We recently had a chance to relive history. Every year, the Collings Foundation, in Stow, MA, http://www.collingsfoundation.org/ opens up its doors and welcomes the public to The Battle for the Airfield. This year, there were over 300 reenactors representing several branches of Allied and Axis military participating in the reenactment. They had fully restored military equipment of all kinds including, tanks, cannons, troop carriers, half tracks, aircraft, and support supplies. Allied and Axis camps were set up, and visitors were able to talk with the participants and get a feel for what the soldiers had lived through and what life was like in the 1940’s.
Here’s a short video clip I took of the event: https://youtu.be/quRAGpuUvQ4
In the afternoon, there was a round table discussion which featured four WWII veterans, each who explained their jobs in the service and a bit about their experiences. The first hand knowledge was incredible, and my sons soaked it all in. The WWII vets were all in their late eighties and nineties. It will not be long before their stories will no longer be told in person.
We bought an autographed book, and the boys had a picture taken with the author who had served our country in WWII, and who was also (we found out) childhood friends with one of our extended family members. He recognized our last name when he signed the book!
This is now my twenty-sixth year of homeschooling, and my fifteen year old son is now the only one left that I am teaching. In a couple of years, he will be finished with high school and my job will be done. Until then, when there is an educational opportunity such as this WWII living history event, you can bet we will be there learning as much as we can in such a fantastic way. My oldest son, who has been out of the house and married for six years, also went to the event the day before we attended. When an interest in something is instilled in kids at a young age, it never leaves them; and there is always an enjoyment in attending an event such as this one and learning something new. It’s been important to me to take my kids to museums, National Parks, and monuments. You don’t have to homeschool to encourage kids to have an interest though; you just have to be willing to take the time and opportunities that are out there. New England has a wealth of history everywhere you look.
Actively seeking these opportunities in history has also spurred a great interest in my eighteen-year-old son. He has been working on a project of his own for the past year and a half; compiling as many stories as he can record of first hand interviews he has had with local veterans. Hopefully, he will eventually be able to write a book about these local heroes.
Some other living history opportunities in the New England area are:
The Lowell National Historical Park: https://www.nps.gov/lowe/index.htm
The Minute Man National Historical Park: https://www.nps.gov/mima/index.htm
Old Sturbridge Village: https://www.osv.org/
Plimoth Plantation: https://www.plimoth.org/
and, The Fort at Number 4: http://www.fortat4.org/ just to name a few.
It’s great to be able to study history from textbooks, but it’s so much more fun to experience history in a hands-on way.