We went to Virginia for Williamsburg homeschool days. Of course we couldn’t miss Jamestown or Yorktown while we were there. All three of these historic locations are within 10 to 30 minutes drive of one another.
The Jamestown and Yorktown Foundation held their homeschool days during the same time frame as Colonial Williamsburg, making the timing of this trip even more appealing. For $10.25 per person, we were able to get entrance to both locations for 5 days. Included in the price of admission was a 2 hour guided tour in each location and a one hour age-appropriate, hands on classroom experience. Children under 4 were admitted free.
Dates for fall homeschool days have already been published: September 11-26, 2010.
Our guide was excellent, and it was wonderful to start our trip with an overview of Jamestown, site of the first permanent English settlement in America. There are three important outdoor areas at Jamestown Settlement: a re-creation of the Powhatan Indian village, replica 1607 ships and the colonial fort. Costumed interpreters met us at each location to give us more information about how to burn out a log to make a canoe, how to navigate a ship and what life was like in the fort.
After our tour we thoroughly enjoyed walking through their fantastic museum.
The children each participated in grade-level hands on classroom experiences. These classroom experiences at Jamestown and Yorktown were one of the trip highlights for us.
Our preschooler did a program called Living with the Indians. He and his classmates were able to handle and analyze clothing, bone tools and pottery of the Powhatan Indian culture. He learned how to make rope out of marsh grass and each child was able to touch dozens of replica artifacts. Our preschooler gained more from these one hour hands on experiences than from almost anything else we did. He was thoroughly in his element, touching Indian bows and arrowheads, pots, tools and baskets. The museum educator was excellent with the children, really drawing them out with insightful questions.
I can honestly say that I felt refreshed as a teacher by my participation in these hands on classrooms. I realized anew how important it is to provide hands on experiences, particularly for young children and kinesthetic learners. I’ve often made use of hands on projects, but it is easy to let a commitment to them slip through the cracks, since they require so much effort and time.
I also liked the way the educator led the children to make deductions about what they were seeing and hearing. She asked lots of questions and the children were very engaged in the conversation. Many times I find myself telling my kids facts, “lecture style”, rather than helping them deduce those facts through thinking about what they’ve already learned.
I came back with a renewed vision and commitment to hands on projects and discussion.
Our middle boys’ class compared and contrasted the Powhatan Indian, English and African cultures that came into contact during the 17th century, while our oldest son learned more about the 1607 voyage to Virginia by exploring period navigational tools.
Some of my children felt Jamestown was the highlight of the trip.
After our time at Jamestown settlement, we went to the Historic Jamestowne national park. This is a separate area, run by the national park system, and requires a separate admission fee. If memory serves, it cost $10 for ages 15 and up, but we were able to get the fee waived by filling out some brief paperwork stating that we were homeschoolers and that we were using this trip in conjunction with our homeschool studies. We were able to fill out this paperwork on site, but you can also do it in advance and bring it with you. Here are the requirements for homeschool fee waivers.
We loved the Historic Jamestowne National Park. It was wonderful to stand on the shore and look upon the site of the first landing in 1607. The children loved the statues of Pocahontas and John Smith, and the park was a lovely place to walk around. We recently watched a program (through Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trips) about archeology in Jamestowne, so it was fun to see the actual dig site and to walk through the museum and see all the artifacts they have unearthed. We are loving the electronic field trips, by the way, and for a few more weeks you can still purchase them at the substantially discounted price of $49. You can learn more in my post about the EFT’s, or click on the link above to purchase a subscription through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.