Thursday, February 12, 2015

Learning About Samuel Clemens/ Mark Twain

We had another field trip today.  We were meeting up with a large group of homeschoolers to tour the Mark Twain house.


 The boys and I talked a bit about the house and what it looks like as we got closer and I wanted their help finding it.  Ian asked if it was considered a mansion back in their times and I told him that would be a good question to ask during the tour.

The outside of the house 
We started our day in what is called the Aetna gallery.  It was a grouping of objects from Samuel Clemens's life with a central sitting area that had headphones and prerecorded snippets about his life and work to listen to.

They had a scavenger hunt page with 12 facts about Samuel Clemens life that had some blanks for the kids to fill in.  Alec is the only one who wanted to do the scavenger hunt so the other two boys walked around looking at the objects for a bit and then sat in the benches and listened to some snippets on the headphones.

A Paige compositor that Clemens invested a lot of money it;
that ultimately lead to his bankruptcy 
It was soon time for our tour of the house and since many of the items are only on loan there was no photography allowed.

We had a small group with only 7 of us in it and our tour guide was fantastic.  We learned a lot about the house and the family and she was great about engaging the kids with what she was talking about. She answered all their questions and wow, did they have a lot of questions!

  • We learned that this was basically considered a mansion in it's time; a more "cottage" low-end kind of mansion since this was a rural area and they had to respect the boundaries of the time.  
  • Even as a low- end mansion we saw lots of opulence and learned that they had gas lamps, running water, and ice at a time when most other people would not.  
  • They had many servants, three girls, dogs, cats (lots of cats!), and people visiting them often.  There were at least 8 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms in the original house.  
  • Each of the rooms in the first floor of the house were themed around their travels; India, Japan, England, etc.  
  • We got to see the conservatory and learned that Samuel Clemens told his girls a bedtime story each night by looking at the objects in the study and going along the mantelpiece making it up.  Each night! 
  •  We all smiled when we learned that the Clemens' girls were homeschooled as well.  One of the girls had a seizure disorder and Samuel and his wife Livy were afraid to send her off to school.  Once it was decided one girl was going to be homeschooled the other two begged to stay home too.  
  • We learned that the Clemens family were a little quirky and had some odd doors that led to nowhere.  
  • We learned that dinner used to last for four or five hours.  
  • We learned about the job(s) of the butler, the behind the scenes working of the house, and that the third floor was for men only.  
  • We saw the desk that Samuel used to pen such famed works as Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.  
  • The kids were very attentive and engaged the whole time.  Often relating little snippets of information to their own lives or other stories, castles, or historical events we've learned about.

The carriage house; which also had many rooms above for
the groundskeeper, the chauffeur, stablemen, and servants 

Walking into the house 

Such details and craftsmanship were found
throughout the house; it was amazing! 

After our tour we had lunch and then went back to the gallery to finish our scavenger hunt.  Soon it was time for our classroom experience.

Filling in his final answer; he then had me check them
all on the back to make sure they were correct! 


My boys were all signed up for a class on master storytelling.  We learned even more facts about Mark Twain, his life, and some of his works.  It was funny watching a group of homeschool kids adapt to a classroom setting.  Sitting quietly, raising hands, and answering questions aren't things they all excel at.


Luckily the only one who seemed to mind at all was the teacher and he was very patient with reminders about raising hands and talking out of turn.

We learned that Chuck Jones used Mark Twain's book Roughing It as a jumping off point for all of his Looney Tunes characters.

Learning about Chuck Jones 
Mark Twain lost his job on the Mississippi river during the civil war and wanted to get as far away from the war as possible so he went west.  He wrote his book about his ravels and Chuck Jones used many of the characters and settings in Twain's book to base his characters off of.

We learned a bit more about how Samuel Clemens used items found around the room to tell his daughters a story each night and then the kids were encouraged to use the same objects (shown in a slide show projection) to work together to tell a story.

All the kids were a bit apprehensive about starting the story but soon they were all eagerly participating (even my three!).

I quickly tried to write as much of the story down as I could and underlined which of the lines belonged to one of my kids.  As the kids got more and more excited the lines were coming faster and faster and I had to rely on shorthand and memory but I managed to get the general gist of the story.

Want to hear it??  Of course you do!


Learning about Clemens' bedtime stories and making up our own.

These were some of the objects found around the house that we could use for our storytelling 
    Once upon a time there was a Cat in the Ruff (this was ALWAYS Twain's beginning) who fell into a hole.  The Woman fell into the hole with the Cat in the Ruff and got hurt.  The Cold, Poor Man offered to help them get out of the hole if they gave him a home (this was Alec's line).  Now that the Cold Poor Man had a home he ate and drank using a china cup.  The Man likes to sit and smoke his pipe (Ian's line which was continued by the next boy) and listen to the Cat in the Ruff playing the harp.  The Woman tries to play the sea shell with the Cat.  The Dashing Soldier, riding a camel, tells her that he can not play a seashell because it's not a musical instrument and hands her a tuba instead.  The Cat in the Ruff throws down his harp and starts chasing the birds around the room.  The birds fly out the window (Evan's line).  Then the clock chimes twelve and everyone freezes (Alec's line).  Emmaline (the character Twain ALWAYS used to end his bedtime stories) defrosts them all by putting them in a hot room.  Emmaline and the Soldier then marry and to away on a honeymoon using the camel to carry them away and the Cat becomes the Poor Man's pet.

The kids were having such a fun time they wanted to try another story but we were out of time.  The teacher reminded them that stories can be silly and funny and should be adventurous and unexpected.  He encouraged them to try and find objects around their own house to use to make up a story and the teacher in me thought this was a great idea that we'll definitely have to try one day.

My boys love to tell stories and since they hate to write them we really should do more storytelling.  Our time at the Mark Twain house was over and we were so glad we had attended another field trip rather than staying home with our books.
 
  It was such a great day for us.  Again!  I am so lucky to spend these days and times with my boys.

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