Monday, February 28, 2011

Revolutionary War Encampment and the Science of Relations

Last Saturday, we explored the annual Revolutionary War Encampment held in our county. Opportunities like that can quickly turn into information overload and fragmented thinking because the number of activities is overwhelming. Trying to do everything, even spread out over a day, makes for a pounding headache, so I heeded Charlotte Mason's advice on the science of relations,
Our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of–-
"Those first-born affinities
That fit our new existence to existing things" (Page xxx).
At first we walked aimlessly until something caught Pamela's attention. She chose the display of rifles and muskets. She saw the musket balls and didn't mistake them for marbles because of a dramatic clip from America: The Story of Us in which a musket ball spins out of the rifle, heading directly toward the camera with the footage slowed down enough to make you sweat. Steve (in the green shirt) was surprised at how heavy the British rifle was while the three-sided bayonet, which the Geneva Convention banned because of the hideous wounds it inflicted, caught my eye. The reenactor also showed us a blunderbuss, which brought to my mind The Matchlock Gun, and his powder horn, which reminded me of Little House in the Big Woods.

Then, she decided to sit for a spell in front of the fire.

Pamela is testing the weight of a cannon ball and checking out a cannon.

Activities like this encampment fit really well into the science of relations because the environment is built for everyone to enjoy. Last Thursday and Friday, local third-graders took field trips to the encampment. Friday night, reenactors led groups of fourteen people into the woods for a lantern walk in which we were being accosted by Hessian soldiers in the middle of the swamp, saw a Tory prisoner escape and get shot, and watched the barber put leeches on some poor schmuck with a musket wound, etc. We heard sporadic gunfire as we tripped over tree roots on the path. I scouted the walk out for Pamela and, next year, I think she will be able to hand the sensory stress because she enjoys pretending. A situation in which people from all walks of life and of all ages share what they love is a perfect atmosphere for the science of relations.

We all relate to things in different ways. When Pamela saw the blacksmith, she connected the hot coals to the burned hand of Johnny Tremain while I thought about The Village Blacksmith. The air bellows and other engineering details fascinated Steve. I pointed out to Pamela that, while Johnny Tremain worked with silver, the blacksmith worked with iron. She added, "Iron age. Child's History of the World." She studied the blacksmith's wares and turned to the triangle to give it a few whacks!

One exciting moment was recalling a new vocabulary word Pamela has learned, not by writing a definition and using it in three sentences, but by focusing on context in wide and varied settings. I gave her the kettle and asked Pamela if she remembered the name of the metal. Her knee-jerk response was silver. I asked her to think about the color and Pamela smiled and slowly said, "Copper!" The copper kettle contained soapy water that we used to felt real sheep wool! The lady showed us the simple steps. Pamela wasn't exactly thrilled about the texture of the soap when we squeezed it out of the felted wool. I loved this connection to the handwork we have been doing, and it reminded me of what Mason said was the point of handwork that "he may know the feel of wood, clay, leather, and the joy of handling tools, that is, that he may establish a due relation with materials" (Page 31).

Francis Marion, who was a sickly child, encouraged all his patriots to drink vinegar water to stay healthy and ward off mosquitos. The smell of vinegar didn't thrill Pamela, and the glories of leeches creeped out Steve and I. Fortunately, no bloodsuckers were on display. Pamela loved the rope bed with its hay-stuffed mattress. She thought of Ricitos de Oro y los tres osos while I recalled Heidi and the bed at her grandfather's house in the Alps.

Pamela's favorite stop reminded me of a trading post with a table of delights that Pamela explored thoroughly. She stayed here the longest and enjoyed all of its delights. It had a bone, obsidian arrowhead, bag of musket balls, lens, turtle-shell rattles, a kalimba, beadwork, knives, cups, elk rawhide, almost anything a patriot could imagine. That table alone was a wide and varied curriculum that provided scope for the imagination!


Bonnie said...

I love all the literature associations. I do that all the time ~~ hoping those around me know the books if the title or character comes out of my mouth. Lovely day.

Melissa said...

We have something similar in our area, and we go every year...LOVE it!