Monday, February 23, 2009

Colonial Life and The American Revolution

When I sat down to write about our Revolutionary War and Colonial unit, I quickly realized it would take more than one post. What started out as a two-week unit, grew into a two-month study. This turned out to be a high-interest subject for Superman, and the girls had fun with it too. We officially wrapped it up this past Monday.

So, here you go...installment number one of our adventures!

One of my goals for this unit was for the kids to experience an authentic taste of Colonial life. The result was a very hands-on, project-based unit.

I found three books that provided a wealth of ideas and directions for some fun projects, games, and recipes:

More Than Moccasins: A Kid's Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life (A Kid's Guide series)

Colonial Days: Discover the Past with Fun Projects, Games, Activities, and Recipes (American Kids in History Series)

Revolutionary War Days: Discover the Past with Exciting Projects, Games, Activities, and Recipes (American Kids in History Series)

We began our trip back in time the week before Thanksgiving with a brief look at Jamestown, Plymouth, and the Native Americans who welcomed those first colonists. You can see pictures and details of the Native American portion of our studies here.

After taking a break for our Christmas mini-unit and the holidays, we traveled back to the days leading up to and surrounding the American Revolution.

After the first few days of reading books about things such as the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere's Ride, the writing of the Declaration, and Washington crossing the Delaware, it was exciting to see the kids wanting to act out these events on their own. This was a costume that Superman was inspired to put together after our visit to George Washington's home, Mt. Vernon. Since this is my child who hasn't matched up an outfit to wear in his entire life (and doesn't care to try), I was shocked when he marched into the family room one day wearing his Daddy's old uniform jacket, a tricorn hat, a pair of khakis rolled up to look like colonial breeches, and a pair of long white baseball socks with his Sunday dress shoes. He looked pretty darn authentic!

After we read When Mr. Jefferson Came to Philadelphia: What I Learned of Freedom, 1776 by Ann Turner, Superman crushed blueberries to make ink for a quill pen. (This link has good info. and directions.)

Trying his hand at writing the Colonial way. This turned out to be one of the kids' favorite projects. They stayed at the table almost an hour writing with their quills.

When there was time for games, most colonial families had to make their own. We made a gameboard for "Patriots and Redcoats", which is based on a popular strategy game of the era called "Fox and Geese". Constructing this gameboard provided us with some unexpected living math lessons such as measuring, constructing squares and rectangles, counting, and problem-solving. Oh, and it was a pretty fun game too!

Another entertainment for some colonial children, especially girls, was embroidering a sampler to practice their needlework skills. (Superman was comforted to learn that even some boys stitched samplers!) Samplers included various things such as the alphabet, inscriptions, perhaps the house the needleworker lived in, floral borders, and the child's name and age. The final product was usually framed and displayed in a place of honor over the mantelpiece. We read the book Our Colonial Yearby Cheryl Harness, and then Superman and Giggly Girl each embroidered the outline of their hand. The idea for our samplers came from Cindy over at Our Westward Journey. I thought this was a great idea for a keepsake project that will definitely be framed and displayed in a prominent place in our own home! (You really should check out the Colonial and Revolutionary War activities that Cindy and her kids have done.)

Also I highly recommend the book Our Colonial Year, which we read the day we began the samplers. It depicts various activities happening throughout the year in the thirteen colonies. The pictures are colorful and provide lots of details of colonial life that make for some great discussions. You see crops being harvested, newspapers being printed, children playing Colonial games on a village green, and a little girl stitching a sampler, among other interesting scenes. We actually read this book on several occasions as a jumping off point for whatever project we were working on that particular day. In one picture, a girl is milking a cow while another is churning butter. After one reading, we churned butter and served it during dinner. Another day we read this story, pointing out the candles we could find, and then we dipped our own. It also has a great map of the thirteen colonies in the back that my kids really enjoyed looking at. Can you tell that we loved this book?

I think that should do it for this first post. Part two will be up soon!
(Update: Part Two and Part Three are finished.)

Have a great week!


  1. Hey Shannon!
    I tried leaving a comment yesterday, but couldn't get the word verification to come up. I'm trying again today to thank you for linking to me. :) Looks like you've had a wonderful study!!

    Have fun at the aquarium! I don't think I knew we live in the same general area.

  2. What a great study! I had so many plans to do neat things when we studied the Revolutionary War... and we just didn't get around to it. I know your kids will remember their time with this study as something fun. I'll look foward to installment #2!

  3. Thanks for sharing all your good ideas and great finds! We haven't studied the American Revolution in depth yet. All the background is there, but my son wants to learn about all the battles. And when I think about it, he probably already knows more about that than I. ;)

  4. I knew there had to be a Chicago Review Press book about Native Americans--I have been searching for something for two months now!!! And our town library even owns the title. I just put it on hold.

    Thanks for submitting these great activities to the Hands On Homeschool blog carnival!

  5. I am so excited to have stumbled across your blog earlier today! I am hoping to do some unit studies, in addition to FIAR, and American History is where we are going to start. Thanks for sharing your time and your talent :) You have a beautiful family. I look forward to using some of the resources you have suggested.


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