Friday, February 8, 2013

Liberty's Kids

Watching a friend's two-year-old the other day and turning on Nick Jr. to find a bunch of shows I was completely unfamiliar with reminded me of how quickly kid's shows seem to come and go.  This means that there are probably scads of you that have never heard of "Liberty's Kids", and I decided I need to remedy that this morning.

"Liberty's Kids" was a PBS children's series that was on when I started homeschooling my eldest -- so, in the mid-2000s.  It has 42 episodes that cover the Revolutionary War period from the Boston Tea Party to Washington resigning his commission at the war's end (ending with a quick jump ahead to the Constitutional Convention).  I bought the DVD set when it went off the air and the youngest and I are viewing it this semester as the "spine" for our Revolutionary War study (because our history book is a world history book and has just one little section about the American Revolution -- and I want her to know more than that).

The story centers around three fictional teenagers who are living with Ben Franklin and helping him write stories about the conflict for the Pennsylvania Gazette.  One boy is a rabid patriot, one girl is a loyalist newly arrived from England . . . and the other boy is basically comic relief.  Because of their connections with Dr. Franklin and their roles as "journalists", they get a ring-side view of much of the action.

This is a great series -- I mean, really great.  It is a wonderful introduction to all the major events of the war and to life in the time period, but it also brings in lesser known figures like Phyllis Wheatley and Sybil Ludington.  It addresses tensions in the colonists' cause -- like the fact that they were fighting for freedom but still allowed slavery (another major character is Moses, a freed slave who works for Franklin and whose brother offers to fight for the British to earn his own freedom).

One of the things I love most, however, is that having the two main characters on opposite sides of the conflict means we hear the whole story.  We see the heroism of the colonists, but we also see the loyalists and the British as sympathetic characters with legitimate concerns.  Although Sarah, the loyalist young lady, does eventually become an American patriot, we see her process getting there and the reasons why.

And we also see times when the Americans were in the wrong.  One of my favorite episodes we just watched this week:  a British sailor is tarred and feathered by an angry mob cheered on by the patriot journalist James -- who later visits the victim and writes a story about the dangers of mob rule and the need for level heads.

This is a great series.  You can buy it at Amazon, I believe, or they have a website devoted to it here.  I highly recommend it to all my homeschool friends but also to anyone with children or anyone with a passion for our country.  Good, good stuff.

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