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Salem, Massachusetts: A Homeschooler’s Field Trip Guide to Early American History

May 19, 2024 | Homeschool, Massachusetts | 0 comments

Nestled on the northeastern coast of Massachusetts lies Salem, a city that whispers tales of the horrific Witch Trials of 1692. For homeschooling families with a love for American history, Salem serves as an enriching real-world classroom, offering immersive experiences and unforgettable lessons. Whether you’re tracing the steps of early settlers, or discussing the complexities of the witch trials, Salem invites learners of all ages into the heart of early American history.

Why Salem?

Salem is more than just the site of the witch trials; it’s a treasure trove of American Colonial history. From the 17th-century witch trials era to its status as one of America’s most important seaports, Salem provides a unique backdrop for education that engages, entertains, and enlightens.

If you have time, stop here first.

Getting Started: Planning Your Trip to Salem, Massachusetts

  • Best Time to Visit: Autumn in New England is stunning, with crisp air and colorful foliage. October, while overly crowded due to Halloween festivities, offers thematic events related to Salem’s witchcraft history. I suggest you book your trip 1 year in advance if you plan to attend in October!
  • Local Transportation: The city is walker-friendly, and public transportation and parking options are abundant. Consider a Salem Heritage Trail walking tour to hit the major historical sites or my personal favorite a 1-hour Salem Trolley tour through Salem.

Salem Warning

Just a heads-up: you’ll encounter a lot of witchcraft in Salem. Some people engage in it for fun, embracing the theme of the Salem Witch Trials, while others take it very seriously. You’ll find authentic witchcraft items and stores throughout the area.

Educational Highlights for Homeschoolers visiting Salem, Massachusetts

Many of the locations I’ve mentioned below are open Monday through Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM, giving you a 7-hour window each day to explore. A day trip to Salem is highly recommended, but if you prefer to extend your visit to two days, that’s also a great option.

1. The Salem Witch Museum: Start here for a comprehensive overview of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. The museum’s presentations offer insights into the trials, their causes, and their effects on American law and society. Tickets must be bought online and on the same day of your visit. Available entry times range from 9:45 AM to 4:45 PM, and you must select a specific slot. To ensure availability, it’s best to secure your tickets early in the morning during your trip as they can sell out quickly. This experience features an animatronic reenactment of the witch trials, vividly conveying to your students the intensity and fear experienced by those living in Salem during that era.

What a horrifying time! “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana,

2. Salem Maritime National Historic Site: Explore the customs house, historic buildings, wharves, and the reconstructed tall ship – a replica of a 1797 East Indiaman. This site offers a deep dive into Salem’s maritime history and the role of trade in early American prosperity. It is open Monday-Sunday 10 am-5 pm.

3. The House of the Seven Gables: Embark on a guided tour of this 1668 mansion, which inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name. It offers insights into 17th-century architecture, Colonial living conditions, and the Hawthorne family’s connection to Salem’s history.

4. Witch House (Jonathan Corwin House): The only structure still standing in Salem with direct ties to the Witch Trials, offering a glimpse into the life of a wealthy Salem family and 17th-century lifestyles. It is open Monday-Sunday 10 am-5 pm.

5. Witch Dungeon: It is open Monday-Sunday 10 am-5 pm. Tickets can be purchased upon arrival.

  • Live Reenactments: Their talented actors portray the dramatic events of the witch trials, giving you a front-row seat to history.
  • Dungeon Tours: Walk through a replica of the original dungeon where accused witches were imprisoned. You’ll see the stark differences in cell sizes based on financial status, highlighting the harsh realities of the time.
  • Historical Insights: Learn about the conditions of these jail cells and gain a visceral understanding of the fear and suffering endured by those locked away.

6. Salem Witch Trials Memorial: The Salem Witch Trials Memorial offers a profound and free experience for all visitors. Here, you’ll find a stone dedicated to each individual who lost their life during the trials, with their names and dates of death respectfully inscribed. This thoughtfully designed memorial deeply impacted us and stands as an essential visit for anyone interested in this poignant chapter of history.

7. Old Burial Point Cemetery

I know visiting a cemetery is weird but it’s important when in Salem and it’s free. You can see some of the oldest headstones in the United States. Next door, is the Salem Village Witchcraft Victim’s Memorial.

Integrating Salem into Your Homeschool Curriculum

  • Pre-Visit: Start with background readings on early American history, focusing on the Salem Witch Trials, maritime history, and daily life in Colonial America. We loved the “What Were the Salem Witch Trials?” book and “All Things Spooky” curriculum by Bare Foot Within the Trees on Etsy.
  • While There: Engage in active learning. Encourage note-taking, photography, and discussions about what you observe and learn each day.
  • Post-Visit: Assign projects or essays that allow students to reflect on their experiences, draw connections to their studies, and express what they’ve learned in creative ways.

Beyond the Witch Trials

While Salem’s witchcraft history is compelling, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the city’s other historical facets. Visit the Old Burying Point Cemetery, take a sail on a historic schooner, or simply wander the cobblestone streets to absorb the atmosphere of early America.

A Community Experience

Salem is more than a destination; it’s a vibrant community that welcomes learners with open arms. Local historians, reenactors, and museum educators in Salem are passionate about their heritage and eager to share it with curious minds. Engaging with these community resources can enhance your homeschooling experience and provide personal connections to the past.

Final Thoughts

Salem, Massachusetts, offers a unique combination of education, history, and adventure, making it an ideal travel destination for homeschooling families. From lessons in early American history to discussions about social justice, ethics, and the development of American law, Salem offers homeschoolers a dynamic learning experience framed by the scenic beauty of New England. Plan your trip, immerse yourself in the past, and create lasting educational memories in this historic American city.

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Hi, I’m Misty! Welcome to Glam Journey, where you’ll find travel-related content, itineraries and booking services for the adventurous mom who is living her version of a glamorous life.

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