Often, as I’m seated on the red carpet that is Mistress Elizabeth’s open-air school on Saturday mornings, I see little faces turn to look at the quill pens, carding combs, mortar and pestle, and recorders. They want to stop and play, and learn about these things. But they’re pulled along by the adults who have their hands or wrists and so they have to go on. (I used to hate it when someone held my wrist, it felt sooo controlling…).
On Saturdays from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM, Mistress Elizabeth shows children how to hold a goose quill pen, dip it in ink, and write their name, or make a picture, or both. She also teaches them to take a bit of wool, card it, and use the drop spindle to turn it into wool. (I recently used some of the wool to darn my hosen, it holds quite well.)
For younger children, there is a tangled skein of yarn to work at, and a mortar and pestle for grinding spices (with a bit of journey cake that uses the same spices we grind, so they can taste it). Older children can practice writing their numbers and figuring sums as they spin a small top and clap to count how long it stays aloft, or add the amounts from three throws of the dice.There are also more complicated needlework pictures and stories to learn from the diaries of Benjamin Franklin and Anna Green Winslow.
At the end, if there are enough people, we learn a few songs and dance a country dance or two–longways, for as many as will. (Why? Truth is, I enjoy playing with people my own age…)
As for all Mistress Elizabeth’s tours, there is no charge for this activity, although a small donation helps defray the costs of ink, pens, and spices! Children MUST be accompanied by a responsible adult, and the adult may be asked to help with the dancing or to help keep order among any small energetic folk who are especially excited about smelling the wool, tasting the journey cake, or dancing about.
All are welcome; the attached brochure here gives more details about how you can do some of these activities yourself. (Mistress Elizabeth is also happy to conduct such activities on a regulated scale for schools, libraries, scouts and other groups.)