American Family Adventures Series — Living History Alive And Well at The Henry Ford

Earlier this year, when I made the case you should NOT save for your kid’s college tuition and caused a minor stir on The Huffington Post, one of the comments (yeah, I read them) was something to the effect of “I could Google image search Gaudi architecture and my kids would still learn about it, and I can save for their college.” Pretty sure that polite soul also called me an ass and a terrible parent, but that might have also been one of about 100 others. It got hard to keep track of the insults. That was all in direct response to our using of last year’s cash budgeted for the girls’ 529 college savings plans, $1000 each, to fly them over to Barcelona, and, specifically, to my youngest daughter’s continued fascination with structures that aren’t linear as well as the use of mangled tiles in visual design. I’m going to go way out on a limb and say that she’d be considerably less fascinated with both had she only seen them on a laptop screen, even a 17″ one. If that is wrong, than I don’t want to be right. But what do I know, I’m nothing but an ass and a terrible parent.

Mouse in Rosa Parks Bus

Our Investing In Childhood bus rolled through the midwest last week, rolling right over the criticism, and stopping here and there, and there, and there, and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. There, my Gaudi-lover and her always-curious sis had the opportunity to sit in Rosa Parks’ seat. Yeah, that one. On that exact bus. I love ya, Google, but once again a pair of young lives are enhanced not by an image but by an experience. An experience that cost money, money I’d argue once again is better spent now to facilitate that experience than what it would compound to provide in 12 years time: A textbook or two. More images and more words on a page. Phooey.

OWTK girls in Rosa Parks bus

Instead, two wide-eyed girls, ages 9 and a 6, sat and listened and read and soaked up a small sterile slice of 1950s America, the good and the bad. I have no idea the long term impact of them climbing aboard that bus, of sitting in that seat, of seeing two cracked white porcelain drinking fountains, one for blacks only and one for whites, of looking into the eyes of a KKK hooded robe. But then again I also didn’t know that Gaudi’s wavy buildings and frequent use of broken tiles would make such a profound impact on my then 5-year-old. And I don’t know what, if anything, she will someday do with all of her childhood interests and knowledge.

I am merely a humble servant to such historical and cultural moments. I am the vehicle, often literally, for my daughters to see the world with their imaginative and wondrous eyes. Doing all of this for and with them throughout their childhood, making these investments in them now, isn’t about the quantitative. There are no test scores or GPAs to evaluate today. There is only belief in the accumulative worth of a developing word view for children, and a desire to never stop investing in exactly that.

OWTK girls with Rosa Parks sign

 The Henry Ford is located in Dearborn, Michigan on a massive campus that also includes Greenfield Village and the Ford Rouge Factory (which you can and should tour, more on that later on OWTK!) The stately, enormous, and spacious museum features so many artifacts from U.S. history, including the chair President Lincoln was sitting in when assassinated, the limo JFK was seated in when assassinated and many other physical pieces of America’s past not associated with presidents being assassinated, like a grand suite of cars (of course!), planes, a sizable space devoted to the women’s suffrage movement which saw the Bear getting very frustrated with the 1800s, and the original Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, meaning you can learn a lot at the Henry Ford and still be goofy. Basically, it is a perfect American Family Adventure Travel destination. Tip: eat at the Michigan Cafe inside the Henry Ford, just outside the big steam trains and kiddie LEGO play area, for a very good and fairly priced lunch. We shared two plates (open faced pulled pork sandwich and a slice of quiche, with a pair of sides) between the four of us and it was plenty of food for about $20 with drinks.

Oscar Mayer Wienermobile at the Henry Ford

A young modern girl is not at all pleased with the way women were treated in the 1800s

While in the area, consider a night in Detroit for a Red Wings hockey game. Joe Louis Arena might not be around much longer and she’s a grand old lady, all red and all white and all beautiful, that you and your kids should visit at least once.

*OWTK received tickets to the Henry Ford for review consideration. All opinions expressed above are honest and unbiased, as always.

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