Bring History to Life!

Jul 1, 2001

by Nikki Bojanski

For your next family outing, why not consider a journey back in time? Even better, you can “hide” your history class in the guise of a trip to the eighteenth century through historical reenactment. We are a homeschooling family of five (Dad, Mom, John Mark, sixteen, Andrea, fourteen, and Michael, eight), and we have been pursuing the exciting activity of Revolutionary War reenacting for the last two years. We are learning so many things and having so much fun that we want to tell other homeschooling families about the rich opportunity that exists for them, too.

Years ago I read an article in Teaching the Trivium by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn that recommended “history reenactment” as part of the suggested history course of study for a classical approach to homeschooling. That sounded fine, but practically I wondered how and where a family could get involved in such a thing. Later, when our family was studying the American colonies and the War for Independence, we began visiting some of the battle sites in North and South Carolina. Andrea was also interested in the American Girls’ “Felicity” character, and we even made a trip to Williamsburg for the “Felicity” tour. We found ourselves gravitating to those folks dressed in the funny eighteenth century clothes, asking them questions about what they did and why they liked it. Then we realized that we were seeing some of the same people at these different sites. What were they doing? They were part of a group that traveled all over and did this stuff for fun. Well, the activity was like a magnet for us. Here was a family-friendly pursuit, that was educational, too! We ended up joining the North Carolina Historical Reenactment Society in February, 1999.

Formed in 1960 as a non-profit organization, the NCHRS is one of the oldest reenactment units in the United States. We portray the “6th North Carolina Regiment,” an actual regiment of the Continental Army authorized by the NC Assembly in 1776. We also represent backcountry militia, and depict family life as “camp followers” during the war. We offer the full extent of eighteenth century diversions, from military displays and drill to authentic chamber music and dancing. Each year the Regiment’s schedule includes a mix of “living history” encampments and battle reenactments. We travel all over the Southeast participating in events at many notable historic sites, among them Brattonsville (where the Patriot was filmed) and Camden, South Carolina; Halifax, Guilford Courthouse, Tryon Palace, and Historic Bethabara in North Carolina; Colonial Williamsburg and Montpelier in Virginia. In the past, several members even participated in the opening of the Royal Armories Museum in Leeds, England, and were members of the Queen’s Honor Guard.

Joining the Regiment was not a difficult process. We attended events as spectators and then as participants. We were provided with loaned clothing and equipment for the first several events, so that we could see if we actually liked reenacting before we made the investment in our own. Finally, we formally applied for membership, and the other members accepted us.

To be honest, this activity can be expensive at the beginning, but once basic clothing and equipment have been obtained the expense is minimal: yearly dues of fifteen dollars and small camp fees at each event to pay for food and incidentals. There are many places and catalogs from which to buy clothes and equipment, and in our case it is very helpful that I have been able to sew our family’s clothes. (This opportunity is a wonderful and practical way to teach and reinforce sewing skills, and even learn some eighteenth century techniques.) There is a minimum level of equipment required, but depending on one’s involvement or desire (just like a homeschooler buying books), we could easily be accumulating much more. (How about a ball gown, or a wig?).

This has especially been an enjoyable activity for the whole family. My husband, Tom, is not on the fringe as sometimes happens with other academic subjects; in fact, he is very definitely the leader in this endeavor. He is the soldier, fighting for freedom, teaching his children, and providing a role model. He gets great satisfaction in his interaction with the public, too, sharing with them about history, the soldiers’ experience, or camp life. I enjoy camp life also, not only because of the eighteenth century cooking and sewing, but also the camaraderie and interaction with the public. I am not fond of modern camping, but for some reason I really do get a kick out of sleeping in on a bed of straw in an eighteenth century canvas tent (no, they don’t leak)! The children are having the time of their lives, too. John Mark, at sixteen, is treated like one of the men, which greatly pleases him! He has his own musket and is able to participate in battles, but he also has the responsibilities of a man. He is expected to follow orders as any soldier, and to serve the ladies. Andrea, because she has musical talent, taught herself how to play the fife and has joined with the fife-and-drum musicians of the regiment. She enjoys meeting kids from all over at our different events. Michael, at eight, likes anything that has to do with war and loud noises. A whole weekend to run around barefooted playing with weapons—what more could a little boy want? That is not to say he isn’t expected to work a little, too: he has carried his share of water buckets. And together all of us have been thrilled to see and experience a different way of life—a different time of life.

The 6th North Carolina is family-friendly in other ways, too. We have many safety rules (since we are dealing with open campfires and real gunpowder). We do not allow drinking alcohol, and people are expected to treat each other with utmost respect. It is a “safe” place. There are several other homeschooling families already involved in the regiment who can testify as to its value for family building and education. I don’t believe there are many family activities as rich as reenacting!

If you would like to find out more about reenacting in general or the 6th North Carolina in particular, visit our website at <www.6nc.org>. Come celebrate Independence Day and visit our camp at the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro on July 4, 2001. You may also e-mail us at <tbojo@gte.net>. There may be a special place for your family back in the eighteenth century!

Nikki and her husband, Tom, live in Durham with their three children.  This is their eleventh year of homeschooling which began in Dallas, TX.  They both serve on the Board of Trustees for Deerstream, a homeschool support learning center in Durham.

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