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History comes alive with Homeschool Day at Fort Stanwix

Mike Jaquays
Staff writer
Posted 9/15/22

Trips to Fort Stanwix National Monument have been a treat for Sonya Conners of Herkimer since she was a child.

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History comes alive with Homeschool Day at Fort Stanwix


ROME — Trips to Fort Stanwix National Monument have been a treat for Sonya Conners of Herkimer since she was a child. She returned Wednesday with her own children Arleigh, 12, and Genevieve, 9, to continue that tradition during the fort’s free Homeschool Day event.

“I used to come here often as a kid so now I am excited for my own children to have that same experience,” Conners, the leader of the Herkimer County LEAH (Loving Education At Home) group for homeschooling families, said. “I am so appreciative that Fort Stanwix held this special homeschool event for us.”

Ranger Val Morgan, who organized the event, said more than 400 homeschooled children and their parents and chaperones came in from all over the Mohawk Valley area and as far away as Syracuse and Fort Drum for the hands-on educational experience. Held every September, Homeschool Day ran from 2013 to 2019 with a couple years hiatus due to COVID before this year’s return.

“We felt that this could really bring the homeschooling community together,” Morgan explained. “We were seeing small groups of homeschoolers coming here but this is a day that focuses just on them. It helps us to provide the best learning experience that we can.”

Nine learning stations included an artillery demonstration; a meeting with a fort officer; a look at the fort’s neighbors and allies the Oneida Nation; the chance to see some actual mid-1700s fort artifacts; and a musket drill where the children learned to load and fire the Revolutionary War-era long guns.

Visits to those stations were self-guided, so guests could spend as much or as little time at each station as they wanted. There were two-hour sessions in the morning and afternoon with lunch in-between.

Volunteer Elijah Braun of Rome portrayed a Revolutionary War private of the 3rd New York Regiment for the musket drill up in the elevated flag bastion. He showed the many steps it took to fire those 18th-century firearms while the kids held wooden rifle-shaped, safe stand-ins. Braun said he makes up — often on the fly — the back story for his namesake character, a private who may not be all he appears.

Braun has worked at Fort Stanwix since May and enjoys the chance to share the history of the area in a place where that history happened.

“I really like the history, the views from here and even the smells of the fort,” Braun said.

Melissa Snyder of Deerfield brought out her children Jacob, 8, Sophie, 7, and Sadie, 5, for Homeschool Day. Jacob said he also enjoys the view from high up in the fort while Sophie and Sadie agreed they like visiting the recreated rooms of the soldiers down below. Meanwhile, mom appreciates the hands-on educational experience the interactive exhibits offer her kids.

“I like that this really makes history come alive for them,” she said. “Visiting the fort is an exciting thing for them to do.”


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