As voted by Trekaroo families, here are the Reviews of the Day from back in the day to today.
We’ve been studying the history of England and the events that led to the explorations of America for the better part of our homeschool year.
And it’s such a lovely blessing to live within driving distance of the location of the first permanent American settlement.
As soon as we started even getting near to the study of the Jamestown settlement, I knew a trip to the Virginia coast would be in our future.
One, because I like any excuse to visit the Motherland, state of my birth, land of the presidents, envy of all other states, home to beautiful mountains and all of my childhood memories. (Yes, I’m a little sentimental about the state.)
Two, because we knew visiting Jamestown meant seeing my brother and my cousins as well.
Three, because when you can see and touch and walk through history when you are seven, it’s going to become a part of you that much more deeply and if that isn’t a huge part of what homeschool is about – then I don’t know what is.
And so a plan emerged.
Visit Jamestown at the end of the school year.
And since I adore planning (I do. It’s like a drug. Maybe because it involves so many lists.) I started researching and devising activities to enhance our travels and locating books to read on the drive and stops we were certain we didn’t want to miss.
But did you know that in Virginia – there are actually two Jamestowns?
Well, there are.
There’s Historic Jamestowne and Jamestown Settlement.
There’s even a Jamestown in North Carolina. That doesn’t actually matter and the only reason I know that is because there was a sign for Jamestown when we were only about three hours into our long drive. All of the reading kids got very excited that we had already reached our destination. And then got very disappointed when we showed them how far away the Virginia Jamestown actually was from our car’s current spot on the interstate.
Both the historic Jamestown and the settlement are worth a separate visit and you could easily spend an entire day at each location.
Which is pretty much what we did.
After scanning the website for Historic Jamestowne, I stumbled upon a link for teachers that led me to another link that eventually led me to a sentence that saved our family quite a bit of cash. Apparently, if you are a homeschooling family, you can apply to have your park entrance fee waived for your entire family if the trip is, in fact, for educational purposes. As our trip most certainly was, (and I imagine what trip to Jamestown isn’t really?) I completed the paperwork required. I made an official looking document in the manner the website requested, stating our educational objectives and carried it with us across those state lines.
And, sure enough, upon presenting our paperwork to the park ranger, voila, we entered the Historic Jamestowne with-an-e at absolutely no cost whatsoever.
That was grand.
And so was the site.
Historic Jamestowne is the exact location of the original colony. The same simple shore Captain John Smith saw from the port of his ship all those years ago.
Foundations of the original homes are there – covered back over to protect them. (Which seemed sort of sad to me, although I guess I understand the purpose.) Archaeologists are regularly digging and researching and discovering. It’s incredible really.
In the museum were the tiniest marble dice I’ve ever seen. I wanted them actually. But, you know, they weren’t for sale. Because they weren’t a facsimile – they were the real deal. Little dice carried over from England in a leather pouch in some guy’s pocket to pass the time when the time needed passing.
The kids played under a tree (and refused to pose for a photo) where a house once stood that was the home of John Rolfe’s second wife. The woman he married after having been wed to Pocahontas. Pocahontas!
How wild is that?
And we were just standing there. Eating our granola bars and talking about an Indian princess in a world that we cannot even fathom, but yet a world which literally gave birth to the one we’re inhabiting now.
It was surreal.
Between Historic Jamestowne and Jamestown Settlement stands the Glass House. Another mind-blowing reality. I mean, it’s such an incredibly beautiful and almost bizarre art form. And that’s today. How much more remarkable to be living in a time of pooping in the woods and bathing in the river and yet - and yet – craftsmen creating glass! Amazing.
We spent so much time at Historic Jamestowne that we had to come back on the day we were heading home and spend a long morning at Jamestown Settlement to fit it all in.
The Settlement is right beside the actual site and is re-created to look authentic – with Powhatan’s Village and the three ships and a reproduction of the fort.
I was fortunate enough here too to be treated to a guest entrance with fee waived for myself as a writer. (Isn’t it funny the ways in which God provides – even in sweet Virginia?)
This is the Jamestown the kids will remember when they think of history because it feels real. You’re sitting in an Indian home – furs lining the wall, authentic-looking food placed outside, actors dressed up and assuming the role of natives.
Walking on the ships – especially climbing down the stairs to the galleys below – is strange. It’s impossible not to imagine yourself on board. (That’s the point – right?) Day after day. Wave after wave. Month after month. Smell after smell. Inconvenience after inconvenience.
And I couldn’t help but think of what the struggle was for. We have the luxury of perspective of course, but it all seems a high price to pay for the seeking of wealth. Of stuff. Of gold and fortunes. (But I think that’s a rant for another post. It’s been funny to me to see history through adult eyes as I re-learn with my children.)
Both Jamestowns are relatively small, but then – so was the original. Without a doubt, however, both are more than worth the drive, the time and the cost.
I’m really glad we’ve been wading through early American history this year and I’m really glad our relatives live near Jamestown. And I’m really glad I was able to spend two days walking backwards through time with the people I love more than anything else.
(Oh – and did I mention – you can get to Jamestown by crossing a ferry?)
If you want to get acquainted with the Lake of the Ozarks area, this would be a great starting point. Since the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce is here, iinformation is readily available whether you prefer to speak with someone or if you'd rather grab pamphlets.
This is also a great place to learn more about Bagnell Dam.
Tip: Be sure to grab a free coupon book if you plan on stopping by the Bagnell Dam Strip. Many of the stores on the strip had coupons.
We came to Catoctin Mountain Park to see the leaves. On October 19th we saw a beautiful display - it had to be near peak color. We visited on a clear, crisp, slightly windy day - and the leaves were some of the most amazing that I had ever seen.
I was hoping to stop by the visitor center to ask where to hike with my mom and 4 year old. But, the parking lot at the visitor center was overflowing. (I would assume that is not typical.) So, we just drove the main road until we found a good parking spot.
We were looking for a short hike and spotted the hike to the Thurmont Vista. The first third of the hike was a bit uphill and the leaves were amazing. The remainder of the half mile hike was uphill and the leaves weren't as spectacular. We all made it to the vista.
I got back home and looked at the park webpage. I think we would have been better off looking for a hike in the Hog Rock area -where the hikes to the vistas are not as long or steep. We just wanted a viewpoint where we could see the colorful trees on the side of the mountains.
The fall foliage in this area is very spectacular. It's five stars in that respect. But, aside from the fall colors - I'm not sure that the park has too much else to offer.
We came to Catoctin Mountain Park to see the leaves. On October 19th we saw a beautiful display - it had to be near peak color. We visited on a clear, crisp, slightly windy day - and the leaves were some of the most amazing that I had ever seen. I was hoping to stop by the visitor center to ask where to hike with my mom and 4 year old. But, the parking lot at the visitor center was overflowing. (I would assume that is not typical.) So, we just drove the main road until we found a good parking spot. We were looking for a short hike and spotted the hike to the Thurmont Vista. The first third of the hike was a bit uphill and the leaves were amazing. The remainder of the half mile hike was uphill and the leaves weren't as spectacular. We all made it to the vista. I got back home and looked at the park webpage. I think we would have been better off looking for a hike in the Hog Rock area -where the hikes to the vistas are not as long or steep. We just wanted a viewpoint where we could see the colorful trees on the side of the mountains. The fall foliage in this area is very spectacular. It's five stars in that respect. But, aside from the fall colors - I'm not sure that the park has too much else to offer.
Having never been to Gettysburg before I had no idea how expansive the battlefield actually was. With a 2 year old and 4 year old fresh off a morning at the National Apple Harvest Festival, we went straight to the Gettysburg Battlefield Bus Tours office to grab the next bus, and thank goodness we did. Without this tour, there is no way we would have been able to see the battlefield and actually learn anything while trying to navigate with the children.
Although the weather was a little cold, we opted for the double decker bus tour. We were able to catch a bus within 20 minutes of arriving at the station. Meanwhile, we enjoyed a locally made soda and browsing through the gift shop while we waited. There were also restrooms so we could make sure everyone was all set, and the bus itself made a half way restroom stop in case anyone needed to go.
The bus tour is led by a "professional licensed battlefield guide" who speaks to you over headphones available at each seat which have adjustable head straps and volume controls. There was plenty of seating on the bus, but there was no heat, so we wound up cuddled up in the back to keep the kids warm. The tour company also offers temperature controlled tours, or you can just be smarter then us and dress your kids for the weather.
Throughout the tour the guide was explaining our location, monuments, the battle itself and included lots of fun facts that made it interesting. Our 2 year old promptly fell asleep, but because of the big windows and headphones my husband was still able to enjoy the tour while holding her.
Other then the pit stop, we made a stop at the top of a significant battle location so we could see first-hand what the soldiers were facing and get a closer look at a monument. My four year old loved being part of the action and climbing to the top of the tour.
Throughout the tour we saw many families biking, walking, driving their own personal vehicles through the battlefield and I was so glad we weren't one of them. It can be a lot of work to travel with kids but this bus tour made seeing everything so easy. We would like to go back when the kids are over, ride up top of the bus and learn some more from this tour.
Disclaimer: my family was hosted by Destination Gettysburg. All opinions expressed here are my own.