four battles in the Civil War, in the Fredericksburg, Virginia area. We only saw
one site of the four in a thirty-or-so-mile
area, but it had an original house still
pockmarked with shell holes from the
battle, an awesome cemetery, and a very
cool stone wall that soldiers fought over
(boys love stuff like this).
Friday, then, was all about the Gettysburg National Military Park, which is one
of my favorite places on earth, with thousands of acres and thousands of monuments, cannons, statues, etc. If you go,
climb the eight-story, open-air observation towers, and see things like the massive Devil’s Den (which contains rocks
the size of houses which soldiers actually fought over). Don’t forget the hillside
of the famous charge on Day Two of the
Battle of Gettysburg by Joshua Chamberlain’s 20th Maine regiment (which may
have been the key tactical move that won
the three-day battle for the North). It’s like
Diana Waring proposes: when you make
history come alive, it’s fun for everyone!
Saturday, the final day, was about trav-
eling back home, but only a short trip
off the beaten path allowed a visit to the
Flight 93 National Memorial in the hills
of southern Pennsylvania. We saw where
the September 11th flight went down—af-
ter heroic passengers attempted to take
back control of the plane from the ter-
rorists. If you’ve never been able to visit,
it is moving beyond words (and there is
no fee). I can’t put into words the value
of seeing this site. You will be stunned by
the emotion of the place.
What we did not once call “Seven Sites
in Seven Days” before we started the trip
became just that, in our minds, when we
realized what we had been able to do with
Such a vacation is entirely possible for
any family—and you can do it on the
cheap like we did! It could be three sites
in three days, or five in five, whatever you
want it to be.
More Ways to Make Your
Vacation a Learning Experience
• Learn as much as you can soak in;
stretch yourself! I’m a “marker and
signpost reader”; most of the others in
my family are not. I read everything,
every plaque and every signpost that I
can. It drives them crazy. But I, and we,
have learned to strike a balance; my
kids are starting to read them to learn a
bit more, and I’m learning to move on!
• Journal at the end of each day, even if
it’s just 50 or 100 words. You’ll have
made sure you captured your most important memories. Without doing so,
over time, those thoughts simply slip
• Some historical stops will have to be
shorter than others (like our 60-min-
ute Fredericksburg, Virginia one), but
that’s okay! You can blow it out at other
places; for us, those were sites like Williamsburg and Gettysburg.
• Give yourself room to adjust. Things
never go just as planned. We had passes
for three days at Williamsburg, but got
there for only two of them. We still saw
tons of stuff. It’s okay!
• Enjoy other people along the way, and
have fun. We had dinner with friends
away from the historical sites. Do not
always be “on assignment.” That’s a
bad idea. Swim in the pools, play some
soccer in a yard for a few minutes, or
watch a movie.
• Plan a little, learn a lot, and have even
Bob Irvin is communications manager
for The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine. Bob
worked in a number of reporting and editing jobs in journalism before entering publishing. He’s now thrilled to be part of the
TOS team. Bob and wife Joan have four
children, from a 26-year-old college graduate to a ten-year-old. He loves to teach
and preach the Bible, coach youth sports,
run, bike, read, and work with other writers to make their projects even better.
Give yourself room to adjust. Things never go just as planned.