Last year our family studied Canadian history with another family, an arrangement everyone enjoyed. I appreciated sharing the lesson preparation with my co-teacher and benefited from her fresh ideas also. We used as our guides both Donna Ward’s Courage and Conquest and Natives Long Ago. This year as we study Canada in the 20th Century we have added Heather Penner’s Modern History through Canadian Eyes to our resources.
When we resumed our lessons we decided to review the last few topics from last year, Confederation, the CPR and the North West rebellion. We approached each topic a little differently so as not to cover exactly the same ground. When looking at Confederation again, we took the time to get to know a bit more about the individuals involved. Everyone became a lot more familiar with John A. Macdonald and George-Etienne Cartier as well as the leaders of the other colonies at the time. Each of us took a colony and learnt where its leaders stood on the whole Confederation issue and then argued our positions across the table at each other.
We also added two topics of our own to the curriculum. Firstly we spent a week reading and talking about the Underground Railroad. The project we set that week is still under construction due to time restraints but I am hoping we find the time for the children to finish it. They began a radio theatre story about a couple of slaves escaping north to Canada. Although it was just the beginning I was very impressed with the section they played for us the other day. All five children had worked together adding sound effects, musical backing and wonderful southern accents.
The second topic we thought necessary was some local history: the beginnings of Ottawa, or Bytown as it was first known. We used the Bytown Museum’s website and visited the museum also. A couple of weeks later we were privileged to have a private tour of the Parliamentary Library, made all the more special in the children’s eyes as it reminded them of the Library of Congress seen in National Treasure ( their latest movie obsession).
After the library we were taken by tunnel to the East Block where we continued our private tour. We were able to see the four rooms in the east block which have been returned to as close to their 1872 state as possible. The offices of the Governor General, John A Macdonald and George Etienne Cartier as well as the Privy Council meeting room all contain much of the original furniture and fittings. All of us were intrigued with the “modern” fixtures such as gas lights and call buttons which would summon staff to the offices from the other end of the building. Our tour was led by a young guide who had played John A. in the re-enactments staged during summer tours of the East BLock. While the tour reviewed material we had just covered it added so much more as we saw where the leaders walked and talked and heard some quirky details about each one.