Charles Dickens’ Past: Humble
Charles Dickens had an incredibly humble upbringing. That’s probably why we love him so much. We can identify with him or we have a sense of empathy for him. However, if we can’t identify with true poverty he gives us, through his writing, the opportunity to see all facets of society. Dickens helps us explore how Victorian Society was so challenged during the Industrial Revolution with the affluence of the few in contrast with the poverty of the masses.
As a child, he worked in a blacking factory under horrendous conditions before the laws of child labor were enacted in England in 1833. His father, mother, and younger siblings were sent to debtor’s prison. He was too old to go with them, however, and was healthy enough to work so he was sent to work at Warren’s Blacking Factory making shoe polish.
Charles Dickens’ childhood had such an impact on him it became a regular theme throughout many of his books and short stories. His captivating stories allow readers from all classes to see what Victorian life was like for others.
Charles Dickens’ Present: Family, Privilege, and Power
Like every adult with a young family, Charles Dickens was in need of an income to support his growing household. He was becoming an accomplished writer. He had a dedicated following for his weekly short stories (later chapters of some of his most famous works). This was his opportunity to use his creativity to explore the current issues of the day in Victorian England.
The Industrial Revolution was at the height of progress. Industrial magnates were inventing all kinds of things from steam engines, to cotton gins. Every effort was being made to make England a powerhouse of commerce. In the midst of it all, there was an expanding gap between the classes in Victorian Society. There was a growing population that had the luxury to spend money on books and magazines and ‘the finer things of life’. However, these were the people that were out of touch with the life of the common citizen of Britain – the factory worker, the shipyard laborer, or the country farm tenant.
As Dickens grew in popularity so did his connections in high Victorian society. He had many friends with noble upbringings, yet he never forgot his humble beginnings. He was the perfect person to help bridge the class gap and create awareness of the reality of every-day, common life in Victorian England.
Dickens’ Future: Hope
It’s easy to see how Dickens was becoming a person to help create change in society. With his stories in written form, they were accessible to many. However, by going on the road and performing excerpts of his most loved works he was able to reach people in other countries and increase awareness through the stories of his quirky, oddly, but always perfectly named, characters.
His travels allowed for even more creative genius as he traveled. Exploring abroad was a perfect way to become familiar with the culture and customs of other regions of the world. His popularity grew as he toured the USA and Europe. His tours allowed him to see how others were handling the positive and negative effects of the Industrial Revolution. Creating a path of hope was his greatest and most powerful writing endeavor.
History in Context
When you recognize the individuals that were the contemporaries of Charles Dickens, it’s astounding. As he grew in fame, he likely had multiple opportunities to mingle with many well-known people. His opportunity to influence them and be impacted by their life stories no doubt became his inspiration for so many of his literary works. Look at this shortlist of other famous people that were living at the same time as Charles Dickens.
Scientists – Inventors – Businessmen
- Charles Darwin
- Louis Pasteur
- John D. Rockefeller
- Andrew Carnegie
- Thomas Edison
We could stop there but let’s continue with recognizing other famous authors of the Victorian era. Imagine Dickens, among these famous writers, sharing their thoughts and ideas over a game of charades or chess at a dinner party.
- Karl Marx
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Harriet Beecher Stowe
- Henry David Thoreau
As a world traveler, Dickens had the opportunity to ‘rub shoulders’ with so many famous people in both Europe & the United States of America. His circle of influence was ever-expanding; creating opportunities to invent the timeless masterpieces for which he is known. Imagine being at a gala event with even just a handful of these world leaders!
- Abraham Lincoln
- Queen Victoria
- Kaiser Wilhelm II
- Theodore Roosevelt
While he may have not met all of these people personally, he had more than ample access to the news of the day. His journals show that he was greatly impacted by his trips to the United States.
Of course, art and music was an important part of ‘high society’ life as well. But these artists also had a way of creating greatness out of the simple aspects of life using a variety of different creative mediums. Can you imagine the inspirational conversation that would come over an evening together with these world-renowned artists & musicians?
- Vincent Van Gogh
- James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Like most in the Victorian era, Dickens was considered a very religious person. He was benevolent and had a familiar sense of the impact generosity – or the lack of it – can have on a person. Imagine him sitting at a table discussing the human condition with any of these famous humanitarians, theologians, missionaries, and activists.
- George Mueller
- Florence Nightingale
- George Spurgeon
- Susan B Anthony
- Harriet Tubman
- David Livingstone
Surely, each of us lives ‘for such a time as this’!
Dickens lived during an era of massive change in every aspect of life in the modern world. Did his past haunt him? Definitely.
Were his present circumstances challenging? Indeed.
Did he have hope for the future? Absolutely!
And, he was committed to using his talent of masterful writing and character creation to help change thoughts and ideas about the challenges of life in the Victorian era.
His timeless classics offer an opportunity for us to examine our own era and decide how we can be people of strong moral character with our own God-given skills and creativity.
Find Out More
Want to know more about the man who invented Christmas and the Victorian world in which he lived? Check out our spring class, Dinner with Dickens, taught by Shannan Swindler, this spring for students in grades 8-12.
Virtual Field Trips are a great way to see the world, even if you are on a strict schedule or tight budget. With today’s technology, field trips can be just a click away. I’ve compiled a list of Virtual Field Trips below. Some are fun, but all are guaranteed to bring learning to you!
Get ready to reclaim Field Trip Friday (or any other day of the week, for that matter) with these 26 virtual museum resources. Create engaging, active learning with fun virtual field trips.
This round-up style list of virtual museums has something to learn and explore for every age and curiosity. Have fun as a family or invite a group of friends to hang out together because these are perfect for home or small learning communities that are gathering digitally to learn and use the world as their classroom. Where will you explore first?
Explore the United States with these Fascinating Virtual Museum Tours
- John Muir Exhibit – this exhibit by the Sierra Club offers a concise story of Muir’s life, writings, and works. It includes sounds, video, and text. Grab the videos here:
- Virtual Geologic Field Trip to Griffith Park – if you’re interested in geology and earthquakes, take a look at this site. It was developed for use on its own or as an introduction to an actual field trip to Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Perfect for an earth science project or presentation.
- What’s in the Sky – this resource links page is great for kids working on an astronomy report or just wanting to learn more about the sun, moon & stars for fun.
- Yellowstone National Park Virtual Field Trip– virtually visit one of the most popular and beautiful national parks in the United States. You can find more online learning resources for Yellowstone in the Explore Wyoming Online Course.
- Museum of Natural History– this room-by-room walking tour of the museum is so fascinating and engaging. There are many exciting artifacts to look at and cultures to explore. Perfect slumber party activity for creating your own “Night at the Museum.”
- San Diego Zoo- your animal lover will have a ball learning all about animals! This is just one of the many California places you can visit virtually.
- Monterey Bay Aquarium- watch sea creatures in real-time! Do your kids love zoo & aquarium cams? This is perfect for learning about the habits and habitats of their favorite underwater creatures.
- The American Museum of Natural History- there are so many exciting exhibits and virtual tours. It’s a perfect place to use a virtual field trip journal or notebooking page to capture it all.
- The Collection at The National Gallery of Art– you can perform a search by artist, title, or subject. The Fine Arts Virtual Art Museum notebooking page is perfect for helping young artists get excited about art. The alphabet scavenger hunt, included in the download, is a fun way to see art in a whole new way by closely observing it.
- Online Exhibits from Colonial Williamsburg– these 360 tours of Williamsburg are perfect for seeing what life was like in early American history. See restorations of paintings, examine types of currency, and explore colonial maps. Are your kids keen to learn about Colonial America? The Explore Virginia Online Course is a treasure trove of resources for learning about Colonial America.
- Explore Plymouth Plantation– explore Plymouth and interact with some of its people. At using the Plimoth at home virtual learning resources.
- Visit Gettysburg – learn about the Battle of Gettysburg with this 16 stop virtual tour of the battlefield.
- These online resources about Pennsylvania will help your family learn about famous people and places that make Pennsylvania great.
- Discovery Education Field Trips– Discovery Education offers various free, interactive tours designed for elementary school students. There is so much to choose from!. Use the drop-down subject search box to tailor-make your virtual field trip.
Use The World As Your Classroom with Virtual Museum Tours at 11 World-Famous Museums
No passport is required! Learn about all kinds of things from the best museums in the world. From art to artifacts, science firsts to exploring Mars. It’s all right at your fingertips. There is no better way to inspire and encourage a broad worldview than by visiting museums and outdoor exhibits that allow for inquisitive exploration. Now, thanks to technology, you can give your child the world right in your own living room.
Museums to Visit Online
- Le Louvre – Studying art this year? Check out this World Famous Museum! So many resources and so little time. It’s perfect for art project ideas, artist studies, and art appreciation.
- Secrets of Easter Island This is a beautiful website put together by Nova and PBS. It includes a tour of the island and the game Move a Megalith. So much fun!
- Virtual Farm Tours: Learn more about the wonders of agriculture with your students through this panoramic tour of farms in Ontario.
- Reach the World at home resources. Each of these kid-friendly journeys follows the experiences of a stand-out Reach the World traveler as they dive head-first into an exciting new country and culture. Super fun for geography & country studies!
- Museo Galileo Institute and Museum of the History of Science View over 1,200 objects on the permanent exhibition! There is so much to learn about Galileo Galilei in this interactive, online museum. Middle & High Schoolers may also enjoy a deep-dive Galileo unit study. The Let’s Study Galileo: Science & Truth is a unit study exploring the life and famous works of Gallileo using artifacts and resources from the museum.
- Holocaust Museum Tour Find pictures, video, and art from the Holocaust Museum. Use the virtual tour along with teaching resources and survivor stories as you help your family understand the tragedy of the holocaust.
- Online Exhibitions from the Natural History Museum in London– explore art themes, botanical illustrations, and save images of your favorite exhibits. Perfect for an indoor nature study on a cold winter’s day.
- British Museum– investigate, and have fun adventuring through the many virtual galleries! Learn more about Roman Britain and Egyptian mummies with in-depth studies that correspond with gallery artifacts.
- Tour the Sistine Chapel – explore the paintings on your computer. This is the same dizzying experience as doing it in person … but without the neck-ache. Being able to zoom in and see the detail of these amazing panels is actually better than being there in person! Grab your sketchbook and spend the day in Vatican City!
- The Great Wall of China Virtual Tour– this 360-degree tour of parts of the Great Wall is impressive. You can advance on the wall as if walking. Jump on the stationary bike or treadmill and visit China for PE class today!
- Ancient Greek Mythology Virtual Tour – studying the Ancient Greeks or mythology? This interactive virtual tour of the Acropolis in Greece is perfect for learning more about this ancient culture.
Virtual Tours That are Out of This World
- Explore an Estuary – if your students are studying the tides, ocean, or water dwellers, this is an excellent site. Explore habitats, migration patterns, and climate impact using any of the resources from all over the USA.
Can’t get enough of these virtual field trip options? Don’t worry; we have more suggestions and companion resources for you! I’d love to hear how you incorporate virtual field trips into your homeschooling! Share your favorites in the comments below!
Learn more about the author, curriculum creator, and True North Homeschool Academy Teacher, Shannan Swindler.