Monday, February 24, 2014

The American Revolution - Unschool style

We had a trip to Boston planned, so I thought 'What a great way to introduce the American Revolution!" My kids have heard about The Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere, and Ben Franklin but they didn't know much more than being familiar with those phrases. They did go to a program called 'Colonial Kids' at our local library so they had a small frame of reference. I told them about the trip and a little about what was in Boston and off to the library we went!

My children were eager to find books about The Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere, The Revolutionary War, and Benjamin Franklin. We came home with a TON of books. Then we accessed Brain Pop. If you do not know about this website, get familiar. We watched 2 videos on the subject and my children were chomping at the bit to learn more!

We read one of our books about The Boston Tea Party and then I showed them on a map where the Old South Meeting House, The Old North Church, Paul Revere's House and The Old State House are. I told them we would be going to these places and seeing them. I gave them a little background information on why they were important. They couldn't get enough.

We spent 2 weeks reading books, accessing websites, planning our trip and watching Liberty's Kids - a PBS series now on YouTube. They came up with the places on the Freedom Trail that they wanted to visit. We printed maps of the 13 colonies, discussed what it was like to live in colonial times and did projects like - make your own butter and quill pens. Then we went to Boston! My children are still young and it was cold so we only did a part of the Freedom Trail (from the Old South Meeting House to Paul Revere's House) but it was enough.

When we came home, they wanted to know more. We live in the Hudson Valley in New York, so there are plenty of Revolutionary War sites to visit. We are close to West Point, Mt. Gulian and the Van Wyck Homestead Museum. We have family in Saratoga, so when they heard about the Battle of Saratoga, they started planning a trip to visit the battlegrounds the next time we are up there to visit.

All of this was started by a simple trip to the Boston area to visit friends. I know I keep saying it, but it CAN be this simple. When I learned about the Revolutionary War in school, I was so bored. It was all about memorizing names and dates. I barely remembered ANY of it!  I grew up in Stony Point - walking distance to the Stony Point Battleground, 10 minutes from West Point, 20 minutes from major areas involved in that war. I had no idea. So sad.

Think about HOW MUCH LEARNING is going on by taking this trip to Boston, by spending an HOUR on the Freedom Trail, by taking a trip to a local landmark. What's even better is that it is AUTHENTIC LEARNING. They are invested in it, eager to learn more, excited by it!

Even if you do not homeschool, you can still supplement your child's school education with trips like this. Are they learning about the American Revolution? Go to Boston! Are they learning about the Pilgrims? Go to Plymouth Rock or Colonial Williamsburg! Are they learning about presidents? Go to the FDR house in Hyde Park, NY. Are they learning about slavery and the civil war? Visit an old plantation! By actually experiencing these things first hand, it makes them much more concrete and alive in their minds.

I think I can safely say that my kids will not forget about the American Revolution.