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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

WFMW: Old Fashioned Fun



My kids love books. We love to read together, especially old fashioned stories. The girls love "Little house on the Prairie", "Anne of Green Gables", and pretty much any other classic story I am willing to read them. They also love to see the pictures in those old books. When we read "The Princess and the Goblin" by George MacDonald, they wanted to know what a spinning wheel looked like. When we read "Emily's Runaway Imagination" by Beverly Cleary they wanted to know what a hoop skirt looked like.

Last summer we found a great way to satisfy their curiosity without breaking the bank. We became antique store window shoppers. For us antique stores are free museums. We pick one that looks interesting and browse until we have our curiosity satisfied. Sometimes we find something we haven't seen before and go home and research it. Sometimes we have discussions about why things were made that way and what they were used for. Sometimes we figure out how much things would have cost originally and why they cost what they do now--this works especially well if it still has the original price tag. Sometimes we have nice long conversations with the dealer about any of the above items.

We do have several rules that we go over before we enter.

1. No touching unless the dealer gives permission. Many antiques are very fragile, especially those made of cloth and paper. Touching them can ruin them. Children do not naturally understand what things are touchable and what are not which is why we ask first. This also usually leads to conversation with the dealer about why such items could be damaged if touched.

2. We don't buy anything on these trips. These are window shopping only. We are there to learn (and dealers usually love to know that you are teaching your kids about antiques so don't mind that you aren't buying. In fact they are often extra nice when you mention what you are doing and why.) More than once on such visits the dealers have given the kids some inexpensive little keepsake to let them practice with antiques. I even have a mildly mildewed geography primer that a dealer gave me . It wasn't sell-able but he knew we would appreciate it (and we do.)

3. Misbehavior means we leave immediately. I do not give the kids a chance to be a poor witness either of homeschooling or, more importantly, of Christ. If they act up we say thank you to the dealer and leave immediately. They know this and have gotten pretty good about not acting up, knowing that I am not kidding.

4. If you have a question you ask. If they have a question for the dealer then it is up to them to ask. If they feel shy they can whisper it and then I will repeat it so it can be understood but they have to articulate themselves. This is part of the experience. They are learning how to communicate their questions so that others can understand them. It also makes the dealers realize that these questions are theirs, not mine, and they are more likely to explain it in a manner that the children can understand.

We have had some wonderful educational field trips this way. By the time I started working for an antique dealer/appraiser they were already well versed in antiques and vintage items and love going through the shop where I work finding things that they have read about in books. They have found a real spinning wheel, bonnets and aprons, old fashioned oil lamps and candlesticks, old composition dolls (one that even looks like "Hitty" though it isn't carved of ash), plenty of old books, a miniature clothes wringer (a door to door sales sample), and all kinds of antique toys including an iron that really works. It has been a wonderful opportunity for them to really understand the books we read and the world that produced the stories, and makes for tons of family fun.

For more tips check out Shannon's blog, Rock's in My Dryer and

8 comments:

Neighbor Jane Payne said...

What a great idea! I love your behavior tips, too.

Magi said...

Great idea, and great book choices, too!

Nettie said...

We often take our kids antiquing with us. It is a great way to teach them how times have changed and how their anscestors lived. I never thought of making that a focus of our visits, though. I think I will try to be more consistent about teaching them while we look. I just can't follow that "not take anything home" with me rule, though!

Trish Ryan said...

What a fun idea!

My sister recently reread the entire Little House series and was amazed at how different it is when you identify with "Ma & Pa" rather than Laura :)

Susanne said...

I would have loved field trips like this as a kid!

Larae said...

I love the idea of teaching children about antiques, and I love your rules for them, especially having them ask their own questions. My mom didn't do that when I was younger (mostly because she didn't do it much herself) but thankfully I turned out to be extremely outgoing, but when I was younger I was too shy to speak up to anybody! My brother is 10 years older than me and is still very quiet..so teaching them to communicate with adults and children when they're young is VERY important. Thanks for sharing a wonderful idea! =)

Blessed Assurances said...

My grandparents owned a antique store when I was growing up. Many days were spent walking through the store acting out "Little House on the Prarie." Fun times-what a great way to teach your daughter about the past

Jennifer said...

What a great idea! We loved Emily's Runaway Imagination. You don't hear too much about that book. . . .