One aspect of homeschooling that swayed me to this educational path was the freedom to travel whenever we wanted. We have traveled far and have more big travel plans ahead this year, but we have also been able to travel short distances on a whim. One such traveling whim resulted from reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond with my kids.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond takes place in Wethersfield, Connecticut, one of the oldest towns in that state, and was part of their curriculum on Colonial America. The story revolves around Kit, a girl from Barbados that must move in with her Aunt’s family in Wethersfield. In the story, Kit befriends an elderly woman believed to be a witch, causing all kinds of drama.
My wife had a business trip that took her out of town for the week, so the kids and I decided to make the two hour drive while she was away. I threw together a suitcase of clothes and some things to entertain my kids for the 2 hour drive and headed to Wethersfield.
Our first stop in Wethersfield was the Keeney Memorial Cultural Center, which is conveniently located within walking distance of all the historic buildings we wanted to see. The museum is filled with old town artifacts and information about the city. One artifact was especially creepy – the state’s former electric chair. The chair was hidden behind a wall, cautioning those who lack morbid curiosity. My kids and I have a healthy sense of morbid curiosity, however, and we checked it out. It was a goose bump-filled viewing. Taking pictures is not permitted in the museum, so all of my photos are from the town itself.
Besides touring the Keeney Memorial Center, we explored the historic district. One of the houses that we snooped around was the Joseph Webb house, where George Washington plotted out the Battle of Yorktown in May of 1781. Nearby are the Silas Deane House and Isaac Stevens House. And a short walk from there is the Buttolph-Williams House, which was the setting for The Witch of Blackbird Pond. We also toured the Ancient Burial Ground and read grave stones that date back as far as the late 1600s.
After touring Wethersfield, we checked into the Four Points by Sheraton in Meriden, Connecticut. Since the weather was still nice, we decided to do a little more exploring. We walked the lovely paths of Hubbard Park and played at a nice little playground. A path led to Castle Craig, but it was closed for the day so we could only view the castle from a distance. The castle is on my list of hikes that I want to go on once the weather warms up.
We arrived back at the hotel with enough time to get in a swim before dinner. After dinner, I was ecstatic to find out that there was free beer in the lobby. However, I did blush in front of my kids when I heard that one of the beers was called “Dirty Nurse.” It was fun explaining to the kids why guys laughed every time they ordered a “Dirty Nurse.”
We ate at the hotel restaurant and headed upstairs to bed. The kids were worn out, but they were so exhausted that they were bouncing off the walls. So we cuddled close in bed and watched a marathon of movies on Netflix until we all fell asleep (in the same bed, with another bed completely empty). We woke up the next morning unsurprising early, since I promised we would get another swim in before we left. The swim became one of my favorite memories of our homeschooling year. I made my kids do some of their school work in the room before we made our way to the pool. Once at the pool, I made them do a little more work with the pool glistening in front of them as a reward for finishing early. After about an hour of swimming, I told them to get out and finish their reading. They did it quickly and had some snacks while they read. And then once again, we swam for about another hour.
We made a detour on the way home to visit the Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill. The Park is quite cheap ($6 for adults and $2 for kids) and offers a lot to see and do. My kids and I enjoyed looking at dinosaur bones and footprints as well as get creative with games and crafts in one of the classrooms. Due to rain, we were unable to explore the park’s grounds and were limited to staying inside the Exhibit Center. Which was fine because we were already tired from our previous day’s events and the morning swim.
We arrived back home exhausted but feeling a great sense of accomplishment. What I looked forward to about homeschooling were adventures like our Connecticut trip. I love being spontaneous and free and so do my kids. Homeschooling can be difficult at times and there are days when I wonder if I made the right choice. But opportunities like rushing off to explore where a favorite book took place helps me to realize that homeschooling isn’t just about learning by sitting at a desk (or table, as is the case for us), but it is also about learning through experiences. And to be able to be an active participant in their educational endeavors has been rewarding for me. To top it off, we made lasting memories learning together – the icing on the cake. Looking back, my kids will remember running from one old building to the next and the beautiful hike and swimming in the pool. I will also hold dearly the memory of holding my 3 sleeping children as we drifted off to sleep in a small Connecticut town.
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