Like generations of girls before her, nine-year-old Emma loves Louisa May Alcott’s book, Little Women. She is also a fan of the sequels, Little Men and Jo’s Boys. When we went back to Massachusetts last summer, I made sure to stop by Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord.
Visiting Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House with Kids
The Louisa May Alcott Orchard house can only be seen on tours, with no photos allowed. I had taken Emma once before, when she was about Anna’s age, but that was for my own (and visiting guests’) benefit. We visited this past summer on an incredibly hot day, and the house was uncomfortably warm – I definitely recommend visiting during cooler weather, if you have the choice. The tour guide wears period dress and speaks as Louisa herself. Her narration was interesting enough that the three older kids stayed engaged (two-year-old Anna fell asleep on my shoulder, eventually). The house is full of period items, most of which actually belonged to the Alcott family.
While Little Women is fictionalized (you can learn about some of the things that were fact and some that were fiction during the tour), the house is true to how it is described in the book. You can see drawings on the walls done by Louisa’s sister May, who was the inspiration for sister Amy in the books. In Louisa’s room (“Jo” in the books), you can see the writing desk her father built, as well as samples of her actual writing.
Besides the ties to the books, this home is important within American history. Louisa’s father Amos Bronson Alcott was an innovative educator, and her mother Abigail May Alcott was one of the first paid social workers in the United States. The Alcott family lived in the center of America’s transcendentalist movement. Close family friends including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. These are details that fly over my children’s heads at their current ages, but in a few years when the learn about these philosophical movements, their visit to this house and the town where so many new ideas were developed may give them that personal connection that creates added interest to what can, otherwise, feel like a distant and even dry subject.
So when you get the chance, take your children to see historical sites. Read period novels with them. Include silly books, too! After all, the comic book series Asterix taught me a lot of French AND French history when my parents moved my family to France.
Do you have a favorite living history site? Old Sturbridge Village is my all-time favorite – we have been back to visit every time we have made it back to Massachusetts! It is one place I can take the kids on my own to spend an entire day and come home with four happy kids, a happy mom, and an entire day free of meltdowns.