Friday, October 16, 2015

Hawaii with Kids: Exploring the Hawaiian Monarchy on the Big Island

We're baaaaaaaaack!!!

We had a fabulous time in Hawaii! Beaches! Cheap, delicious sushi! Sea turtles! Volcanoes! Both kids learned to snorkel, Will and Matt learned to surf, we hiked and swam and explored and had ourselves the best possible vacation. And this time there were NO pet catastrophes while we were away--yay!!!--and now we're just struggling to get past our jet lag and get back on the Eastern Time Zone schedule, one that is SIX HOURS later than where we've spent the last two weeks.

For instance, it's 5:30 in the morning in Hawaii right now. Yawn. The kids have just gotten up, although tomorrow they'll have to get up a LOT earlier in order to go to ice skating and ballet. They are not going to be pleased.

Instead of breaking down our vacation chronologically, which I think would be boring for you ("We did this, and then we did this, and then we did this other thing!", etc.), I'm going to highlight the themes that I emphasized. Since we went to Hawaii with kids, obviously everything was more-or-less kid-friendly, if not just plain kid-centric, and so much of what we did was based on things that I wanted to explore as a family, for the kids. When you homeschool, a vacation is really just a homeschool field trip!

One of our major areas of study in our Hawaii unit is the Hawaiian monarchy: not only is the monarchy interesting in itself, and a good opportunity to study a different form of government for my kids who haven't done a lot of British history yet, but the way that groups have historically taken over, or been taken over, has turned into a theme that we've been emphasizing lately. Will and I, especially, have been having a lot of heavy discussions about how the punitive response to Germany after World War 1 led in many ways to Germany's actions in World War 2, just as the US embargo on Japan had consequences, just as Israel's actions against Palestine have consequences, etc.

Tangent. Did I mention that it's not quite 6 am in Hawaii time? Here in Indiana, I'm sleepy!

On the Big Island in Hawaii, there are some well-preserved vestiges of the early Hawaiian monarchy. We visited two national parks dedicated to this. Pu'ukohola Heiau is a great one for exploring the early monarchy system, in which the Hawaiian islands were divided among several monarchs, and the beginning of one united monarchy under King Kamehameha I.

And of COURSE there is a Junior Ranger program!

Protip: Bring your own pencil case with pencils, colored pencils, and a pencil sharpener with you to national parks that have Junior Ranger programs. The park will usually give your kid a pencil, but sometimes it's just a golf pencil, and even though many Junior Ranger books require coloring or drawing, they don't often have crayons to lend, and even when they do, it's just the little pack of restaurant-style crayons that they have to offer. The kids can work much more contentedly, and at a higher level, when they've got a full set of good supplies.

This park tells the story of the youth who grew up to become King Kamehameha I, as well as the story of how he united the Hawaiian Islands. The highlight of the park is this heiau that Kamehameha had built and dedicated to their war god:

He summoned his cousin, a rival king, to this place, ostensibly to sign a peace treaty, but when the cousin and his party arrived, Kamehameha and his party killed them all, fulfilling a prophecy and leading to the unification of the islands.

You can't go inside the heiau unless you're a native Hawaiian doing something of religious or cultural significance, but you can walk a trail that meanders around to a view of a submerged temple dedicated to shark gods:

The black-tipped reef sharks used to be fed here daily, and still congregate here. Will and I reckon that we saw one through the binoculars!

Will also became very interested in Hawaiian weapons here--lots of koa wood and shark teeth--but the recreations in the gift shop were all hundreds of dollars, alas. A future DIY opportunity awaits!

On another day, we all went to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau, the site of royal grounds and a sanctuary for kapu-breakers:

The kapu were royal laws--some were good, some were nutty, and the breaking of any one of them was punishable by death... unless you could reach the pu'uhonua in your district. To get to this one, you had to swim across a bay to this place:

These ki'i tell you that you're on royal or sacred ground. Come into this area, or even let your shadow fall into it, and you've broken kapu:

I super want a model of one to put at the edge of my yard, but that would probably be culturally insensitive.

As former royal grounds, the national park here gives a good example of what royal life looked life. Lovely huts, a fishing pond, a place to worship, a place to play games--

Konane is a game played with black and white stones. You can jump in a straight line over your opponent. The kids fought EVERY single time they played it.
Here's an original one that was actually played by royal Hawaiian children.
 The indentations in this huge rock were maybe used for pounding poi, and maybe for evaporating salt out of seawater:

Kiddo loves her coconuts!
You're rarely going to see my children's faces on this vacation, on account of I sewed these fair-skinned babies giant bucket hats and made them wear them every time they went outside. 
We saw many, many, many of these Moorish idols while snorkeling, but of course I can't take my camera snorkeling! Here's a school that we saw in a tide pool here:

Later, on Oahu, we visited the Bishop Museum to see a larger overview of the monarchy, including a biography and artifacts from every single monarch. I'll tell you all about that another time!

As far as touring tips for your own Hawaii vacation with kids: neither site was riveting, but they both had Junior Ranger programs. If you don't have kids who are super into Junior Rangers and/or you're not making a study of the Hawaiian monarchy, only Pu'uhonua O Honaunau is probably worth a visit, and then only because it's the best example of ki'i that we saw on our entire trip, and ki'i are pretty impressive. There's also a superb and kid-friendly snorkeling site, Two Step, just before the gate to this park, and through the gate, but to the left of the actual park, there's a drive that leads to a lovely picnic spot and tidepooling area.

If you've got kids who are into wildlife spotting, or who are older, patient, and handy with the binoculars, Pu'ukohola O Honaunau is worth visiting at low tide, binoculars in hand, to look for the black-tipped reef sharks. We saw lots of wildlife on this trip, but this is the only place we saw a shark!

Finally, here are some additional activities to enrich or add context to a study of the Hawaiian monarchy. We did some of these, and some I've set aside for the next time we study Hawaii:
  • Read this graphic of the Hawaiian monarchs. We have this up on our wall with our other Hawaii visual materials. 
  • Watch the American Experience episode on Hawaii's last monarch. This was really dry, so I didn't make the kids finish watching it, but Matt and I did. Even we had trouble getting through it, but it was worth it for the information.
  • Make a paper ki'i. I will make the kids do this, because I want them!
  • Complete a shark unit. I don't think we'll do this, but a visit to Pu'ukohola O Honaunau could easily inspire an entire unit on sharks.
And if you're worried that all I'm going to show you of our trip to Hawaii is a billion museums and historical sites, don't worry--tomorrow I'm going to show you some beautiful beaches!


Tina said...

You guys take the best vacations! I can't wait to hear about the rest of it!

Madam B said...

Please adopt me! I had a great mother, but I think you are wonderful.

julie said...

Aww, thanks, y'all! This vacation did turn out even better than I'd dreamed it would be! Of course, I imagine that it would be pretty hard to have a bad vacation in Hawaii...