(Click above to watch the video on YouTube)
We have 4 boys. While life can be a mile-a-minute and exhausting, it's also been incredibly rewarding to have our 4-boy club. While our boys have been into video games, sports, and legos, we've also tried to encourage them to go beyond the normal "boy things" to do. We've had noteworthy success with our efforts - especially in the realms of museum visits and some less than masculine movies - we decided to test our training with a visit to the heart of Austenland, or the homestead in Chawton, England, where Jane Austen finished her manuscripts for Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility.
First, finding the place can be a little challenging, as it's off the beaten path, and some of the signs aren't as easy to follow. We ended up wandering until we found a taxi shelter and asked a bunch of taxi drivers how to get there--each of which had a different answer. It was like something out of a romantic comedy. It turns out that the home is in an unspectacular area, humble and small, but quaint.
Once we got there, we went into full Expat Smith mode, and found the most economical way to enjoy the home. Of course, this meant not actually going inside the main part of the home, but truth be told, the best stuff, in our estimation, is free. Those in charge of the homestead have made all the best, interactive stuff free.
1. Dress-up. Yes, dress-up. You'd be surprised how much 4 boys can get into dress-up. And for our boys, it was like Halloween, without the candy. They really got into it.
2. Take A Walk about the Yard
It may be small, but the yard is well-taken care of.
3. Live the Life.
The homestead has a number of interactive experiences you would expect for a historical site, and there are plenty outside of the 'pay' area of the homestead. You can visit the kitchen and some other living quarters outside of the house, and try out life in the 18th century, including writing with a quill:
4. Learn the history.
The first room you enter after passing through the bookstore shows an engaging historical video, and includes some other fun interactive activities. It really set the mood for our boys.
5. And don't forget to visit Austen's tomb in Winchester, about 25 minutes away.
This one isn't free, unless you want to worship with the congregation, but both the inside and the outside of the cathedral are worth the visit, and Winchester is one of those cool quaint towns with quite a bit of English charm.