Virtual Field Trip: Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

Hi, Boys and Girls!

Today I would like to take you on a very special virtual field trip. See, I know you like it when I share really cool places with you…so this month I’ve really gone all out in order to bring you the oldest American history possible. That’s right, today we’re visiting the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine, Florida!


For those of you who don’t know, St. Augustine is the oldest town in the U.S. The town was founded by Spanish colonists way back in 1565, and just over 100 years later construction began on the Castillo, now the oldest stone fort in America. I was so excited that my parents had agreed to stop by St. Augustine while we were on a family vacation driving from my grandparents to my aunt and uncle’s home. I had been to other forts before, but it was really cool to realize that I was visiting the oldest stone fort in America, in the oldest town in America! Here are some pictures.

It is fun to walk into the fort and see how big and powerful the fort is. Nothing is going to move it! Inside, there are lots of different rooms to explore. Some rooms have pictures and signs explaining the history. Others have some food. (Or maybe it’s fake food. I’m not sure!) The ranger there was telling us all about how the soldiers lived and worked and ate at the fort. My sister and I really enjoyed listening to him.

I enjoyed spending time in the courtyard, the inside center part of the fort. I also got to see what a typical soldier’s bed looked like (see above pictures). Hmmm, I think I like mine at home better!

A total of four nations have owned the Castillo de San Marcos at one point or other: Spain, Britain, the Confederacy during the Civil War, and of course the USA. When we were at the fort, the rangers were dressed up as Spanish soldiers. It was really fun getting to see them in costume and demonstrating how a cannon works. It was loud, but really cool!


Well, I hope you have enjoyed this virtual field trip to Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine, Florida. I had read about St. Augustine in history books for years, and it was so fun to visit there in real life and experience it firsthand. I hope you have enjoyed my pictures as well! If you would like to experience even more of the Castillo from the comfort of your home, feel free to watch my two videos below. One is a tour of the fort, and the other is of the cannon demonstration that we attended.

Until next time, keep having “a blast with the past!”


Wanderlust, Part 2: Maui

We just got back from a week of vacation in Maui, and we want to share our adventures with you. We chose to attend a work convention/leadership training in Maui and then add several more days of adventure. It was a blast!

Since we live in Kentucky, it’s quite a long trip to reach Maui. It takes approximately almost a full day to get from here to there. We had layovers in Chicago and San Francisco, and then we arrived in Kahului International Airport. It was interesting to leave Kentucky with long sleeves and long pants, and have to change our clothes into shorts and T-shirts because the temperature in Maui was in the 80s (Fahrenheit).

We got the rental car from the airport and then proceeded to stop by our first adventure spot: Costco. Hah! We laughed about it, but we definitely needed to stock up on a few things such as water, fruits, and some swimsuits for the kiddos since they had outgrown their swimsuits.

The island of Maui is the second largest island among Hawaiian archipelago and is about 727 square miles, which is comparable to three times the size of Chicago, Illinois, thought not as populated. Maui has several volcanoes, but the one on the east, Haleakalā, rises to more than 10,000 feet (3,000 m) above sea level, and measures five miles (eight km) from seafloor to summit, making it one of the world’s tallest mountains. It’s a beautiful island, and we were even more amazed by the kind people we met.

The first few days of our vacation, we stayed at Honua Kai resort on Kaanapali beach, on the western side of the island, called Lahaina. Lā hainā means “cruel sun” in the Hawaiian language, describing the sunny, dry climate. Lahaina was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii in the mid-1800s, and when you walk down Front Street, you can see this giant Banyan tree, one of the largest in the world, that was planted in 1873 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Christian missionaries.

The banyan tree or Ficus benghalensis has roots that descend or sprout from the branches into aerial roots towards the ground, where they form new trunks around the main trunk. This Lahaina giant banyan tree sprouted 16 major trunks that are apart from the main trunk, forming a large canopy with a circumference of about one-fourth of a mile, and about a thousand people could congregate under it.

Maui is also the best place to watch humpback whales between the months of February and April. These whales migrate from Alaskan waters to mate and give birth in the warm waters of Maui. You can easily see these whales from the beach and from a boat. They often congregate in pods, which is typically a group of a mother, her calf, and a few male suitors. You may also see the males fighting for the female by bumping against each other. When you snorkel or dive, you will be able to hear the sound of the whales singing for hours under the water. It’s a magnificent experience!

We joined a whale-watching ship from the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation, and the tour guide gave great educational information on how whales behave, how to spot them, and how to protect these endangered animals. The kids loved it! We recommend going in the morning as the water will be calmer and it will be less windy than the afternoon would. You also should reserve your spots ahead of time as these whale-watching boats get booked up really quickly.

We got to attend a luau that exhibited amazing singers and fire dancers sharing their New Zealand (Maori), Samoan, Tahitian, and Hawaiian cultures and stories. This is one way to enrich your children’s knowledge of the world cultures while having fun at the same time!

My wife always wanted to see a pineapple plantation, so we booked a plantation tour with Maui Gold Pineapple, where we were able to see thousands of acres of pineapple fields in various stages of growth, tour the packing facility, watch how they harvest the pineapples, and taste various stages of the pineapple and tour the packing facility. The tour took about 1.5 hours and we got to come home with a box of two hand-picked fresh pineapples.

The last half of the trip we stayed at the beautiful Grand Wailea on the south side of the island, in Kihei. The kids loved every one of the nine incredible pools and beach. When you visit, you must check out the world’s first water elevator there. It is rated as the Best Kid-Friendly Hotel in Hawaii by Oyster. The view was breathtaking from any angle. You can even see whales swimming right from the beach or from their signature restaurant, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Try pronouncing that!

The one downside to this trip was the time it took to travel from the mainland USA. This creates jetlag as your body tries to adjust to local time. We would be super tired at 6 p.m. local time (midnight in EST), and then wide awake at 2 or 3 a.m., as it’s already 8 or 9 a.m. in the mainland eastern standard time. By the time we were ready to leave at the end of the week, our bodies had finally adjusted to the Hawaiian time, which means it took us a few more days to again adjust once we get back home. We all agreed that the next time we return, we will stay much longer than just a week.

This was one of our favorite trips. We got to incorporate biology and science learning (whales, climate, and pineapple growing), and then history, geography, and native cultures. The kids got to meet various kinds of people from various parts of the world.

They also learned more about people with interesting tattoos all over their faces and body (Maori and most Polynesian cultures). They learned about how kindness transcends cultures and borders. They learned how the time change affected their body functions. They learned about how different cultures eat different kinds of food. They especially loved the physical education portion of this homeschool trip: swimming and bodyboarding!

Most of all, as we got to see Hawaii as a melting pot of many different cultures and races, we learned that Jesus loves all the children of the world: red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight. We all learned that God would love for all His children to be with Him again, and that the responsibility to share the Good News is on our shoulders.

Go travel, go outside of your comfort zone. If you haven’t read my previous blogpost on Wanderlust, you should! Click here.

God bless!


Virtual Field Trip: Greenfield Village, Part 8

Hey, boys and girls! Are you ready for another virtual field trip? I sure am! Today I would like to share with you one last post of my trips to Greenfield Village, an awesome outdoor history museum in Detroit, Michigan. If you remember from last month, I shared with you some homes of famous Americans such as Robert Frost and Noah Webster. Now let’s visit some more old homes!


This is the Susquehanna Plantation, a home from Maryland that was built in the 1830s. This was before the Civil War happened and slavery, as we typically think of it, ended. The owners had a very nice life, but the slaves they owned (and beat for not working constantly from sunrise to sundown) certainly did not. There were no modern-day dishwashers or laundry machines back then, not even running water in the kitchens! The slaves had to do it all.

Here are some slave quarters (albeit very nice slave quarters) from another plantation, in Georgia. The master who built these quarters was not trying to be nice to his slaves, but, from a business view, the healthier slaves were the harder they worked. And, he definitely wanted that!

The next several pictures are of the Mattox family home, from rural Georgia. They were not a particularly well-known family, but it was still very interesting to see how they lived. This home was built about 15 years after the Civil War, in 1880.

Most of Greenfield Village centers on history of the 1800s and 1900s, but there are a few homes that reach back farther in time! Below are photos of the Daggart Farmhouse, built in 1754 in Connecticut. Nearby in the Village is the oldest windmill in the United States, as well as the Plympton family home (the red one). It is the oldest home in Greenfield Village; the brick on the fireplace inside dates from 1640! It was so much fun to see all of these homes, too — especially to learn how life was different back then, but also much the same.

Finally, I would like to share with you one last building from Greenfield Village. This is the Logan County Courthouse from Illinois, and is one of the actual courthouses that Abraham Lincoln practiced law in! One trivia fact that I find particularly interesting is about the wooden cabinet in the corner. It was handcrafted by Abraham and his sister, Sarah, when they were just children. I thought that was pretty cool!


Well, believe it or not, after eight months we have finished exploring Greenfield Village together! I hope you have enjoyed these posts and seeing history come alive, whether through these words and pictures or even more so through my videos. Below I have included links to my videos of the homes I have shared about in this post, if you are interested in watching them.

See you next month!


Virtual Field Trip: Greenfield Village, Part 7

Hi Boys and Girls! Have you been enjoying this series of articles on Greenfield Village? I sure hope so! It is so much fun to visit in person, and then to tell you all about the history there as well. Today I would like to share with you the final area of Greenfield Village, Porches and Parlors. That’s just a fancy way of saying, “Here’s a collection of cool old homes!” So buckle your seatbelts, pack your excitement, and let’s head home!


Have you ever used a dictionary to look up a hard to pronounce word? Most likely it had the word “Webster” on it, because Mr. Noah Webster was the man who wrote the first American dictionary. And you guessed it, Greenfield Village has Webster’s home! It is one of my favorite homes to walk through at Greenfield Village – not just because of the history (this is the very home where he wrote the dictionary), but also because it has air conditioning! Being cool on a hot day is very important. Here are some pictures of Webster’s home!

And here are a few pictures of Webster’s study, where he wrote the dictionary.

Another cool home in Greenfield Village is the one of Robert Frost. Have you ever studied about him in school? He was a very famous American poet.

Another famous figure of American history is William Holmes McGuffey. You may remember that he created some very successful schoolbooks for children back in the 1800’s. You guessed it – Greenfield Village has McGuffey’s birthplace home, as well as a replica schoolhouse from that time period. Here’s some pictures of those structures!


Well, I hope you have enjoyed this latest post on Greenfield Village! It is such a fun place to visit, and then to share the experience with you all makes the experience even more fun! If you would like to see my videos of the homes I featured in this article, check them out below. Next month I’ll finish up my series on Greenfield Village by sharing a few more historic homes!


Until next time, study hard and have a blast with the past!


Virtual Field Trip: Greenfield Village, Part 6

Hi, Boys and Girls! Are you ready to go on another virtual field trip? I sure am! I am excited to share with you more of Greenfield Village, a really cool outdoor history museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Have you ever seen a train before? Today I’m going to focus on the train ride, roundhouse, and Smith’s Creek station at Greenfield Village.


The roundhouse here was originally built elsewhere in Michigan, but the remains were brought to Greenfield Village in 2000 and refurbished to the truly beautiful structure that exists today. It is one of only seven working roundhouses in the U.S.!

This is where all the work and repair on the steam engines is done. Plus, it’s where the engines go to “sleep” at night. Basically, it’s like a garage, but for trains. It is really fun to walk through it and see all the trains.

Below are some pictures of what was Henry Ford’s personal favorite engine, which he had restored.

You can even walk right underneath it!

There is also a fun painting on the wall, with a working wheel, that helps kids understand how the steam engine works. As kids turn the wheel, lights light up and show what exactly is going on.

You can even find a grandfather around the roundhouse every now and then! 😉


Nearby to the roundhouse is the Smith’s Creek train station. This is the actual station that young Thomas Edison once worked out of. For a part-time job he sold newspapers on the trains. Because he liked to experiment, he begged the train conductor to let him have one baggage car just for his experiments. Everything went well until the car caught fire, and the conductor threw Edison off at this very Smith’s Creek station! But, besides that tidbit of history, it is just neat to see inside an 1860s train station. It was a real center of activity for the community, and served as both home and office for the stationmaster and his family.


One of my favorite parts of the Village is the steam train ride. Smith’s Creek is one of the three stations where you can board. Here are some pictures of the train for you to enjoy!

The conductor and fireman checking to make sure everything is good to go!

Toot, toot!



…And back at the station!


I hope that you have enjoyed this post! It really is so much fun to see history come alive at places such as Greenfield Village, and experience in real life what you would otherwise just have to imagine. Of course, while words and pictures do a decent job of getting the point across, there is still a lot left out — like sound! And, one of my favorite parts of riding a steam train is the sounds. So, this month I have included not only my videos of the roundhouse and Smith’s Creek station (you’ll get the tour spiel from the trained interpreters rather than having to put up with me), but also my train ride video. I hope you enjoy the sights and sounds! 🙂

Until next month, keep having a blast with the past!