Monday, May 25, 2009

Homeschooling update

Wow. I can't believe I am so behind. Well, yes I can, actually....paperwork is not my strongest point. I meant to be all organized with this homeschool thing, to blog after each field trip - since I make the kids journal after each one.
We are now heading into probably our last week of school and last solo field trip. I planned to stop 3 weeks ago, because we were exhausted, but we have managed to get out of the house and have a couple of adventures close to home.

OK, week 6 - Leesylvania State Park

This is a beautiful park, close to home, on the banks of the Potomac River. There are hiking trails that lead to the site of some old homes. Lighthorse Harry Lee (father of Gen. Robert E. Lee) lived here, hence the name Leesylvania. There are the remains of an old Civil War redoubt. We'd already seen this, and were so tired, the kids basically hung out on a little strip of beach and gathered shells and made sand castles. We came back this past month and went through their visitors center.

Week 7 - Philadelphia: Trenton Old Barracks, Washington Crossing Site, and the Franklin Institute

Stayed with Aunt Erin and Uncle John for a couple of days. The first day, the kids and I drove to Trenton and went through the Old Barracks Museum - The colony of New Jersey had errected the barracks during the French and Indian war to house british troops, and there were some hessians staying there during the battle of Trenton. It was a bit expensive, but a great tour! A costumed interpretor showed us through the building and spent a lot of time telling us exactly how the battle of Trenton went down. No, the Hessian troops were not drunk. They were trained soldiers, and would not have shirked their responsibilities so completely. Washington's forces were victorious because they had a greater number of soldiers, had some element of surprise, and had the better plan. Also, the hessians had failed to errect redoubts or fortifications to which they could have retreated when the conflict started. So they had nowhere to run once Washington showed up. It was really a great military victory for the colonies. After the town was captured by the rebel forces, Washington turned it into a military hospital. He had the troops innoculated for small pox. There was a small surgical room there where another costumed interpretor told us all about the medical practices of the day, including how exactly they went about the small pox vaccinations. When he got around to explaining about trephining (drilling a hole in a person's skull to decrease pressure after a head injury), TJ stood up, pale and woozy and told us he was ready to leave. My own knees were feeling a bit weak. I guess you can sometimes get too much information....

We then drove by the Washington Crossing site - didn't go through any of the visitors centers but took some pictures. The Delaware river is quite wide at that point. They certainly wouldn't have been able to ford it on horses or foot. It was impressive to think about what that place would have looked like with big chunks of ice floating around in the middle of a Nor'easter. Not a place I would have wanted to be.

The next day we went to the Franklin Institute - this was one of the kids' favorites. There's a rotunda with a large marble statue of Ben Franklin, and many of his well known quotes are flashed on the sides of the room. Walking past the rotunda you go into the science museum - there's a wing about the human body with a giant heart you can climb through following the path that the blood takes as it is circulated through the heart and lungs. There's a giant foucalt's pendulum that hangs the length of the 3 or 4 story staircase, with domino-like pegs around it that it gradually knocks down during the course of the day as it is acted upon by the rotation of the earth. We also went into a wing called Newton's loft, with different hands-on physics experiements about light, force, momentum, etc. Very cool! Saw an IMAX movie - Amazing Caves.

Week 8 - Cherry Blossom Festival at the National Mall

We'd already been to the mall a couple of times to see the museums, but I just couldn't help coming down when the cherry trees were in bloom. This was probably one of my favorite days. The cherry trees were a gift from Japan, and the majority of them surround the tidal basin, to the Southwest of the Washington Monument. We strolled around the sidewalk along the tidal basin, which was covered in pink blossoms, and when the wind blew, pink petals fell like snow. It was amazing. We rented a paddle boat and spent an hour eating our lunch and paddling around the tidal basin. Saw the Thomas Jefferson memorial from the water. Watched the planes coming in overhead (there's an airport close by). Even saw a few white house helicopters fly by. After our time was up, we continued west and saw the WWII memorial, which was very impressive, walked along the reflecting pool, and to the Lincoln Memorial. Then back to the truck via the Korean war memorial with the granite wall that reads "Freedom is not free". For our synthesis project we wrote haikus about our field trip. Here are a couple:

Emma: Trees are pink and white
Far away, the flowers, red
They looked like popcorn.

TJ: Paddle boats are fun
But if you monkey around
You will surely flip.

Nathan: Paddle boats are fun
For they have interest in mind
They energize me.

Me: Cascading snowflakes
Sunrise-colored, fluttering
Trees sing welcome spring.

So, I gave them the first line (and Emma a little more help), but I thought they did well!

Week 9: Annapolis

Annapolis is a beautiful town. There is a nice historic section with a couple of museums right along the dock. We spent a little time wandering around a museum, then walked to the Naval Academy and saw the chapel there. The kids fell in love with the Naval Academy. Budding Navy seals, they tell me. Then we took a quick boat tour of the harbor and saw the seaside of the Naval academy, almost to the place where the river meets the chesapeake bay. Came back and walked up to the historic capital building - the oldest continuously used capital building in the U.S. It was a little funny to be walking in the same door as several people in suits were using. Annapolis was actually the nation's capital for a few months. This was the place where Washington resigned his commission. Saw the room, heard the story about why that event was significant - in most countries in Europe, the victorious military commander would become the leader of the government - declare himself king. Washington certainly had the public support if he had wanted that. But I believe he had a vision of a country founded on freedom. So he resigned his commission as commander of the patriot forces and put the power back in the hands of the elected government. As we were leaving, saw the original of one of the famous paintings portraying this event. Very cool.

Week 10
This was househunting week. We drove all over looking at houses. We were seriously exhausted. We had also spent 3 hours in traffic coming home from Annapolis. It was awful. You have to respect and plan around the freeway system here or it will bite you. I think I actually composed a traffic haiku, I'll have to find it. Anyway, this week was spring break for the neighborhood kids, so we had kind of an easy week as well. We did go see a movie - Monsters vs. Aliens. Can't really justfiy that as an educational experience, though.

Week 11. This was a big week. Tracy came with us, we left Tuesday morning after making sure all the initial paperwork and our offer on a new house was completed. Drove to Williamsburg. Wandered around the town a little. This was a differently organized place than I'd ever seen. Historic Williamsburg is a collection of colonial era homes that were rebuilt (only a couple of structures were existing after fires and the moving of the capital to Richmond) based on the original plan of the town. You purchase tickets that allow you to enter some of the historic buildings (some I think are even private residences) and the rebuilt Governor's palace. It was furnished as it when Lord Dunmore (the last british appointed governor) lived there. We wandered around to get a feel for the place that afternoon, then went back to our hotel to rest. The next morning we went to Yorktown, and spent the morning touring the National Park service park and museum there, with the rebuilt redoubts and seige lines. We went into the town itself and ate lunch at a cute little place in the historic part of the town. That afternoon we came back into Williamsburg and toured the Governor's palace, with it's very impressive wood and marble entryway. There were hundreds of swords, muskets, and pistols lining the walls. An impressive show of force. The tulips were blooming in the gardens. Saw the live production in the streets that portrayed different events that occurred in the town - such as when the british took the town, and Benedict Arnold came in and lectured the residents about the british terms. There was a discussion about religious freedom between two ministers, some discussion between slaves about who would fight for the british (who promised freedom to any slaves who fought on their side). The next morning we drove to Jamestowne - the National Park - I can't say enough about how beautiful it was at all these places - the dogwood trees were in bloom, everything was green - you can see why early settlers thought they had landed in the garden of eden. Were part of a great forest service tour that talked about the early history of Jamestowne, saw the archeologists there on site digging (they found an artifact while we were there - a handle of a small tool). Our park service guide talked about the founding of the house of burgesses in 1619 - the first representational government here (predating the pilgrims by a year). talked about the drought that was likely present for many of the early years of the colony, and contributed to the problems between the settlers and the powhatan indians and the poor survival rate of the colonists. It was fantastic - very memorable to be hearing about the problems they faced there at the site. It was a beautiful spring day, but windy and cold, and one could easily imagine the natural challenges faced by the settlers. On the way from the visitor's center, we walked on an elevated walkway across the swamp to get to the landing site and site of the first fort. I hear it's still nasty during the summer with biting flies. Saw the rebuilt, operating glass blowing site. Awesome.

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