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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Our Civil War Unit Study

It's hard to imagine that 150 short years ago, our country was in the middle of a horrific civil war.  I tried to put it in perspective for the kids, by saying that the war was going on a mere 60 years before their great grandma Lenore was born.  I suppose that even 60 years ago seems incomprehensible to a child, but it's really quite amazing how fast our country has changed in a fairly short period of time, isn't it?!

We normally take the summer off from school, but Millie wanted to continue on with history, so we used the past 3 months to learn all about the Civil War.  Here's what we did:

  • We checked out a lot of really great books about the Civil War from the library.  The most useful one was Great Civil War Projects, but really, they were all amazing.  
  • After that, I printed out this fantastic teaching packet (I printed from page 19 on), complete with worksheets and a map.  We worked on the map and the vocabulary worksheet, so she'd be familiar with some of the terminology before we got started.  
  • Next we read about what life was like for slaves before the war began.  We read The Strength of These Arms, Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, and Children of the Emancipation
  • We watched PBS Civil War (a Ken Burns documentary), which is streaming on Netflix.  I let the kids play with legos while they watched, but the show was so engaging that Millie watched almost the entire thing.  We didn't watch all of the episodes, only the first and third.  
  • Because it's the 150th anniversary of the war, the history museum has a lot of really great educational events going on.  The Minnesota History Museum hosted a night of civil war music, dancing, and yard games.  It was fun to see the band play the drums and fife.  Everyone got up and learned a few dances including the schottische.  Here is a series of youtube videos that show people in period costume, dancing popular dances from the civil war era.   The girls had a chance to play popular yard games, including a clothespin toss, and ring toss:

  • Millie started reading the American Girl Addy book, but couldn't stomach it.  Instead, we read about what Addy's life would have been like in the Addy Cookbook.  Millie made an entire slaves breakfast  (eggs, buttermilk biscuits, and fried apples) by herself!  Everyone enjoyed it, although we could have done with fewer onions in the eggs ;)

  • Next, we read about the importance of photography during the civil war.  We read Great Civil War Projects pages 19-21, then looked through a book of photos taken during the war.  I was amazed to learn that photographers would arrange dead bodies to make the scenes look more horrifying. 
  • I allowed her to cut out pictures from the photography book to use in a series of letters that she was to write between two characters that she made up, from the civil war era.  She chose to write letters between a fictional brother and sister.  Prior to writing the letters, we read a few twitter feeds that contain snippets from actual letters from a husband and wife (Lizzie Bowler and James Madison Bowler)  from Minnesota, that were separated during the war.   
  • We made a trip out to Historic Fort Snelling on Civil War Day.  We did a little scavenger hunt, talked with a few history players, visited what is believed to be Dred Scott's actual quarters (!!!), and really got a feel for what life was like for the soldiers that lived there.  The most interesting thing I learned, was that about 400-1000 women fought in the Civil War, disguised as men.  

  • We (by "we" I mean Bud and I.  Millie wouldn't shoot it) got to shoot a weapon from the Civil War.  Below is a picture of the weapon, along with the "get up" you would have seen it with during the war.

  • There are a lot of activities that I would have loved to have done with the girls this summer, but we ran out of time.  Among those activities include making corn husk dolls, baking hardtack, making a housewife kit, and sewing a quit square.  I imagine we'll get to the corn husk doll eventually...

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