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July 08, 2008

Never Too Early to Learn History

MaryTwo weekends ago, after visiting my in-laws in Hagerstown, we drove around for a while and found ourselves near Antietam, where my husband and I visited on our honeymoon. We decided to drive past the Bavarian Inn, where we stayed, and drive through the battlefields so we could show the kids where we had gone. What we didn't count on is their reactions.

"Mom, can we go in? Can we go see?" Everyone but the baby was clamoring to get out and learn what happened there. So despite my reservations that they are too young to learn about that time in our nation's history, we got out and took the tour.

We went through the museum, we attended a ranger talk, we visited monuments and markers. We told them very briefly about the civil war, about slavery and states' rights, heavy subjects for such young minds. We ran across Burnside Bridge and told them how a small number of Georgia soldiers held off a far larger number of Union forces for hours before the Union finally prevailed, though to this day no is certain why both sides fought so hard for a bridge over a creek that you can walk across. They went up the observation tower. We walked through cemeteries and read the names on the headstones. They were well behaved, respectful, and reverent, and they had a great time. They were really interested, which boggles my mind because at that age I would have been bored to tears to walk around battlefields for hours learning about a war that was over my head.

So we decided to go for broke. We took them to the reenactment at the 145th anniversary of the battles at Gettysburg on July 4th.

It rained all day long, and the fact that the two times I've been to Gettysburg it has rained made me think I've been jinxed. But there were so many things going on that it was only distracting. There was a living history village, there were thousands of reenactors, including women and children, and my kids thought it was fascinating. The fact that we've been reading the Little House books probably caused some of their enthusiasm, but it was so nice to see them get excited over history. They actually paid attention to most of the battles (they went on a bit long to hold my kids' interest the whole time) and they thought the little stores full of period clothing and tools were "neat." We bought the girls sunbonnets and our older son a kepi, which is the little caps that the soldiers wore. We let him pick his color, but he hesitated, and my husband asked him what the problem was. "Which one is the good guys, Dad?" he whispered. A complicated question, to be sure, but he's quite happy with his Union cap.

I don't know how many years it will be before he can understand that he has ancestors that fought on both sides of the war, both sides of people who were the good guys and the bad guys all at the same time. But whatever the impetus may be, I'm glad they are interested in learning about our history.

Original DC Metro Moms post. When she's not hanging out at Gettysburg in the pouring rain, Mary/FishyGirl blogs at The Fish Pond.

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