Ellie has entered the “Colonial History” phase of first grade this past month, and let me tell you, it is AWESOME. The other day she had an assignment to draw the Battle of Lexington (!) and her ink rendering of patriots and redcoats running hell-for-leather at each other, loaded .45’s (sorry, Dad) gripped in both hands (those colonials were HARDCORE, y’all), with little dotted lines to mark the bullet trajectories … well, if they don’t hire that girl to illustrate elementary school textbooks when she grows up, it’s a crime, that’s what.
The colonial era is one of my favorite historical periods, and one of the only periods of American history that interests me. (Yeah, I prefer European history. I also voted for Obama, eat arugula and yearn for a single payer healthcare system. I’m a pinko, is what I’m saying. Try to contain your surprise.) It never occurred to me until this month that one of the probable reasons for my enthusiasm about the American Revolution is that I grew up in one of the original 13 colonies. And you better believe that even in the free-lovin’ 70s, every little Georgia scholar had it drummed into their brains that we were among the first – the last of the first, to be precise, squeaking into that elite group at the late date of 1733. It’s cool, dammit! Even as a first-grader, I was awed by the ineffable link between my boring daily life and the exciting days of Boston Tea Parties and cruel winters in Valley Forge. Starvation! Marching with your feet wrapped in rags! The Redcoats are coming! SHIT JUST GOT REAL, YO.
I kind of wonder if wee Minnesotans have that same sense of wonder about something that happened not only so very long ago, but also so very far away. Anachronistic illustrations of weaponry aside, can they comprehend the reality of the Revolutionary era? Or is it just another story from “once upon a time?” I don’t know, but having volunteered in Ellie’s class recently I can tell you that (1) Ms. Larson, Ellie’s teacher, is an enthusiastic and creative leader on this historical journey (her in-class reenactment of Jefferson throwing out discarded pages from the Declaration of Independence is a sight to behold), and (2) first-graders think the word “Monticello” is HILARIOUS. I have no idea why.