October 12, 2014

We took a family field trip this weekend to Springfield, IL. The home of Abraham Lincoln. My kids think they hate history. What they really hate is filling in blanks, and memorizing names to match with dates about events they don’t understand. So it was a trick on my part to teach history differently. It worked!  The kids LOVED every minute of learning this way, and so did the parents. We went to Lincoln’s house--the only national park in all of Illinois. We watched a short film on the life of the Lincoln’s, which held the interest of all of us for 30 minutes. Then, we toured Lincoln’s house, a simple home, with guides that drew you into the story. Our guide even lived in this neighborhood in the 60’s.  Every detail of the house 100% as if Lincoln lived in it yesterday. The small rooms, the busy wallpaper, the mismatched carpeting the two bedrooms that were his and hers (married couples had separate rooms--kid shocker), the outhouse. All fascinating.  The kids found treasures--a pocket watch for him, a bonnet for her, and a quill set for both.

The next day we went to the Lincoln’s Presidential Museum. Designed by architects working for Disney, it was immaculate from the moment we walked in. We watched a movie that included hieroglyphic ghosts, and explained how many of the original copies were found and collected by historians, as well as, what they are hoping to still find. After that the museum has a Log Cabin entrance on one side, and a White House entrance on the other. One takes you from birth, to living in a log cabin, all the way up to his presidency. The other side is the White House years. Everything is real or replicates of the real. Every poster and sign is a bit or piece of the story. Easy to digest. Easy to follow. Easy to understand the story of the man, and the times. The Civil War explained from every angle. The North, the South, the slave owners, the slaves, the woman, the children.  The fear, the anger, the tragedy and the triumph of each battle replayed. The bloodshed and human loss was horrifying.  Lessons were learned as the story unfolded. The idea that United States of America could have been two separate countries, and life for them would be very different today had that happened was appalling. The kids were fully engaged the entire day.

We also had the privilege of seeing Steven Spielberg’s original Lincoln movie sets, and many of the costumes and props worn by actors in the Movie. That was a bonus that thrilled my aspiring movie makers.

As we drove home, I realized just how much the kids had taken in. Matthew stated, “I wish I really had a time machine so I could go back and save Abe from getting shot.” That statement lead us to poise many critical thinking questions to them “How do you think it would be had he not been killed?” “ Do you think he would have accomplished lots more?” We also discussed, “Do you believe all slaves want to be free?”  “Do you think if the South had won, and became the Confederate States of America, would slavery still be around today?” The depth of their answers was truly profound. They got it.

This weekend, history came alive for my kids. Score: Mom 1, Kids 0.