We have a goal of taking our children to all 50 states by the time the oldest is 18. We aren’t big fans of going to commercial vacation destinations. My husband is a huge history buff and is currently working on his master’s degree in history. I love history as it pertains to social justice and the field of social work.

Both of us desire to pass on the love of learning about the past to our children. When vacationing, we like to visit historical sights and fill their little head’s with as much knowledge as possible. I like to call it our veducation-our vacation education. 😀

Last fall break, we took a trip to visit the battle fields of Gettysburg. The kids LOVED it. Their papa was able to give them the historical background of virtually every place we visited and I was able to tie it back into how things are different today for them.

When we visited the cemetery, things got heavy. I found my son deep in thought in front of the final resting place of a soldier. (pictured below.)

gabriel death

As I stopped to snap this picture, my heart was heavy. It dawned on me that death wasn’t just something mentioned in his social studies textbook anymore. It was real to him. Just a few short months before our trip, my best friend passed away. She was there for Gabriel and was particularly close to him when he was little. Her death had an impact on his life. It didn’t occur to me how he might react to visiting a cemetery while still coping with the loss of a loved one. I braced myself for his questions because I knew they would be coming.

I wasn’t ready for this part of parenting. However, I threw on a brave face and answered his questions to the best of my ability. Towards the beginning of his questioning, he was really interested in learning about how there were so many unknown headstones. He reflected on how those families must feel-waiting on someone who never made it home. Then, he started to apply it to his personal life. He started talking about how sad he was that Stef wasn’t here anymore. He made remarks that are typical to a 7-year-old, but the gravity of the situation was not lost on him. My heart was broken, but proud at the same time. I’m sad that he has to know loss as intimately as he does at his age, but so very proud he was able to relate it to the perspective of others’ as well. Those are lessons you just can’t learn at Disney Land.


-My two children and my little brother, taking a rest and observing.

During our trip, we followed the Union troop movements. We talked about big things, like what it was like to live as a soldier during that time. We talked about what the food was like, visited museums to look at what their gear was like during that time, and we talked about what life was like for the families of those soldiers. They were able to make comparisons to military families of today based on their own personal experiences. We also followed Southern troop movements and talked about the stuff that is covered in textbooks, like what started the war and how and when it ended.

sunset -A picture from the top of the Pennsylvania Monument. This was the last monument we visited before the closing of the park.

The picture above depicts my favorite and most meaningful part of our trip. We were all exhausted. We packed A LOT of walking and a lot of information into the day. The trip to the top of the monument was every bit as exhausting as the rest of the day-my son is afraid of heights. It took some convincing, but he reaped the reward at the top of the monument once he worked his way up.

Once we made it to the top, he made a comment that instantly caused a lump to form in my throat as tears sprung to my eyes. He said “I bet Stefanie gave that sunset to us.” I still believe that to be true.

Memorial Day is upon us, yall. We make the time to teach our little one’s the ultimate sacrifice that comes with the ugly face of war. In doing so, we teach our children to honor that sacrifice.