When a Founding Father Becomes a Friend

Music permeated the kitchen as my two oldest daughters and I prepped for dinner as a team. While chopping onions and drizzling olive oil, we sang the lyrics to the song, “Schuyler Sisters” from Hamilton the Musical.

Over the last several months, my older girls and I have really enjoyed listening to and singing a few of the songs together. Our interest began when the girls best friend’s mother shared a few songs with them while they were at a play date. Instantly, the girls were hooked and were asking me, “Mom, can we listen to Hamilton? Please?!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the musical, Broadway actors and actresses rap (yes, rap) the story of the life of Alexander Hamilton, focusing in on his relationship with Aaron Burr, the man who eventually ended up killing him in a duel.

Spoiler Warning! I would like to note that before we started listening to any of the songs, I asked my friend who originally recommended them for a list of “kid-friendly” ones the girls could listen to without exposing them to explicit lyrics (which are in several of the songs). She gave me a good list to start from and then I spent the better part of one evening combing through the songs in order to eliminate any I didn’t want them to hear.

My efforts were well worth it once I compiled a short “play list” of songs. As we listened together, the girls really responded to the story being told through each song. I was able to fill in historical gaps from songs that hadn’t made my “mother’s cut.”

And low and behold, a fascinating thing began to happen. My girls wanted to know all about Alexander Hamilton. Then all about his family. Then all about other founding fathers and the Revolutionary War. And before I knew it, we were spending evenings looking up all sorts of history about America’s infancy and the formation of our nation.

Historical Figures Become Friends

Charlotte Mason has famously said, “The only education is self education.” I heartily agree. While we may be able to coerce a child to complete a worksheet or read a book even if they aren’t at all interested, we cannot force a child’s education.

The best kind of learning comes when a child is exposed to something that genuinely intrigues them and they ask, “Can we learn more about this?” When I hear that question in our home, my heart leaps for joy!

And so, for a season, Alexander Hamilton and his founding comrades have consumed our home in the best possible way. Want to know something cool? Before learning of “Hamilton the Musical” I personally knew few precious facts about Hamilton; primarily relegated to his infamous duel with Burr, his place on the 10 dollar bill, and his part in writing a good portion of the Federalist Papers.

Now I know all about his wife, his wife’s family, their children, his childhood, his relationships with a variety of key players during the time of the American Revolution, his prolific writing (he honestly should have stopped on, um, some points), his personal struggles and failings, and his creative and financial genius (he invented our treasury department and banking system – and basically our entire economy).

We’re Looking for a Mind at Work!

Every year for our homeschool co-op, Classical Conversations, we have to give a family presentation. As my husband and I sifted through our options, I had an “Aha!” moment. “I’ve got it! We’ll act out Schuyler Sisters!” The case was closed.

And so, in costume, our family acted out the song, “The Schuyler Sisters” for our homeschool community last Monday. I was Aaron Burr (my husband hasn’t had the chance to memorize the extensive lyrics for that part), and my three daughters were Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy Schuyler. We based our performance on this You Tube video, which is a spin-off from the musical:

It was an incredibly fun and memorable moment for our family as the sisters pretended to traverse the city of Manhattan during the Revolution, “looking for a mind at work,” my eldest daughter singing with passion these words:

You want a revolution? I want a revelation. So listen to my declaration: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal; and when I meet Thomas Jefferson I’ll compel him to include women in the sequel – work!

Sometimes our education can come to us in the most unexpected ways and unlikely places. When we allow history (and the other subjects) to come to us through a variety of forms, our appreciation and understanding can grow in new ways previously untouched.

What is something you desire to learn about but haven’t been motivated to just pick up a book from the library? Is there another way you could use to grow in your understanding of that subject? Listening to music, watching a play or documentary, going to an art or science museum, or actually visiting a historical site can be great ways to learn about something new without ever picking up a book!

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