Saturday, November 15, 2014


 Jamestown, you lovely, lovely place. I think Andy cemented more learning in one day than we had been tossing at him for two months.

Though it probably helped that we had been talking about colonial life for two months before we went.

It was going to be the last lovely day for a while, so we picked up Grandma and headed down to stomp about Jamestown and see what we could learn from reconstruction. Andy was totally excited about the trip, and had a blast. He got my old phone to take with him to use as a camera, and initially took plenty of pictures- until he got distracted by the boats. Then he was too busy.

He loved the Indian village. They had plenty of folks out in costume (apparently this is a popular time of year for school groups to come), and most were super nice and patient, even as Andy had to pace. He liked taking a good look at the homes. He loves corn grinders, and spent a good deal of time grinding- good heavy work for the arms and joints.

The shelves and compact nature of the homes also interested him. He looked at the storage pots and scaffolded shelving a long time, running from house to house to see the different ways the homes were set up. I think he was getting ideas for his own room...

He liked all of the animal skins, and took a few photos of a wolf skin in one house.

 He was fascinated by the daily activities presented in the village. Along with the grinding, he discovered cooking, pottery, canoe-hollowing, making fishnets, basketry, sewing, and making leather. The hands-on learning approach at the site really held him. He wanted to dig at the canoe, scrape the hair off the deerskin leather, touch the bone sewing tools. He got into the ring of ancestor posts, and noted how each carving was actually unique. He ran in and out of houses, and picked one that was "his", because he liked the way the house was arranged and cozy. He asked questions. Why weren't the needles sharp? What were they made of? How long did it take to make a pot? Did they have guns? Who did the cooking? What were these things in the baskets to be cooked (he didn't recognize dried pumpkin)?

It was amazing.

In our little museum back home, there is a miniature reconstruction of these houses. He likes it, but was really impressed by the ones at Jamestown- full-scale, and varying sizes as family sizes varied. 

 The one he picked for himself was a smaller one, with lots of animal skins and a very warm-looking bed. He tried it out, and said it was totally comfy. He would run around the village, checking things out, then go back to his "home" to check it out some more.

I was thrilled to see him actually show interest in what was around him. Watching him dart about, checking it out, thinking it through, perhaps he has been putting more into that head than we have been giving him credit for. Moving through the world may just help him process all that information.
Next up was the boat dock. Andy was thrilled to be able to go all over the boats, climbing up and down between the decks and even finding other kids to pretend they were adventuring. 

We got to bring out Treasure Island into the discussion as well- these were, after all, the kinds of boats in the book. The Susan Constant was the biggest of the boats at Jamestown- and smaller than the Hispaniola described by Stevenson. 

The folks on the boats were very willing to talk about them, so again, Andy got to ask questions. He also got to listen to answers. In talking with him after we left the boats, I was impressed how much he had heard and retained, even when I thought he was just running about with his new little friends. 

He was interested in the different decks, and that the Susan Constant was four stories- the hold, the lower deck, the crew cabins, and then the upper decks. He bounded between the layers, checking everything out. 

 Of course, the canons were of interest. The boy has a major collection of Nerf artillery. He discovered that canons are heavy and hard to maneuver.

The cabins again held much interest, as they were compact spaces with comfy beds. 
Very comfy beds. 

Then I had to explain that he would likely have to share that bed with his brother, switching off every four hours (one working, one sleeping). He was't too keen about that. 

 The officer's quarters were more to his liking, where the captain has his own cabin, and the officers were given more space to gather. He was allowed to "steer" the ship by pushing and pulling on the rudder- more lovely heavy work, and he did that for a long time.

He also likely the galley. In Treasure Island, the galley is described as a larger space below deck; on the Susan Constant, it's basically a little room with a berth and a brick fireplace for cooking. Pots and pans are stored in ready reach. Some of the other visitors were shocked that there was a brick structure on a boat, and Andy thought some of their reactions were amusing.
The Godspeed had been at a tall ship show in Baltimore, and we got to see it come in and dock. Andy decided he liked the Godspeed best, even though we weren't allowed on it. There is something magical about watching a boat sail in (even when it is cheating and using engines). 

 We then wandered up to Fort James. Andy has been working on a model of a settlement, but we haven't been that successful. The Minecraft model idea that originally started us on this adventure hasn't gone so well. We are now thinking a 3-D model, working with materials and putting it together in a diorama, might be more effective. So it was important to wander about and look at the homes of the Englishmen, and discuss how the spaces were made and used, the furnishings, the set-up of the fort in general. We found the blacksmith, the gardens, the well, the armory.

One of the cool things Jamestown does is it sits armor here and there, and the kids can wear it in the fort. Andy was delighted to try on a breastplate and a helmet. In fact, he checked out all the sets, and found the helmet and plate he felt suited him best- then spent the entire fort time wearing them.

His helmet included a little slot for a plume. He liked that- he felt it made him a fancy officer, not just a foot soldier.

The blacksmith was grinding up clay to make a furnace. Andy, who loves grinding corn, decided grinding clay was pretty good, too, though a little hot when wearing a helmet. The clay was from a previous furnace, and will be used to line the new one.

We found rich people's beds to be comfy, though in the end, he actually preferred the straw mattress on the floor. He said he liked the beds in the boat the best. 

 We found the meeting house, and Andy thought the pulpit was awesome. He clambered up, and began a speech, encouraging his fellow colonists to join him in a fight against unfairness in taxation from England.

He spoke about taxation. He spoke about the Boston Tea Party. He talked about King George being unfair. He talked about how the "British" thought of the colonists as "different", even when the colonists thought of themselves as British citizens.

Not a bad speech by a ten-year-old.

He wasn't as held by the gun room as I thought he would be. I think he was getting tired by the time we arrived, and many of the weapons he had seen at the Renaissance Faire.

He started instead meandering about the settlement, as if on inspection, looking at the details of things- the different guns in the compound, the plants in the gardens, where the woodpile was, the different wells, the cooking fire, the blacksmith, the chickens.

 We have the museum a pass for the day. We will do that another day. You can't take pictures in there, anyway, so not very blog-friendly. Andy had plenty to think about all the same.

Instead, we wandered over to the original Jamestown site, so he could see it was farther out in the bogs.

Then we swung about and ran over to Williamsburg, to pick up some ginger cookies and give him some "coming attractions."

 I remain disappointed that they no longer make the cookies on-site. One of the wonders of Williamsburg was how many things they made, with master craftsmen, right there in Williamsburg. Now they are not only baked elsewhere, they are individually wrapped. Sure, they stay fresher. But the scent of ginger that makes Williamsburg awesome? Gone.

Gone also are the brass-smiths, the candlemakers, the American artists and their crafts. Williamsburg used to be a mark of American quality. Now, it's all crap made in China. I think economics is one of the things Andy and I will be discussing when we do a full Williamsburg day.
 While we were there, they did start a little show-activity, where some of the costumed folks got up and started acting out a call to join the Revolution at Yorktown.  I asked a very tired child if he was ready to go- but no, he wanted to stay and listen. So of course, I let him.

It helped that apparently Williamsburg is all but abandoned on Wednesdays after 4. Seriously. We saw all of a dozen tourist people, and most of those turned out to be there for the little show, which was part of a paid thing. The kids lined up to "join up."

Once the fancy speeches were done, however, so was Andy. We headed for home.
Never fear. We will be back. 

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