Sunday, October 12, 2008

Subjects: American History

I LOVE American History ... but hate how I was taught the subject in school. Memorizing dates, names and places held no interest for me. I loved reading primary sources (although I probably didn't use that term) about what life was like ... how scary the voyage was for Columbus ... what kind of jobs people did to make a living ... how families existed ... how the Church helped out through the centuries.

I loved learning about American History ... I hated being taught American History.

With my own kids, I want them to love the learning.

I don't want them to have to memorize anything in a vaccuum. I want to link themes, ideas, events so that they can see the big picture. Yes, they know that it was Christopher Columbus who led the voyage to the new world ... but I want them to "live" the journey through historical fiction like Pedro's Journal or the DVD, The Magnificent Voyage of Christopher Columbus. I want them to see the Missions in California and understand the distance between Catholic Spain and the New World that was bridged by brave, intrepid explorers.

I want them to be able to see, hear, touch, taste and smell the experience of American history.

So throughout this school year, we'll be taking advantage of our proximity to Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia -- as well as further afield if we can. We'll spend days in D.C. -- exploring museums and walking the way of the presidents and politicians. We'll use period cookbooks and taste what they ate (we've already made jerky and dried fruit like the sailors on the Nina, the Pinta and Santa Maria). We'll build replicas of forts, ships, homes -- and populate them with period-dress figures. We'll have a blast!

At least, that's the idea for now.

We're off to a good start already, with trips to the Smithsonian and Marine Museum, Gettysburg and Baltimore. This past week, we spent two full days in Washington, D.C. with relatives ... Aunt and Uncle came up from South Carolina for a visit and a chance to show Auntie the Nation's Capitol. Sunday we spent the day in the District, walking around on a gorgeous fall day and taking in

Jefferson Memorial,

the Mall and it's monuments .

The next day, just the littles and I met up with Auntie and did the museums along the Mall -- particularly the new Ocean Hall (which is fabulous if a bit iffy on their science facts vs theories) in the Natural History Museum (we love checking out the elephant in the rotunda and finding all the dung beetles, etc housed below!), the Art Museum (saw Cassats, Monets, Renoirs, Rembrandts, Della Robbias, and others ... wow!), and ended up at the Air and Space.

When we do outings like this it is so fun to learn right alongside the kiddoes ... to discover old interests or kindle new ... to try new hands-on exhibits. The whole time we're walking around, we're talking about who, what, where, when, how and especially discuss theories of WHY! This is real learning at it's best.

We have more visitors coming ... and thus, even more reasons to explore our new area and to learn outside the vaccuum!

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