Lessons in American History

Last Thanksgiving, I had a talk with Aidan.  I asked him why we celebrate Thanksgiving and he had no idea.  In his defense, at the time he had been living outside the US for 5 years, almost half of his life.  But even still, I felt it was a shame that we had focused so much on educating him on cultures of the world when, in fact, he knew little about his own.  

While we were home this summer, we decided to do something about it.  Certainly there is a lot more to be taught about American history beyond the Pilgrims but since we were on the Cape already, it wasn’t all that far for us to make a quick day trip to Plymouth, where it “all” began so to speak and for us to start our journey into American history. Our first stop… the Rock.  And I don’t mean Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson here.  I mean Plymouth Rock.  And I’ll admit, there was a bit of a let down on this one.  Josh and I knew what to expect – every kid in Massachusetts goes to Plymouth in school at one time or another and Josh actually lived in Plymouth as a baby.  However, the kids were like, um… it’s a rock.  Actually, Aidan pulled a “WTF, it’s a rock!!!!”  Yes, out of the mouths of (fresh) babes.

Getting excited to see the Rock!

Getting excited to see the Rock!

I wonder if the Pilgrims imprinted that 1620 on the rock???? ;)

I wonder if the Pilgrims imprinted that 1620 on the rock???? 😉

Seriously, this is it??

Seriously, this is it??

Seriously... this is it???

Seriously… this is it???

Rare family portrait

Rare family portrait

I can’t say I blame him.  It’s nothing exciting to see, but at the same time, it’s still a piece of our history.  Next stop – the Mayflower.

The Mayflower, as many of you may know, is a reproduction – not the original thing. We didn’t even bother to tell the kids that since we figured things already weren’t going to great after the Rock.  I don’t think they could totally get their arms around the concept of this relatively small boat crossing the Atlantic Ocean with over 100 people on board, especially how crowded it must have been.  They know it takes us several hours by plane to cross the ocean, but I don’t think they understand, yet, about how rough the seas would have gotten for this boat, the lack of clean facilities, and just how rustic this crossing would have been.

But they did take a great interest in how their shotguns.  Ahhhh boys.  Aidan was fascinated with all the steps needed in order to prepare a gun for battle.  It’s no wonder there were fewer deaths by gun back in those days.  It took minutes to load the thing up.  Maybe there is something to be said for old “technology” and that not all things have improved with age?????

The Mayflower II

The Mayflower II

Learning how to load a gun from the 1600s

Learning how to load a gun from the 1600s

Pretty sure this thing weighs more than him!

Pretty sure this thing weighs more than him!

And this is how they wrote back in the 1600s

And this is how they wrote back in the 1600s

Canons below deck

Canons below deck

Where the lucky / wealthy people got to sleep

Where the lucky / wealthy people got to sleep

We continued our journey from the Mayflower (which I think took us about 30 minutes total – there is only so much to see) down to Plimouth Plantation.  There have been a lot of improvements at the Plantation since Josh and I were last there and yet, we could have sworn it was bigger the last time we were there?  Maybe it’s because we last saw it as kids?  We also found out that the Plantation itself was only something like 60 years old.  It’s location was once a large estate that was donated to the town of Plymouth to be used as an educational facility.

One of the interesting new features was getting to speak with Native Americans. And we’re not talking about them being in 1600s garb and speaking as if they were back during that time.  We’re talking about speaking with them about things of today.  I think this was a wonderful way to take the stigma off what children often have as the impression of what an American Indian is, even today.  They are every day people just like you and me and I think this was a great perspective to teach the kids.

By now though, it was getting hot.  A little too hot to really focus on the history itself. Unfortunately, the boys have been to places similar to this in other countries and experienced reenactments.  It was their first time on American soil, but nonetheless, they just didn’t have as much interest as I think we had hoped.  But then, how many kids usually embrace history lessons while on vacation?

Trying to make their own weapons

Trying to make their own weapons

Inside a home

Inside a home

One of the Pilgrims homes

One of the Pilgrims homes

Inside one of the Native American huts

Inside one of the Native American huts

Not a bad view for the first settlers

Not a bad view for the first settlers

I think these were ovens

I think these were ovens

Native American part of Plimouth Plantation

Native American part of Plimouth Plantation

So while this journey certainly wasn’t wasted, I’m not sure how much more the boys know about American history after this trip.  But the good thing is, we’ll keep up with it now that we’ve opened the door.  We’ll remind them of where we went and talk about other parts of American history.  This is just the beginning and at least we now have a starting point that they can reference.

Knuffels en kussen,

Julie

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