Over the President's Day weekend, we decided to head to VA and visit 2 of our president's homes and learn some more history!
Day 1- Monticello
|This side of the house was having some work done to it|
Our day at Monticello was beautiful. Warm (for Feb.) and sunny. We began our visit with an introduction movie at the visitor's center and then boarded a small shuttle bus that took us to the top of the mountain, where the house is located. We toured the home, which was so interesting. So much of Jefferson's personality was reflected in his home. Our kids were great listeners, and Grace was even able to answer some of the questions that our guide threw out to the group. She had been reading a biography on Jefferson in preparation of our trip. I had thought the biography might have been a little above her reading level, but evidently not!
AnnaClaire had sharp eyes and was able to spot a peace medal displayed in the entryway of the home. That room was filled with Indian artifacts that were presented to Jefferson by Lewis and Clark, after their expedition. We had seen the peace medals at the Museum of the Westward Expansion (at the Arch) in Dec. And when she pointed it out to our guide, and told her about it, the guide was most impressed!
After touring the house, we walked the lovely grounds, visited Jefferson's grave site, and then walked a wooded trail back to the visitor center. We had lunch and then spent some time in an interactive children's area at the visitor center before heading back to our hotel.
|Now THAT must have been a HUGE tree!|
|Kate showing her nickel that has Monticello on it|
|Charlie's in the kitchen. Yes, there's a bed in there. Talk about never getting out of the kitchen....|
|Strolling the grounds and of course, reading the signs!|
The children's room~
|Grace with an early polygraph machine (Jefferson had one in his house)|
|AnnaClaire doing some open hearth cooking|
|Ellie has fun ringing a doorbell|
The kids wanted Chick*Fil*A for dinner, and there was one right by our hotel, so that was easy enough. After a little swimming in the indoor pool, the kids were ready to call it a day.
Day 2~ Montpelier
Day 2 dawned a bit chillier, but still nice. We drove through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley countryside to get to Montpelier. Again, upon arrival, we viewed the film and then toured the home. From what I understand, Montpelier has just been opened for touring since 2006. Before that, it had been owned by the DuPont family. They are still working on furnishing the home, so there was not as much to see in this home as in Monticello, but we had an excellent guide, who was really able to make James and Dolley Madison come alive for us. It is a painstaking process to try to locate and acquire the original Madison furniture; much research is involved, of course, so very slowly will furnishings be added. After our home tour we ate lunch and walked the grounds and visited James' and Dolley's burial spots.
|Thomas Jefferson said to his best friend, James Madison, "I cannot live without books."|
|Still working on constructing slave cabins and some other out buildings|
|AnnaClaire looking at Dolley Madison's tomb stone|
At 2:00 we left the house grounds and met across the street for a Civil War walk of the grounds where the Confederate Army under Lee, regrouped after their retreat from Gettysburg. By this time, the outside temps were dropping and there were a few flurries in the air, but that did not deter us! Our 1 mile walk took us through the woods and to the winter encampment of the soldiers. Archeologists are still working in this area, and it is said to be the last preserved Confederate campsite. At the end of our walk, we also were able to visit a freedman's cabin. When we arrived at the cabin, a camp fire was burning and toys had been laid out for our children to play with.
|Kate at the winter encampment|
|Ellie plays while the rest of us warm up by the fire|
Right by the entrance to Montpelier is the Montpelier depot and post office, and this was also part of our walking tour. We received a little "civil rights" lesson as we toured both the "white side" and the "black side" of the building.
|Notice the signs above the doors|
|AnnaClaire snapped this photo!|
We headed back again to the main house property, where Bill and Grace visited an area where archeologists are still working on the site, while the 4 younger kids and I went inside and warmed up in the children's room. Inside were some toys and also a rocking chair with a small library of picture books on Dolley Madison, president Madison, the constitution, etc. It was nice to be able to spend some time reading aloud with the children and to let them play.
|Beautiful Grace on her walk with her daddy|
We left at closing time, and drove back to our hotel, ate a quick dinner, and again Bill took the kids swimming. The perfect end to the day!
Day 3~ Appomattox
We awoke to a COLD and blustery day with a few flurries in the air. We ate breakfast and checked out and drove about 2 hours to Appomattox. Not quite tying in the our "presidential theme" but since it wasn't too far from where we were, Bill had wanted to stop there for a visit. The kids were all geared up to earn another Jr. Ranger badge, but upon our arrival, what did we see?????
We were SHOCKED, as yes, there was snow, BUT all the roads had been COMPLETELY cleared. We had eaten lunch just 5 minutes away, and all the businesses there were open. We passed a civil war museum just a mile or so from the park and it was open. But Appomattox was CLOSED.
So, what did we do? I pointed out to my fuming husband that THIS was a memory. And one day we would look back on this and laugh! So, we parked the car, bundled everyone up, and let them romp around in the snow for about an hour. They loved it!
|This is the only photo we have of Ellie. Evidently she's not a fan of snow play! She and mommy sat in the warm car while the others played.|
|Kate with her snowball!|
|Grace and AnnaClaire with their Hello Kitty snowman. (You've gotta look closely!)|
Then we loaded up the van and drove home!
Over dinner that night, we asked the kids what their favorite part of the trip was, and you guessed it, they all said, "Playing in the snow!
Is it hard to do all this "history" touring while the majority of our kids are pretty young? Actually, yes, and it does take some planning and effort. BUT it is so worth it! At each house we visited, our guides complimented us on our well behaved children. We do not want our children to be a "bother" to the other adults when on our tours. We work hard to train them to be still and quiet, and to listen. Even Ellie did very well with this. We try to keep the kids well rested and fed on schedule, and this helps a lot. We also try to balance the times where they need to be quiet with times where they're able to run around some and burn off energy. This trip, Ellie came down with a bad cold as we were driving to VA. It actually hit her in the car on the way there. Our first night in the hotel was not good, as she was restless and crying about every half hour throughout the night. The other kids slept through it pretty well, but Bill and I were up most of the night. Night 2 was a little better, but night 3 again was hard as Kate and AnnaClaire both came down with the cold and slept very fitfully. But you do the best you can and power through it!
This is one of the reasons why we've chosen to homeschool. We wanted to be able to take our children and travel. Not to exotic places, but to see as much as we can of our country. We're thankful that Grace loves to travel and see the sights in her new country. We won't have her home with us for all that long, so we want to show her as much of the US as we can! And the younger children love to travel and see things, too. We love being able to travel "off season" and have the places virtually to ourselves. And we love learning TOGETHER!