Civil War Living History Day: You Must Live it to Appreciate the Past

When I was in school I despised history class. I associated history with memorizing dates and places. There was no humanness to it. Homeschooling has allowed us to read numerous stories within history. This could be historical fiction, biographies or good nonfiction books that capture the essence of the time periods we want to learn about. Documentaries and good historical fiction television series have also engaged my children and have turned them into history lovers. strong>History is fascinating ! As a psychologist I have a natural curiosity of human nature and history gives me a picture of how societies have evolved and learned from the past.

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Perhaps one of our favorite ways to learn about history is living history days. If you follow my blog you will probably see many living history posts. Living history transports you back in time like no textbook possibly could.

Today was Civil War Days and here is a snapshot of what my kids learned in a half day.

They learned about cotton and its importance in our country in the 1800’s. The interpreter discussed the Eli Whitney and the cotton gin. We have heard how time consuming it is to remove seeds from cotton but they got to experience for themselves how tedious the job was before the cotton gin.

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Next they learned about famous and infamous people in the Civil War. Everyone knows Lincoln or Robert E Lee but we also learned about other people , such as George Cook and Pierre Beaureguard. The kids also got an excellent explanation of the causes of the Civil War.

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The kids also learned to sew like a soldier would have learned back then. A soldier had a “housewife”, which was a satchel of needle and thread to repair their own uniform on the field. The kids had fun practicing with their needle and thread.

Perhaps the most favorite activity was the soldier drills. The kids were soldiers and learned how to march in close formation, load their weapon and fire their weapon. They really got a sense of how difficult it was to stay
bet close to one another and load a weapon less than inches from your neighboring soldiers.

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The last interpreter was an African American soldier from the Union. He told stories of African American soldiers and reasons the soldiers chose to fight, which differed in the North vs the South.

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After this experience my kids wanted to learn more about the Civil War period. We watched a short video about Frederick Douglass. We got out our Maps of America the Beautiful and colored according to the key, learning about the key points of the war.

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We concluded by reading aloud If You Lived at the Time of the Civil War, an interactive book that tells the story of living through the Civil War as a Northerner and a Southerner.

Although we were not currently studying the Civil War my kids became passionate about the topic after attending this Living History Day and attending a Civil War battle reenactment a couple week before. When history comes alive , the result is passionate learning in the minds and hearts of children!

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About Jennifer Walker, MS

I currently blog about mindfulness, meaningful life-learning, Montessori and Childhood Apraxia of Speech.
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