Monday, April 27, 2009

Moving into our new House!!!

     Keys can hold a great deal of significance. The Bastille key meant tyranny to the prisoners. When Lafayette stormed the Bastille, he sent the key to his adoptive father, George Washington, as a symbol of liberty. Washington placed it in the main hall of his house for all to see.  If we were to meet Thomas Jefferson's daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph, she might discuss her busy life of overseeing Monticello, signified by the keys to the house which she carried with her.

     For the last two months, we yielded the keys to the house we sold in Texas.  Then we drove to Virginia and began a search for a new set of keys, or more importantly, for the house that they would open.  These were not easy to obtain as I thought.  It got to the point where we'd put an offer on a house and I'd ask the agent, "Where are they? I know they are out there.  They are just waiting for us to make an offer so they can pounce and offer cash!"  That's how we lost the Gunston Hall Dr. house.  Today we finally closed on a house and we have keys!

      There have been a few funny events through this process.  Yesterday we were driving to the house for the first time on our own and we got confused.  My husband turned on a little road so we could turn around.  It was called Cemetary Road. My son piped up and said, "That's where everyone ended up, looking for this road we can't find!"  

     As we went through closing today, the agent mentioned that I am a Colonial Williamsburg fan. That caused the lady handling the papers to talk about Colonial Williamsburg's wonderful program on PBS last week.  Did I know about that?  I am normally a very quiet person, but start me on Colonial Williamsburg, and I guess I get chatty!  ;)  I told her all about how disappointed we were when we thought we missed the bulk of the program, then how delighted we were when we found out we got to see something extra special. My husband said, "Laurie, look at that stack of papers we have to sign."  I said, "Well, Laura (our agent) started me on it!"  Laura is great and was laughing and laughing. The title lady thought it was funny too.

     Afterwards, we drove to our new house with a present from Laura.  Here it is in my new kitchen. She told us that everything in the basket is something from Virginia.  She wasn't kidding.  We found one item from Colonial Williamsburg!  

    I also put the picture our friends in Texas gave to us before we left. It's on the landing, for now anyway.

     That's all I have to decorate our house for now.  We drove back to the hotel.  Tomorrow I'll move us out of the hotel and buy supplies.  Our household goods should arrive on Wednesday, in the rain. Hmmmmm....   

     I'll be off-line until a connection is established at the house. 

    I've been asked if there is history in the street name.  Yes, and in the surrounding areas!   However, it's difficult to figure it out, no matter how many clues I give. I don't think anyone will ever guess.  It has something to do with...Patrick Henry!  Also, as we first drove through the neighborhood, my husband noted how it reminded him of a 21st century Duke of Gloucester Street (in Colonial Williamsburg). There is even a view of haha walls across the street!  But none of those details help with the Patick Henry clue! I guess you could say that our keys unlocked the same area of history. ;) 

The British are Coming to Mt Vernon!

     Saturday we saw some historical reenactments of the Bristish arrival at Mount Vernon.  The activities were to begin at 1pm so we spent the morning looking at all the gardens. The kids were  surprised to see one of the Redcoats enjoying the gardens too. I told them he was checking the inventory before the raid. 

     We had an early lunch before the action started. To our surprise, the Redcoats joined us for lunch at the Food Court!  They arrived with their ammunition, muskets, full uniform...everything!  My son said with shock, "That one bought food at Cafe Lafayette!"  Of course they attracted a lot of attention, as they walked by with their food, smiled back at all of us, set their muskets against the wall, and sat down to eat.  I told the kids they wanted to taste the provisions before the raid. 

       After lunch, we went down to the encampment to meet some of the British. The first group we met was the navy. The spokesman said the British army and navy didn't get along too well.  But what was the army going to do? They needed the navy for transportation. The spokesman showed us the display of guns and supplies for us to see. I motioned for my son to check it out, since all he could talk about on the drive to Mt Vernon was the difference between a musket and a rifle. No, he had no interest.  Ever a patriot at heart, he could not bring himself to spend time with the enemy. After a few moments, he went to the display. What changed his mind? I decided to follow him. We saw some cool things.  My son talked to one of the interpreters about the guns.  My husband questioned some of my son's information but the interpreter said our son was right!

We got to see a sextant...

ummm, and this device used for navigating at night. We forget what it's called. We've read lots of great books about sailors like Mr. Bowditch and Captain Cook. These helped to make the books come alive.


They let us look through the spyglass. We were told it was probably an original. I was impressed with how well it worked!  

When we left my son whispered, "Ah, I now have secret information for General Washington." Hmmmm, my very own Spymaster.

     Then we went to the encampment of the Highland Regiment. They do a third person interpretation and although they represent men from Scotland, the conversation somehow took a turn to the Alamo.  One of the men said he had visited the Alamo before, but there are no reenactments there. "Oh, yes there are!" I piped up.  I told him my children and I were asked by the interpreter group to work on interpretations with them at the Alamo.  We didn't get a chance to work for them, since we moved to Virignia.  When we move into our house and get our photos out of storage, I'll have to blog about the Alamo reenactments.  Well, our conversation came to an end as the action was scheduled to start.

     This reenactment is based on actual documentation on events in April of 1781, when the British arrived at Mount Vernon from the Potomac.

They offered freedom to the slaves if they joined their army...

They demanded from Lund Washington (the general's cousin) provisions or else they would burn down Mt Vernon.

General Washington had put his cousin in charge of the plantation during his absence.  He told him to never cooperate with the British.

However, Mrs. Washington was in the house and Lund Washington was concerned about her.  He provided the British with food and supplies.

Then we went to the slave cabin where we listened to Daniel tell the others about the opportunity to gain their freedom by joining the British.

There were many things to consider like leaving a husband on the next plantation behind, disease, possibility of capture and possibility of the British losing the war.

     Later we went to the Greenhouse where the different slaves talked about their experience with freedom. One asked us not to tell anyone he was there. He had chosen freedom and ended up in Nova Scotia. Another was a lady who chose to join the British and followed them to Yorktown. She described the surrender ceremony.  The Americans were lined up on one side and the French on the other.  The British marched through. Refusing to look at the Americans, they looked only at the French. At that moment, Lafayette ordered that Yankee Doodle be played. That got the Redcoats' attention! Because the British lost, this lady had to return to Mt Vernon as a slave. Afterwards, the slave answered questions first from a first person interpretation, then went into a third person interpretation.

     The next slave to speak got the news that she was freed after George Washington's death. She was scared.  Where to go? What to do?  Where to sleep? She didn't want to leave her husband behind.  She was one of General Washington's slaves. Her husband was one of Mrs. Washington's slaves that she had received from her first husband's estate, Daniel Parke Custis', after he died.  According to Virginia law, she could neither sell nor free these slaves from her husband's estate. She could only use them.  After she died, they had to be passed on to the Custis family heirs. Then she took questions to answer from a third person perspective. 

     One of the topics discussed was General Washington's changing perception of slavery throughout his life.  While he fought for liberty, he questioned slavery...especially when many slaves joined the army and fought with him.   Also he was influenced by his adopted son, Lafayette, who was opposed to slavery.  Washington wrote in his will that his slaves be freed after his and Martha's death. Martha Washington freed his slaves a year after his death.    

     Finally Lund Washington told us about General Washington's displeasure to the news that he supplied the British in order to save Mt. Vernon.

   Afterwards we went to one of the gift shops by the garden. My daughter had been fascinated by the unusual orange flowers. She asked the ladies in the shop about it. They said that was General Washington's favorite flower. He had written that he wanted them planted in the garden every year.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trip-Soldier of Liberty

     Colonial Williamsburg's Electronic Field Trip, Soldier of Liberty, gave us an unexpected surprise today. Scheduled to air at 10am, the kids were anxious for it to start. In preparation I went to the web site shortly before 9am.  Oh no! It was already on the air! There were the actor interpreters and the historian, the teenage announcers, the live call in questions, everything! How did that happen? I knew I checked my e-mail announcement and it said there'd be a 10am start. Did I miss something? This is entirely possible because we are in the middle of a move from Texas to Virginia and are currently in a hotel. We were watching the EFT on the laptop as we have with every other EFT.  Strangely, things seemed rather different during the Q&A. Nothing major, just a lot of little things seemed off. Then when they went to the 7 minute movie segment, it fast forwarded right before our eyes. Then there was another Q&A, shorter than usual, and another fast forwarded 7 minute movie.  Back to the Q&A, but this time we were excited to see my daughter's e-mail question featured!  It seemed to take them all by surprise and I guess the Loyalist and Sgt didn't want to touch that one. The historian gave us the answer we were looking for.  More on that later. Anyway it was all over and done within thirty minutes instead of the usual hour.  How did they do that? We were extremely disappointed. Here we are in the same state and I thought I'd have an easier time getting the time of the broadcast right, without factoring in CST vs EST.

     Greatly disappointed, I made a phone call to EFT support. After explaining the situation I wailed, "What happened? Did I have the wrong time? Are things done differently now? Was the live-stream merely going beserk?"  She was confused; so was I!  After a few questions she finally realized what happened. She assured me that the real broadcast would be at 10am and informed me that we saw the dress rehearsal!  W-o-w!  Incredulously I asked, "We got to see behind the scenes?"  She laughed and said yes. I laughed too and said we are big fans of Colonial Williamsburg (major understatement), so this was neat!  I got off the phone and told the kids and their disappointment quickly turned to enthusiasm!  We had the best time telling my husband all about the behind the scenes footage we got to see when he got back to the hotel from work!

     Sure enough, at 10am, the real broadcast began! As usual, it was terrific! Soldier of Liberty is about the day in the life of a soldier. We learned answers to all the questions we've been asking ourselves when we've gone to Colonial Williamsburg.  What is the difference between the militia and the army?

Why do they wear purple shirts? 

Why are their hats shaped that way?  We also learned why there was no standing army after the American Revolution. We learned about the most important weapon. We learned why the soldiers position themselves the way they do during battle.

We also learned what most of their days looked like. 

We even learned about some of the diseases in the camp, their treatments and prognosis. Everything really seemed to fall into place with this field trip. We had heard some of these things before at Colonial Williamsburg.  We even covered some of the same information during the Yorktown EFT. However those times we were experiencing information overload. =)  At last, it all made sense!

     The story revolved around Nathaniel Hutcheson, a teenage boy who is in love with his childhood sweetheart, Penny. The plot intertwines around three different perceptions of freedom. Nathaniel and his friends sought freedom from England.  Parliament, in England, was taxing the colonies to pay off England's debts from the French and Indian War.  However, the burgesses, the representative body in Virginia, were not allowed to have any representation in the taxation.  The Loyalists, on the other hand, did not have issues with Parliament levying taxes.  They felt they had plenty of freedoms from King George III, despite the taxation without representation. Penny's father was a Loyalist. He had always felt that Nathaniel would make a good husband for Penny, until their political differences caused them to choose sides in the war. When the war began, Virginia's Royal Governor Dunmore allowed slaves of patriots to be free if they joined the army of the British. The Hutcheson family slave, Maddy, ran away to join the Ethiopian Regiment and serve under the king, in return for freedom.

     Last night, the kids e-mailed questions to Nathaniel.  My daughter asked, "In order to be an officer, what kind of education was needed?" I didn't think to have her clarify what she meant, but she was basically asking how one got to be a commissioned officer vs noncommissioned. She knows that today that is primarily due to education. During the dress rehearsal, the historian addressed the question in that way, and explained that it was due to social position at that time.  Her question was featured again during the second broadcast and that time the historian did address it from an educational viewpoint, basically extending the question to add that educational pamphlets were written on drill instructions, etc. 

     My son e-mailed Nathaniel: "We learned that doctors give the patient opium as a pain reliever after amputating a limb. Why didn't the doctors use the opium before amputating a limb, so it wouldn't hurt quite as much during the amputation?"  He got an e-mail back with definite 18th century flavor!  Those are always the most fun.   

"Master ______________, Yours is a most worthy query. I have had an opportunity to talk to the Camp Surgeon who Informs me that this is the way they were trained. At the heart of the practice is the fact that there is usually a very limited supply of Laudanum and coupled with the fact that a number of wounded do not live through the surgery, the Surgeons felt that by giving the relief prior to knowing the outcome of the amputation that they were in fact using it needlessly.

I trust that this answers your query adequately and that I do not have to undergo such a procedure.

Your most humble and obedient,

Nathaniel Hutcheson"

      When we get these e-mails back, I am teaching my kids to notice the style of writing and compare their responses. Whereas my son got an 18th century styled answer, my daughter received a 21st century styled answer from Nathaniel, including a reference to modern day West Point.  We had to laugh about Nathaniel stepping out of character to make a modern reference!  We think my son's was answered by an actor interpretor and that my daughter's was answered by a historian. =)  

     Our favorite web activity took us to the Magazine where armament and ammunition were stored. First, Patrick Henry explained to the kids that they were to be Quartermasters and were given a budget and a limit of 8 items to purchase to supply the troops.  Then they got to learn about the different items in the Magazine before making their purchases.  When they were done, a video of a soldier told them whether the troops won or lost the battle as a result of the purchases. 


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Adventurous-lee Driving with Lee and Other Virginia Vignettes

     I feel as though we have packed quite a bit of adventure into the two short months we've been in Virginia.  We left Texas in early March. In fact, we left spring back there. Here is the Mountain Laurel outside my kitchen window the day the movers put our household goods into the moving truck.


     These flowers are heady with a grape like fragrance. I left the window open to drink in the aroma.  I don't think I can grow these here in Virginia, so I was sad to leave them behind.


     In fact, I was sad to leave our house behind.  After the movers left, we stayed behind and made the house spit spot clean. Then we pulled out of the driveway and I started getting teary eyed.  Suddenly I was imagining the second story windows shedding huge drops of tears as I pulled out of the driveway.  I felt awful, as if I was abandoning all the wonderful memories we had in that home. 

     There were goodbyes from our friends at church.  On Thursday night, when my son went to Awanas, Mr. H., his club director from last year set him inside the flag area after the pledges.  He announced my son's leaving for Virginia and gifted him the infamous "Quiz Man Mask" that Mr. H. had used during Council Time. He wanted my son to carry the tradition to his new Awana club in Virginia.  During my daughter's Awana club night, Friday, they had a little party for her to say goodbye. 

    Then Saturday morning we tried to get together with friends from church to ride their horses.  Incidentally, he is Shamu's doctor, which we always thought was pretty cool. Well, the day was too windy, so we had to pass on seeing them and the horseback riding. =(

    That night we went to a social with our Sunday School class.  It was veggie night and we could only bring veggies.   Hmmm, I'm not a huge veggie fan. I like great salads. But I am also pre-diabetic and need a balanced diet of carbs and protein.  I had no kitchen to bake in so we went to the grocery store and looked around. I found zucchini bread which is always a winner.  Then my son asked a few questions:

Son: Mom, aren't beans a vegetable?

Mom:  (I knew he knew this.  There is a deeper question here.  Where is he going with this?)  Yes...

Son: Doesn't chocolate come from cacao beans?

Mom: (I'm beginning to see the light.) Yes...

Son: So chocolate is a vegetable right?  

   He convinced me. We bought some chocolate. He wasn't the only one to think of this. We had a great supply of chocolate.  Someone also brought lasagne so that helped me get through the night!  lol  

     One of the guys in our class likes to play with his camera. He had us pose for group shots, both serious and goofy. This ended up being a goodbye present for us. We received a nice picture from this night, surrounded by a mat upon which everyone signed good wishes.  That is inside a gorgeous walnut frame. On the back is an overexposed version of one of the goofy pictures. It will be a fun memory of the class.  There were lots of hugs and tears through the week, and not all from us. We were actually touched by those who got teary eyed saying goodbye to us.  Oh, if only we could take them all with us!  

    Our last week in San Antonio, we stayed at my parents' house. Oh the memories from growing up there.   For the first time ever, my mom spoiled us.  Virginia is the furthest I'll ever have lived from them. Our last morning there my dad waited on us during breakfast.  Their black lab, Missy, moped for a week after we left. Actually, the kids tell me that Grandpa told them over the phone that Missy is still looking for us.   Since my parents don't travel much, I told them they should put Missy on a plane to come see us. There are lots of trails around here she'd love to take us for walks on!    

     Well, after shedding tears we were off.  We said goodbye to my alma maters...Trinity University and Texas State University.  We said goodbye to our state capitol.

 Did you know there is a lake East of Dallas?

By the time we reached Arkansas, we saw snow!


Then we crossed the huge bridge...

across the mighty Mississippi River...

On the other side we found a lot of snow in Tennessee...

    We also saw lots of towns and counties with signs referencing Lafayette.  The kids had fun picking them out.  We weren't quick enough to get pictures of the signs, but we took lots of pictures of the snow.  My husband said we were acting like a bunch of Texans who had never seen snow before.  Well, we were Texans who hadn't seen this much snow before!  The kids and I even had our first snowball fight when we stopped for lunch.  These are the snow scenes in Tennessee...

It was odd seeing snow to the right but none to the left. 

      The next day we drove through this gorgeous, snowy scenery in Virginia! The state slogan is, "Virginia is for Lovers."  My husband said it is so cold in Virginia, you'd better be lovers because you'll be snuggling up just to keep warm.  Even though he's from upstate New York, Texas has spoiled him. 

This is the James River...

 In all of the Virginia pictures, the Blue Ridge Mountains are in the distance.

     There was even snow waiting for us in Maryland, where we were blessed to stay with some friends for a month. The second night we were there, I think the kids scooped up the last of the snow to build this snowman!

     This is my friends' cat, aka Mr. President. He's a hoot! He hung out with us the first night and walked all over my back.  Cats give the best back massages!  He liked inspecting our printer and doing back flips inside the stool (wish I had video of that)...

     He took over my son's bed and fell asleep.  I was flabbergasted.  I thought that hyper cat never slept!  He was so much fun and always brought a smile to our face, especially in the mornings when he'd greet us.  We'd greet him back and say, "Good morning, Mr. President."  It's impossible to say that with a straight face!

    My husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary while there.  My friends took the kids to youth group with them so we could go out to dinner, but we were too depressed about losing a bid on the Gunston Hall Dr. house. I've been a bundle of nerves through this entire process and have hardly been able to eat.  I've lost a lot of weight. That night we watched Andy Griffith reruns and kept warm in front of a cozy gas fireplace. The cats joined us. Good old fashioned comedies are good when depressed.  We were finally able to laugh when we watched Andy tell Opie the backwoods version of "Romeo and Juliet".  It was so cute to watch the expressions on Opie's face as he thoroughly enjoyed that story, and so did we!

      The next day was my daughter's birthday. She wanted to spend the day in Colonial Williamsburg. However we had to drive into Virginia to try to beat the competition on a bid (in the end we were beat out again.)  Since I didn't have time to do anything for my daughter's birthday, my friend graciously put together a little party for her.  (The next day I finally got to take her out for her birthday in Maryland.) They found out my daughter likes strawberries, so they dipped them in chocolate and decorated the cake with them. I thought that was clever!

     My husband decided to get a GPS since he couldn't take me into DC all the time when he went to work. (He calls me his personal GPS.)  He loves gadgets and now has a new challenge of figuring out the settings. I'm not a gadget person and am perfectly happy with good old fashioned paper maps. The first time we used the GPS we used it on a route we knew to the real estate agent. My husband chose the voice of Lee, and we were on our parts unkown had it been left to Lee.  Honest-lee, didn't he know about the highway?  Lee, encouraging-lee, kept directing us to the backroads.  Normally we enjoy backroads, but I kept telling my husband we didn't want the ones that would take us into Washington DC!  We wery told by the agent and my friends to change the setting to highway.  I think my husband did that because of our next scenario...

      This time we were in two separate cars. My husband took the lead with his GPS, Lee. I followed in the van with our kids. Neither of us knew where we were going. I had written directions. I thought we were driving from Fairfax to SE Maryland. The directions said to take 395 and take King Street, which was on the south side of Washington DC. Easy.  My son asked if we could see the Washington DC monuments up close. Oh no, I terrifying-lee said with a shudder. I was exhausted and the last thing I wanted to do was drive into downtown Washington DC.     

   I followed my husband, got onto I66 East, onto the beltway, then onto 395. I had never been on 395 before. I knew it led into Washington DC, but we'd be getting off long before that.  No worries. Suddenly, my husband took an exit to I don't know where. That GPS Lee was absolute-lee crazy! I had to follow him so he wouldn't get lost.  As I tried to establish my bearings, I realized the highway I was on was quite unusual to any I've ever driven.  ?????  There were no exit ramps. We were surrounded on each side by highway. I was so confused. Then I realized we were on an HOV with no exit lanes.  Uh oh...there went King St with no way to access it. I called my husband on the cell phone. "Where are we?????" Oh, we were just following Lee.  As I read the signs, I realized that Lee was determined-lee taking us into DC. 

    I told my son he was going to see the monuments after all! Trying to make the best of the situation, I became a tour guide. "We are now crossing the Memorial Bridge, which spans the proud Potomac River. To our left you will now see the beautiful Jefferson Memorial, designed according to our third president's favorite architectural style.  Now we are driving under Washington DC through one...two...three tunnels. (The kids were ecstatic!)  You kids walked all over DC last August. Do you think you can guess which historical building we will see when we come out of the tunnel?"  (Teachers must always work on their student's higher thinking skills by asking prediction and analysis questions. After discussion of their assumptions, I proceeded...)  To the left is the beautiful Rock Creek Park. I've always wanted to take you kids here."

     Finally we arrived at our destination of Silver Branch, which is north of DC on the beltway. All we had to do was take the beltway from Fairfax to Silver Branch and ta-da, we're there!  But oh no, Lee adventurous-lee took us to parts unknown.      

     The next morning we were driving from Silver Branch to Fredericksburg, Virginia. I had a mapquest done and gave it an A+. It routed us direct-lee onto the beltway to 95 South. Yippee! My husband showed me his GPS Lee's route, daring-lee suggesting we drive by Arlington Cemetary...oh no! I begged my husband, to please take the beltway. Sure, he said he would have Lee  obedient-lee follow me. Lee had to confused-lee do a lot of readjusting to follow me, but he managed to arrive in Fredericksburg just fine.  

     I guess Lee has actual-lee helped my husband find a few places, eventual-lee.  But he just plain makes me nuts! We went to Colonial Williamsburg last Sat and my husband was programming Lee. Oh no!  Let's not take him! We have gotten to CW lots of times just fine and I want to get there in time to see Thomas Jefferson! So my husband tucked Lee away and the entire drive went well, while we listened to Lee say discouraging-lee with muffled voice..."recalculating."  

     On that note...the kids and I drove to Leesburg yesterday to see another friend of mine. Ooooo, unchartered territory! I printed out a mapquest and highlighted the route for my son. I had the highways down but needed help on the quick turns on the little streets in my friend's neighborhood.  My son could read the street names to me and both kids could be an extra pair of eyes to read the obscure signs. My son promised me that he'd read the directions to me just like Lee, the GPS. Hmmmmm...thanks? Fortunately, it went great on many levels! We didn't get lost once. 

  We had a great time at my friend's house with her and her kids.  One of her daughters asked her mom why my son talked the way he did. Her mom told her it's because he's from Texas and has an accent. An accent???? She smiled and said that we all had a touch of something. We do??????

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Religious Freedom, and Homeschooling

 Saturday, at long last, after finally finding a house to buy and actually having our offer accepted...we were free to explore! Our first choice was a visit to Colonial Williamsburg to spend the day. I had packed season passes the summer before, so when we packed up our Texas house to move to Virginia, the first thing I packed were the season my purse! Even though all of our stuff was in storage, I had passes! My kids wanted to go in their costumes which storage. (Editor's Note: We found out later they were in storage on Lafayette Boulevard in Fredericksburg, Virginia!)       
Everyone had decided the key event of the day should be to take the Bits and Bridles Tour, which would take us behind the scenes at the horse stables. Alas, they were booked. In fact they are usually booked a couple of days ahead of time.  I'm not sure how we're going to be able to take advantage of this tour, but we'll keep trying.  Not to worry though, we found other great things to do!

April is religion month. Special programs on this topic are available throughout the week.  Behind the palace garden, we met Thomas Jefferson as he shared his efforts to bring freedom for religion to Virginia.

Although Jefferson is known as a Deist, it is little known how he tried to open the door to freedom to Jews, Baptists, and others who were often persecuted by the Church of England for not strictly adhering to their tenets.  Basically Jefferson told us about the diversity of peoples who came to America. Yet all those groups shared a common ingredient...the need to worship freely.   
After his speech, the audience got to ask questions.  As usual, it was fun to see his reactions to some 21st century ideas!  Afterwards he stepped down from the platform to meet the guests and allow for photos.  He even shook my hand. Wow!  I would be too shy to walk up to him on my own. 
Someone asked Mr. Jefferson a question about government and school. Mr. Jefferson gave a wonderfully lengthy answer.  Within that answer, he tossed in the idea of homeschooling, without using that word. Staying in 18th century character, he detailed a list of a busy mother's day, running a household.  How could she possibly have time left in the day to teach her children?  Then he looked right at me and said that for a mother to teach her children at home, she'd have to be incredibly knowledgeable
I was just smiling real big on the outside and laughing hard on the inside and about to bust!  

      Later we went to see Patrick Henry We hadn't seen Thomas Jefferson or Patrick Henry since 2004, so I was delighted to have this double treat!      I had forgotten how funny Patrick Henry is.  Best known for his fiery rhetoric, he is also known for being opinionated. When engaged in business, he'd be so focused, and turn people off. But when business was over, he could be the most fun of anyone. 

Mr. Henry told us all about the Tea Act, the protest in Boston and the subsequent closing of Boston Harbor. Even though he was an Anglican, he also supported the Baptists in their quest for religious freedom. Now I don't remember exactly how he put it, but I think it was when he introduced the Q&A session, he said something to the effect that women didn't have the capacity for holding much knowledge.  There was that 18th century prevailing thought again. I laughed hard when I heard this. After all, I know better! ;) 

     My son had a question for Patrick Henry: Was there any truth to the story that he once showed up late to a court case, argued the case against the defendant, then suddenly realized the defendant was his client so he saved himself by saying, "And that's what the opposition would say!"  Then he defended his client and won the case!  Patrick Henry sheepishly proceeded to fill in the gaps to the story and had the audience laughing throughout, between facial expressions and quick whit.  He assured us that he was actually an excellent lawyer, could win any case, and if we ever needed legal advice, he would be at our service. Then he "thanked" my son for bringing up "that" memory.  =) 

     When we met Patrick Henry in 2004, we learned that he was homeschooled. His father and uncle trained him with a classical education.  Patrick Henry read law to himself for only six weeks, before he passed his attorney exam.  I was so impressed with Patrick Henry on that trip, that I started seeking out classical curriculum to replace our current curriculum. Two years later I found exactly the perfect fit. The kids are thinking more deeply and richly thanks to Mr. Henry for inspiring us! Incidentally, my son wants to be a lawyer when he grows up, so he is watching Patrick Henry to learn all that he can! ;) 

 More scenes of our day in the colonial city...

I love these gowns!       


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Landing on Iwo Jima with the United States Marine Corps Museum

     Earlier this week, while it was cold and rainy, we spent the day at the United States Marine Corps Museum.  This is free!  Also there are great interactive displays about boot camp, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. When we first walked in, my son immediately found this plane.  He has a model of this Corsair, called Whistling Death. He told me that when it flew close to the enemy to attack, the enemy could hear it whistle. Then I told him about Pappy Boyington and his squadron of Black Sheep, who flew Corsairs.  At this point, a docent came over and my son asked lots of questions about Corsairs. Later, in the WWII section, we got to see a display on Pappy Boyington.  

     I looked high and low for the history of the beginnings of the USMC.  That was not easy to find.  When we drove into the parking lot, I noticed that the building number was 1775.  Hmmmm....would that be the year they began? Yes!  One of the docents confirmed that! ;) Since it began in 1775, I was especially interested in finding a display on their beginnings. The American Revolution is my favorite historical era, in case you didn't know. ;)  

      When we left the boot camp display, we found a section of the museum that is being built...the history of the USMC beginnings! There were a few signs that explained their beginnings and one great display. I tried to get a picture of it but it was too dark.  It is from 1775 and shows the Marines in the upper riggings of a ship.  

     Upstairs I found this display of one of the Marine's first ventures to the Bahamas in 1775.

     There is a lot here and we never had time to do it all.  We'll definitely come back when we study WWII, Korea and Vietnam next year. We hit the highlights and one that definitely got my attention was the Iwo Jima interactive exhibit.  The story of the battle and how the flag flew over Mt. Surabachi is a great one with which my kids are familiar.  We've been to so many museums with timers outside the doors, that when we saw this one, we automatically thought...great, a chance to sit down and see a movie. Ha!

     Well, a man asked a group of us if we were ready and we said yes. (Famous last words.)  We walked in and he showed us actual footage of a surveillance map of Iwo Jima and told us the geophysical characteristics of the island and our objective.  (Objective?  I came in here to see a movie.) Then he walked out the door and shut us in. (gulp)  Did I mention that this room was dark with a bluish hue? I felt like I was in a movie or the JAG tv show and on a sub or a ship.  The actual footage of the map of Iwo Jima showed all the angles of the island and we were told in explicit detail why this stinky, sulpheric rock was strategic, that the Japanese were all hidden with an extensive network of armament and communications under the ground and how we needed to access and conquer the island. (Um, precisely how interactive is this to be?)

     Another door opened and there was the man again. He ushered us into that room...onto a boat.  After a few instructions, which I missed, he left us and shut the door again. All above us we could see the waves rolling, the aircraft and artillery overhead, and feel the craft moving, rolling, pitching...causing me to lose my balance!  No, I wasn't sea sick. I just couldn't stand up steadily! Since my husband was at work, I grabbed onto my son...who kept leaning away from me.  I kept leaning on him and he kept leaning further away. I couldn't tell him what the problem was without interrupting the program. During major head surgery several years ago, my balance nerve was cut and I had to learn how to walk again. Now I do pretty well with my balance...until I am unexectedly put on a ship bound for Iwo Jima!  Later, when we were done with the "activity", my son told me the ship wasn't moving at all! It was merely the visual aspect of seeing moving waves and aircraft in the sky that were tricking my brain...which I need to function at full capacity for my balance to work! 


      Seeing this made me feel at home.  Admiral Chester Nimitz of the Navy was from Fredericksburg, Texas where he grew up in a hotel there that is shaped like a ship. Today it is the Pacific War Museum.  It was incredible to read quotes from famous men of the various services who gave high praise to the Marines.  The Marines, who are the first to enter the danger zone, and arrive by air, land or sea, have consistently cleared the way for other armed services to go in and do their job.  To the Marines and all the other armed services who have served our country bravely so that we may be free...thank you! 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Battles of Chancellorsville, Wilderness and Spotsylvania

     After we visited the site of teh Battle of Fredericksburg, we made certain to visit the other battlefields in the Fredericksburg area. After all we living in a hotel in town while waiting for our house to close an hour further away.  As homeschoolers we definitely had to take advantage of all the local sites! The Battle of Chancellorsville was fought a few months after the Fredericksburg campaign, April 27-May 6, 1863.  Due to the Union defeat at Fredericksburg, President Lincoln appointed General Hooker as the new Union leader. Chancellorsville was named after the Chancellor family, who lived at an intersection of five roads that converged in front of the house.  The main road then, and now, is called Old Plank Road.

The house caught fire during the battle and this is all that's left.

      The driving part of the battlefield tour amazingly took us to a farmer's field off Plank Road, where we got to give a Texas "howdy" to the owners!  We hiked through the farmer's field for about a mile! That green strip of grass is the NPS trail!


 It's hard to imagine fighting took place here...

      Here's another intersection where Lee and Jackson made a daring plan.  Jackson discovered the right flank of the Union was unprotected. He had his men march 12 miles the next day, around the Union army, while Lee's men kept the Union soldiers busy, to make the destructive surprise attack.

     Meanwhile, the Union army leisurely built these lunettes (earthwork fortifications) in preparation for an attack.  See how they are to the right of the sign...

     To their shock, Jackson's men appeared to their left.  The Union soldiers hastily built these lunettes to try to resist the attack.  See how they are on the left of the sign...

      In the end, it was a bittersweet victory for the South. Because Stonewall Jackson was mistaken by his men for the enemy, he was shot.  His left arm had to be amputated.  General Lee said, "He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right arm." Jackson, one of the greatest military strategists of the Confederacy, died 8 days later. 

     During the Chancellorsville campaign, Old Salem Church, which means "peace" became the scene of some of the fighting.

      You can still see some of the damage today.  After the fighting, the church became a hospital...soaked in blood.

      A year later, the Battle of the Wilderness was fought a few miles west of Chancellorsville, May 5-6, 1864.  This time, General Grant was here!  General Grant had proven himself with astounding victories near the Mississippi River. President Lincoln put him in charge of the entire Union army because "...this man fights."  Although General Grant could have led the Union from behind a desk in Washington DC, he chose to be with the Army of the Potomac and their immediate commander, General Meade.  Many of the men complained that General Grant wasn't polished and was too Western.  By the end of the Battle of the Wilderness, the men would change their opinion of him.  When General Meade's decisions were weak, Grant overrode them and insisted on a strong resistance against the Confederates.  For the first time in the war, the Army of the Potomac did not retreat.  Instead, General Grant pushed on to Spotsylvania and ultimately the Confederate capital of Richmond.  As a result, Grant gained the respect of his men, as they marched to the next battlefield, hopeful that they could win the war.  

     The Wilderness was a difficult place for the men to fight because of the dense forests. Grant did not like the idea of fighting in the thick undergrowth, where the men could not see what they were shooting. He tried to work his men into a clearing, but the Confederates began the fight in the woods. The officers were anxious, as was Grant. Although Grant didn't express his concerns, he worked out his nervous energy with puffs of smoke from his cigar and furious whittling.  At the beginning of the battle, he wore white gloves. By the end they were tattered from all the whittling.   

     We got to hike through the Wilderness and walk through some of that dense undergrowth while trying to avoid muddy puddles from the previous two days of rain.  We even saw deer leaping up and over the undergrowth. For those with horses, there are horse paths to help them pretend they are in the cavalry!

     The Battle of Spotsylvania was fought a few days after the Battle of the Wilderness, May 8-21, 1864. In a funnel shaped farm field, the Bloody Angle was the scene of bloody hand-to-hand combat for a steady 20 hours in drenching rain. 

Some of the best earthworks can be seen here.

 There are some atypical earthworks at one end of the battlefield.

     From the air they look like centipedes.  Apparently they confuse the experts. The Confederates built them in such a way as to protect them from crossfire from the Union. On one side of the trenches are the traverses the Confederates built.  When the Union arrived, they built their own on the other side.