Lewis and Clark explore the park

Hey, I rhymed.  I’ll pretend that was on purpose.

We read about Lewis and Clark ages ago and we’ve had a field trip planned to explore and map out a new playground since that time, but we kept having things get in the way of our ability to do it, illness, inclement weather, you name it.
Map your park
Finally we made it there.  I turned them loose in the park with the instructions of younger kids had to draw 10 things in the park to make their map and label them.  Older kids (which was the other family) had to draw 20 items, label them and create a map key.
Of course the boys had to bring their guns, because they remembered that Lewis and Clark both had guns to protect themselves and to hunt thanks to a video recommendation from Phyllis over at All Things Beautiful (Lewis and Clark part 4 post).

Map your park

I loved the variety of maps they came up with.  The younger girls had smiley faces and pictures of people playing at the different parts of the park.

While the boys……..


They did the assignment.  Exactly, they did draw some parts of it.  But as they got to thinking more and more about playing in the park it became more and more of ……

well, squares with letters in it.


Oh those cries of outrage as I made them draw more.  You’d think I announced the end of desert with my requirements.

In the end they got quite a lot of playtime, so I don’t know what they were complaining about.

Oh, and if you’re in the Austin area and you haven’t been to the “Play for All Abilities Park,” then you NEED to get there!

The Battle of the Alamo

Battle of the Alamo ScenarioWe did this a week or two ago, but I hadn’t downloaded the pictures and my friend I did this with has anxiously been watching for this to be posted, so here it is:
To start go to Junior General and look up their Alamo scenario.  From there you can print off their figures, or you can use the massive number of ones you have.  Or maybe that’s just me.  With 3 men in my house who love to act out battles, and one or two others in the house who have at least a cough cough mild cough cough interest………..  There’s a lot.

Battle of the Alamo defenders
In our version the Mexicans had about 65 soldiers divided into 7 groups.  Each group had a lieutenant who was in charge of moral (that determines if they can move forward).

The seventh group was held in reserve and didn’t have a cannon.  The first 6 groups did.
I won’t go into big detail about how each round went because the scenario did a good job of doing that on the site.  Our modifications:  Each figure could move 6 hexes if they were able to move, and there were 30 Texans at the Alamo (that is not the right proportions).
Battle of the Alamo Texans winning?

At first things looked good for the Texans.  They had several successful canon shots, and they were able to take down most of the Mexican lieutenants.  But, then both sides were out of canon fire, several of their canons had been destroyed and there was a breach in their walls.

Battle of the Alamo Texans losing?
But then, the Mexicans were able to start scaling the walls and the sheer numbers started to overwhelm the Texans.

If the enemies are able to fire 6 shots for every one you are able to fire it does not bode well for you.
(This shot is actually from earlier in the scenario, but it does have one of the kids playing the Mexicans looking mighty pleased with herself)

And then their heroes died.  Davy Crockett, Colonel William Travis, Jim Bowie.  One by one each of the heroes died to Mexican bullets.

The boys lost it.  They couldn’t handle the heroes they had fought with dying.  Which led to a great lesson.

We talked about how the Texans must have felt when they heard the Alamo had fallen and how only a few survivors escaped.  No quarter was given to wounded or sick.  This was a huge mistake on the part of Santanna because it becamse a rallying cry for all Texans.

At the final battle of the Texas the Texans yelled “Remember the Alamo!”  That cry led them to victory.  It’s amazing how much morale can be changed by a small thing.  Martyrs are a powerful thing.

War of 1812

One thing that amused me when we were studying the states on the East Coast were the number of books I was able to find set during this war, and they all had amusing stories that the “family swore was true.”

It’s an interesting war, not many people remember it, because it didn’t change a whole lot.  It didn’t end because we were such amazing tacticians.  It ended more because some of the causes ended.

1.  Impressement of American soldiers onto British ships.  This also was happening with French, but the British were also causing other problems.

2.  Blockade of American shipping.

3.  British encouraging Natives to attack Americans.

Many of these were the result of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe.

We fought many battles, both at land and on sea.  At sea the American ships often did better against bigger and better armed forces because the ships were more maneuverable.

We did end up winning many impressive battles, but it was mostly because Britain was engaged fighting off Napoleon in France.  Come 1815, after Napoleon had been defeated we knew we had to end the war.

A peace treaty was signed and agreed to, basically leaving things as they were before the war started.

A British fleet came to attack New Orleans, they vastly outnumbered and outgunned the small American army led by General Jackson.

General Jackson assessed the situation and told the governor he was pardoning Jean Laffitte, a notorious pirate in the area and drafting him for the battle.  Next he armed the freed blacks in the city and they joined the army, and finally he drafted all of the Natives who were not with the British into the army, and gained a miraculous victory.

Shortly afterwards the British general sent him a letter congratulating him on the war they had already won.  Jackson opted to continue to “monitor” the general until they remembered they were not in their own waters.

Well, I have now covered this battle and another post about it (tangentially) all the times I’m planning on covering it.  I wasn’t going to go into such detail again with the kids, but they really like acting out battles.

Our next war to cover in a week or so: The Mexican American War, can you guess who fought in it and when?  True trivia here……..  And the Battle of the Alamo!
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Colonial games and pasttimes

We got together a few weeks ago and played some of the games that colonists played, but since I had a migraine and the other Mom had two million things going on that day our GRAND AND OVERARCHING PLANS failed……

Instead we did two easy to reenact games, especially if you’re a former teacher who did the old “marble in the jar trick” for every time you caught someone being good.  Seriously I have a big huge box of marbles……..
We discovered that it was super easy on our paved concrete driveway with a slight tilt downhill to get marbles out of the circle.  Not so easy on the not completely level and bumpy mud that the colonists probably played on.  The kids all agreed they did not like playing it like this.


They all enjoyed playing hopscotch, which we couldn’t agree on what the rules are, which led to a discussion on variations on rules in different areas.

Then I challenged them to come up with a game of their own involving chalk and marbles.

The first group with a lot of eye rolling and “Do we have to’s” came up with a sort of pictionary with marbles.

The second group came up with a combination of hopscotch and marbles.  You rolled the marble and got that many points for the number your marble stopped in.

Yorktown Victory Center

Whereas yesterday was little girl heaven with the carriage ride, today was little big boy heaven, with lots of pretending to be soldiers and firing of weapons.

The boys even got to participate in the “firing of a cannon.”
1.  The Sergeant (the man with the clipboard) gives the order to prepare to fire.

2.  Add in your carefully measured scoop of powder and then add in the cannon ball or in this case bomb.

3.  Set the range using what looked rather similar to an astrolabe (no picture because of poor angle).

4.  Clear the cannon and set the fuse.

5.  Light the fuse.

6.  BOOM!  (this shot is of course from the actual trained people firing it)

I’ll write a more concise and what we learned type post on another day.  For now I’m going to read a little bit and then go to sleep……..  Maybe even before midnight, what a novel concept.

Jamestown Settlement

Can you tell the kids are excited holding their animals skins and “17th century computer” (also known as a navigation tool)?

We wandered through the museum for a while, where I was not allowed to take any pictures.  Poor me, that and I was frustrated by poorly labeled displays.

After spending a good hour or so at the museum we headed out to the displays, braving the COLD and RAIN, did I mention the COLD!  and wet toes!  I’m sure you can guess the first thing the boys headed to.
The armor, they happily tried on armor every opportunity they got, and arrested poor Jeff.
They were even more impressed with watching a musket being fired, I wish I’d gotten better step by step pictures, but it was hard to catch it as quickly as he did it (the steps are more or less in order clockwise, top left).

Superman was supremely amused by the church and had to preach a sermon.  All three of them would have done so as well, but we had to hurry off to watch the muskets be fired.

It was a loud and happy sermon, with many quotations of “love God.”

We toured the three ships in dock, but the kids were getting cold and it started raining fairly hard while we were the first one, so not much time spent there.  We were mainly amazed at the cramped quarters and how small the beds were.  The boys were able to stretch out on it, but I certainly couldn’t.  It was a very crowded place, but what really amazed me was they left before Christmas to come here, and they didn’t make it until a few days from now (Thursday, April 25).  How is that for crazy?

We ended up spending the longest amount of time in the Powhatan village, mainly because there was a nice warm fire, which let me dry my feet a little and restore feeling to cold toes.
All in all a fun, if somewhat cold day.  Which ended with our eating at the worst Chinese buffet I’ve ever eaten at, how can you mess up Jello?  And my buying a POUND OF FUDGE!  YUM YUM YUM!

Mount Vernon


I have to say having now seen both Mount Vernon and Monticello, I vastly prefer Mount Vernon.  There’s more to see, and I enjoyed all of the ancillary buildings and the chance to interact with people acting as people from the house.

Though, I will say that the tour of the actual house was a little better at Monticello because we were in a small group.  So, I guess it’s a mixed bag.

I had done my research ahead of time and knew there was a few things we wanted to do.

When you first enter at the visitor’s center head over to the information desk and ask for the “Adventure Pass” for kids.  It’s a series of puzzles that take you all over the farm to find the answers.  It rather amused me because my kids actually knew several of the answers without going to the place with the answer because of our history studies, but they still really enjoyed it, and when we were all done we turned it in for a small prize.  Make sure to emphasize SMALL to them so they’re not thinking it’s a toy or anything.  It’s a small medallion.

The other big deal thing for me (this may just be me), was to “meet” Martha Washington, and we also got to “meet” Nellie Custis (George Washington’s granddaughter).

At different times of the day they are in parts of the buildings and will answer questions you have and tell you about life at Mount Vernon or in that time period.

I enjoyed talking with both of them, and they were quite amazed at how far we had traveled from the “Tejas territory,” and were impressed with how well we spoke English.  Nellie Custis told us about a letter her Grandpapa had sent her warning her to be careful “when the fire is beginning to kindle.”  Sound advice today as well as then for young girls starting to date.

One thing that was very striking to me, seeing this so immediately after Monticello was the difference in the two men who lived in them.

Jefferson lived in very grand lifestyle and espoused many high ideals.  Washington lived in a modest way, and I was continually impressed with how he treated the people working for him. 

Mount Vernon with rooms labeledWe saw several houses for his workers that were quite impressive for their size and set up.  Then we found this plaque, and learned that George Washington grew to dislike slavery and so in his will he freed all 300 of his slaves and provided a bequest for several of them.  Jefferson at the end of his life, freed 5 slaves and was so in debt that the estate had to be sold to settle his debts.


The other thing that really impressed me about Washington was his hospitality.  They had 21 rooms in their house, of which 17 were bedrooms, mostly guest bedrooms.  In one year after their presidency they house over 600 guests, many of whom were strangers to them, but needed a place to stay.

I leave you with a collage, a quote I found amusing, and what my kids look like at the end of the day.
And for purposes of recording this, I believe that’s Batman on the left…….  But no guarantees.002
That’s some tired kiddos


As a kid, I’d heard about Monticello.  We drove out to Virginia one summer for a family vacation, but we didn’t make it there for whatever reason. 
It was a lot of fun to see it all, and I got a chance to use some of the tips from my post at ABC & 123 yesterday.  The Monticello website has some great materials, and I have all sorts of follow up plans for this trip.  I especially like the families and teachers section.

One of the things that has always been an oddity for me about Thomas Jefferson is the ideals he claimed to believe and how he actually lived.  He claimed to abhor slavery and its practices, yet he owned slaves.

I had a great discussion with one of the docents at the museum there, about that, and she pointed out that he didn’t actually buy more slaves, and when possible strived to unite slaves families.  He was a benign slave owner in that he didn’t approve of whipping the slaves.  But, he still did own them.

054The other thing I struggle with about him is the amount of debt he had.  He had so much debt in his lifetime that all he owned had to be sold and auctioned off to pay for his debts.  He left no legacy for his children.

But, with all of that he was a great innovator.  Take the polygraph to the right here.  It was the original copy machine.  I’d say it’s all danged hard to operate.  It takes some practice.

He also designed an absolutely fascinating house with all sorts of conveniences.  The interesting thing I learned today: He wasn’t an inventor so much as a “first adaptor.”  He took other people’s ideas and implemented them in his own house or in other things.

He had doors that opened and closed together using a pulley system, a clock that told the time and the days of the week.

I asked the kids what their favorite parts were, and as always it was different and varied.

Princess like the Discovery Room, which had a salve quarters and reproductions of many of the trade skills to try.  Here she’s cooking in the slave quarters.

Superman loved the house itself, which you can’t take pictures inside of.

Batman loved the ancillary buildings, kitchen, storage rooms, and such where he was allowed to take pictures (believe me, if I showed you those pictures you’d see our trip from a whole new viewpoint, at some point I will share those pictures).

I can’t quite decide what was my favorite.  I really enjoyed looking through it all, and enjoyed the amusing anecdotes we got about him and his family.
And some random pictures to finish the post that amused me (some T.J. quotes) and a smorgasboard of pictures.

AAH: Make a haversack

Also known as “sew a small bag.”


I have no pattern to show you.  It’s simple, take one of those 9×12 pieces of felt and cut it in half.  One of those halves cut off about 3-4 inches from the top of it.  Place it on top of the other piece and sew.  Cut a strap from a piece of ribbon measured to the size of your kid.



During the Revolutionary War children would help support the war by sewing bags for the soldiers to carry their stuff in.  After we finished sewing we brainstormed what might be in their bags: bullets, food, knife, Bible, letters from home, etc.


They’ve been using their bags nonstop since they made them.  Pretty good job, huh?


In case anyone’s wondering: fabric used: felt, regular sewing needle and thread (I didn’t grab embroidery thread this time, though it’s easier for kids to use because of its thickness).

AAH: French and Indian War

Okay, so this is out of order in terms of where it happened in history and how I’ve been posting, but I wanted to post this very successful lesson for All American History reviewing the French and Indian War (which was not the French and Indians fighting, but them fighting us).
We have a map that I took and glued down to a bulletin board.  Well, it would be a bulletin board if it was attached to the wall, but in our house it lays on the floor so I can easily flip between the world map and the US map.

As we read about the French and Indian War, I could tell my kids had no clue what I was talking about and their eyes were starting to glaze over beyond the idea of shooting at people, the boys always remember battles.

So I dragged out the map and first we pinned the different countries that were fighting against Britain in Europe.  Apparently being the great naval power makes you unpopular.  At that point in time, Britain was kind of like America today, a great superpower, and everyone wanted to take the big guy down.

That may be a LITTLE simplistic.  It’s before 9:00 in the morning, my brain’s not fully engaged yet.


Than we looked at the war on the Western front.  If you notice the blue pins outnumber the red ones.  The kids certainly did, and they were quite sure this wasn’t fair.  You’re right it wasn’t.  But wars are rarely fair, that’s kind of the point, you want to win.

It’s amazingly simple, but it illustrated my point quite well.

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