Last week we joined 120 other homeschoolers and left the mainland to head to the nearby St Helena Island. I wouldn’t ordinarily join so many other people for an excursion as we tend towards family excursions (less social distractions) but this was a one off opportunity. A lady had organised a school tour which included guides who acted as wardens and prisoners. The school tour is also considerably cheaper than the public tour…and I mean considerably!
For those who don’t know anything about the island, from 1867 until 1933 it was a prison. The prisoners had to work hard as the prison was almost entirely self-sufficient. Due to its location escape attempts were few and far between and only a handful were successful. In 1979 the island become a historic national park and nowadays tours are run to the island to educate people about the history of the prison.
For several weeks prior to the excursion the boys and I read about the history of the island from several little booklets we purchased while on a much earlier trip Liam and I had made to the island. I wanted the boys to have a little bit of information to help make the trip significant for them, especially as the trip was out of the blue and not really connected to anything we were learning about at the time.
Then the afternoon AFTER we returned from the trip I found a fantastic site that I’m sure didn’t exist when I first went looking for information. It has historical information, pictures and printable activities for the children so at least it’ll be useful for some post-trip activities.
I’ve also ordered the book which the guide highly recommended, “The St Helena Story”. I’m eager to read it. I always find the history of a place more interesting to read once I’ve visited the venue.
The excursion was wonderful and the tour guides’ presentation was fabulous. The boys loved the antics and misfortune of the two prisoners and even the stern warden. I must say I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion! I mean the prison ruins are fascinating but the guides made all the little details come to life in a more memorable way for the children.
There’s only ruins left on the island but they’ve been lovingly cared for and are in a much better condition than the last time I saw them. You can’t go inside any of the ruins, however they are still quite interesting and even more so when your guide describes what they would have looked like and how each was used.
The boys were exhausted by the end of the day. According to the guide they’d walked nearly 5 kilometres during the day. Add that to a VERY early morning start and a 20 minute rocking trip back on the ferry and you’ve got two little boys who were asleep in the back of the car on the hour long journey home. They never sleep in the car!
Aside from some attention issues from my own boys (social distractions which are inherent in large group excursions where the kids would prefer to muck around with their friends), I enjoyed the tour and the boys came home excited and eager to share what they had learned.
Isn’t it wonderful to be able to go on an excursion with your own children?! To think that we would miss these occasions if our children were in school. Homeschooling rocks!