Friday, March 30, 2012

The "Other" First Thanksgiving

Now that I live in one of the original 13 colonies, I've learned more about colonial history than I ever did before since I like to visit historical sites. As a result, I detect a lot more slant of American history in typical history books. The story that always gets the most focus is Pilgrims and even their story is not always correctly told. Common misconceptions revolve around what they wore, what they ate at that infamous first Thanksgiving dinner, and even who came. A great source to learn the truth about the Pilgrims is the living history museum, Plimoth Plantation. There are lots of activities here.

However did you know that there was another Thanksgiving in the English colonies before the Pilgrims even arrived? Jamestown was established in Virginia in 1607. Despite much struggle for survival, it became the first successful English colony. Movies have been made that showcase the romance between Pocahontas and John Smith, but that never happened. (You can read more about her and the significance of her "saving" John Smith at the previous link, info from the apva.)

In 1618, investors in England made plans to send more men to colonize near Jamestown. The allotted site would have 8000 acres on the James River and would be called the Berkeley Hundred. John Woodlief was commissioned to be the captain of this venture. Being one of the survivors of the "starving time" of Jamestown, he determined to bring skilled craftsmen to the settlement. "they would be journeymen, joyners, carpenters, smiths, fowlers, and more comfortable with doing the work, rather than having it done for them." (Berkeley Plantation website) Some of the many supplies brought aboard ship were, "clothes, kitchen tools, construction and agricultural tools, weapons, Bibles, and 6000 beads for Indian trade." (Berkely Plantation website) The craftsmen who journeyed to the Berkeley Hundred became indentured servants, for 3-7 years, and were given 15-30 acres of land.

On December 4, 1619, the ship landed at its destination in Virginia. The men rowed ashore, knelt and prayed. "We ordaine that this day of our ships arrival, at the place assigned for plantacon, (meaning plantation) in the land of Virginia, shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God." (Berkeley Plantation website)

The Pilgrim's may have had the first Thanksgiving feast, but the Berkeley Hundred had the first traditional Thanksgiving. In those days, Thanksgiving was strictly religious with the focus on prayer, not food. Harvest festivals, though, were focused on food. Also, the Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving sporadically, when they decided to. However the Berkely Hundred had a yearly religious ceremony, giving thanks. The Berkely Hundred even had friendly relations with the Indians until 1622, when several groups of Indians planned simultaneous attacks on different plantations. The Massacre of 1622 resulted in the decimation of the Berkeley Hundred.

Today the site can be visited the first weekend of November, for a reenactment of the first Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Remember the Ladies II CW EFT

A couple of weeks ago for Women's History Month, Colonial Williamsburg aired their electronic field trip, "Remember the Ladies." Recently I came across a history book that taught that women had more rights in the 18th century than they did later in the century. The more I read, the more I kept thinking, "this is all wrong." I told my kids about it and they knew it was wrong. We knew, because of what we had learned from the CW Electronic Field Trip, "Remember the Ladies."

As I read through the EFT historical notes for teachers, I learned that at one time it was thought that women had lost some of their rights over the course of the 18th century. However historians analyzed primary source documents, like actual court records of the past, and they learned some amazing details. There were certain expectations of women in the 18th century, they were to "keep within the compass." They were expected to marry and have a family. There was one vote per household, which was cast by the man of the house. Women did not seek employment, higher education or political office. However there is evidence that women were in trades. You even see that in Colonial Williamsburg and many guests think, "Oh, they are being modern." With the EFT, we did an activity where the kids were asked to guess which types of trades a woman might do. For all the times my kids have gone to Colonial Williamsburg and know the history well, they were surprised at what they learned from this activity! Women, of course, might be mantua makers or milliners, tavern keepers, or teachers. Those are the ones my kids correctly guessed. Then we looked at primary source documents of women from not only Virginia but the other colonies and learned that they were sometimes brick makers, silversmiths and even blacksmiths! Aren't I contradicting myself? No. These women did not seek these trades. They took on the trade out of a point of need.

To "keep within the compass" meant that the fathers, husbands, brothers or sons took care of the women. If a husband passed away, a woman could return to her father's household, or her brother's, or even her son's (if he was old enough to care for her.) She could even move in with her sister's family. Sometimes there was no one to turn she had to enter a trade and often times she'd enter the very trade her husband had. A case in point is Clementina Rind of Williamsburg. Her husband ran the gazette. Having been married to him, she was familiar enough with the trade to run the gazette after her husband's death.

A woman who was married or lived under the care of a male family member, was considered femes covert and thereby she remained "within the compass". However if the men had died, she legally became femes sole, which allowed her to speak in court and enter legal contracts, though sometimes she was friends with a gentleman who kindly helped her with her legal matters. Then there were some women who never married, although they were always expected to. Single women were also femes sole. A femes sole would also be "keeping within the compass" because she needed to have a business and as a result participate in some legal proceedings. Such was life for an 18th century woman in the English colonies.

In early colonial history, there are differences from this, which are due to the colony not being English! Because there were different laws about what a woman could and could not do in other countries, we can find differences in the history of New Netherlands, which was a Dutch colony. It wasn't until it became an English colony, New York, that they adopted the English way of doing things.

In the EFT, Remember the Ladies, Jane Vobe of Williamsburg is portrayed as a femes sole. When her husband, who ran the King's Arms Tavern dies, out of sheer necessity of survival she picks up the tavern keeping trade. She is dependent on this business of providing lodging and food for men who arrive in town, so that she herself can have daily food and lodging. Because she is running a business, she needs the ability to handle legal affairs, to be sure that the men pay their bills to her. She has had many offers of marriage but has turned them all down, perfering to remain femes sole.

We also got to meet Diana, a young girl who comes to Williamsburg to visit with her godmother, Jane Vobe. She is surprised to discover that she is expected to help cook and clean in the tavern, serving the gentlemen as they eat their meals. One night a room is rented for a dance, which she hopes to attend. But Jane Vobe explains that would not be proper since there would be no chaperones for Diana. Diana resigns herself to her unfun job and decides to keep the punch bowl replenished so she can at least be near the music and merry making.

My kids got to e-mail Diana.

My daughter asked:

Dear Diana,

What happened if a politician died while in office? Did his wife take over any of his responsibilities or were they left to someone else to take care of?

Diana replied:

Women have no role in politics in our time. Women do not even have the right to vote in elections to choose who will represent us in our legislative assemblies. So, if a politician should die while in office, his wife would have no role whatsoever in the political parts of his life. All his wife could do would be to see to his funeral arrangements, and, perhaps, if her husband’s will so specified, she might become involved in the administration of his estate. But the political part of his life, the distribution of his duties as an office holder, etc. would be handled solely by men. They would probably hold a special election to choose a successor. But his wife would not be involved in that – not even to the extent of being able to cast a vote.

Yours most sincerely,

Diana Brown

My son asked:

Good day Diana,

Was there ever a time when you have had a good idea but weren't supposed to speak of it because of your "place in life" as a young lady? Did that bother you? Or did you just speak your mind anyway?

Diana replied:

Of course! Have you not on some occasion or other had what you thought was a good idea but refrained from speaking it because of your “place in life,” that is your place as a child? And you are a boy! Everyone throughout their life has occasions where they feel they are not supposed to speak out because of their “place in life.” Even adult men feel that way, both because of their social place in life and because of their knowledge or lack of it. A small farmer is unlikely to offer what he might feel is a good idea on a political question to the Governor or a member of the House of Burgesses because of his social status. An army captain on a ship is unlikely to offer what he may think is a good idea about sailing the ship to the ship’s captain because of his lack of knowledge of sailing. But by the same token the ship’s captain is unlikely to offer a suggestion to the army captain about how to fight a land battle.

So, for many reasons, people of all ages and stations in life often feel that they aren’t supposed to speak up on many occasions. For women, this is more often the case that it is for men because women’s life is so closely circumscribed to the home and family. On matters concerned with home and family, women feel much freer to offer their ideas and opinions than in other parts of life. But even then they will defer to older women or women of higher social status – to women with a higher “place in life.”

Did that bother me? Sometimes, but not often. Probably no more often than it bothers you when you don’t speak out because of your “place in life” as a child. I rarely “just speak my mind anyway.” That would be rude and would give me the reputation of being impolite, which is a reputation that no woman or man would wish to have.

Yours most sincerely,

Diana Brown

During the live broadcast, Jane Vobe and a friend of hers answered questions from students who called, e-mailed or sent videos of their questions. There were a lot of great questions asked which recieved many interesting answers.

If you would like to have this excellent resource at your fingertips, subscribe for the CW EFTs through the Homeschool Buyer's Co-op.

We also got to see "Remember the Ladies" three years ago while we were busy looking for a house to buy in Virginia. I have a review at the link.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

History of Masquerade and How we Made our Masquerade Masks

I like to plan our history presentations around a quintessential element of that era. As I thought about possibilities in representing the Renaissance, I considered a Masquerade. I know they are immensely popular, but what are the origins? With few if any resources, last December I asked "Mr. Theater," one of the actor interpreters at Colonial Williamsburg. He has given me lots of tips for our last few presentations, so I asked him about the history of masquerade. I learned all about Commedia dell'Arte which had it's origins in 16th century Italy.

We're all familiar with Commedia dell'Arte, right? Of course we are! Familiar with the harlequin? How about Punch...from Punch and Judy? Vaudeville ? Charlie Chaplin? Waiting for Godot. Modern sit-coms? The latter are modern interpretations of the former Medieval/Renaissance characters from Commedia dell'Arte.

Commedia dell'Arte was a traveling troupe with basic stock characters with basic personality types. The most famous (to me) are the servant types who might be named Harlequin, Punch, or Pierrot. Although they had a basic storyline to work from, the used improvisation to make each performance unique. As part of their costuming, they wore masks with exaggerated features. (The previous link has a slide show.)

After more research, I learned that some of the venues where the Commedia dell'Arte performed was at the Ventian Carnivals where everyone wore a mask in the two week carnival (Latin: carne+val=farewell to meat) that ended before Lent.

I decided to incorporate all of these ideas into our Renaissance history presentation. (Full details at the link.) It was interesting that our history presentation fell around Mardi Gras. We chose our characters, yet to make things interesting and add to the improv...we chose multiple characters that we could switch up at will.






Historically, Venetian masks were made by a guild. My kids made their own but we kept it simple since they were busy with college prep classes. We could have paper mached our own, but we bought the basic mask forms instead. We went to the local craft store to purchase basic masks that were primed. Priming gives a "tooth" to the surface, which means it's a bit rough, allowing glue to stick when items are attached. Other masks are available that are not primed. Those are shiny but I doubt anything will stick to them, so we bought the primed ones to save time. We also purchased a variety of materials at the craft store for decorating. We looked at what was available and thought about which pieces would best represent our characters.

My daughter chose red feathers and rhinestones for her Mary, Queen of Scots character. She had originally purchased pearls for her Queen Elizabeth I mask, but then she saw the peacock feathers. We thought those would be good to represent one of the queen's gowns, which had eyes incorporated into it to represent her spy network. My daughter's favorite color is purple and that goes so well with the peacock feathers, that is what she settled on.

My son chose black feathers and black rhinestones for his French Huguenot character, since we read that they were famed to wear black.

He chose this combination for his King Henry V of England character, from Shakespeare.

My son made mine, since I was busy sewing the costumes. Since I represented several different women from the Italian d'Medici family we decided on the copper colored feathers and the kids thought the peacock feathers would set it off well. Then my son found coins! Perfect! The d'Medici was a famous banking family of Italy. The pope had his money at their bank! So my son incorporated coins in the mask.

For more information on Commedia dell'Arte, as well as activities, here is a great resource. I also discovered that there is a Commedia dell'Arte troupe, Faction of Fools, near me in Washington DC. They recently performed Romeo and Juliet. Here is their teaching guide with details and activities. They also have this teaching guide about another performance, a one man performance who portrays several of the characters. Although this type of stuff could be bawdy, they perform for young children, so I hope we can see a performance of theirs sometime. They travel, which is fitting for Commedia dell'Arte so perhaps they will come to a venue near you!

Hip Homeschool Hop Button

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How to Squish a "oe" French Dipthong on the Keyboard

While working my way through Rosetta Stone, I've found that the most difficult thing is keyboarding unique French letters, accent marks, etc, etc, etc. For the writing lessons, Rosetta Stone displays a French lettered keyboard on the screen over which I can scroll my mouse to select unique letterings. All has gone well in my writing lessons until recently when the following occured.

Normally I can type l'homme correctly, even here. However the Rosetta Stone French keyboard display has absolutely no apostrophe mark. The ? button provided no help for me. When I type the apostrophe from my own laptop keyboard, Rosetta Stone converts my apostrophes to the letter e with an accent mark. I googled for a solution which I played with yesterday and it worked! I think it's shift+comma.

The other day I had to type the French word for egg, oeuf (Did I type that correctly? Everything by Rosetta Stone is by memory only since it's complete immersion. No chance to study.) except I need to type in a squished oe? The Rosetta Stone keyboard doesn't have any squished oe combinations. After a google search I saw a suggestion to control+&. I tried that yesterday but everything disappeared when I tried that. I did a search at Rosetta Stone but couldn't find the answer. Anyone know how? Thanks!

Update: I figured it out! Once again I needed to type oeuf. This time I played with my keyboard. If I press the shift or control key (forget which) an entirely new French keyboard appears on the screen and this one has the squished oe letter combination. Surprise, Surprise!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

WHY? The Cause and Effect of History

One of the books we are reading for history, The Age of Religious Wars, was the basis for a deep discussion Friday about how France became absolutist and the English became more constitutional in the 17th century. Initially when I assigned the reading and the discussion prep questions, I had asked HOW the French became absolutist but neglected to ask WHY. As my kids shared the information they had picked up from the topic, I noted they weren't at all mentioning WHY French had moved towards absolutism. When I asked them why, they gave all the wrong answers. The same thing happened later when we started talking about the English Civil War and Oliver Cromwell. I asked WHY did the English Civil War begin. Their answers were not specific enough which led to a weak argument. That showed me that I need to train them to look for cause and effect and ask lots of why questions when they study history. When in college, they won't have questions assigned for their reading assignments to pick out key ideas. I need to teach them how to think critically while they read.

First I walked them through the history of France absolutism in light of the Thirty Years' War. My son was arguing that King Henry IV was a powerful dictator, interested in his own cause. I didn't see him that way. He always struck me as a pretty nice guy. As much as I tried explaining, my son wasn't believing me. I know I could be wrong, so I turned to the book, The Age of Religious Wars, and read the opening chapters which set the stage for explaining the development of absolutism. According to the book, France was destroyed by the wars. We had a long discussion on this point which I had to fully develop because the kids could not picture "utter decimation" in the 17th century. I used the examples of how France looks in all the WWI movies we have, barren and bleak with charred remnants of trees, homeless wanderers, destroyed buildings, decimated villages. I explained it might not have looked exactly like that but Will Durant's, The Age of Reason Begins, gives explicit details which I read to them.

"French merchant marine had practically vanished from the seas. Three hundred thousand homes had been destroyed. Hatred had declared a moratorium on morals and had poisoned France with the lust for revenge. Demobilized soldiers harried the roads and villages with robbery and murder..." (p365)

Now I had affected them emotionally and they were beginning to see that perhaps King Henry IV's absolutist policies was meant to restore order, raise the impoverished and revive the economy while restoring harmony. I reminded the kids of our history discussions a few years ago when we studied the 20th century when the daily battle of words in Congress between states' rights and a strong central government became automatic strong central government control in wartime when immediate action is needed, government secrets kept from the enemy, etc, etc, etc. We remembered the anarchy that broke out in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. What did it take to bring them under control? Federal troops came in to instill martial law for the protection of all. When riots break out the local government takes control to restore order. Of course we also discussed that hopefully these are temporary controls used only as needed, instead of to assume dictatorship. We discussed all this when we studied the 20th century.

An economic example I used hit close to home when I talked about San Antonio Riverwalk. Can you believe that? It's a great example because we used to live in San Antonio and spent a lot of time there.

The Great Depression hit. People were jobless, hungry, homeless, and hopeless. The country despaired. FDR became president and put several government control (strong central government) programs into effect to put the jobless to work, instill pride and feed hungry stomachs. One of those work projects was the San Antonio Riverwalk, which had been nothing more than an architect's vision to revive a sewage of a stream into a Venetian experience. Today when you visit the riverwalk and see the old stones lining the pathways and the stone bridges gracefully arching the winding river, you are looking at the direct product a WPA program during the Great Depression. It not only provided for those during the Great Depression, but is one of America's greatest tourist destinations today.

King Henry IV revitalized France, making it the most successful it ever was in history. "With the help of wisely chosen ministers Henry proceeded to recreate France." (Durant, p366) " the end of his reign the country was enjoying such prosperity as it had not known since Francis I." (Durant, p367)

And where was the proof in their assigned text? "Seventeenth-century Europe saw the evolution of two strikingly effective forms of state power-absolute monarchy, best exemplified by Bourbon France, and constitutional monarchy, best exemplified by Stuart England...What caused these profoundly antithetical developments?" (Dunn, p152) "Antipathy between Huguenots and Catholics, between the aristocracy and the crown, between Paris and the provinces, had very nearly shattered the country into autonomous fragments like those of the Holy Roman Empire. That the French people not merely recovered from their civil wars, but developed a more vital society than they had known before, was due in great measure to the efforts of three purposeful statesmen-King Henry IV, Cardinal Richelieu, Cardinal Mazarin." (Dunn, p154)

My kids were now seeing where they missed the cause and effect in the original reading. My son was almost seeing King Henry IV working to restabilize France. To further prove the point, I reminded him of a famed icon of France.

Who can forget the horrible guillotine slashing blood through the streets of Paris. When would it ever end? Many attempts failed. My kids know the answer. Who was the man who brought the French Revolution to an end? Napoleon. He effectively installed a strong central government while also bringing new freedoms to the people, like freedom for religion, employment for all (the unemployment rate was 0% during Napoleon's reign), education for women, etc, etc, etc. The people had wanted freedom. Napoleon delivered, albeit with him tightening the reigns of government as emporer.

I asked my kids. What would have happened if Napoleon did not rise to power? How much longer would the reign of terror last? What would have been the end result of the French Revolution? Countries who are torn apart from within are easy prey to other nations. We theorized since England was a powerful age old enemy, it might have been their chance to take France.

Then I asked my kids, what would have happened if King Henry IV did not become king of France? The country was left as a wasteland after the Thirty Years' War. They could have been easy prey to England. Then what? Instead they became a powerful nation.

Then we moved on to the English Civil War. Why did the Puritans in Parliament rise up against King Charles I? The kids kept saying it was because he didn't listen to the people. I kept telling them to get more specific than that. It was in their book. My son explained the Divine Right of Kings. That was good, but gives the king's viewpoint, not Parliament's. I told them the Parliament needed something stronger to base their rhetoric on, than merely stating the king didn't listen to them, before they behead him. Although justification of the beheading could be argued, they claimed a legal precedence which strengthened their argument. What was that? After much guessing, I mentioned John Lackland. What was he forced to sign in 1215 to legally bind him to listen to the people? The Magna Charta. Then I said there was another legal document and my daughter remembered The Petition to Right. I told them the law is what binds the king. That is the idea behind a constitutional monarchy. Then we got into the details of the event.

I kept trying to ask leading questions, since this was a Socratic Discussion. After all, the point of a Socratic Discussion is to teach students to think, to dig deep within to pull out bits of information they know so that they can make connections. It's also important for the kids to learn to ask themselves questions. I reminded my kids that history is full of cause and effect. Whenever they encounter an event, they should ask WHY. Not only that but to remember the key events in history, so they can be related to future historical events. For example we studied the Thirty Years' War last month, yet they needed to draw from those details to understand King Henry IV and his policies in France when we studied them last week. Last week we read that during the English civil war, King Charles I went to war with Scotland, as did Oliver Cromwell, over land and religious issues. I told the kids that I am predicting the entrance of Robert Bruce and William Wallace in our history studies in the next few weeks.

History is all about making connections. Cause and effect. Learning to ask the right questions. Why? How? Who? When? Where? What? Also look for significance. We weren't studying absolutism and constitutionalism just for the sake of reading some examples. We should ask ourselves, "This is important because..." If we don't understand the WHY, then all the other details get lost and become meaningless. If we don't understand exactly why something happened, then we get a poor view on history which distorts not only our understanding but also our judgement. I know that whenever I THINK I've figured something out, I keep it in reserve in case I learned it the wrong way. Perhaps that is why I am constantly asking questions.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hat Pins and More from Tarpleys at Colonial Williamsburg

Krista asked me for pictures of the hat pins and cap pins that I use.

This is the cap pin, indeed much like a corsage pin. Perhaps it is. But there are times we arrive in the historic area of Colonial Williamsburg and my daughter and I realize we have forgotten a pin or two. Immediately we head to our friends at Tarpley's store who sell these cap pins. I have placed it in roughly the same place where I wear it. I've also been asked by several how I style my hair to wear the cap. I wear a barette at the top of my head, so that when I pin the cap on, it won't slide down the back of my head. The pin catches in front of the barrette. There are only two ways I can put up my hair and that is by french braid or french twist. My daughter, though, does a bun without pins but with a scrunchie. First she makes a high pony tail then pulls her pony tail through that but stops short, so it stays up.

Now for the hat pins. I thought I'd showcase my hat collection. One thing I like about costuming, is that I'm starting to decorate the house with some of my projects. My husband doesn't seem to mind, as long as I finish the window treatments, which I hope to conquer this week.

Here are my colonial hats positioned to showcase the use of hat pins, all purchased from Tarpleys.

Here's a close-up of the hat pin. I love how they look like pearls at the tips. I love pearls. You can see the tip of it when the pin is inserted into my red trimmed hat.

My summery trimmed hat...

And the red ribbon trimmed hat with pearls...

Here is my green and blue trimmed hat...

I learned how to trim hats at a class I took at the Colonial Williamsburg Costume Design Center, where they showed us many images from colonial paintings as well as examples of many hats they trimmed for their interpreters. Much of my inspiration comes from their examples as well as offereings I've seen in the Colonial Williamsburg milliner shop. It was so much fun to work with actually ribbons and trims that the CDC uses for their interpreters. I have all the samples from my class and that guides me in my purchasing today.

While you're at Tarpley's you might want some Lavendar scented Beautifying Water. My kids have made fast friends in Tarpley's and Miss Penny in particular is keen on guiding them in their purchases when they shop for my birthday, Mother's Day or Christmas. My daughter asked her for help in selecting something for me and Miss Penny suggested this lavendar water. Another time she suggested dried lavendar which I have incorporated into some of my sewing projects! I do like Miss Penny's taste!

Here is my colonial hat collection on the antique dressing table my grandpa purchased years ago. It was my mom's and now it's mine! It's lost a lot of filigree over the years but I still like it. I have no idea as to the history or date behind the table. I've been meaning to dig around in the drawer and even take it out and look under for any markings, like I learned some woodworkers might leave. The silk covered hat with cream trim is the one I made in my CDC class. It was so fun to use actual silks and trims that the interpreters have in their costumes. I know the jam box below the table with electrical cord is out of place, but that is my huband's contribution to the decor. He's Mr. 21st Century Techie who allows me to dream of the past.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

18th Century Ladies' Cap with Sage Green Bow

I finally have a proper 18th century ladies' cap! Using a Kannik Korner pattern, I chose to make a round eared cap with single gathered split-ruffle.


I used a light weight 100% cotton with an almost sheer basket weave effect from Burnley and Trowbridge, who advertised it as being perfect for caps, kerchiefs, aprons, etc. I purchased a few yards of this because I liked it so much and I'm glad I did because they are now out of stock. =(


I completely handstitched this using a variety of stitches like back stitch, eyelet, hem stitch and whipped gathers.


Then I played with it for a couple of hours, trying to find the best hairstyle for my super thick hair so I can best wear this cap. For reference I went through my photos from Colonial Williamsburg of the lady interpreters to see how they wear their caps. I do have a pin to help hold my cap in place. I purchased my cap pins and hat pins from Tarpleys, a store in the Colonial Williamsburg historic area.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

When Freedom Came CW EFT

The latest Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field trip told the story of the Emancipation Proclamation in "When Freedom Came." Much of the story was set mostly in 1860's Williamsburg, yes, the same town we all yearn to visit to learn about the colonial era and the American Revolution. Did you know that Civil War battles were fought near the historic area? The Union forces had a scheme to invade the Confederate capital of Richmond from the south. They landed at a deep sea port called Yorktown. Does that sound familiar? Yes, a Civil War battle was fought on the very spot Washington defeated Cornwallis in the American Revolution. The redoubts there are a mix of those used in the American Revolution and in the Civil War. (We got to visit Yorktown a few years ago.)

Then the Union forces advanced and fought the Confederates at the Battle of Williamsburg, not far outside the historic area. We got to visit that spot a couple of years ago (see link). With victory came Union occupation of Williamsburg. Did you know that General Custer, then a lieutenant, was in Williamsburg at this time?

All that to set the stage for this EFT which tells the story of the Emancipation Proclamation. The EFT showcases the heart-rending emotions of a Union soldier at Fort Sumter (shortly before the war began) who by law has to return an escaped slave boy to his master who will undoubtedly severely punish him. We learned that when Virginia separated from the Union, they put slaves to work in the war effort. Not long after the war's beginning, we learned that Union General Butler started accepting run away slaves into camp to shelter them. Since the South was no longer part of the United States, US laws no longer applied to the South. Though some slaves chose to stay with their masters, we cannot doubt that deep within their hearts surged the hope of freedom. That day came in 1863 on the wings of the Emancipation Proclamation. Even then some slaves chose to stay with their masters, but at least it was a choice and they were FREE!

This time my kids got to e-mail Abraham Lincoln.

My daughter asked:

Dear President Lincoln,

How was the Confederate military affected after the Emancipation
Proclamation was put into effect?

President Lincoln's reply:

The Emancipation Proclamation did not have the far reaching effect I hoped it would have when I issued it. I did not include hundreds of thousand slaves in the border states of Maryland, Missouri, Delaware or Kentucky because I feared those states might also secede from the Union as a result of this proclamation. Some of the slaves immediately learned of the proclamation that they were free while others did not learn of their freedom because their masters did inform them of this new found freedom.

Even given these limitations, I do believe the proclamation did have a beneficial effect on the war effort and the lives of some slaves. The southern military lost some of the laborers who worked behind the lines to support the war effort as well some of the food that would have been produced on the plantations in support of the military. Loss of food and behind the line support had a weakening effect on the Confederate army and this, I believe, helped to shorten this dreadful conflict.

Yours very truly,
A. Lincoln

My son asked:

Illustrious Abraham Lincoln,

What formed the bond between some masters and slaves when the slaves had to deal with not being free as well as the oppression they experienced as slaves? Some slaves decided to remain with their masters despite the fact that they were held by their masters without freedom. Why would they want to remain with their master when freedom came?

President Lincoln replied:

Although I think slavery to be a great evil, it has been a way of life in our southern states for almost 250 years. It is difficult for me to comprehend one human owning another and the treatment experienced by some slaves.

There is no easy answer to your question just as there are no simple explanations as to why some people like someone while they abhor others. People born into slavery have known no other life and many plantations are located in rural areas where the slaves are not able to converse with slaves from other plantations to exchange thoughts about their respective plights. Some slave holders treat their slaves humanely and care about their well being, of course as long as they are subservient and do their master's bidding. It is perhaps a combination of these things plus a fear of the unknown that keeps some slaves on the plantations even though they could gain their freedom.

Yours very truly,
A. Lincoln

The Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trips are made affordable for homeschoolers through Homeschool Buyer's Co-op. With a subscription many activities are available 24/7 through the end of summer, like viewing the EFT on-line, 2 on-line computer games per EFT, a message board, lesson plans, activities, links and book lists. During the week of the broadcast is the opportunity to e-mail a historical person, participate in 2 on-line votes, the opportunity to send in video questions and a possible opportunity to be a Skype school (my kids were invited to be the first ones!)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Teaching: The Dutch East India Company and Colonial Williamsburg

I am finding that I am using "our history curriculum" less and less (less than 10% anymore) and putting together my own lessons more and more, since a lot of the recommended high school lessons are surprisingly identical to the stuff my kids learned at the junior high level. Therefore I am trying to find new things to teach them with an emphasis on government. Currently we are studying the establishment of the colonies. Most of the information of "who" settled "where" and "why" is mostly review. My focus this time is "how". My kids are learning the economic and political factors that drove colonization. This week as we read about the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and New Netherlands, we discussed some lesser known details.

Massachusetts had the disinction of bringing their charter with them to the New World, because someone forgot to write in the clause that the home office of the Massachusetts Bay Company remain in England. (oops) It took a while for England to note this error.

New Netherlands brings a bit of familiarity to my kids because my husband grew up near the original Dutch settlement of Fort Orange. Fort Nassau was also established. If you know your history and geography like my daughter does, you know those are tip-offs that this was a Dutch colony. (She did a research paper on the Netherlands when she was in the 6th grade.)

However, the biggest thing I wanted to focus on was the Dutch East India Company. After all we always hear about their influence on visits to Colonial Williamsburg. Right? Um, my kids didn't remember any conversations about this. (uh oh) Now they have a standing homework assignment. We need to make another trip down there for them to go on a scavenger hunt and find all the Dutch East India influences they can find.

Many of the homes have decor items from the Orient which will be a great part of the scavenger hunt. One of the fence styles reflect Chinese influence. Can they find it? The banyan, sometimes worn by the tailor, was of Oriental influence. Many cooking spices came from the Far East, like cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper. (You can taste hints of this in the heritage chocolates purchased in the historic area. Someone told me that the spice grater, used by the 18th century cook, grated oranges, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, even chocolate on the same grater, so that chocolate dishes picked up the flavors of the spices. This chocolate would make a fun part of the scavenger hunt. )

The next part of the scavenger hunt will be to look for items from the Far East as we tour other colonial homes on the East Coast. All of the 18th century British colonies were able to receive these items from the Far East through the British imports. The living history museum of Colonial Williamsburg shows us what an entire 18th century town looked like and how it functioned. We cannot see that anywhere else, but the other colonies had many similiar influences due to their being part of the British empire as well.

Meanwhile, the kids have to write a five paragraph essay on the Dutch East India Company and Dutch West India Company, noting their origins, similarities and differences. They wrote their KWO (key word outline) for it this afternoon. Tomorrow they need to write the rough draft and the final copy is due on Sunday.

Next week our writing topic will be "mercantilism" which is also something we hear about all the time in Colonial Williamsburg. Right? Can you give some examples? (Vague memories.) The silversmith was talking about it a couple of weeks ago when we saw him. (He did?) Hmm, more scavenger hunts are in the homework line-up. Mercantilism, the Dutch East India Company, and the colonies (like Colonial Williamsburg in 18th century Virginia) were all inter-related. I'm preparing that lesson r

Thursday, March 8, 2012

President's Day at Colonial Williamsburg 2012

President's Day Weekend at Colonial Williamsburg was wonderful! Traditional favorites were juxtaposed with a prodigious surprise, in the midst of every form of precipitation known to humankind! I also got to ask lots of history questions! Always seeking, always learning, and always trying to turn the conversation to new journeys I want to explore.

The weekend began with sunshine and Patrick Henry! In fact the day was so gorgeous that he took his Mary Stith house venue out of doors to accommodate the crowds. Wasn't that nice?

Afterwards I got to talk to him about some historical ponderings and his response most definitely bouyed my spirits.

Then we went to the Capitol for a special winter program called, "Dialogues in Revolution." After a tour of the capitol, we were led into the Governor's Council room where we got to talk to Patrick Henry (again!) and fellow burgess, Archibald Carey. Carey told us that they, the burgesses, are not the government but the tools. They represent us. Then he opened the floor for questions. No one had a single question so I shot up my hand and asked about the origins of that thought, that they are not the government but the tools. Carey said, "Madame, I could stand here for hours detailing all of that for you. Do you really want to hear all of that?" He obviously doesn't know me very well. =) Then he gave an abbreviated answer, talking about Moses in the Old Testament who had representatives of the people who helped him govern, though they weren't elected. He mentioned about the Roman Republic too. Patrick Henry shared a bit about John Locke who said that the king should not rule by Divine Right but by the governed. Then he mentioned Montisquieu. Yes, I know about him. Patrick Henry told me about him last year and suggested I buy his book. I did. It has 1000 pages in it! We'll be studying his writings in a few weeks. He suggested an abridged version for the kids but I haven't been able to find one yet. Then they asked for more questions. Um, the crowd was quiet that day. Well I did my best to keep them busy!

That evening, Feb 17, 2012, we went to the museum for a special program, "Presidential Politics Then and Now," concerning an event that occurred 211 years ago. On Feb 17, 1801, "the second American Revolution," as Thomas Jefferson called it, sat in stalemate in the House of Representatives for six days until some political finesse brought a peaceful end with Jefferson being named the third president of the United States. Two history professors took the stage to "interpret" the early 19th century syle of mudslinging that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams often pummelled at each other...not that they actually campaigned in the way we know it. With great humor Professor Onuf from the University of Virginia pretended to be Jefferson while Professor Cogliano from the University of Edinburg, Scotland portrayed John Adams, tossing slurs at each other and translating them for our 21st century mindsets. Whereas the meaning of words may have changed over the years, intent certainly has not. History repeats itself.

Next on the stage was Thomas Jefferson who dramatically told his story of the first big election where the people, through the electoral college, made their decisions for president. Back then the electoral college worked much differently than it does today. The link above gives a detailed explanation but basically the electoral college voted for the President and Vice-President separately instead of as a team. President Washington was unanimously elected. When he stepped down from the presidency, Adams ran for president against Jefferson. Adams came in first, Jefferson second, Adams' running mate came in third and Jefferson's came in fourth. That is how Jefferson became Adams vice-president!

During the next election the same teams ran again. This time Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr, tied for first! Being a tie, it was up to the House of Representatives to determine their fate. Depending on how the vote went, Burr, who was running for Jefferson's vice-president, could very well become President and Jefferson his Vice-President. For six days the House was deadlocked. Finally Alexander Hamilton used his powers of persuasion. No friend of Jefferson, he felt that Burr was worse. Finally the election came to an end, Jefferson was pronounced President, Burr was his vice-president, and three years later the Constitution was amended to prevent this problem from happening again. (By the way, a short time later Burr and Hamilton faced off in a duel. Hamilton died. Later Burr was brought up on treason charges for his underhanded dealings in the West. I read a biography on Burr in high school so his name to me has always been synonymous with drama, drama, drama.)

Ending the program was a round table discussion with one of Colonial Williamsburg's historians, the two history professors and the actor who portrays Thomas Jefferson. Questions were taken from the audience. I forget who said this but I liked this quote which seemed to be the point of the evening, "The greatness of any democracy is the degree to which the people are involved." The evening closed with those thoughts. Apparently Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of government had been formed at the Constitutional Convention. He replied, "A republic, if you can keep it." I thought this well epitomized President's Day weekend as this theme played out repeatedly. In fact, we talked to Archibald Carey about it at the Capitol earlier that day.

I drag my kids to all these programs and this time I was delighted to see my son taking notes, and this was one of the programs with which he filled his colonial daybook. It's a great way to enliven a government credit for high school!

The next morning was a bit cold and breezy as we walked to the Capitol to meet with three presidents from Virginia: Washington, Madison and Jefferson. We met each one at different times of their lives, but each reflected on their work as burgesses in the Capitol before the American Revolution.

First we met with Colonel Washington in the House of Burgesses. No, he is not general yet. That is obvious if you look at his epaulettes. In fact my son said something to him about his wearing colonel epaulettes. Col. Washington commended him, saying that guests rarely catch that distinction, as most assume they are general's epaulettes. Ah, we've done our research so we know a few things about epaulettes!

Another clue is that he is not wearing the black and white cockade in his hat, but then that is a French/American Alliance cockade and he only wore that after the French entered as our allies. Little clues in costuming set the stage for setting.

Then we went upstairs to meet with President James Madison (again you can tell by his costume) who reflected on his part on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written in June 1776. He recalled that in 1776 he was a 25 year old junior member to the House of Burgesses, serving his first public position. With the intent to observe and listen, one part of the Declaration of Rights caused him to speak up and as a result, he got to add his influence to this key document that was primarily credited to George Mason. It's quite complicated so I'll let him tell you all about it the next time you see him in town!

Then we got to go downstairs to the Governor's Council room where seats quickly filled up. Mr. Jefferson called my family and a few others to join him...behind the bar!!!! Wow! And we haven't even passed the bar exam yet! He talked about lots of things and I'm afraid my furious scribble scratch in my colonial day book make little sense to me now. However he did reflect upon the many things he helped to legislate in the House of Burgesses.

After lunch we went to the Tucker House to meet with the Marquise de Lafayette! That was a great program, as always, that I never tire of, which you shall soon see. I even got to ask him a few questions to settle my spirit about a few historical queries.

Then we quickly walked to the Palace because it was chocolate making day! My husband didn't care about this in the least because he was bragging that he saw it being made on-line so he doesn't need to see it in person. I just stood there in disbelief! Oh how he misses the smells and sounds from technology. However if you have not made it to the Palace Kitchen for chocolate making day, then do view the podcast. It is the second best thing. Incidently for Valentines, I saw Alton Brown make a trip to Hawaii where cacao beans are grown, harvested and processed. He claims it is done by hand. Oh how much he misses by not going to Colonial Williamsburg where the cacao bean is most definitely processed by hand...the 18th century way! When we arrived there were crowds galore and we had another program to attend, so I sneaked some peaks through the open window!



Then we split to the museum for a publlic audience with President George Washington. He talked some about the need to compromise which prompted a question from my son. First he thanked the president for his illustrious service to our nation. Methinks the general was fighting back a smile. =) My son's query was thus, "How does one balance compromise with keeping what we feel is a strong position of virtue in decision making." The president not only fully answered it but reflected back upon it when another question came up.

The next morning promised...snow! I don't think snow even entered the forecast until the day before we arrived. I didn't think to pack my hiking boots to stay water proof. We weren't even sure if the afternoon cannon program would proceed, because rain was expected through the day, culminating in snow. Thankfully I was able to snag a few opportunities for indoor programming. First we went to the museum to see Lady Washington, who pondered her role as first lady. Since she was the first one, she had precedence to set. She had to buffer her lack of really not wanting to do the job, with the expectations of the people and the knowledge that she was representing the country to heads of state in Europe. How to balance everything? The funniest part of the program was at the very end, where she usually remains behind to take queries and pose for quick renderings. This time she was told that Thomas Jefferson was coming so the auditorium had to be cleared so they could start seating his audience. Perhaps she could take queries and pose for renderings outside the door? At the mention of Jefferson's name she let out a loud exasperated sigh. The Washingtons and Thomas Jefferson didn't see eye to eye on everything. =)

Since I was not able to secure tickets to see Mr. Jefferson, I wondered if Lafayette could endure our visit with him for a second day in a row??? It would be much warmer and drier in the Raleigh Tavern. And he's always so entertaining! We went, we entered, and he laughed but assured me we were welcome! I can never tire of his program. Besides, the questions are fun! Sometimes they are repeats but sometimes they are new bits of fun.

Eventually it was time to leave. It was raining. We finished lunch under the bit of shelter we could find. How to stay warm? Visit the trades? Can they endure our repeated visits? I try to spread them out so they don't tire of us too much. Let's see, who all did we visit? We visited some friends at Tarpleys. Then we saw the milliner of course. The silversmith. The carpenter. Oh, I remember him! He's Mr. Socratic Discussion! He never tells us anything. Instead he uses Socratic Questioning to drag out answers from the depths of our minds. The hilarioius part is that the guys are asking the questions about "guy" stuff because they are in the "know" about mind tends to phase out and I look for something pretty, or flowering, or a kitty, or history, or something...when one little thing catches my ear and I answer something they are struggling with. Or my equally girly daughter answers something the guys are laboring over. Honestly, if we are answering, it's simple stuff. That's always fun!

Then it was time to see if the cannon show would go on! As we left it was still raining and we could hear the Fife and Drum corps on DOG street. We caught up to them and followed them to the Court House where the had an abbreviated Salute to the Presidents.







We were cold and getting wet. There was a touch of snow in the air. We ate an early dinner and hung out as long as possible in the warm restaurant. I whiled away the time by perusing a book somone loaned me. Finally the Kimball would be open for Evening with the Presidents so we walked out into a downpour of snow! I've never seen such a thing. (I'm still new to Virginia.)

Evening with the Presidents was incredible! There is always a surprise guest which creates much fanfare and shocked reaction from the presidents on the stage. I want so badly to talk about it but a friend who has worked in the higher levels for CWF told me a couple of years ago that I have to always keep the secret guest a secret and I cannot show any pictures even though I have an incredible one from two years ago. Every year when I blog about this program I go through great emotional turmoil because I am bursting with the thrill of the evening and have to restrain myself to honor the promise I made to not tell. Yet I can see purpose to this because the surprise is part of the drama of the program and why the Kimball always has a sold out crowd. All I'll say is that it was MAGNIFICENT! I did get to talk to the secret guest afterwards who wondered why I did not have a question. Well, I did have one but wasn't sure if I should ask it. Perhaps it would have been an intriguing one. Now I wish I had asked. Oh well.

Afterwards I got to talk to each of the stars of the show. President Jefferson was especially chatty with me, expounding all types of details to a question that I asked. I made lots of mental notes for my future teaching!

When we left we found snow on the ground! I went slipping and sliding across the brick pavers and said we *had* to take the bus. Thankfully the bus was right there waiting for us! Oh dear, don't let it pull away. There is no way I could endure standing in the cold and waiting for 30 minutes! I was trying to run to the bus without slipping in the icy sludge of snow. My son took my arm and how I hoped one of us wouldn't slip and pull the other down. We were laughing, playing in the snow and I cried, "A bus! A bus! My kingdom for a bus!" We did it! We made it to the bus! The bus driver was great too! He asked us where we were going. All the others were staying at the Woodlands, so he dropped them off at their hotel. Then he dropped us off at our van! Wow, what service!

Monday morning was sunny and the snow started to melt. I was impatient to get to the historic area to take photos before the big meltdown, but now the bus was s-l-o-w. Finally it arrived and we spent all morning just walking around the historic area and taking pictures of the snow and a blue heron!

Then we went to the Tucker House to see...dare I say it? The Marquise de Lafayette. Oh no. That poor man stuck with us again. Originally I thought that would be the only day we'd see him and a nice way to finish off the weekend. But then we found out he'd have a program Sat and my husband insisted on going to that too, but I worried we'd wear out our welcome. Oh well, we'll just give him a break for the next few months, but honestly, I never tire of his programs. And I'm always so full of questions but I never know when I'm going to see him. I've got to seize the moment, right? He was laughing but he was ever the gentleman and endured
us me. After the program he asked us if we had enough of Lafayette for the weekend. Well, I had to come to talk to him about one more thing and that was great!

Afterwards there was nothing to do but we didn't want to go home. We walked around, visited the grounds at Bassett Hall, saw some sheep being sheared, walked down DOG street and visited with Lady Washington and Alexander Purdie who greeted us with a line from Shakespeare! Then I asked about possible subscriptions to his gazette from my part of Virginia. I learned a lot because I've been curious to do some research. Our 21st century house sits on an 18th century plantation.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Becoming Jane Austen, Becoming 18th Century, Becoming a Writer

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a lady wishing to advance her skills in the area of writing would cherish the opportunity of a certain writing workshop at Jane Austen's home in Chawton, wherein she took up residence in the year eighteen and nine. However little known were her ponderings until they were penned within this charming abode, this truth is now so well fixed upon the aspirations of ladies as far as the moors and the oceans can sway and surge, that she is considered as the rightful inspiration for dreams unfulfilled.

From across the ocean, in the state of Virginia, dwelling in the land named after Good Queen Bess who once ruled Miss Austen's land in days of yore, a certain Hopeful Spirit can only dream of becoming as well-versed as her heroine. Though the workshop says not, if one Hopeful Spirit may dream, why not dream?

Imagine a journey through time, complete with Regency gown and bonnet, arriving for a special visit for a fortnight to Chawton House. Two hours melodic piano playing before breakfast. Games and stories with the nieces and nephews when they come to visit. Long daily walks are a must. Ponderings from an upstairs window. Contemplative thoughts penned upon paper at her desk. Visiting and sewing in the evenings. Becoming as Jane Austen only by doing as Jane Austen in her surroundings.

If naught else, I can dream...

"There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart." -Emma, Jane Austen

"Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery." -Mansfield Park, Jane Austen

"To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment." -Mansfield Park, Jane Austen

"...but for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short." -The Juvenilia of Jane Austen

"It isn't what we say or think that defines us, but what we do." -Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen

"I have not the pleasure of understanding you." -Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

"You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure." -Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Folger Shakespeare Library-Teaching Shakespeare Part X

One of the most incredible things about our Shakespeare studies has been discovering THE MAJOR SHAKESPEARAN LIBRARY is in our backyard! The Folger Shakespeare Library is a few blocks away from the US Capitol, in Washington DC. With every intent to take the kids on a field trip there a few weeks ago, my plans were sabotaged with another leg injury. I'm feeling better now, but with an upcoming appointment with an orthopedic surgeon (I feel better! Really!) Idecided to delay the field trip for a bit because driving or commuting to DC means lots of walking, which I'm quite in favor of but all things considered...

Meanwhile, a more incredible opportunity came into our house today, with a free electronic field trip from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Although it's not as great as visiting the library in person (there is an on-line tour too), we got to see things we'll never get to see in person at the library. First we got a tour of the Reading Room where only the legitimate scholars can go. (sigh) That's not us. Then we got to go into the vault where hardly anyone ever gets to go. In these rooms we got to see beautifully leather bound volumes from the 17th century that related to Shakespeare's works. I felt that this electronic field trip laid the preparation for us to get even more out of an actual live field trip to the library in the near future.

We also got to see two different interpretations of Romeo and Juliet's balcony scene in their theater, designed to be reminiscent of an actual outdoor Elizabethan stage, intimate with a canopied sky overhead. We also saw a couple of their Shakespearan actors perform a scene from Macbeth in another part of the museum. They were in regular clothes and one was off-book but gave her script to the student host to cue her if she forgot a line (she didn't). The man referred to his script ocassionally but did so in such an effortless way, that it wasn't even noticeable. They explained the clues within the script that cued them in how to act. Meanings of 16th century words speak volumes in interpretation. Also if Shakespeare used a lot of short vowel words in a section, it was a fast moving scene, but if he used lots of long vowels that could add dramatic emphasis resulting in heart tugging moments, all of which were impressively proven to us. Incidentally, the Folger offers several Shakespearan plays a year for the general public to see.

In the course of watching the EFT, we quickly caught on to much of what they said because of our Shakespearan studies. There is some basic terminology that I feel gave us a boost for a bit more scholarly talk. Enter into the world of Quartos and First Folios.

Quartos are a printing term. If you visit the 18th century print shop of Colonial Williamsburg, the printer or binder can show you how to print a folio, or 4 sets of pages to one larger page. These are specially folded to become a book, about the size of a modern paperback.

They usually had no cover, because only the extremely wealthy could afford the beautiful gilt leather covered books.

However middling sort and poorer could even afford a "paperback" or quarto. At the time he showed us, I was struck that I had been reading about the term quarto in our history readings around the time of Gutenberg's invention of the printing press. Stepping into the trade shops of 18th century Colonial Williamsburg also gives us a glimpse into their past. Eighteen of Shakespeare's plays were printed in quarto format in his lifetime. These were individual copies of single plays.

One of the biggest key words to know when around Shakespearan scholars is First Folio. (See photo at the link.) Seven years after Shakespeare died, thirty-six of his thirty-eight plays were published in a single volume. Unlike the quarto which is about the size of a modern paperback, a folio was published in double columns on pages nearly a twelve inches long. The Folger Shakespearan Library has 82 of the 230 known First Folios as well as a number of Quartos. (For more information on the types of things scholars research in regards to quartos and folios, follow the link above.)

Last summer I signed up for the e-newsletter at this link. That is how I found out about the free EFT. I am under the impression there might be more based on how the host signed off the show.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Introducing Shakespeare with Wishbone-Teaching Shakespeare Part IX

Once upon a time, a Jack Russell Terrior named Wishbone lived with his boy, Joe, whose mother was a librarian. Wishbone, who was well versed in the classics, saw every dramatic event in his family's life parallaled with a classic. As he tells the story, he imagines his life in the role of the leading man, wearing a costume. No, this is not slapstick. This is serious! And fun! Wishbone helped me introduce my pre-school aged children to the world of Shakespeare and other classics like Ivanhoe, the Odyssey, and The Three Musketeers when the television shows aired on PBS.

I taped over 40 programs and purchased over 20 books.

I even bought 2 stuffed Wishbones complete with Robin Hood and Romeo costumes, one for my son and one for myself.

I even found a Wishbone matching card game about Classics books. At the time the shows first aired, my kids were seeing an Occupational Therapist who sued her therapy dog to train the kids. Soon this dog lover got hooked on the show too. We spent part of each therapy session discussing the episodes of Wishbone we had seen!

One day Wishbone and his voice (a voice actor) were scheduled to come to the nearby bookstore. The show was taped and was set just north of Dallas, Texas. (At the time we were living at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas, about an hour and a half northwest of Dallas.) Sadly the little dog was under the weather, but someone else equally wonderful came instead, Wishbone's owner! Joe, a teenage boy, was great with the kids and clearly had fun with this project. He signed a book for each of my kids and gave them this picture of him and Wishbone.

Sadly, Wishbone is difficult to find on television anymore. I hear that some can find him on cable. I just did a google search and last year a DVD was released of 4 of his shows, some of which include Don Quixote (he played Sancho Panza) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. My google search also brought up this you tube video of Wishbone doing Romeo. It's titled, "Rosie Oh! Rosie Oh! Part I. Along the side you can see part II and other episodes, like "Homer, Sweet Homer" (The Odyssey) and Cyranose (can you guess that one?)

Shakespeare is quite bawdy and there are "mature" things to be careful of in other classics when wanting to introduce great literature to children. Wishbone was a G rated venue that stayed true to the heart of each classical work represented. Ah, such wonderful memories. In fact, while I was previewing the youtube, my son overheard, got a big grin on his face and asked me which episode of Wishbone had I found? Indeed, wonderful memories...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Teaching About Jamestown

This afternoon we had our history discussion on the Thirty Years' War (is it just me or is trying to figure out who fought who in the Thirty Years' War a bit like WWI?) and the first successful English colony in the New World, Jamestown. My best recommendation to learn about this colony is to visit Jamestown itself, where we've learned far more than any school book has attempted to detail.

Imagine standing where John Smith himself stood, resolutely telling the men, "those who shall not work, shall not eat." He did not have the best reputation among the men, but he did help them to survive. He mapped much of the land not only in Virginia, but also in the north, giving "New England," it's name. While on an expedition to New England, he met Squanto.

While defending themselves from possible attacks from the Spanish and the Native Americans...

...a greater battle was starvation and disease.

This colony was established by the Virginia company to be a financial venture to find gold and a northwest passage to the Orient. My kids were not clear on this from their readings, so a great portion of our discussion was my magnifying this idea to help them make connections between the investors, the business, the men who journeyed forth, the goals to find gold, and the starvation. I had covered all this with them 4 years ago, but sometimes we learn best in layers. I think it all made sense this time!

When Smith left due to injuries from an accident, poor leadership led the mean towards more starvation and disease. Gold was nowhere to be found. The men gave up. They buried the cannons. They turned their backs on the fort boldy determined to never return...only to face the arriving and more determined new governor, Lord De La Warre!


The first order of business was to commit the venture to Providence.

Then he ordered the men to return to the fort to work and persevere. Like Smith, the mandate was, "those who do not work will not eat."


Around 1613, the first big money making shipment was exported from Jamestown to England, tobacco. John Rolfe, who married Pocahontas, is credited for bringing a sweet tobacco seed from Trinidad and successfully planting and harvesting it in Virginia. Eventually women and children were allowed to colonize Jamestown too. The stability of family life helped to stabilize the colony.

In 1619, the first representative assembly in the New World met at the Jamestowne church. Called the House of Burgesses, it was patterned after government in England and became a model for the future government of America under the Constitution. In 1699, the House of Burgesses moved to Williamsburg when the church burned down for a second time. (It is now restored.)

As you can tell, we've gotten to meet many fascinating people at Jamestown (courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation). We even got to meet the Royal Governor, William Berkeley, who was complaining about colonist Nathaniel Bacon. Due to their arguments about taxation, trade laws, and interference with the representative government, some historians call "Bacon's Rebellion of 1676" a foreshadowing of the American Revolution.
We also heard first hand testimony about the infamous burning of Jamestown because of Nathaniel Bacon.

For greater depth this week, my kids interacted with National Geographic's America in 1607: Jamestown and the Powhatan web site which details through video, photographs, interviews, etc with history and archaeology experts the parallel story of the English colonists and the Native Americans. Although we've studied Virginia's historical beginnings before, this is the first time to learn it in context as our own state. (We moved to Virginia 3 years ago.)

Today after the history discussion, where I helped the kids assimilate all the facts they studied over the course of the week, I pulled up Virginia's first government documents. Specifically we skimmed such things as the first charter, where they couldn't get over all the legal-eze so I explained the "purpose" of that to them (I took business law in high school-I was unhappily dumped in the class but I learned a lot.) We skimmed the Instructions for the Virginia Colony where they laughed and volunteered the pros and cons of those ideas. We skimmed the Proceedings of the First Virginia Assembly in 1619 where we had the most fun seeing which land areas (counties and plantations) were represented. I just saw Berkeley's perception of Bacon's Rebellion, so I want to show that to the kids later. A first person perspective is important to more fully understand historical accounts.

We missed meeting colonist Anas Todkill at Jamestown by a week. I told the kids to store up a lot of questions for him in case we get to meet him someday. Perhaps Lord De La Warre will send him back.