“I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

~ Attributed to Michelangelo

To celebrate three weeks of study in our interdisciplinary Renaissance unit, The McGaugh Academy took a field trip to The Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale today. This particular faire offers a School Day each year (a fact I stumbled upon serendipitously in early March while planning our unit). When I read that this student-friendly version of the faire welcomes homeschoolers, I contacted them and asked if they would welcome just one homeschooler from our academy. It has been my experience that sometimes a small group is required to reserve field trip space, but in this case the Renaissance Pleasure Faire was entirely accommodating and even offered two-year-old Eric a complementary ticket. My mom came as an extra chaperone.

Waiting for the School Day to begin, we talked with some of the characters outside. Cosplay is so much fun, and next time I hope to plan more in advance and sew us all costumes because I love to get into the spirit of things. Katie met a juggler, who was very much like Giovanni in Clown of God, as well as a second most intriguing man: he was a master torturer for the Queen, yet he wore a lock of hair upon his doublet that came from a friend who had loved the Renaissance Faire and who had died “of the plague.” Katie and I have been talking about how people can be dual-natured off and on since we’ve arrived back home: his sentimentality and love for his friend, combined with his chain flogger and occupation, will probably remain in Katie’s mind for quite some time as she processes how nuanced characters can be.

Once in the faire, workers and players quickly identified us as homeschoolers (what gave it away? the two chaperones for two children?) and engaged Katie in conversation about all kinds of craft and points of history. Hundreds of middle schoolers bustled about, and the faire was lively with activities for all ages, yet we found the parts that seemed right for Katie’s age and level of understanding.


We are taught how to make a doublet


I enjoyed this woman! What a interesting essence she has! She is a true spinner, shearing sheep, carding and dying the wool, and then spinning it. This particular spool will be used to make a shawl for herself. Spinning wheels have been prominent in so many of our favorite stories and books (obviously Sleeping Beauty but also Ox-Cart Man and a book about the olden days that the kiddos love). To see a working spinning wheel in person made that history so real for Katie and Eric. Of course we read one of our books that featured a spinning wheel tonight, and Eric exclaimed, “Me see that!”


Eric watches the blacksmith, and is fascinated by the huge bellows. He has seen little bellows in his books and we’ve talked about them extensively, but this was exciting in person! We saw the anvil and the hammer… Living history is magic.


Katie and Eric met a knight. Many of the players stayed in character and used Renaissance diction and syntax. Music to my English-lit-loving heart…


Katie thought this lady, Jane, was really pretty and wanted to meet her so much. Jane was so sweet, and she had even made little flower pins to carry in her basket in case she met any children today. Katie wore her flower pin all day, and it (along with the master torturer’s business card—not kidding) is now a cherished relic of the day.


Katie made a Renaissance cloth doll (pictured in its early stages here). The process was nearly identical to that for our cornhusk doll for our Amazing Maize unit back in November.


Eric discovered an Eric-sized castle, and Katie and I had a small chance to review why Medieval castles were going out of style (or at least not being used as fortresses) by the time of the Renaissance, which was a small piece we had added to her lapbook just a few days ago.


This washer woman gave us a fantastic mini-lesson. I learned so much, too. A highlight for me!


Meeting Mike the Knight.


Dancing around the maypole with my daughter. I last danced the maypole dance in 7th grade with several of my friends; now my Katie-girl danced it, too. Beautiful memory. Another highlight for me.


Katie hand-dipped her own candles. They are pretty important to her right now, and she is calling them her “harvest candles.” I think she felt like a big girl, and again, we got to a part in one of our books tonight that talks about everyone in the family making candles to sell at Portsmouth Market, and she talked about how she got to do that today. To do something that we have only read about is to have a bit of magic. One of the biggest desires on my personal bucket list is to tap maple trees back east and make my own maple sugar someday. Every time I read about someone doing that (it comes up more than one might think!!!), I just feel how cozy it is. Someday I am going to make that dream happen…


And then we went for a camel ride! This was definitely a highlight for Eric!

Fare thee well, and goodnight friends!