Sunday, March 8, 2009

Colonial Life/American Revolution Part 3: Candles and No Running Water

For the grand finale to our adventures in Colonial America, we spent an afternoon making hand-dipped candles, which we used later that evening as we stepped back in time to the 18th century.

Even though I knew that this project would be something the kids would really get into, I put it off for several weeks because honestly, I had no idea what I was doing and didn't want any burns or huge messes!

Nevertheless, I finally psyched myself up for it, gathered the supplies, and asked hubby to take our three-year old out - somewhere, anywhere - for a very long time. :)

After getting everything set up, I placed two chairs in front of the stove for the kids to stand in, and then laid down some firm ground rules. Under no circumstances could they touch ANYTHING (including each other) unless I told them to. I was very clear that if a safety rule was broken, they were done with the candle-dipping.

Here's what we did...

We broke a 2 lb. block of candle wax (purchased at Michael's) into small chunks and placed into a metal coffee can. Placed the can into a large pot of water on the stove. Heated the pot on low until the wax melted. At times I had to adjust the temp. some while we were working in order to keep the wax from cooling but not burning either. This was not that difficult. I just kept my flame very low the entire time we worked. (CAUTION: Melted wax can burn you! If you try this, do not touch it and do not let the wax touch an open flame.)

We used pre-made wicks from Michael's. We held the metal disc at one end of the wick while carefully dipping the other end into the hot wax. We counted to thirty in between each dip to allow time for the wax to cool. This is what the tapers looked like after about ten dips. After this many layers of wax, we were able to dip the candles into a cup of cold water for faster cooling in between each wax dip. This helped the process to go much faster.

The finished product! We lost count, but I imagine this was after about fifty dips.

I want to add that after I got the kids started, they did all of the dipping themselves. I obviously stood right by them to keep them steady on the chairs and help them if they needed me.

The entire process took close to an hour, and I was amazed that they kept at it steadily until they were finished - no complaints about being tired even though it was hot over the stove, and there was no sitting down on this job! They were extremely pleased with their hard work, and I was proud of their perseverance.

At dinner that night we cut off every light in the house, lit our two hand-dipped tapers, and spent our evening as a colonial family might have done...

After our meal, we washed our hands in a pan of water, cleared the table, and Daddy read aloud from the Bible. Afterwards the kids put on a play about the Crossing of the Delaware, sang some songs, and then we all played the popular colonial game of leap frog.

The kids - and Mom and Dad - had a ball, and we still have our candle stubs sitting on the counter because we just can't bear to throw them away. The project and the candlelit evening made for a wonderful family memory that we won't soon forget.

So if you've got a project that you think you're kids would love, but you're hesitant to try it because it might be a flop or just too much trouble, I encourage you to bite the bullet and give it a whirl. You might be pleasantly surprised at the results!

To see more of our Colonial Life/American Revolution unit, check out part one and part two of this series.


  1. Wow, you make me seem like a slacker! How fun and memorable that must have been for them.

    T@SendChocolate and Sweet Schoolin'

  2. Those look SO neat Shannon, great job being patient with the kiddos! Sounds like a wonderful day and evening they won't forget.


  3. I have wanted to do this with my kiddos for some time now. Seeing you guys in pictures has inspired me to just DO it! What a proud moment to be able to light up the room with something that you created. Oh, what a beautiful of picture of God's love lighting up our hearts. I'd love for you to share this at my history blog carnival.

  4. I am glad to have found your blog, and I will be back for some great tips! I have been homeschooling for 5 years (my daughter is in 5th grade now)and we are in the process of moving to the Northeastern corner of Virginia - so next year will be all about the history! You've posted some great ideas to use, thanks.

  5. That is fabulous! I love the whole idea of doing things like a colonial family. What a great learning experience and family time for all of you!

  6. The carnival is up! Come take a peek and thank you for participating!

  7. Shannon,
    What great fun. thanks for sharing the pictures as well, it really speaks volumes for real life learning. Thanks again,


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