Mingo Falls

River TubingElkWe started our adventure in Swain County with a trip to Mingo Falls. It is  beautiful and only a short hike to get there.  You may want to ask for directions or print directions before you go because several people lost cell and GPS signal.  The next activity would be river tubing with Cherokee Rapids River Tubing.   It will take you four hours or more and for $10 per person that is a pretty good deal.  A couple of tips. If you want to stay with someone then I would tether to them especially kids This river is swift in places and slow in others.  If you start where we did, be ready it was a swift start. The coolest part was two elk eating on the river bank as we floated by. Claire also love the rope swing and took a few turns. I would do it again and Claire would have done it again right then.

We grabbed some food at the cooler and then headed to the outdoor drama- Unto the Hills. I highly recommend you see this show. It gives you a great overview of the history of the Cherokee. I suggest you do that before the other attractions for a great overview.

11227030_10206072930276989_265167319595775487_nThe next morning we started with a program with invertebrates with the Great Smoky National Park. The program was held at  Mingus Mill. The kids collected and studied invertebrates and then heard one of the Cherokee folk tales. The mill is interesting because it does not have a wheel but its powered by with a millrace. I had never seen a mill like that before so  it was interesting.  After the program and mill, we went to the Mountain Farm Museum about on half a mill down the road. The farm has several buildings collected throughout the area. There is a  log farmhouse, barn, apple house, springhouse, and a working blacksmith shop. Be sure to get an inexpensive self-guiding booklet at the beginning that gives more information about all the buildings. There is also a small yet informative visitor center and a nice gift shop at this location. We then had a great lunch at Wize Guys Grille. They have two different food places under one roof. One has burgers and fries and the other pizza and Italian places. Everyone found something that they wanted to eat and enjoyed there meal.


11825730_10206072929596972_4711823288886704445_nWe next went to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. The museum starts with a movie of one of the many Cherokee folk stories. The museum has many interesting exhibits and many built on the information we learned at Unto the Hills. We liked seeing one of the rifles that killed Silas. The statue with three sides representing the three different factions during the Cherokee removal was interesting. We learned a lot about Henry Timberlake and Emissaries of Peace exhibit.   There is lot to look at in the museum but there is not a lot of interactive things. It depends on how much you read but I would suggest at least an hour and half.

11745710_10205980663290372_2527020725966491683_nThe last stop in the town of Cherokee was the Oconaluftee Indian Village.  The kids really enjoyed the Indian Village. They have a guided tour of the first part of the village where they demonstrate many of the traditional crafts. They have a dancing demonstration and lecturers throughout the day. I highly recommend the lecturers they are only around 20 minutes and they are very informative.  We spend about two hours at the village. They only doing the dances at certain times so check schedule and plan accordingly.

11836802_10206072925876879_5884235511601061389_nWe stopped at Sassy Sunflowers Bakery and Cafe for dinner.  Cobey and I had salads and Claire had a sandwich and soup. This place was so good and the food was fresh. It was our favorite meal in the county. We then headed for Bryson City to see the courthouse and for desert.  We stopped at Soda Pops for Ice Cream. The place has a great atmosphere and the kid’s loved the ice cream. We stopped at the Courthouse and walked around the downtown. This is a very charming town and I would like to go back when we have time. There seemed like several neat places to eat also. We then headed to Murphy. On the way, we stopped at beautiful overlooks and we stumbled on a pedestrian bridge that was wonderfully scary and fun. The bridge was a great ending to a county that we want to go back and visit again soon. Swain ranks in the top of the counties so far.








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Vinegar Boy by Alberta Hawse is a must read anytime but especially wonderful for the Easter Season. We read it last year as a read aloud and we all enjoyed it.

It is a beautiful interpretation of the death of the Christ through the eyes of a boy. The disfigured boy’s job is to give comfort to prisoners when they are dying with a sponge of vinegar and herbs.  There are some great themes of service, love and adoption in the book. The story is captivating. It is one of the few books that I would read again.

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Roberts-Vaughan House Yesterday, we made quick trip to Hertford County. We are working on Claire’s project on Lafayette and decided to explore the county at the same time. I was quite surprised what the county had to offer.We first stopped in Murfreesboro. They have so much history and many preserved buildings. We first stopped at the Roberts-Vaughan House (1790-pictured above). We got a tour of this house and learned a little about the town history. We next went to the Agriculture/Transportation Museum. It is small but fascinating.  We  got to see a replica of a flying machine that was built 30 years before the Wright Brothers flight. We also saw the corn husker that gave Gatling the idea for rapid fire gun. We saw a few other houses and buildings from the outside then went for lunch.

Flying Machine


We had lunch at Tavern 125. Cobey had a burger (pictured below), Claire had clam chowder and I had philly steak.  The kids had key lime pie(pictured below)  for dessert. The food was very good and reasonably priced.

Tavern 125

Tavern 125


We then went to the Parker’s Ferry. It is one of the last cable ferries in NC. It can only carry two cars at a time. The kids actually thought it was fun!

Parker's Ferry


Chowan CollegeWe then drove thru Winton which was not very impressive. They had one museum that was not open and a few old buildings but many were in disrepair.  We stayed a few minutes then after some searching headed to Chowan College for our walk in the county. It was the best we could find. The ponds on campus were nice and we walked around for a bit then headed home.  It will not make the top of our counties but it will not be at the bottom either. We will be back for sure either for a field trip I set up or one of their second Saturdays that they start in April. Lafayette visited here and you should too.


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Tips for New Homeschool Moms

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Sunday Feb 1, 2015 Under Carmen's Favorite Things, Homeschool

This was a post from my facebook page.

Tips for New Homeschool Moms
1- DO NOT try what I call school at home. This is when people  try to duplicate what school does at home with desk and textbooks and stuff. They are not in school for a reason STOP!
2- Your two year old DOES not need curriculum. For that matter, your 3,4,5,6 year old does not need it. READ, PLAY GAMES REPEAT
3- If you pull your kid out of public school, DON’T start book work right away. They need time to decompress and adjust. When you do start, start with a few subjects and then add.
4- You do not have to “have school” 180 days. The whole attendance think is laughable to me. Homeschooling is a lifestyle not a school day so I count everyday as “school”.
5- School should not take all day. If your early elementary students are going past lunch then that is too long unless you don’t get up to lunch which sometimes happens in our house.
6- DON’t prepare your kids for testing that is what is wrong with the system. Test them glean, what you can, and move on.
8- The beauty of homeschooling is the relationship. Don’t miss it by putting them in front of a computer all day or worrying about getting them in to Harvard. You will miss the best parts.
9- Speaking of Harvard, don’t worry about getting them into college at all. They will get into college and not because you worried about it. Instead focus on finding out what your kids are passionate about and fan the flame. Tailor what you do around what they love.
10- Don’t try to prove to the world you did the right thing by trying to prove they are smart. Don’t try to push them in to classes they are not ready for. Don’t have them study for the hours for  the spelling bee, Geo Bee, History Bowl, etc if they hate it. Let them spend the time exploring THEIR interest. If you stop trying to prove yourself, then people will see this homeschooling thing is working.
Bonus- Stop asking dumb questions. FIRST, do a little research like all of us veterans did, then if you have a question ask it. You are driving us crazy. My guess is the people who I am talking to have not read this far. They are off posting another question on Facebook

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Hoke was our 13th county and the first county visit that it rained the entire time.  I am glad our main activity was indoors.  We decided we would fly a mile instead of walk a mile.

We started our visit at The Mill at Puppy Creek for lunch. The food was a mix of Italian and bar food.   My side salad was not so good but the lasagna was good. The bar food was good also. The service was good but took awhile to get our checks. We really liked the atmosphere – big windows overlooking the old mill and river.

Old Mill at Puppy Creek

After lunch, we were unsuccessful in finding another place to have dessert or something interesting to see so  we headed for the main attraction in Hoke- Paraclete XP, Indoor Skydiving. It was a homeschool field trip and we had 15 flyers – age 8 to adults. The staff was awesome. We first went to a classroom where they  explained everything and taught hand signals. We then went and got all our gear and suited up. Once we went in the tunnel, I did get a little nervous. We each got 2 one minute flights.  It was fun and everyone had a BLAST!!   The staff is so patient and professional. We could not have had a better first flight. Claire is begging to go back.

Claire Skydiving


Cobey Skydiving


The kids were not impressed with the courthouse. They thought it was to tall for the width but at least it was not one from the 80s,

Hoke County Courthouse

Overall, this kids put it last on the list. They absolutely LOVED skydiving but overall not much in Hoke County.

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The Tale of Two Homeschool Conventions

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Monday May 6, 2013 Under Carmen's Favorite Things, Homeschool

This spring I decided to attend both the Great Homeschool Convention and Teach Them Diligently. I wanted to attend both back-to-back to see which one I liked better, so that I could choose one in upcoming years. We had four women go to the Great Homeschool Convention and twelve to Teach Them Diligently.

We started off by going to the Great Homeschool Convention that was held in Greenville, SC  in March. The first advantage of this conference is the timing. In March, you really don’t know if you are going to make it to the end of the year and a homeschool conference is a great way to get some inspiration to persevere. The second advantage of this conference is the venue. I used to complain about the venue because it was not close to a decent hotel to stay at. I like when the hotel is attached or close to the conference center so you can go back to the room if needed. I also like when I don’t have to drive for the entire weekend.  However, compared to the Teach Me Diligently conference, the venue is much better. They have bigger rooms that were not as crowded. At Teach Me Diligently, I found myself standing or sitting on the floor more than once. Also, they have nicer chairs at the Great Homeschool Convention which matters after three days of sitting. Oh, and the venue has a bigger area for vendors, which means more vendors, which means more shopping. Okay – that can be good or bad depending on how you look at it.  The third advantage was that the teen track seemed much better at the Great Homeschool Convention. I don’t know anyone who has done the teen tracts so this is simply from looking at what each one offered. The speakers at the Great Homeschool Convention were fantastic. Some of my favorites were: Adam Andrews on literature, John Stonestreet on worldview, Tedd Tripp on parenting, and Woody Robertson and Dr. Duke Pesta on the evils of college.

This past weekend 12 women from our group went to Teach Me Diligently in Spartanburg, SC.  One of the advantages of this conference was a variety of places to eat at the convention venue, although I did not eat there. They had several different places bring in food. The other advantage, which is a big one, is that it was a very spiritual convention. I can’t explain it, but God was clearly at work during this conference. God spoke to several people in our group, including myself. God speaking to us may trump everything else – but he could have spoken without me having to sit on the floor. And He may have spoken even clearer if I had not been distracted by the crying babies and misbehaving children. I never noticed this problem at the Great Homeschool Convention, but it was a issue at this one. I know people who left sessions because of this. Despite that, I was so blessed to hear from Israel Wayne, Mark Hanby, Heidi St. John, Norm Wakefield and Todd Friel. I believe that this convention will change and grow me but I think some seeds were planted at Great Homeschool Conference.

So the answer to which homeschool conference is better is – I can’t decide. They were each so valuable in different ways that I have decided that the years I can, I will go to both. Next year, I will probably take the kids to one and go with my girlfriends to one. If the teen tracks stay the same then I will take the kids to Great Homeschool and then I will go to Teach Me Diligently in Spartanburg or the new location of Washington DC. I am really excited about Great Homeschool having Dr. Ben Carson and I know Teach Me Diligently will also have some great speakers. So sorry guys, I can’t be more helpful, but I think all homeschool moms deserve to get to go to both.


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Landry Academy Science Intensive

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Tuesday Apr 23, 2013 Under Carmen's Favorite Things, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner





Physical Science LabI am at my second Landry Academy Science Intensive for the month. Cobey did the General Science one two weeks ago and now he is doing Physical Science one. The intensives are two  jammed packed days of  years worth of science labs.  The students get a lab book, googles and aprons at the beginning. Before each of the lab, the instructor gives the students the background information. The students then perform the lab and then record the results. At each intensive, they did a full lab report for homework which was valuable practice. The students have an awesome experience while learning a lot.


ScienceIn the General Science Lab, Cobey’s favorite lab was the one dealing with the effects of sugar on your body. It really made an impact on him and he now talks about how much sugar he has had for the day or how much sugar is in certain food. They also dissected a owl pellet, a worm and a star fish. But one of the biggest hit was the dry ice lab (photo to right)  where they talked discovered states of matter and changes in states of matter. In the Physical Science, the student enjoyed the Candle Observation Lab where they learned about physical and chemical changes. They also really enjoyed the lab called- The Need for Speed where they discovered effect of incline on speed.

Next year, they are combining the two intensives into a Physical Science/Life Science one. They next ones in NC are on the calendar for Sepetember. I encourage you to sign up soon.


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Last spring we used The Outdoor Secrets Companion by Sonya Shafer and Karen Smith for science. It says it is for early years to Grade 2 but I did it with both Claire (grade 2 at the time) and Cobey (grade 4). I loved this curriculum. It was simple and included nature journaling, poetry and science. There are fifty lessons. You could spread it out over a year but we did a lesson a day and finished in a few months. The only drawback was there were a few books that we could not find at the library but you could easily do it without the book. The kids loved the activities and never complained about the activities. Cobey never acted like it was too young for him and enjoyed the stories. Outdoor Secrets is very well written and the stories are very interesting. While we were doing this study, I kept thinking this is the way you should do science for young kids. I highly recommend it .

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Christmas ADVENTure

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Friday Jan 4, 2013 Under Carmen's Favorite Things, Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner

Yes, I am slightly behind on my posts, I do have some back posts I would love to get to but today I want to share with you why I had one of the most special Christmases ever.  The first reason I was able to do all we did is that we were home. We did not go anywhere in December for the first time that I can remember. I have not had an overnight trip since Thanksgiving weekend and yes I am getting a little stir crazy. I really try to make the Christmas about Jesus.

Every year since Cobey was born we have had a Happy Birthday Jesus part where we collected gifts for the Pregnancy Crisis Center. This year we had a carnival at a friend’s farm. We read the Christmas Story in her barn which was so cool.  The station where they shot balloons with the bb gun was very poplar. It was another huge success.  The other thing we do is we celebrate St. Nick’s Day which is December 6th. I like this for several reasons. One, it gets Santa over with early in the month. Two, St. Nick was a real person that did things for people in secret. We have never said Santa is watching you. We have always read the true story of St. Nicholas and talked about doing good for others. Those are just of our two traditions that I love.


This year I wanted to add something and I came across a book that I have had for years but not really looked at-  Christmas Adventure by Lisa Whelchel.  We did something from the book everyday starting December 2nd to December 25th. The book had history and information about all the Christmas customs and then an activity or craft. It pointed EVERYTHING we do at Christmas back to Christ. It really made me look at the tree, the gifts, the baking, the songs, the colors and the lights with a different perspective and gave them meaning. Cobey’s favorite was when we “caught the cake on fire.” I never knew sugar cubes and peppermint could be so much fun. Claire’s favorite was giving a prized toy to someone who we knew would appreciate it. We also all slept by the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve that may be a new tradition. Even though I lost most of my photos from December that is another sad post, I will always be able to remember that this was one of the best Christmases Ever. I am just wondering how I will be able to top it next year and what to do for Easter.


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Carmen’s Favorite Things- Brave Writer

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Saturday May 12, 2012 Under Carmen's Favorite Things, Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner

I am starting a new series called- Carmen’s Favorite Things.  I will begin by reviewing my favorite homeschool products but who knows where it will go from there.  I will start with a little background about me. My wish for my children is to develop a love for learning and the ability to think. I try to not focus on “teaching” them anything.  They don’t have to LOVE everything we do but if they are miserable with something then I try to change it up. I believe it is a waste of my time and theirs time to work on anything once the wall has gone up. I have moved more and more toward a Charlotte Mason approach but not a purist.  My only homeschool regret is that I did not  pay more attention to her approach earlier.

I am starting with Brave Writer because they have a sale on their new product – Jot It Down that ends tomorrow. (http://www.bravewriter.com/program/home-study-courses/jot-it-down/) I have been using their products for over a year now and have nothing but praise. I first was introduced to Brave Writer at a conference last year. Julie Bogart, the owner, was teaching a workshop. I instantly loved her because everything she said “made sense” and lined up with my educational philosophy. My first purchases were The Writer’s Jungle and a years worth of The Arrow. The Writer’s Jungle is not a step by step curriculum although it has many great ideas. It is more of a philosophy of why and how to teach writing. It is a reference that every homeschool home needs. The Arrow is language art program for 3rd thru 6th grade. It covers spelling, punctuation, grammar, and literary elements in a “natural, literature-bathed context, using copywork and dictation.”  This may not seem like “enough” for those who are not familiar with Charlotte Mason and her methods but I can tell you that this is all we used for my son this year. Language arts is his weakness and he made great strides using this program. He also read some great literature which made me very happy.

For Claire(7), I purchased The Wand. Cobey(10) does a lot of this program with us which I think has also helped him.  The Wand is geared for K-2nd and covers phonics, spelling, word origin, grammar, capitalization, punctuation, and vocabulary development. It is hands-on and continues to amaze me with how much I learn from it.

The last product we have used was  a four week online poetry class. The kid loved it and we all learned so much. I have all the materials so that I can go back and do the class again in a few year. She has a variety of online classes that look great and  I look forward to taking more in the future.  I have not been disappointed with any products or classes that I have purchased through Brave Writer and can highly recommend them. Come on and join the Brave Writer Bandwagon.

PS Don’t judge Brave Writer  based on my grammar, spelling or writing. Remember I attended public school. 🙂

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