century historian.  This topic of slavery was treated sensitively. The actors treat it like it was, according to their character's viewpoint of the era. After all, how are we going to learn our history. After pro-lavery comments were made by the merchant, the 21st century historian (an African American himself) explained to the kids that some people in the past actually did believe differently from what we do today.  That allowed the kids to see that this type of thinking is wrong, but historically, people believed in slavery and didn't always treat them well. Since history repeats itself, Colonial Williamsburg's mission is to teach us the past so that we can make wise choices in the future. 

     After the first broadcast, my son thought of a question to e-mail to Sojourner Truth. "Why weren't slave trader capturers, like Capt John Bell, able to get better, faster and more numerous ships to capture the slave traders?" We weren't sure what else to call "slave trader capturers."

Answer:

The ships chasing the slavers were US Navy ships.  There were many more slave ships than the navy had available for this duty.  Also, the slave ships could be newer and faster than some of the older navy ships.

Sojourner Truth

My daughter had had her question ready to go since the week before.  Since we hadn't read anything in the Teacher Guide or at the activity site for students about Sojourner Truth, yet she appeared in the broadcast and the question and answer, we did not know much about her. I would have liked to have gotten a biography on her to read, but my kids already had 70 pages to read in their regular history studies this week.  So my daughter asked, "Can you tell me some of the things that happened to you before you were freed and what you do now?  Thank you for answering this question."

Answer:       

My Dear ____________,

I was born into slavery in 1797 in Ulster County, New York.  At that time, any child born to an enslaved women became a slave.  The same be true of a man child born to a slave woman.  If your mama was a slave you be born a slave.

I was named Isabella and was the property of Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh.  As a young girl, I spoke only low Dutch and like many slaves born at that time, I never learned to read or write.

In 1815, when I was 18 years old, I married Thomas, a fellow slave and bore five children--Diana, born in 1815, Peter, born in 1821, Elizabeth, born in 1825, Sophia, born in 1826 and a fifth child who died in infancy.

I worked in the field planting and harvesting crops and I also worked as a domestic in the masters house.  I was sold to four more slave owners, until I walked away to freedom in 1826 carrying my infant daughter Sophia in my arms.  I settled in New York City and in 1843, I changed my name to Sojourner Truth and set out to travel the land as an itinerant preacher announcing the truth and working against social injustice.

Since that time I have travelled this country speaking out against slavery, the plight of the freed black person, and all other forms of social issues mostly dealing with former slaves and women.  I have met many famous and prominent people including President Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote the famous novel dealing with slavery called "Uncle Tom's Cabin", Frederick Douglass, and William Lloyd Garrison one of the early abolitionists who campaigned for freeing the slaves long before the Civil War.

I am now in my 86th year and I will continue to fight injustice as long as I can draw a breath.

Thank you for your interest in my cause,


Sojourner Truth


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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Surely the Weatherman Jests...

     Last Friday/Saturday we got our third snow storm in a week. This one was predicted to surpass the Christmas snow of 19" and dump 20-30" in our area.  Many places in Northern Virginia did indeed receive 30+" of snow. DC snowfall made the #4 spot in the historic snowfall list, missing the top spot by only an inch or so. Residents have lost power. Roofs have collapsed. Thankfully we received a mere 20".  Now the weatherman predicts more...and it indeed has begun to snow at 5pm. 

     Really, now. We shouldn't get piggish with all this snow.  We should share with those who have not had any snow. A lady in Maine recently commented that they might not get to tap Sugar Maples this year because of their lack of snow. That gave me an idea. I asked my husband, who is from upstate New York and a connoiseur of maple syrup, if we could tap our own trees, since we've had all this snow. His reply was, "You will leave our trees alone.  Do you realize how much you have to collect and boil down?"  Yes, I do.  Actually my initial question wasn't if we WOULD, I was asking if we COULD. Is it possible to do such a thing as far south as Northern Virginia?  Hmmmm, consider the educational opportunity.  Wouldn't it be fun if we could and would?  My husband refuses to talk to me about it. =)  Oh well. Another missed educational opportunity. 

   The real estate agent who sold us this house told me that she has lived in the area since 1982 and this is the worst winter she's ever seen around here. She said it was great that I was homeschooling, so that the kids don't miss school.  The public school kids, she said, will likely make up for lost days through the end of June. I told her my kids' education has broadened this year, from the Texan concept of snow to the understanding of why the Inuits have hundreds of words for snow.  We could write a menu. How would you like it...as flurries or a blizzard?  Powdery or wet?  A la sleet, as in a wintery mix, or pure snow?  My kids have learned a lot!  The agent sent me a forward on snow that had my laughing so hard I was crying.  I read it aloud to the kids, while editing for language, and we understood it in ways we never would have had we received it while living in San Antonio.  After this new major snow event,  yes, another MAJOR event, I'll tally the results and post a cleaned up version of that forward.

In the meantime, here are pictures of the 20," which we still have, everywhere!

Saturday night, when the skies finally finished sending down 20" of floating, twirling, snow in high winds...









Sunday the sun was shining. We walked around the best we could. A lot of the sidewalks were still under snow. Sometimes I followed the family as my son blazed a new trail. I have only one balance nerve due to head surgery years ago, so I lost my balance and fell kerplunk into the snow more than once.  I needed help to get up. It got to the point my son started hanging out with me to make sure I didn't fall anymore! This time I took pictures of the unique snow when hanging off the edge of a roofline. I have always thought pictures of these "snow sheets suspended in air" were so nifty! The neighbor next door, the pastor, borrowed a snowblower from another neighbor. When he was done snowblowing his driveway-to-street connection, he did ours while we were out walking!  Most snowfalls, my husband goes to the pastor's house to shovel his car and driveway. 























All of my kids' sleds have fallen apart. Before this storm hit, I took the kids to the store and they used their allowance to purchase their choice of a makeshift sled (Real sleds are all sold out around here and swim suits are now available!). They chose these swimming innertubes. I didn't think they'd work, but I have seen that their sled ideas and the snow have become great real life physics lessons. Also, nothing ventured, nothing gained. If they just take my word for it, I know my son will always think this will have worked. This is where I have mentioned in previous posts how important it is in nonessential matters to be more hands off and let them be free to choose. I did tell them I sort of doubted it would work, but I hoped I was wrong, and I was impressed with the handles which I knew they really wanted and would be practical.  Here they are about to try them out.



Look at how deep that snow is! We still have it all! The streets in the neighborhood are like the tundra, covered in snow and ice! I know because it was my first day to drive in it! When my kids found out we were getting another 10-20" of snow, they asked if they could have snowshoes.



He told her to push him because he wasn't getting anywhere.



Ta da! That's as far as he got! LOL



He pushed her after I went in the house and her path went quite a ways down the hill! Overall they had a lot of trouble though. My son was quite frustrated when they finally came in. However, the next day at lunch, you could see the wheels turning in his head and he had a new plan. They've been trying lots of plans out, none of which have been super yet. Well, it seems as though they will have fresh snow to try out. We are praying we can get out to go to a special event this weekend!