Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Family Field Trip---Our Nation's Capital at Night

One of the quirks of being a homeschooler is that you never simply take a family vacation. I mean, why waste the opportunity of traveling to a new and unusual venue merely to rest and do nothing? Do people really do that? Well, we don't, anyway. Whenever we travel, we wind up calling it a "field trip," even if the majority of our adventures are fun, we can still find a thing or two along the way to learn about. After all...isn't that our goal? Learn something new every day?

On our way...Tex, Mjolnir the fox Squishable, Ladybug, Boo, 
Cowboy, and Firefly.

It's been over a year since our last outing, and we decided it was time to take at least a short family vacation. As much as we LOVE our little foster kiddos, a few days to reconnect and rediscover each other (without the constant trouble-shooting of issues due to foster care) really started sounding like a good idea. We weren't up for anything huge, but lately we've been reading about nearby historical attractions (we are in the Historic Triangle area, after all), and we all agreed that Washington D.C. sounded like a good place to start. 

To prepare for the trip, I went online and used my very useful Amazon Prime membership (I am not getting any kickbacks telling you it has been worth every penny I spent before Christmas) to order a few 'visiting D.C. with kids' books. I hoped that reading the books in the weeks before the trip would familiarize them with the places we'd see and help get them excited about the adventure.

We also started reading the books from the Capital Mysteries series by Ron Roy. I have some of his A to Z Mysteries in our library and figured these would be about the right age to engage the young kids, and I was right. They are simple, but they bring up many of the popularly visited places and make them real to the kids.

Cowboy was super excited by the books. He LOVES maps and was ready to be our tour guide at the Smithsonian by the second day after we opened up the box. His favorite was "Awesome Adventures at the Smithsonian" had the most kid-friendly information, complete with pictures, fun facts, and maps.

Because of dropping off the foster children and setting things up with our "farm sitter," we didn't get an early start, but we didn't hit heavy traffic, either, and so we had time for a leisurely dinner/breakfast at Denny's before we reached the city. It was a big hit because the kids ate free. Hot diggity!

After a hearty meal, we still arrived in time to drive past the main buildings at night, which whetted the children's appetite for history and tourism immensely. If they were older, or we were more familiar with the area, we might have found somewhere to park and walk around a bit where we saw other families walking, but we still had to find our hotel, which was a good fifteen minutes away. It certainly was a beautiful night, though. The weather was perfect and the mood was positively electric in the van.

A quick drive-by the Washington Monument a few times
led us to the discovery that poor Boo was a bit creeped
out by the red lights at the top. He thought they looked 
like serpent's eyes. By the end of our visit, however, he was
used to them and liked the monument no matter the time of day.

The Capitol Building at night all lit up...

The Lincoln and the Jefferson...

The kids hope to visit the Treasury Building "next time."

This is my favorite statue in town...Einstein. Isn't he adorable??

The short drive to our lodgings seemed to tone things down a bit mood-wise (we were listening to Dragonrider by Cornelia Funke on my Kindle, read by Brendan Fraser...LOVE IT!), and by the time we checked in to our somewhat cushy, but reasonably priced suite hotel (complete with kitchen, separate sitting area with pull-out couch, and FREE breakfast), the kids were yawning, and so was I. We managed to get everyone's PJs on and read a chapter in our book before the kiddos dropped off to content slumber, dreaming of tomorrow's adventures. 

Hubby and I unwound with an hour of cable (a rare treat for us), while Tex chatted with friends using the free wifi in the room before we turned out the lights so we could all rest up and get an early start in the morning. The prospect of facing the Metro with four kids ages four to ten is a bit unnerving, but I am sure we can manage it...right??



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