I think it is valuable to show children where battles were fought.
Gettysburg’s field of battle was only 4 acres in size. Over 7,800 soldiers died. Those are just numbers. But standing on the field and realizing how small that was, how gruesome the sight would be… If you can check out a reinactment, it would be even better. Make a famous site 3D in a child’s mind, and they will never forget it.
Not that travel is the end all in historical learning. But if you take travel and couple it with other outlets, it can be powerful. Imagine seeing the movie (or air show reinactment) of Torah! Torah! Torah!, reading a first person source account of the morning of the Japanese attack, and then standing in Pearl Harbor. Now that is learning! A one page dry accounting of the battle that brought the US in to World War II in a history book just doesn’t cut it.
I hope to give my children a more real vision of history than I had growing up. I know my vision of pre-Civil War America was very skewed, because of the southern doctorine I was fed and because of the limitations of the written word.
Intolerance is learned, it isn’t something they are born with – and I say this because studies support it as well as my personal experience with my children. If you raise them without prejuidice, they don’t have it. So when they encounter slavery when reading Mark Twain, it can be confusing. Slavery is a very tough topic for children to understand.
I struggled to teach Claire about the Civil War, slavery, and the Abolutionists. Then we took a trip to Barrington Farm next to Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park. There is a lovely, large clean home that the Lamar family lived in. It is full of light, airy, and their clothing was elaborate and nice. Then we went to the slave quarters. They were dark, tiny, the clothing was tattered, and it was immediately clear to Claire the difference in quality of life. Add that to the first hand knowledge she has about how prickly cotton bolls from her Grandparents’ farm and how hard it would be to pick cotton all day, and I feel like she has as clear a picture of the political climate of the times and the reasons for the Civil War as a 6 year old can.
This is a picture of my children at Washington-On-The-Brazos. For the non-Texas reader, this is where Texas became a nation. Formerly part of Mexico, the Texians (as they were called at the time), debated and agreed upon a Declaration of Independence – even as the Alamo was under siege. The children had been to the Alamo a few months before, and it brought the experience full circle. They could imagine how packed the room was, the gravity of the situation, and how important the decisions made were. Exciting!
Checking out cliff dwellings in Arizona over 700 years older than our home can help understand another hard topic – the advancement of mankind. My kids are so young, they don’t know what a CD or a VHS is. They have always had the internet, and I remember Claire asking me when she was two to go to “Unicorn.com” because she wanted to see a picture of a unicorn and she understood the naming structure of URLs. Taking that type of kid to a cliff dwelling is far better than trying to explain that there was a time that people lived in houses without A/C. Minds blown!
My kids are little, and their problems are little. They priviledged enough to live in a happy home with attentive parents. Situations that constitute massive dramatic events are trivial in nature.
Seeing that Abraham Lincoln lived in a tiny one room cabin, worked hard and became such an important figure in history helps put things in perspective. Checking out the Wupatki ruins and understanding that their whole lives were wiped out by a volcano can make not meeting Ariel at Disneyland seem like a ridiculous thing to worry about. It also showed tenacity, where a people flourished even though the desert provided them nothing but hardship.
Hopefully, you see the importance of historical travel with children. Nature is great to connect with, and amusement parks sure can be fun. But, because historical travel can help your kids understand so much about human nature, it is invaluable to helping them build their world view.
Is there a historical destination you think every child should visit?