G.S.S.T.A.- Colonial America

Grade School the Second Time Around– This series of posts begs to answer the question, “Did I actually learn all this stuff when I was in grade school and then just forgot it, or am I learning it all  fresh now, the second time around? ”  

Our final unit in fourth grade social studies is devoted to the American Colonies and the Revolutionary War. Personally, I find this topic fascinating. Too bad most of our students have checked out mentally, already dreaming of summer vacation. It’s a bit hard to absorb anything, especially a lot of American history that way.

I’ve learned a lot, though! Here are some of the more interesting tidbits…

  • Colonial housewives used live chickens as chimney sweeps. Apparently, they dropped the bird down the chimney and as it fell the flapping and flailing of it’s wings would knock the dust and suet off the walls. (guess the Founding Fathers weren’t real big on animal rights.)
  • Young boys and girls would both attend beginning school, called “Dame School” to learn basic letters and facts. After that, however only the boys were permitted to go on to grammar school. The girls returned home to learn “domestic sciences” from their mothers. (apparently, they didn’t care much about women’s rights either…)
  • “Dame School” by Thomas Webster

    In the winter months, student were required to bring their own wood from home to fuel the school house stove. (And my students complain about the weight of their backpacks!)

  • Some Colonial homes had beds that folded up into the wall to allow extra living space during the day, like our more modern Murphy beds.

  • The size of the wig you wore (a very popular accessory for men and women during this time) reflected directly on your wealth. The bigger the wig, the richer the wearer.
  • George Washington (when he wasn’t wearing his wig), was a brunette.
  • Even though, historically, King George usually get the blame as being the “bad guy” during the revolution, he was only 22 years old at the time and was probably leaning heavily on the advice of his Prime Minister George Grenville.

Are you feeling any smarter? Bet I remember more about this chapter in American history than any of our fourth grade students will! Maybe I’ll quiz them in the fall…😊


The Bearded Men

Things are getting pretty hairy around my house but I can’t complain because it’s for a good cause. My husband and son are taking part in No Shave November. For those unfamiliar, this is an event that started in 2009 and is focused on raising awareness in men’s health issues. Men all over participate by growing facial hair sometimes as a fundraiser or sometimes just for solidarity. Hubby is participating with the other men at work. My son just hates to shave so I’m not sure about his true motivation!

The other males in my husband’s family, his dad, brother and uncle, have all had full beards for as long as I’ve known them (rumor has it that my father-in-law was born with his beard but I’ve not seen any photographic evidence 😉). Hubby had a mustache when we met and sported a beard for a short time when the kids were small but he’s been clean shaven for the last 15 years. Once , a year or so ago he started to grow a beard but when it came in more gray than brown he promptly shave it off! I guess now at the ripe old age of 53 he has decided to embrace the gray. Personally, I think he looks rather distinguished even if it is a little scratchy.

Young Mr D, as I said, avoids shaving no matter what month it is. If he ever was motivated to pick up a razor, it was because of a girl and he is currently unattached. The problem is that his facial hair is hit or miss. He has a great set of mutton chops an a bit of a goatee but nothing in between! It drives me crazy but I can’t start nagging again till December 1st.

In honor of No Shave November, I did a little research on facial hair. It was quite enlightening. For instance, did you know…

  • Abraham Lincoln, the 16th U.S. President, was the first to have facial hair and William Howard Taft, who left office in 1913, was the last. So the Oval Office has been clean shaven for over 100 years!
  • Professional airline pilots are required to be clean shaven to insure a tight seal with auxiliary oxygen masks. Similarly, firefighters and other jobs may prohibit beards because of the need to wear masks or respirators.
  • In Amish society men shave until they are married then they grow a beard and are never without one from then on.
  • In the Middle-Age Europe, a beard displayed a knight’s virility and honour and apparently holding somebody else’s beard was a serious offence that had to be righted in a duel. (Yikes!)
  • There are numerous type of beards, many with clever and interesting names like Chinstrap, Chin Curtain, Monkey Tail, Old Dutch, Van Dyke, Hollywoodian, Designer Stubble (really) and my favorite Friendly Mutton Chops (not to be confused with with the unfriendly ones). 😊

So that’s my ode to facial hair. It will certainly be a topic around here for a few more weeks. If you want to take part or just find out more about No Shave November go to No-Shave.org.

Who’s the first person you think of when it comes to “famous beards”?

Literary Time Travel,

If I could have a super power I would choose the ability to travel through time. Maybe that’s not really considered a super power but whatever. I’d choose it anyway and I would only travel backwards in time. Not forward. I’m okay with the mystery of what’s to come. I don’t really want to know about the future but I would like to experience first hand some of the things that I have read about or seen in photos.

I could watch Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettyburg Address. I could visit the 1893 Chicago World Fair and ride the Ferris wheel. I could get to know my parents when they were my age. The list goes on. This desire for time travel fuels my choice in books as well. Historical fiction is one way to travel through time and I do enjoy that genre but what I really love is a book that deals with time travel itself.

In that vein, I thought I would share a list of my favorite time travel books. They are arranged according to their publication dates. Each one, in my opinion is an exciting ride.

The Time Machine –H.G. Wells (1895)

  You can’t really discuss literary time travel without starting here. Wells Time Traveler goes forward in time which is not my preferred direction but the thrill is still there. Being able to set a date on a dial and send yourself to that place and see what the future holds is a staggering idea! I actually saw the film version with Rod Taylor years before I read the book.  As a result, I can’t read this with out picturing the blue skinned morlocks and the mannequin the Time Traveler observes changing her fashion as he moves forward in time.

Time and Again- Jack Finney (1970)

 Though written in 1970, I only recently discovered this book on a Goodreads top ten list. In this story a bored New York City advertising man is approached by a government agency interested in recruiting him for a secret experiment in time traveling. The quirk in this time travel theory (because of course every author has their own), is that the traveler has to be in a place that existed during the time they wish to travel to. Our hero moves into the historic Dakota apartment building on Central Park and begins to immerse himself in the past. We learn about New York during the turn of the century and experience life through the eyes of someone who knows what the future brings. 

Timeline- Michael Crichton (1999)

 This book has been a favorite of mine for quite some time (pardon the pun). In this a group of archeologists working on a dig in France discover a message buried in the dig site that appears to be a plea for help written in English and in handwriting that appears to belong to their missing team leader. Eventually through the use of quantum physics, they are transported back to 14th century France in order to rescue their friend. I think what appeals to me most about this story is that the characters are a group of historians and academics who have researched and obsessed about this particular time period only to be dropped into the middle of it like kids in a candy shop! They can actually see what they have only theorized about. Also, if you have ever read anything by Michael Crichton (Jurrasic Park, Airframe, The Adromeda Strain) you know that he never does anything half way. He’s done so much research into quantum physics and multi verse theory and explains it so logically that you almost believe time travel could be possible. On a side note, this book was made into a really bad movie. If you’ve seen it, please don’t judge the story based on that.

11/22/63- Stephen King (2011)

 And then there’s this, the novel that asks the question that everyone who has considered time travel has thought about: Is it possible to go back in time and change the past? I’m a little surprised that Stephen King had not tackled this subject before considering he is a master of the strange and unusual. I really enjoyed all of the historic detail King included in the story. I found myself reading up on Lee Harvey Oswald and the events leading up to Kennedy’s death just to find out more and to confirm the information being given in the novel. The hero is an ordinary guy who stumbles into the fantastic, a very likable guy who struggles with his moral duty and has to make some very difficult decisions. The ending of the book seemed to go on longer than was necessary but King’s tales tend to do that.

I’ve read others, but these are my favorite so far. I would love to hear your thoughts on these books or some recommendations for further time travel adventure I could take!

D is for Descendant

descendant [dih-sen-duh nt]: a person or animal that is descended from a specific ancestor; an offspring.

I am the descendant of a man whose given name was James. Both his parents were from Ireland but he was born in Manchester, England on July 16, 1841. He came to America in 1862 and settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His occupation was listed as “lithographer”.

I am also the descendant of a woman whose given name was Wilhelmina but everyone called her “Mina”. She was born on May 10, 1876 in Fllingen, Wurttemberg – a village that is now part of Germany. She came to America in 1884 with her husband Karl who was an engineer.

Everyone is someone’s descendant. Do you know your story?