Birthdays,  Ezra,  Homeschooling,  Travel

Colonial Williamsburg: Our Northern Star ~ Learning from History

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2020 held some of the highest highlights of my entire life. They vary from silly to personal to beautiful to those with eternal significance. I’m sharing these moments and blessings over the course of the next few posts. You can view the links to all the posts here: My 20 Top Moments & Blessings of 2020. This post is about our 2020 trip to Colonial Williamsburg, our 2021 trip to Colonial Williamsburg, and the lasting impact those trips have had on our lives.

I’m searching for the moment I knew Ezra loved history, but I can’t find that specific moment. Maybe it was in August of 2019 when he read aloud the entirety of Longfellow’s poem Paul Revere’s Ride in an accent. Maybe it was in January of 2020 when he spent 20 minutes reading the entirety of the Declaration of Independence aloud just for fun. Maybe it was when I gave him a stack of Felicity American Girl books and he devoured them all in a week’s time without even the slightest comment about them being girlish.

Nonetheless, he loves history. As have I, which makes him a joy to teach.

When we started homeschooling in June 2019, I had a grand vision to do an overview of the 50 states: one state per week, for a year.

A year later we had studied NINE states and Washington D.C.. I joked that we had been “held hostage by the colonies!” Once I started brushing up on my own understanding of early US history, I realized there was so much more to learn than I had ever learned.

So I reset in June of 2020. (For those of you unaware, we school year round, from June 1st to May 31st.) I found America’s Story, a curriculum that covers from 1492 to the 2000s over the course of three years. We could do this. I thought.

We are on Chapter 7. Of the first book. I quickly realized that they devote chapters 7-10 to the years between 1620 and 1775. Um, that’s just not gonna cut it.

Pulling from YouTube videos, historical fiction books, history comic books, documentaries, pictures books, narrated essays, and free downloads from Teachers Pay Teachers, I’ve crafted a homemade curriculum that deep-dives into the major events of these years. It’s been a lot. I’ve felt, quite honestly, guilty that we are so behind on history. At our current rate, we might not get to world history until high school, and I’m not sure I’m okay with that.

But it’s been amazing too.

In August of 2020, I sat on my deck, frustrated with special needs mom life, when I had the wondrous idea to take Ezra on a trip – just him and I – for his 10th birthday. 2020 had been challenging for us (pandemic plus injury were not a great combination), and Ezra had really stepped up. He was also turning 10 years old.

I realized that this year – 2020 – was the 400th anniversary of when the separatists landed in Plymouth. They also set sail from England on September 6th, two days before Ezra’s birthday. This couldn’t have been MORE PERFECT.

I had flights set to book. I had a hotel lined up. Adrenaline was coursing through me when I called my mother-in-law and asked her if I was crazy to do this. To go to Plymouth and Boston just me and my 10-year-old.

Then she burst my bubble. “You know, I think Massachusetts is one of those states that has travel restrictions and quarantines in place. You should check on that before you book things.”

STUPID COVID.

She was right. Scratch that idea. She mentioned, “Isn’t there someplace in Virginia you could go to? Some historic town or something? Like…maybe Jamestown?”

Things started looking up. I realized that Jamestown (which we had just studied) was only a 4.5 hour drive. And there was also Colonial Williamsburg nearby! And Yorktown! This could work! It wouldn’t be 400th-anniversary-of-Plymouth-landing epic, but good enough!

I was wrong.

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When we arrived in Colonial Williamsburg, Ezra seem agitated…and perhaps less interested in all the colonial things I thought he would like. He flitted from place to place without giving much sustained attention to any one thing. The Public Gaol (jail) was closed.

Colonial Williamsburg The Public Gaol

We toured the Capitol, which went surprisingly well. He asked a LOT of questions. Probably a bit too many. And then he got into an argument with the tour guide about why it was right for the colonists in Boston to dump tea in the harbor. I tried to hurry him along, even though the older people in our tour group were chuckling at his precocious comments.

Colonial Williamsburg capitol building

Colonial Williamsburg capitol building

The founding father, Patrick Henry, was to be speaking on the Charlton Stage at 2:45. We showed up at 2:45, only to be turned away due to maxed capacity. Getting there early hadn’t even occurred to me.

STUPID COVID.

It was hot. I was tired, and my injured leg was throbbing. He seemed uncomfortable in his own skin. I hadn’t planned enough drinks. We shared a soda, which I knew was probably a bad idea. Soda doesn’t help with his moods or ADHD.

I plopped down on a step to rest, but he was restless. I wasn’t sure what to do with ourselves. I figured that it was best if we just headed back to check into our campsite.

As we wandered down Duke of Gloucester Street, we passed two figures dressed in colonial garb having a rousing conversation in character. (I now know that this is called “first person historic interpretation,” but I was unaware of this at the time.)

Dr. John Galt and Sarah Trebell Colonial Williamsburg First Person Interpretation

Ezra became spellbound as he watched. But that wasn’t enough. He jumped in and began conversing with them, in full colonial character (as best a 10-year-old can, at least). In awe, I stood and watched my newly-minted 10-year-old debate colonial politics with real historical figures for the better part of 30 minutes, as a crowd gathered to watch. I couldn’t believe what was happening.

Sarah Trebell Colonial Williamsburg First Person Interpretation

Sarah Trebell Colonial Williamsburg First Person Interpretation

Sarah Trebell Colonial Williamsburg First Person Interpretation


Ezra’s new friends, Sarah Trebell (former owner of the Raleigh Tavern) and Dr. John Galt (apothecary), eventually had to take their leave. As did we, as dinner was calling and we were exhausted.

I had planned to spend the next morning in Colonial Williamsburg, as we had a 2-day-pass for homeschooling days, but then move on to Historic Jamestowne and the Jamestown Settlement (two separate experiences). We had spent far more time studying that portion of history than revolutionary history, and I really was ready to move on.

But Ezra wasn’t.

The next morning I asked him what he wanted to see and do during our last few hours in the historic city. His answer was, “I wanna find those two reenactors again and debate them some more. Did you see my speech? Oh, and I want to take a carriage ride.

Only one of those things I could control, so we made our way to the ticketing office to purchase a carriage ride. As far as, “Sarah and Johnie,” as they are now affectionately called, I had no idea if we would ever see them again.

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Our carriage came down Duke of Gloucester street, and Sarah and Johnie were tailing just behind. This was mere coincidence, of course, but the timing couldn’t have been more perfect! They bid us a good carriage ride, and “Mistress Sarah” let me know that, should (perchance) we make our way to the Wythe House after our carriage right, she might be able to facilitate an introduction to Patrick Henry (despite her own personal dislike for the man).

Colonial Williamsburg Carriage Ride

Colonial Williamsburg Carriage Ride

Colonial Williamsburg Carriage Ride

Colonial Williamsburg Carriage Ride

Colonial Williamsburg Carriage Ride

That is exactly what we did. As we waited for our turn to enter the yard of the Wythe house, Ezra got scolded for hanging from the trees, and “Sarah” and I whispered back and forth “behind the curtain,” as she said.

She mentioned what a gift this was to her and the other interpreters. With tears in my eyes, I was able to explain what a gift it was to ME.

Sarah Trebell Interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg

For those of you who do not know, Ezra is not a neurotypical child. He has ADHD, sensory differences, a mood disorder, and trouble regulating his emotions. Mothering him has not been easy. We have been told on multiple occasions not to come back to places due to Ezra’s disruptive behavior. This was not the case in Colonial Williamsburg.

As I emailed her and Dr. Galt after the fact,

It wasn’t until we started homeschooling until I really started to enjoy him. I always loved him, but couldn’t really see beyond the negative reports at the end of the day and the judgmental looks from others to see the beauty in him.

Homeschooling has been a gift to us because I’ve seen him blossom and learn. We may be in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade all at the same time. But he’s learning and loving it, and that’s all that matters.

Throughout the last decade, there has been a small handful of people – teachers, therapists, counselors, friends, and family – who have been able to look beyond the behaviors and see the amazing kid. Sometimes they’ve been able to see when I couldn’t. You two have joined that handful.

So I know you said that Ezra gave you a gift, but you gave ME a gift. While other interpreters or staff saw an impetuous, tree-climbing, interrupting odd-ball – you two saw his heart and soul. And you made sure he knew that what you saw was beautiful.

I know neither of us will ever forget his 10th birthday – the one he spent 45 minutes debating colonial politics in the streets of Colonial Williamsburg!

We exchanged contact information and she mentioned she might like to send a little something to Ezra in the future.

It came our turn to enter the grounds, and we broke away from the group to make our way to a bench where Patrick Henry was seated and speaking to guests. While energetic, Ezra was patient. When it was our turn, Sarah formally introduced Ezra and Patrick Henry. Our time with him was short, but so very sweet, as they discussed (again) the matter of tea.

After meeting with Patrick Henry, we were reunited with Dr. Galt. The brother and sister walked us to where we were parked, and we bid them a final farewell.

The rest of our trip was challenging. After such an amazing experience with the interpreters at Colonial Williamsburg, the sights at Jamestowne and Jamestown Settlement paled in comparison. He was utterly discontented, and ended up having a huge meltdown that evening. All he wanted to do was return to Williamsburg to spend more time with Sarah and Johnie. We compromised with spending our final day in Yorktown, which seemed to engage him a bit better.

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Once we returned home, “Sarah” gave me a mailing address to which Ezra could send correspondence. This fell perfectly in line with the “old school” kind of learning we try to have in our home. Letter writing is a lost art, in my opinion. It also gives him a chance to work on his penmanship (and sometimes typing) skills.

Ezra and Mrs. Trebell began to write letters back and forth. Their relationship is fraught with Ezra’s impatience at times. I have to remind him that, were we in 1774, mail would take MONTHS!

What is most precious about their written engagement is the depth of the concepts they have been able to discuss. Ezra has written to her about his views on slavery, as Mrs. Trebell did own enslaved persons herself. She has challenged his patriot leanings with discussions of the morality of civil disobedience. If God put His Majesty King George III in power, is it right to resist? What about the nonimportation of British goods, and how that impacts shop owners and the general public? Ezra wrote a whole paper about his thoughts on that for a language arts assignment. He also wrote to her about trades he might like to go into, for, as he says, “for I’m nearly 11, and it’s time I go into apprenticeship.”

George Washington Costume

George Washington Costume

Ezra received this colonial (or as he calls it, “George Washington”) costume for Christmas from his grandparents. This is his best attempt at Washington Crossing the Delaware.

Ezra also wanted to send “Mistress Sarah” a gift for Christmas. She said she would love some tea, but requested we “not tell Johnie.” 1774 is quite a tumultuous time to be requesting tea. Ezra’s Dad suggested that perhaps we build a box with a false bottom. I opted for something a bit easier, a box disguised as a book. Despite being a patriot child, he was so excited to “smuggle” his dear friend some tea.

Operation C.P.S. stands for Operation Christmas Present Smuggling
Note the capital “T” with the teapot on top of it. It’s a clue.

Another blessing of the COVID pandemic that has made this an even richer experience is that Colonial Williamsburg is making more and more content available on social media and YouTube. They are having Facebook Livestreams several times a week (including one with Mrs. Trebell herself!) where the audience is allowed to ask questions of the “Nation Builders,” tradespersons, and more. This has given Ezra the opportunity to “meet” other first person historical interpreters, such as Colonel (young) George Washington, Gowan Pamphlet, George Wythe, and Clementina Rind.

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If I’m being perfectly honest, parenting Ezra these past few months has been ROUGH. His medications are just not working, in spite of trying several new medications over the last few months. He’s been going through severe insomnia and suspected mania. There were six nights in March he simply did not sleep. At all. Like, no joke…36 hours awake. When I’m not keeping spreadsheets of medications and sleep and behavior, somewhere in there I’m trying to stay sane. School has basically been at a standstill. Work he could do last year with no problem he’s suddenly incapable of completing. There have been tears and meltdowns and days we have just completely given up.

But, we’ve kept reading our history read-alouds. He keeps fighting with brother over what’s more interesting, colonial history (his favorite) or rescue vehicles (Little Brother’s favorite).

Unbeknownst to Ezra, I began planning our return trip to Colonial Williamsburg in early spring. I felt that we needed a break from the tumultuous home life, and some one-on-one time, just him and I. I know it won’t fix anything, but could offer us some emotional reprieve.

We started watching more and more Colonial Williamsburg videos and moving into heavier study of the young life of George Washington. Finally, I told him we were going, but not when.

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The week of our planned trip ended up being very challenging. My husband threw out his sciatic muscle (which landed us in the ER for 6 hours!) and we were having car issues. Dad also spilled the beans to Ezra about the trip, so I didn’t feel like I could reschedule. This led me to rent a car, which led me to move up our trip by a day, since we were going to pick up the car in the evening. This meant much greater expense (a night in a hotel and car rental) and a lot more stress at the start of our trip. It also gave us MORE time in the historic city, so it ended up being a win-win.

I tried to keep my expectations low. Being in contact with “Sarah,” I knew we would be able to spend SOME time with her and Dr. Galt, and had also arranged for us to join her for dinner at the King’s Arm Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg.

I tried to prepare Ezra to look forward to things besides interacting with the interpreters. After listening to the audiobook of Virginia Mysteries book #2: Mystery on Church Hill, he was actually excited to tour the Wythe House, so we started there. Behind the Wythe House, we had the pleasure of running into post-Revolutionary General George Washington himself!

From there, we toured the Governor’s Palace, where I had to remind him a thousand times to not touch things and hop over ropes. Our tour guide was incredible, probably the best 3rd-person-interpreter we’ve ever had! She was incredibly patient and answered a lot of Ezra’s questions, weaving them seamlessly into her prepared remarks along the tour. Ezra surprised me when the interpreter mentioned the list of governors who had lived at the palace by saying of one of the earlier governors, “He’s the one who sent Captain Maynard after Blackbeard!” (I’m actually not entirely sure where he picked up that tidbit of information, probably this picture book, but it was a proud mama moment for me!)

governors palace Colonial Williamsburg

I tried to follow him through the garden maze behind the palace, which I quickly realized was a big mistake. He was so far ahead of me, I never did catch up. Yet somehow, I managed to find the exit first. I think he just enjoyed the running part of it all.

We did the maze again the 2nd day of our trip. This is the view from the Palace Mount

Then it was time to head to the Charlton Stage. We had a full 45 minutes before Patrick Henry was supposed to speak, but we were both determined not to miss it this time around. Unfortunately, we turned on __ instead of Duke of Glochester, which brought us to the exit of the stage instead of the entrance. Ezra was now in a frenzy of anxiety. He dashed ahead, leaving me in the dust. I tried to slow him down, but he ended up hopping the rope instead of entering where we were supposed to. When I hopped the rope to retrieve him, I received a scolding from one of the workers. After showing our tickets and entering through the proper entrance, I finally caught up to him and assured him that we had not missed a thing. Other than a seat in the shade, that is.

We sat front and center, in what I am now calling the SUNBURN SEATING SECTION. But it was worth it to hear Patrick Henry speak.

We also saw him waiting on the back porch of a historic home nearby. We waited quite conspicuously, with me hissing at my child to please. wait. your. turn and him frantically trying to interrupt Mr. Henry’s conversation with another patron. But they were reunited at last, exchanging a few words before the show.

Colonial Williamsburg Patrick Henry

It was lunchtime, so I grabbed a sandwich and some popcorn at the bakery behind the Raleigh Tavern, which just reopened in April. Ezra was far too excited to eat. We wandered up and down Duke of Gloucester street I don’t even know how many times.

Basically, Ezra’s two days in Colonial Williamsburg went like this:

1. See someone in colonial clothes
2. Hold onto your hat
3. Sprint at full speed, yelling “excuse me Sir/ma’am
5. Leave Mom in the dust
6. Try not to be disappointed when it’s just a shoemaker and not an first-person interpreter. Ask if they know Sarah Trebell and Dr. Galt. Tell stories about your friendship.
7. Repeat

I basically chased him up and down the streets of Colonial Williamsburg for two days straight. Mama tired!

Around noon on Thursday, he set his alarm. We had been informed that Sarah and Johnie would be out and about from 2-3PM. Thus began the grand countdown, and more wandering the streets chasing down colonial interpreters.

We figured we should stay near the Raleigh Tavern, as that was where we had our initial encounter with Sarah and Johnnie. It ended up being a perfect choice.

At quarter ’til two, we had the honored pleasure of meeting the Father of the Constitution, James Madison. He was a wonderful interpreter, who even gave Ezra a fencing demonstration and let Ezra hold his sword!


Ezra proceeded to let Mr. Madison know he would defend him, complete with some air-stabbing.

Finally, I saw Sarah and Johnie walking down the street in the distance. I should have known better than to say anything until we were closer, but – in my haste – I told Ezra they were coming. He took off faster than a thoroughbred horse, yelling at the top of his lungs: “MISTRESS SARAH! DR. JOHN GALT!!!”

They had turned down a side street, and I admit with (deep embarrassment) that I lost sight of my young master and didn’t catch up until nearly a minute later. Thus, I missed completely witnessing the long-awaited reunion. This was the best I got.

We walked with them around town for the better part of 45 minutes. They discussed the apothecary trade in a bit more detail. Ezra tried to open Sarah’s fan (to the amusement of us all). At one point, he slipped his hand into hers. Of course, the minute I tried to take a picture, they all moved on me.

Eventually, we all sat down on the porch of the Raleigh Tavern. Dr. Galt was engaged in speaking with other guests, and we all just caught our breath from the excitement.

It’s hard to put into words exactly how we all were feeling. Ezra was struggling to speak. It wasn’t so much that he was star-struck, as much as…I could tell his brain was going so fast. No doubt he had much saved up to talk about, but when the moment came, he couldn’t tie it down. It was as though he wasn’t really sure what to say with them, or do with them. But I know he enjoyed every moment that he had with them, and saved up many things in his big brain to process later. I think there was, perhaps, some disappointment that there was no political debates this time. But that was, in some ways, a once-in-a-lifetime discourse.

As the afternoon came to a close, Sarah and Dr. Galt had other business elsewhere in the city. We walked Duke of Gloucester Street another time in hopes of finding young Colonel Washington or Clementina Rind. They were not to be found that day. We did find Mrs. Rind’s house and print shop, however.

Tired, hot, and overwhelmed, we got checked into our lodging. While we spent our first evening in a Best Western, I had pre-arranged lodging in one of the Colonial Houses in Williamsburg. It was a wonderful choice. The house (The Quarter) had a ton of neat nooks and crannies for Ezra to explore, and it was nice to have our own space so close to the main thoroughfare in the historic district. We also had access to the pool at the Colonial Williamsburg Inn & Spa, so Ezra got to squeeze in a quick swim before dinner.

Colonial Houses The Quarter Williamsburg+ Colonial Houses The Quarter Williamsburg

Finally, it was time for dinner with Mrs. Sarah Trebell at the King’s Arms Tavern. Ezra was insistent on wearing his colonial costume, in spite of the heat and how itchy the wig was. He was so incredibly adorable!

Colonial Houses The Quarter Williamsburg

Dinner with Sarah Trebell was positively delightful! She joined us in character, and only broke once when Ezra began to apologize to our African American waitress for her enslaved condition. Sarah explained that she was visiting us in our time of “twenty and twenty one,” and that our server was not an enslaved person.  Dinner gave Ezra time and space to calm down enough to have some good conversation…and we worked on our sorely-lacking table manners. He was quite nervous to order a cheeseburger because he was afraid of ruining his suit! We helped him tie a cloth napkin around his neck to protect it. She also helped Ezra with his word-search of colonial apprenticeship trades. It was perfect.

He kept his wig on for about half of dinner!

Sarah told us a riveting story about Thomas Jefferson’s failed proposal to Rebecca Burwell. It’s a must-watch!

She walked us back to our house for a final farewell. It was so hard for Ezra to let her go. He was so sad. But we are so thankful for the rich time we got to spend with her.

Ezra and I went out to run errands (including a failed attempt at finding an ice cream place open after 9PM!) and returned later than expected.

Colonial Houses The Quarter Williamsburg
I just adore this photo of Ezra sneaking in the back gate of the house…it’s as though he’s returning from a secret meeting regarding the revolution!

The colonial house (as wonderful as it was) was hot, and neither of us slept well. It took us until about 1:30 AM to finally fall asleep. (I would totally stay there again, but I’d bring a fan!)

My initial plan was to spend from 9 to 11 in the historic district and then head for home, as I was due to return our rental car at 4PM. When I woke up at 8:45 AM, I was faced with a decision:

Do I spend money on another day of the rental car, or do I rush my special-needs kid through two more hours in the city? Knowing that Thomas Jefferson was slated to speak on the Charlton Stage at 11:45, I opted for the latter. I prayed it would be worth it.

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We knew that Sarah would not be around that second day. As for the other interpreters, we could only pray that providence would lead us together. We still wanted to meet Colonel Washington and Clementina Rind. As we had met both Patrick Henry and General Washington behind the Wythe House, I figured that was as good a place as any to start.

Before we arrived there, as we rounded the corner and started up the palace green, in the distance I could see Colonel Washington! I especially hoped we could meet him, as he began interpreting at the age of ten! I was sure he would enjoy getting to meet Ezra!

We joined the crowd (which I quickly realized was a special guided “Walk Through History” tour for which we had not registered), but Ezra waited quietly (half quiet, half squealing with excitement), while Colonel Washington talked about his trip to Barbados. Finally, he opened the talk for questions, and Ezra was able to introduce himself and tell Washington how he had watched all his videos. He so graciously posed for a picture with Ezra as well. It was a very short encounter, but we were so thrilled to have met him!

Colonial Williamsburg Colonel George Washington Palace Green

Colonial Williamsburg Colonel George Washington Palace Green

Colonial Williamsburg Colonel George Washington Palace Green

We did more wandering and exploring until it was time to hear Thomas Jefferson speak. Wow. It was incredible. Mr. Jefferson keyed into Ezra right away, and began to speak with Ezra from the stage. Mind you, there was an audience of probably 30 people there. And yet, there he was…carrying on a conversation with my kid. He gave him a Latin lesson, about the words terra incognita (unknown land). A LATIN LESSON. He let Ezra ask questions. He was delighted by Ezra’s curiosity. And I couldn’t have been prouder.

As a mom, I found that his speech (and the way he included Ezra in it) was MY highlight. He moved to speak of the American Revolution. But toward the end, he returned and charged the audience, and Ezra specifically, with the importance of education.

If you want to be encouraged as a worn-out special needs homeschooling mama of a kid who asks why a thousand times a day and won’t sleep and is a whole year behind in math…listen to this speech:

Thank you for your advocacy for education. Thank you for your advocacy for history. I say that history is THE most important subject that man might study. Period. This comes from me, who enjoys all manner of subjects. From botany, zoology, chemistry, astronomy, anatomy, language, music, art, architecture, philosophy, natural philosophy, government theory etc. etc. etc. etc. I say not a blade of grass grows uninteresting to me. But I put history at the very top, and it is precisely because you already know it: we can learn from the mistakes made by generations prior and need not make them again in our generation. Yes? This is the power of history. So, no doubt, you are not making the same mistakes made generations prior. Or if you are, it means one of two things: either one, man is not reading history; or two, more dangerously, man IS reading history but then choosing willfully to remain ignorant of the lessons contained therein… you might as well not even open up a book in the first place! 

History has the power to improve mankind. This does not mean, Ezra, that you will not make mistakes. What it means is that you will read history and avoid the mistakes made generations prior. And then you will step into terra incognita, and you will make new mistakes. Yes? 

[Ezra: And I will let them know!]

And you will let them know! It will be written in tomes of history! It will be read by your children and your grandchildren. And someday, they’ll open up those tomes of history, and they’ll say, “my god, Ezra, what ancient, tired, old mistakes!”

Secondly, I wish you to know this:

If you ever need a northern star…if your waters ever become polluted and clouded over by falsehoods and non-facts by newsmen…if you ever lose sight of your northern star…I hope that you know that you are always welcome back here. That our gates will always be open to you. And we will be your northern star. We will recharge you, because HERE? WE SPEAK FACT. Every single day of the year, 365 days a year, we speak FACT here in Williamsburg. And that is something this country could use a bit more of. 

You applaud. That’s easy. I’m getting ready to charge you. I know you came here on vacation, and I’m giving you homework, but I’m Mr. Jefferson, get used to it.

This is your charge:

Don’t let this die here. Don’t go back to North Carolina, Georgia, or Connecticut and say “What a beautiful time we had in Williamsburg! Let’s put it in a little box and say, ‘Ah! Compartmentalized happiness! How lovely!'”

Continue these conversations. Continue this debate. Debate is healthy. Our country literally runs upon debate. But when you debate, please, let us put civility back into our debates! Yes?

This relies on you. Our government will always be a reflection of you. Always. That is the foundational principle of a republic, and especially of a republic that utilizes democracy. That government will always be a mirror of you. So if you wish to see the government be better, then who must be better? If you wish to see the government engage in enlightened and civil debate, then who must do this? This is what Thanksgiving Dinner is for! Yes? You’re gathered together with your family and you talk about all the things that everyone agrees on. This is your charge. This is your obligation. You kings in this fledgling country. 

Until we meet again, I am ever your humble and obedient servant, Thomas Jefferson

It doesn’t matter how much I paid for the extra day of the rental car. That was worth it. I’ve listened to this speech a half dozen times already and it gives me chills and inspires me every single time.

I think that the words of Thomas Jefferson really encapsulate what Colonial Williamsburg has come to mean to me personally as a homeschooling mom.

Any kid can meet a celebrity. But my kid is excited to meet real people from history. And these aren’t just actors who put on a costume. These interpreters have entire days in their schedules devoted to researching the lives of the historical figures they interpret, a process that is on-going and takes years to navigate.

See also: Colonial Williamsburg gets real – Some of the most progressive and insightful theater in America is happening at one of the nation’s premier sites for experiencing U.S. history. Really.

Our “Nation Builders” were flawed, deeply flawed. And these interpreters have found a way to be truthful and honest about those flaws while still honoring our forefathers and their contributions to our nation.

See also: Thomas Jefferson discusses the paradox of saying “All men are created equal” while still owning slaves

Thomas Jefferson briefly took a moment to speak with Ezra after his speech. He handed him the leaf he had been holding during his speech. He taught him how the magnolia tree got its name. He gave Ezra this advice: “Be so bold as to question everything.” Finally, he told Ezra that he has a bright future.

I don’t think Ezra’s ever been paid a higher complement from anyone more important. I’m still in awe of this moment!

Colonial Williamsburg Thomas Jefferson Charlton Stage

Colonial Williamsburg Thomas Jefferson Charlton Stage

Colonial Williamsburg Thomas Jefferson Charlton Stage

Colonial Williamsburg has become a “northern star” for me. Colonial Williamsburg brings out the best parts of my child. These interpreters who have poured into the life of my child, even in such short encounters, have reminded me how wonderful he truly is. In spite of the frustrations and the meltdowns and the days I don’t know how to keep being his mother and teacher, I remember those moments in Williamsburg when others could see the good in my child when I have forgotten.

Colonial Williamsburg Palace Green

Colonial Williamsburg Palace Green

Colonial Williamsburg is my “northern star” for those days when I’m filled with guilt that history is taking too much time…because we FINALLY finished studying the Salem Witch Trials…after…six weeks. Or that we STILL haven’t gotten to 1774.

This matters. It is so important. Visiting history is important. The work that these interpreters do is important. Learning our nation’s history is important.

Colonial Williamsburg Governor's Palace Grounds

I’m not a confrontational person. You won’t find me debating politics over Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, I rather relate to Thomas Jefferson, who was known to be a gifted writer but far less of a gifted speaker. My husband and son? They are like Patrick Henry. Brash. Outgoing. Confrontational. Outspoken.

Colonial Williamsburg Patrick Henry Raleigh Tavern
Ezra converses with Patrick Henry on the porch of the Raleigh Tavern

I’d rather fiddle (with my piano keys) and pace and write down my thoughts over days and days and days. (I began planning this post last September, and the actual writing and editing has taken me several days now.)

Maybe it’s not my place in the world to convince others of my political persuasions or what the founding fathers meant when they said this or that.

But I can chase my child through the streets of Colonial Williamsburg. I can turn on YouTube and let him hear the words of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington via “Dr. Google.” I can help him think about the pros and cons of the Non-Importation Association. I can ask him hard questions about civil disobedience. I can snuggle on the couch in my pajamas when all I want to do is watch TV, and instead read another chapter or two in our history read-aloud. I can max out our library holds queue. I can give him hours to write another letter to a Nation Builder instead of doing another math worksheet.

Homeschooling Ezra and Little Brother is my terra incognita, but Colonial Williamsburg is my Northern Star. I will make mistakes. But may I always learn from history.

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