Back in Time

No, we are not referring to the hit song from Michael J. Fox’s debut in Back to the Future in the 1980s. That is definitely before our children’s time, but nowhere near as far back as our adventures at Shirley Plantation and Monticello. The concept of time seemed to creep quietly into all of our conversations and tours throughout the day. And even with nearly 300 years between the building of these famous homes and today, many aspects of our lives remain constant but are just manifested differently.


At Shirley Plantation, the fifth graders experienced a hands-on activity that is a daily part of their life, one that many probably do not really enjoy (don’t tell our teachers!)…HANDWRITING. In their Geneva classrooms back home, students have access to plenty of pencils, paper, erasers, and dictionaries. However, back in the 1700s, paper was in short supply; quills and ink were used; and many did not know correct grammar and spelling. In fact, our fifth graders were shocked to find out that many of our historical documents, like the Declaration of Independence, contain grammatical and spelling errors!

Back then, one did not have unlimited paper and ink to re-do work! Ink is permanent; it’s messy and gloppy – there’s no erasing a mistake. Nor did anyone have time to go back and correct errors. Our kids experienced how long it takes to write a simple letter in this fashion. Imagine if they used quill and ink for their reader’s responses!

One of the more humorous moments comparing modern day life to colonial life came from our great Shirley Plantation guide. As we toured the historic home, he explained that those who lived on the plantation loved to socialize just like we do. Back then, they had Face Time… two sofas where people actually faced each other and talked. They had selfies… just take a look in the mirror. They had twitter… go outside and listen to the birds. They even had Facebook… when you could find one’s face in a book, reading! As our trip is electronic free, our children did find much joy simply running through the fields and dandelions outside Shirley Plantation just as the last eleven generations of the Hill Carter family.


At Monticello, the children noted many differences in the architecture and design of the home as compared to Shirley Plantation. Whereas Shirley Plantation was more of a traditional plantation, Monticello – nearly 250 years old – was constructed with features we find in our own homes today. Do you have sky lights in some rooms? Our guide pointed out this very modern addition Jefferson worked into the architecture after his time in France. Do you see popular stores like IKEA promoting wise use of small spaces? Jefferson was already on that bandwagon… he built his bed into the wall to create more open space in his bedrooms. We’d love to show you these “historic” features but no indoor pictures were permitted.


Even Jefferson’s grandchildren thrived on activities our fifth graders still love today, like playing hide and seek in the big house or quieter games like chess and running across the large spacious grassy lawns outside Monticello.


We ended our day at Covenant School where our gracious hosts provided an opportunity for our children to have some much needed recess and a pizza dinner!

by Chris Lemieux & Susan Reudelhuber, parent blogggers

The Geneva School
The Geneva School
June 24, 2024
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