Sunday, April 28, 2013

Our Family Adventure to Washington D.C. Part 1

It had been a family wish for a long time, but it was so far away and so expensive, how would we ever manage to make it happen? So, we set the dream aside.

Then, this spring, the opportunity arose. My friend suggested that we travel across the US together and camp along the way to save on expenses. A hopeful spark ignited in my heart.  It just might be possible...I broached the subject with my husband. He told me he couldn't leave his job for so long, but he would fly out and meet us for part of the adventure.Yessss!

Three weeks later, my friend Lari, six children aged ten to twenty years and myself, set off to see the east coast of the USA. Our most important goal was to show them Washington D.C.  Our vehicles were loaded down with tents, bedding, and everything we would need while living out of our vans for 16 days.  We stayed with relatives along the way, camped when we had to, ate cheaply,  washed our clothing at laundromats, and showered whenever and wherever we could. Although it was difficult at times, our trip was so rewarding!

After many years of studying American and World history, art masterpieces and the natural world, we experienced the actual places, the monuments, the paintings and artifacts up close and personal. Our understanding of the great ideas behind them deepened immensely.

Before we left, I gave each of my children a new journal with colored pens, glue, and scissors. During our travels, each evening, we cut out and pasted in favorite pictures of the day from a pile of brochures and recorded our impressions of the events and places we visited. Here's a peek into some our our adventures:

"Went to the Tuckaleechee Caverns, where the little boys drank the subterranean creek from their bellies and Gollum might have come paddling around any bend in the winding water."

"Rolled into the Greenbelt campground around the hour of 5—after a rather serious detour involving an empty gas tank and a few wrong turns : ) Set up camp in the cold and ate yellow lentils with hot tortillas...sang loud LES MISERABLES in the bathroom."

"We went to Gettysburg, and it was as horrible and wonderful to me as it has been to so many others... This is a place where a vast multitude of boys met the grey face of death."

"We sat under the long, ridged columns on the porch of George Washington's house and looked out on the green and the blue that so many before us have seen. In the halls of his home, hung the Bastille key, the emblem and symbol of so much strife and suffering. And it’s is stunning to lay eyes and hands on these pieces of a past that has always seemed so remote and lofty and inaccessible. They really did live, and we can walk in their footsteps, but the flesh and the blood and the glassy eyes and the warm skin? Gone past recovering."

"We lingered a long time among the artifacts of the earth and after all of the years between now and elementary school, I finally saw real mummies : )

Perhaps the room where we spent the most time was a fascinating collection of stones and minerals which, had I seen it as a child, I suspect, would have shifted the course of my whole life. Thank goodness, I didn’t :)"

"The thing Ryan most wanted to see on the whole 1000 plus mile journey across the continent was the Lincoln Memorial of chiseled stone at the end of the long mall-green. So we did, and it was some joyful sight to see him treading triumphantly with his fixed eyes and his grin." 

"We saw Cole’s shining angels today and so much else that is beyond description. The Copley Family, and the Gilbert Stuart collection and Cimabue and Botticelli much that has always existed on shiny little prints in my picture album but there exists on canvases in great golden frames."

"Woke to steady rain pelting the roof of the tent and fled with our ironed dress clothes to the unwet restrooms for a hurried dressing session before our scheduled Capital tour. On the steps of the Supreme Court there were color-striped umbrellas lining the dripping marble and under them The Resistance of our time in patient silence with the black-markered red LIFE tape over their mouths. I have always wanted to see that." 

"What a place that building is! Such symbolism and such a grand setting for justice to be done. But alas, for all the grand promises the building makes, it is set on too shallow a foundation, I fear. Too shallow a foundation when the edicts it has issued endorse the vast slaughter of our era."

"My favorite part of the day was Arlington Cemetery. The silence of the graves, the rows of tombs, the wreaths and flags all inspired me with a sense of awe and respect, not only for their sacrifice, but for their individuality. That is, perhaps, the thing that strikes me most."

"We went to the Holocaust museum. I would never want to go there again but I am glad I went."
"We saw the horses, 
the storybook horses 
that really do live!"

one step at a time...



  1. Sounds like you have had a wonderful trip :)
    I know those of us who live within a couple of hours of these places are a little spoiled by the fact!
    I must admit though, I am surprised any of you would think there were no art galleries in DC ;)
    Love your journals!

    1. Rachel,

      You are spoiled! We knew there were art galleries in DC and have visited some of them (I've been to D.C. before, many years ago) But we were looking for a lot of classic European works. So glad we visited NGA. THanks for stopping by.

  2. Anonymous28.4.13

    I absolutely love the journals!! What a treasure each of them will be to your children for years and years to come! This gives me great inspiration for the big trip we have planned for this summer. We actually live just 2 hours from D.C., so our path will be in the opposite direction as yours. We plan to travel from VA to Beautiful British Columbia to see my sister and her family! Like you, we will be seeing many of the sights we've only read about heretofore. I'm definitely going to have the kids keep journals like yours. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

    1. I loved learning about your farm work with the dairy cows and chickens. Makes my little hobby farm look like kindergarten. : )
      I think we passed your house! Drove through the Shenandoah Valley. Soooo beautiful!

  3. This is inspiring. I would love to do the same in a few years...especially with the kind of academic foundation your children had. I love that they could see objects of their studies brought to life.

  4. What an exciting and wonderful trip! How brave of you to do it without your husband! I think I'm superwoman for camping at all. LOL The journals were a wonderful idea and so fun and moving to read the parts you shared. Thank you for that.

  5. Anonymous29.4.13

    Looked like a fine time was had by all. Nice journals.

  6. Thanks for visiting, Ladies. You are all wonderful!

  7. Beautiful and inspiring!

  8. Anonymous2.5.13

    thanks for share..

  9. Diana2.5.13

    Was hoping you would post about DC. Very inspiring. Now that you've done it the world is your oyster!! Wonder where next road trip will take you!

    1. "Why then the world's mine Oyster, which I, with sword will open." :-)

  10. So glad you got to visit DC!! :) I love the journal trip!!! :)

  11. Where did you camp at? I've had a hard time finding a camping location near DC

    1. We camped at GREENBELT. It is thirty minutes from the capital, although it usually took 45 to get there. Worked out really well for us. Will blog more about our trip and the campground in the second part of my DC posts.

  12. Anonymous11.5.13

    Thank you so much for sharing from your children's journal entries. A former school teacher, I am just beginning my home school journey. I've spent hours studying the varying home education philosophies and curricula preparing for my oldest to start "official" school next year. A friend recently led me to your website and blog and now, seeing the samples of your children's work, their nature notebooks, their schedule of studies, I can see a much fuller, clearer picture of Charlotte's ideas in action. I want my children to view the world as a wonder, to thirst for knowledge, and marvel at God's graciousness. It's clear that your children have had a rare and beautiful education with amazing results! Thank you so much for encouraging and inspiring the next wave of home schooling mamas!

  13. I am so glad you got to see Washington D.C. I guess I'm a little spoiled, as we only live about 4 hours away and go at least once a year with our summer foreign exchange students. If you ever decide you want to take a trip, don't hesitate to get in touch with me! I would love to meet you somewhere and finally get to meet you and your family. Williamsburg is completely wonderful, too!

  14. Anonymous16.5.13

    I just love your family. When I see what you've accomplished with your children -- what doors you've opened for them -- my heart just leaps because I see in my boy the beginnings of the very things that happen within your family. It just makes me rejoice! Thank you for your continued inspiration and for inviting us into your life and your home.

    Rachel f.