Monday, October 20, 2008

You had to be there...

After telling the docent at the zoo an earful until she looked at me bewildered and asked how old he was, Matthew told me enthusiastically on the way out, "Mom, all you have to do to be smart is just READ MORE! You can learn ANYTHING from books!"

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Pictures of our Springfield trip

Sorry! Brain death has occurred here, I suppose. Here are the pictures that were supposed to accompany the below post (thanks, Pam!). ;)

The indoor New Salem pictures are much brighter (due to my flash) than they actually were. The interior of the buildings were so very dark and dim. I was amazed at how dark the school was - all they had for lighting was the fireplace, about 5 taper candles on the chandelier and the tiny row of windows you see. Since this was the only spot that had a desk type surface, I assume that was the only place they actually read and practiced writing. The rest of the class engaged in repeating their teacher. They called this a "blab" school. You can read more about the school here.

New Salem, Onstot Residence:

New Salem #2:

New Salem's school/church:

Lincoln's Home in Springfield:

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fall is Officially HERE!!

Yippeeeeeeeeee! Did I tell you that this is my absolute FAVORITE season?? I can't pick a favorite fall activity (as I asked you to do in my last post) because I just love them all, though my fall allergies do make things like hay rides and bond fires a little less fun.

I know I've been quiet lately and I have lots of things to share so let's get started:
First, some housekeeping...I need to correct a couple things from the post about my grandfather. In WWII, he was actually in the Army. He didn't join the National Guard until he came home. Also (my mother was very quick to point out), his car of choice was ALWAYS a Chevy. I'm not sure why I put down 'Ford' except maybe that's what I used to drive?? Anyway, he was a genuine Chevy guy through-and-through.

So onto new business...
It's been a crazy busy month. Matthew turned eight years old in the beginning of September and I got into one of my crazy organizing moods. These moods don't strike often at all so I had to jump at the opportunity. So I was busy planning and organizing up to his birthday. Meanwhile, it struck me that Hubby was turning the big ol' 4-0 near the end of Sept and that I should do something a little extraordinary. At first, I was planning a surprise party but then remembered he didn't seem overly pleased with the one I threw for him at 35 so I scratched that idea after about a week. But what to do?? I still wanted something special and it slowly dawned on me that hey...for the first time in 9 years, I wasn't pregnant and/or nursing anyone! We could actually take a romantic trip...just the TWO of us! So I got busy coming up with ideas on places to go. We wanted to keep the trip semi-local for various reasons. Since we've both seen many places in Missouri, when the idea of Springfield, IL, came up, it seemed like a great idea.

Springfield, IL, is the hometown of Abraham Lincoln, mostly thought of as our 'best' President. He was born in Kentucky and spent most of his childhood moving around. His mother died when he was nine years old and his father re-married. It is thought that his step-mother was influential in prompting him to read but he did teach himself. At age 22, he left his family and set up near Springfield in the town of New Salem, IL. He was hired by a man to carry goods on a flatboat from New Salem down to New Orleans. Imagine the adventure he must have had! He tried out several different trades in New Salem including serving in the Black Hawk War (he saw no action), Postmaster of New Salem, running a store for a few years, surveyor, rail splitting (hence his nickname of "Rail Splitter"), helping at the mill, and running as a candidate for State Legislator (an election which he lost). His interest in the law (which started as a boy in Indiana), led him to start studying it more thoroughly. He worked up legal documents for friends and argued some cases. He traveled 20 miles to Springfield to borrow legal books from a friend's law office. In New Salem, he was granted his law license and granted admission to the bar.

What a great unschooling way of life! Trying your hand at many different careers, traveling to the deep south where the way of life was *much* different in that time, teaching yourself. He taught himself all he needed to know about law. He didn't have any formal law training. I know it was a simpler day back then but imagine so immersing yourself in something you loved that you could make a good living at it without colleges and loans you pay forever and dorms and all the extra headaches we have associated with it today. It's fascinating to think about.

After his roughly six years in New Salem, he saw the dying town for where it was headed and moved to Springfield. There he met his wife (who also has an interesting story herself), married, started a family and ran for more political positions. Twelve years later, running on a third-party ballot (yes, EVERY vote does count!), he was leaving for the White House lawn.

I've told you before that, in school, history was my most hated class. It was boring and just a memorization of dates, names, parties and wars. I understood the premise of learning from the past so you wouldn't repeat the same mistakes but history was taught in a very dead way to me. I did what I *had* to do to keep my mother happy content from raking me over the coals (I got C's in history classes) but I loathed history. In my lack of foresight, I took a history class as zero-hour one year in high school. [This was an optional class that ran an hour ahead of 'regular school' so that I could choose an additional elective class that was that important to me.] As you can imagine, an extra early class on a subject I loathed was not a good choice and I remember sleeping through quite a bit of class time (Mom, please don't yell at me now - there's no point. ;) ).

We toured the restored New Salem ghost town, we toured Lincoln's home in Springfield and we visited the *totally awesome* Lincoln Library and Museum (2005) in Springfield (which, unfortunately didn't allow photos). In the museum, they had amazing scene after scene of pieces of Lincolns life, from the White House bedroom scene of the death of one of their boys (they lost 3 out of 4), to the recreated Ford's Theater assassination. If you're ever driving through Springfield, it's definitely worth a few hours (though it took us five hours to get through it all - of course, we took our time).

Before this trip, I knew roughly what most other American's know about him...he was President during the Civil War, he ended slavery, he is revered as our 'best' President in most circles and he was one of two Presidents assassinated in office. But this weekend, Lincoln came alive to me and I doubt I'll ever think of him...or politics or slavery or life in the 1800's the same way again. I learned more about Lincoln and the Civil War during those five hours than I ever learned in school.

It was a great weekend and a great time for learning. I can't wait to take the kids! Maybe next spring??

Hopefully now that life has resumed to somewhat 'normal', I'll be blogging a bit more. Though, it *is* costume-making season. And I have lots of 'field trips' in store - apple picking and farm visiting and fall craft making and that leads us right into hunting season (for Hubby, not me) and Thanksgiving and Christmas. Wow, is it really almost here? It was a chilly 65 degrees in the house this morning - I guess it's time for the heater and long pants and jackets...I can hardly wait!