This morning, as usual, we started our Five in a Row time by reading Paul Revere’s Ride. This time we read more slowly and stopped several times to talk about meaning. What does muster mean? Barracks? What does it mean when it says a huge black hulk, that was magnified/ By its own reflection in the tide? I think that on the first few readings the poem just sort of flowed over her, and now she’s familiar enough with it to engage with the details. (This is why we read it five times in a row.)
We also paused this time to discuss the historical inaccuracies. The book’s frontispiece is a map showing the routes of Revere, Dawes, and Prescott, and marking the place where Revere and Dawes were stopped by British troops well short of Concord. Alex has spent quite a bit of time studying that map, so when we got to the part where Longfellow claims that It was two by the village clock/ When he came to the bridge in Concord town, the discrepancy was obvious.
Next I picked up Jean Fritz’s biography, And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?. Alex protested strongly that she didn’t want to read it. I suggested that we read only the part about Revere’s ride, and a paragraph into it Alex was bouncing up and down in rapt excitement. Fritz is good. We picked up some fascinating new details. For example, Revere forgot to bring cloth to muffle the oars of the boat that rowed him across to Charlestown, so he and his friends went to the house of a lady they knew and asked her to throw some cloth down from the window. She took off her petticoat and gave them that. Fritz also supplies the details of Revere’s capture by a British patrol.
Our final information source was King George: What Was His Problem?: The Whole Hilarious Story of the Revolution, by Steve Sheinkin. This book is definitely for older kids, but I read some sections aloud about Robert Newman, the Old North Church sexton who hung the “two if by sea” lanterns. There were British soldiers lodging in his mother’s house, so that night he had to pretend to go to bed, climb out the window, and go over the house roof to get to the church without detection. The Sheinkin book also spelled out more of the tactical difficulties facing both the British and the Sons of Liberty, although that was probably of more interest to me than to Alex.
We talked about differences between the poem and the other books, and the new bits of information we picked up from the different sources. The poem is more exciting for many people, but has parts that aren’t true. Alex prefers the Fritz biography because it’s more accurate and easier to understand. I suggested that the moral of today’s lesson is to check more than one book if you want to learn about something.
We finished with a quick punctuation lesson. It’s never too early to learn about apostrophe abuse, so I pointed out the apostrophe in Paul Revere’s Ride and we talked about why it was there. I wrote some examples of possessives and plurals on the white board. Then I wrote out a few sentences and asked Alex to find the apostrophe mistakes. She struggled a little the first time, but by the second set of sentences she was confident and accurate.
It was physically painful to write out those greengrocer’s apostrophes, incidentally. The things we do for our children’s educations.