Where else can you go from hoop rolling to joining the Army and learning drills all in the same day?
On Saturday, March 24, you can do that and more as the Virginia Museum of the Civil War hosts the annual Homeschool Day, an event that, despite the name, isn’t just for homeschoolers, but for all families and children who are interested in exploring and learning more about the Civil War.
“Homeschool Day started, I believe, over 10 years ago now,” said Sarah Mink, supervisor of historical interpretation at the museum. “We do some of our traditional education programming: They’ll have a chance to see the farm [and] we will have tours of the grounds and the battlefield.”
But along with the usual events, the museum will have other activities for families to do as well.
“We’ll have crafts that fit themes of different spaces, so there will be a craft in the kitchen for them to do and they’ll also be demonstrating some cooking in the kitchen as well,” Mink said. “We will have Tom and Lesley Mack of the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Dancers and they’ll be doing dance lessons. We’ll have sewing the kids can try out and period games.”
Inside the museum, staff members will be available to answer any questions visitors may have. At the top of each hour, the museum will be showing the movie “Field of Lost Shoes,” which is based on the Virginia Military Institute Cadet charge at the Battle of New Market and stars Jason Isaacs, Lauren Holly and David Arquette.
Adding to the day’s activities, museums from around the Valley will also be present at the Civil War Museum, with booths set up to pass along information to guests.
“We have the Heritage Museum from Dayton coming,” Mink said. “The George C. Marshall Museum from Lexington, Frontier Culture Museum, the Virginia Quilt Museum, Stonewall Jackson House and the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation will all be here with exhibits and activities for students. The Home Educators Association of Virginia will have a table here as well.”
Mink explained that Homeschool Day started at the museum because of the numbers usually required to take students on field trips.
“A lot of places have a minimum requirement for groups and it’s hard, if you’re homeschooling, to get enough people together,” she said. “The idea is: If you have a designated day for your homeschool families to come in, try out activities and go on tours, it fulfills a need. We were one of the earliest ones in Virginia, as a museum, to start a Homeschool Day.”
To follow the school theme, Mink was sending out a packet of information to those families who pre-registered, which had pre-learning activities to be done before the trip, and also follow-up questions students can work on after the day is over.
In the initial year, the museum saw more than 800 students take part in Homeschool Day, as the Civil War Museum was the only one in Virginia to offer a day like this for students. Since then, more museums across the state have opted to have their own Homeschool Day, but Mink said their numbers still fluctuate between 200 and 400 students each year, and that those students who participate in the day have a lot of fun.
“Day to day, you occasionally get to answer a question from a visitor that might be curious, but when you have homeschool families, I find that their children, and if you’re with your parents in general, kids are a lot more apt to try things and ask questions,” she said. “Students and families are excited about learning, so it’s a lot of fun for us.”
For more information about Homeschool Day or to pre-register, visit the museum's website or call 866-515-1864.
The museum is located at 8895 George Collins Parkway in New Market.