Historical Re-Enactments: Making History Come to Life Part 3

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History was never a favorite subject growing up.  Sure, I had some fantastic teachers growing up.  I had one teacher in particular who taught a lesson on debate.  The subject was  “Which is better, ketchup or mustard on a hotdog?”  Doesn’t sound like much, does it?  But he went so far as to call the Vienna Sausage company and get them to come to the debate and provide food.  Then he convinced a news crew to come as well.  I can’t tell you anything about that debate, or even who won.  But I remember how interesting and fun it was.  This taught me a valuable lesson.  Kids remember valuable moments way more than facts they read.  This is why I love Historical Re-Enactments.

Many people don’t realize that historical re-enactments exist.  Depending on where you live, you may have a lot of them available or just a few.  I found out by accident from a random stranger when we were discussing homeschooling.  If you have never been to one it’s really quite fun.  

What It’s Like

There are actually Historical groups that plan out these events.  Everyone dresses up in the time period.  This isn’t a typical Renaissance Festival (although that’s fun too). They are extremely strict about wearing and eating only what would have been available at the time.  We did both a Civil War reenactment and the Revolutionary War.  If multiple ones are available to you, I would encourage you to do more than one.  If was amazing to see the difference in periods.  We were able to learn how the time periods changed and how even the food and weapons changed.  

Top Left: A man shows how bullets were made. Right: A surgeons medicine box with medicines. Bottom Left: A surgeon's tent with medical tools. Right: A man in uniform shows an authentic writing desk and a rangefinder.
Top Left: A man shows how bullets were made. Right: A surgeons medicine box with medicines. Bottom Left: A surgeon’s tent with medical tools. Right: A man in uniform shows an authentic writing desk and a range finder.

In our case, they allowed you to walk around the camps, showed you how they ate and even the games they played at the time.  They really immersed you in the time period.  While we were their they taught us an authentic game from the time period called Shut The Box.  It’s a classic wooden math, strategy game.  My child loved it so much we ended up going online and purchasing it.  If you’re interested in it, you can get it HERE.  

Left: Shut the box game. Right: A man in uniform sits in the tavern playing a game of shut the box.
Left: Shut the box game. Right: A man in uniform sits in the tavern playing a game of shut the box.

In addition to this, we were able to see actual printing presses making newspapers.  We got to see surgeons tools and medicines.  They had authentic furniture and timepieces.  There was even a woman who showed us how spies created ciphers and encrypted messages. 

Battle Re-Enactments

The best part was the actual battle re-enactments.  It’s one thing to read about cannon fire and another entirely to stand next to one as it is being fired.  It’s also fascinating to discuss how long it took to fire each weapon, reload, then fire a weapon again.  That’s something you can’t really get from a book.  

Top Left: A man in uniform shows off some authentic tools, utensils, and other items. Right: Three men fire a cannon. Bottom Left: Three Calvary men show off their horses. Right: Militia men are lining up to get ready for battle.
Top Left: A man in uniform shows off some authentic tools, utensils, and other items. Right: Three men fire a cannon. Bottom Left: Three Calvary soldiers show off their horses. Right: Militia men are lining up to get ready for battle.

Planning Ahead

To really get into the spirit I highly encourage you to plan ahead.  After each one we went home and made recipes that would have been available during that time period.  We made hard tack, and bison stew.  We made hard boiled eggs, apples and bread to take with us as our snacks to really get into the day.  If you aren’t sure what to bring you can always look up recipes on the internet.  We had been doing our lessons from the Time Travelers Series from Homeschool in the Woods.  Their lesson plans include recipes and crafts from the time period you are studying which makes things so much easier.

Homeschool in the woods American history advertisement.

If you have time for it, wear a costume (at least the kids).  Pretending to be a part of it makes history come to life even more.  You’ll be amazed at the excitement.  

Finding One Near You

There are many different types of historical re-enactments all over the world.  Here is a just a small list of some of the most well known and famous places for re-enactments in the US.  If your in one of these areas or are planning a visit nearby you may just want to stop at one of these places:

Arizona- The American Heritage Festival is the largest re-enactment in the Western United States and is held annually in the Southwest US.
Indiana-Mississinewa 1812 is considered by some to be the largest living history event in the country.  It’s all about the war of 1812.
Minnesota- Wilder’s Pageant which is a living re-enactment of Little House on the Prairie.
New York-National Silver Ball Tournament which celebrates vintage Baseball
New Hampshire-Muster in the Mountains is a three day colonial experience.
Pennsylvania-WW2 Weekend & Gettysburg Civil War Battle Re-Enactment

If you would like to find one in your area just Google “Historical Reenactments near me.”  Please feel free to share additional re-enactment websites in the comments below and I will try to update the post as I get them.  

Final Thoughts

Historical re-enactments are a wonderful way to make the most out of your history lessons.  They allow your children to immerse themselves in the true feeling, spirit and world of that time period.  This immersion is what really makes history come to life for kids.  It takes a moment that may otherwise be lost on a child and makes it meaningful and memorable.  I hope this series helps you to bring life into your homeschool history lessons.  Happy Homeschooling!

Don’t forget to check out the rest of this three part series:

Making History Come to Life Part 1: How to do it!

Making History Come to Life Part 2:  The Sword Casting Guy

Please feel free to share additional re-enactment websites in the comments below and I will try to update the post as I get them.  

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