In the car today on the way to gymnastics, D says:
“Mom, say this: Raise your hand if you know the name of the ship the Pilgrims sailed on.”
“Raise your hand if you know the name of the ship the Pilgrims sailed on.”
D raises her hand. I call on her.
“The Mayflower.” Then she says, “Wasn’t it good how I didn’t just blurt it out?”
“Yes. Nice job not blurting. What else did you learn about the Pilgrims? I noticed a picture of Pocahontas in your Friday folder last week.”
“Pocahontas went to meet the king and queen. She was an Indian. She lived in India. Her dad was in charge of their area, and he didn’t like the pilgrims, and then Pocahontas got tooken to meet the queen, and then she met her husband and they had a baby and he was their son! So was that baby a boy or a girl?” (That last question is clearly an imitation of her teacher’s voice, so I answer.)
“Um, a boy.”
“Right. He was a boy.”
I wait a minute, to see if more information is forthcoming, but this seems to be the end of the story of Pocahontas. I ask a couple follow up questions, but it seems like she genuinely has no idea why Pocahontas’ father didn’t like the Pilgrims, why the Pilgrims came to North America, or why Pocahontas went to England to meet the king and queen. Since we only have a few minutes in the car, I decide to try and intervene with the most glaring misunderstanding.
“Hey D, remember when you read about Christopher Columbus?”
“Yes. In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. That’s a rhyme: two, blue. His mom and dad thought the earth was flat but he did his dream and sailed and he was right because our world is a sphere, mom! A sphere!”
“Um, right. Remember how he wanted to sail to India, but he ended up in North America, but he didn’t realize that he had made a mistake sailing, so he called the North Americans he met Indians?
“Yes! But they were NOT India Indians!”
“Right. And neither was Pocahontas. She lived in North America, near the ocean, and the Pilgrims met her when they sailed here.”
“Oh. Did they think they were sailing to India?”
“Um, no. They pretty much knew where they were going. They just weren’t very respectful about people’s names. What else did you learn about the Indians?”
“Um, some really nice people bought Squanto and set him free after the bad people taked him and sold him. There’s a special word for that.”
“Slave? They made him a slave?”
“YES. They slaved him, and it was really bad, they were bad guys!”
“Who? The Pilgrims?”
“No. Well, I don’t know. Maybe Pilgrims. Or maybe Indians. But then those other people bought him and set him free. Wasn’t that nice?”
“Yes. That was definitely nice.” Again, all my follow up questions about this gem of a revelation are met with total confusion. She does not know if Squanto was enslaved (or freed) by Pilgrims or Indians, why he was enslaved, or how this story is connected to Pocahontas, if at all, beyond her initial (mis)understanding that both Pocahontas and Squanto lived in India.
Also, at no point did she mention the Pilgrims and Indians having Thanksgiving dinner together, which I would have assumed would be the centerpiece of any kindergarten lesson about the holiday. Or maybe it was, and I have the kid who only remembers the peripheral details of interest to her: ships, slavery, conflict, marriage babies. American History at its kindergarten best.