Monday, July 10, 2006

We're Back.... the 21st century!!

It seems like we’ve just spent five days in the 1800’s with Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens.

We actually met them, y’know. Here’re the pictures to prove it! (The lovely brunette was our adopted daughter for the trip. Our families were planning to make this trip together, but she ended up being the only member of theirs who could go.)

We started, like Lincoln, in New Salem, which has been restored to the tiny, log cabin town it was in his day. Aw right, aw right—we Illinoisans know he had a life before he came to this great state. But he spent his first six years of adulthood in New Salem, running a store, surveying, serving as Postmaster and reading law. We camped right in New Salem State Park and it was quiet and pleasant; our only complaint was that neither our cell phones nor our trial “roaming wireless” internet connection could get a signal there, only 15 or so miles from our state capital! (Our kids’ only complaint was that there was no pool.)

In Springfield we spent over three hours at the new Lincoln Museum. We had heard great things and we were not disappointed. Both theater presentations had us on the edges of our seats, and the exhibits everywhere were so engaging that—dare I admit this?—I forgot that in addition to the stroller I was pushing, I had a three year old little girl I was supposed to be keeping track of. A security guard spotted her crying and took her to “Mary Lincoln’s Attic,” a children’s dress-up and play area, until I came to claim her. (Eternal thanks to God!) One fascinating display showed not just a few but hundreds of political cartoons bashing his character—talk about the politics of personal destruction!—and then featured an anachronistic televised report of the election of 1860 as it might have been covered by a tongue-in-cheek Tim Russert (MSNBC).

We saw the Springfield home where the Lincolns raised their young family of rowdy boys. It has been beautifully restored to its 1860 appearance--just before the Lincolns left it to move to Washington--and contains many items and furniture which actually belonged to the Lincolns. It was pretty cool to touch the very banister he used to hold on to! The tour of the house was free; I was surprised to realize that it is the only National Park in Illinois. New Salem is free also, which makes this quite the affordable field trip destination for homeschoolers. (We skipped the old and new Capitol buildings, as we plan to come back in the fall when our state senator and friend Peter Roskam will give us the inside tour during what will hopefully be his last term there, but they also are free and oh so educational.)

We arrived in Hannibal, MO, just in time to drop our trailer at the Mark Twain Cave and Campground (alas, no pool, no signal there either) and catch the last riverboat ride of the afternoon. The hour-long ride was a highlight of the trip, especially seeing “Jackson Island” of the Tom Sawyer book.

A tour of the famous cave was the kids’ favorite event of the trip. The “lost in the cave” episode really happened to young Samuel Clemens and his neighbor Laura Hawkins (“Becky Thatcher”).
Our tour guide pointed out not only the interesting rock formations, but also the locations where significant literary events occurred, such as the large area where Becky was frightened by the bats, the passageway in which Injun Joe appeared carrying his torch, and of course the “sign of the cross” where his treasure was buried.

We also toured the Samuel Clemens museums (there are two), his boyhood home, the home of Laura Hawkins/Becky Thatcher, and a few other little buildings of interest. We bought rock candy and pressed pennies for the kids, and I ducked into an antique mall to look for blue and white china plates to display in my blue and white newly-redone-just-the-same bathroom. I found two lovely, complementary dinner plates--Wedgewood and Currier & Ives—for $5 each. (At that price, I can afford to replace them if the kids break these as they did their predecessors!)

What a great way to kick off an indepth year of American history! My box of Sonlight curriculum—Core ¾ and Core 100, both American history years—arrived while we were gone, and I can’t wait to dig in!


RANDI said...

Look like a great time was had by all! We used Sonlight 3/4 last year and loved it! I really enjoyed reading the books with my boys!

HolyMama! said...

thank you for including one with you! (how cute are y'all?!) Purple is definitely your color, too.

I LOVE the things your family does together, and that you share them with me. Well, not just me. You know.

Islandsparrow said...

What an interesting/fun trip. I remember that lost in the cave incident in Tom Sawyer - it was scary. And the Tom/Becky romance was thrilling to my 11 yr old heart :)

I always found that when we brought a friend with us on a trip that everyone got along better - I don't know why - maybe just a freshness to the usual mix.

Glad you had such a good time!! and glad that you're back and online again :)