Vanderbilt Home, Home of FDR and West Point

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Thursday Jun 30, 2011 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, National Parks, Travel

We started to make our way home today. It was going to be rough drive with a hurt shoulder and the radio/CD player broken. Fortunately, after a few hours and prayers I fixed the radio. Cobey was ready to just drive home but I had one surprise left and he changed his mind.  He has been wanting to go to West Point since we went to the Douglas MacArthur Memorial.  I thought he would like a tour.

The first stop we made was the Vanderbilt home in Hyde Park, New York. We had been to two other Vanderbilt homes in Newport, RI so the kids were interested in the family. This mansion is a National Park. It is the first National Park that we have been to that did not have a Junior Ranger program. We had a tour of the house and our guide was very knowledgable and interesting. This was a country estate and was the smallest and least luxurious of the Vanderbilt houses you can tour. I think it was still impressive but it the Breakers and Marble House in Newport were more lavish. And the Biltmore home makes it look like a cottage.

Our next stop was the FDR home, also a National Park and in Hyde Park. This park did have a Junior Ranger program but instead of becoming Junior Rangers they become Secret Service Agents. The program is very good and with the slant of what it takes to be a secret service agent. They earned stars instead the ranger badges.  We had a great guided tour of the grounds and the home. The kids learned a lot about the president. I did have to re-educate them on a few things. The talk was very skewed in how great of a president he was. We then went thru the Presidential Library and Museum. It has some great displays. The kids loved the oval office, the secret map room and his car.  There is also Eleanor Roosevelt’s  home as a National Park in the area.  You could easily spend a day in this area.

The last stop was a tour of West Point. They only take cash for the tour so plan according. (I was getting low for tolls.) You purchase tickets at the West Point visitor center. The tour was great and I highly recommend even if you are not that interested in West Point. It gave some great history and information. This was our last guided tour of the trip. We had lots of guided tours during this trip and all of them had excellent guides. There was not one dud or annoying guide. Cobey liked the story about Paton being a bad student and his excuse being he could not find the library. They now have his statue outside of the library. The campus is absolutely beautiful and has an amazing view of the Hudson

West Point also have a museum there which we did not have time to go to before it closed. We then headed south and made it to Baltimore.

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We slept in this morning. I think we were up a little after eight. I am wondering if my schedule will stay shifted when I get home. I doubt it! Cobey seems to be tired and dragging a little today. He is the  one that needs his sleep. It has not phased Claire in the least except I have been awake before her a few times.

Our first stop was Lowell National Historical Park. The park is about the city of Lowell and it’s part in the shift of America from farms to industry. We started with a twenty minute introductory film about how the town became an industrial city. We then took a ninety minute canal ride that told  the history of the town and how the canal works. We went into a lock and the water rose four feet and four inches. I had never done that before so that was a neat experience. We learned about the man who saved the town from two floods after he was criticized that the floodgates where not needed.  Some tours get to tour a gatehouse so if you can do that tour I recommend it.


After the tour, we took a trolley to the Boott Cotton Mills Museum which is part of the National Park. They have done an excellent job making this museum interesting for kids. When you enter the museum, the kids put on an apron and clock in. They then search for the child cutouts that tells them a little information and something to try. They got to try many of the ten steps of making fabric. They also saw the machines in action. Boy, was that loud! At the end of the museum, they can mark where their clothes are made on a map. But their favorite part was building a city with homes, railroads, factories and parks.  We then walked over to the where the boarding house where the girls lived. Girls and young woman from surrounding farms were the first workers in the factories.

We walked back to the visitor center, grabbing a late lunch at Subway on the way. The kids got their Junior Ranger badges for the park and we were off to Salem. I highly recommend this national park.  There are a lot of staff in this park and everyone was friendly and helpful that we encountered. There are cost involved in the tours and museum but well worth it. It is one of our new top National Parks. You could easily spend a full day there but you know us,  you can’t keep us anywhere for long.

We were off to Salem because Claire wanted to go to The House of the Seven Gables. My friend Mary Beth recommended it and she was right. The kids loved. The tour guide did a wonderful job telling us the history of the house and about the people of that lived in the house. She also told us enough about the story written by Hawthorne to make us want to read the book.  We then had a self-guided tour of the house Hawthorne was born in which was moved to the property.

We then went down the street to the Salem Maritime National Historical Park. We had less than an hour so we did not get to take full advantage of the park so I can’t give it a fair review. The staff was very helpful and friendly. The kids were able to complete the program in less than an hour and they learned something new. They have tours of the cargo ship and custom house. I would like to go back and take those tours sometime. Salem is one place I would like to return to and spend the entire day.

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House in the Horseshoe

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Tuesday May 17, 2011 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Revolutionary War Sites

We started our day at House in the Horsehoe with our field trip group- NC Homeschool Adventurers. It was nice to have a trip in our neck of the woods for a change. The clouds were threatening rain but we ended up staying dry.

We had a very knowledgeable tour guide dressed in period clothing down to the sunglasses that I thought looked quite modern. He did a great job of keeping the kids interested and answering questions. I found it particularly  interesting that the skirmish was not over politics but over vengeance. Philip Alston, the first owner of the home,  was very controversial and his biography reminds me of stories of our troops today and whether their actions are justified. I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to our guys till proven otherwise. I think of Pantano and all he has been through. I would like to think Alston was the Pantano of the Revolutionary War and a great hero after all. The second owner was Benjamin Williams, officer in the Revolutionary War and a four term governor,  who used the property as a successful cotton plantation.

The guide did a great job of telling the story of the house and how life would have been during that period. He showed toys , a bed key, bird cage,  and the indoor bathroom- chamber pot. He told us that Alston had the children stand in the fireplace during the skirmish to be protected.  The kids loved the bullet holes you can still see in the house. After the tour of the house, the kids were taken to another area where they made clay marbles to take home. The visit ended with the guide talking about  clothing and gear of the time and with a musket firing.

They have an reenactment each August which I am sure would be a great experience. This year it is August 6 at 4pm and August 7 at 2pm.

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We started the day at St John’s Church. This is where Patrick Henry gave his famous- Give Me Liberty speech. The colonial leaders met at the church to avoid Lord Dunmore in Williamsburg, Va. in March 1775. We paid for the tour which includes a map with explanations of the buildings on the the grounds and tombstones. For the guided tour portion, you sit inside the church as he gives you history of the church. Cobey was disappointed in the talk and said he already knew all of it. The church is beautiful and with it’s rich history is  still worth the admission price. You will only  need to plan to spend an hour or so there. I think it would be even better to go to during one of  the reenactments that they do in the summer.

We had extra time so we stopped into the Chimborazo Medical Museum. This is one of the thirteen sites of the Richmond National Battlefield Park.  It has a small visitor center with one room of artifacts, a model of how the site looked, and a movie.  The story of the Chimborazo Hospital was very interesting. There was only one volunteer who had to start the movie, answer the phone and give the talk.  It was very busy while we were there and he could have used some help but  he did an excellent job. The kids did the Junior Ranger Program here which I thought was okay. The page where they had to label the map using the model was the best. Overall, I think it is a good stop because it gives you a different aspect of the war than just the battles.

We then made our way to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. It is the final days of the Picasso Exhibit so it was quite crowded. I had prearranged a group tour on America’s Beginnings. I found enough people to make a group through homeschool yahoo groups in the area. I was so pleased that everyone showed up and they were very well behaved. Jan Carroll was our guide and she was awesome. She was very knowledgeable and you could tell she loved her job. The tour gave a great variety and taught about history and art. After the tour, we went through the museum. I forgot how much I love this museum. It has so many great pieces. Claire loved the section with all the horses. I would love to go back without the kids and spend some time there . I hated not to go the Picasso Exhibit but I knew the kids would rush me so I did not want to spend the money. And he is not my favorite anyway.

After we left the museum, we headed to Bottoms Up 1700 Dock Street for a early dinner/late lunch. It was recommended by a FB friend- a great place to get tips. This place was awesome. It had a friendly staff, great food, cool atmosphere and was reasonably priced. I had the salad supreme which was huge. Cobey had a slice of the Chesapeake which had crab meat on it and Claire had cheese.  I saw a plate of Nachos going out as we left that was huge and looked great. Cobey liked it  even better than Y Not? in Norfolk. We will definitely be back.

I will be home for a few days so I hope to blog on some trips in our recent past and on the book I just finished.


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Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Frederica

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Wednesday May 11, 2011 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, National Parks, Travel

We drove to Florida for the Disney Cruise (see May 8th post for review). On the way down we spent a day in St Augustine’s (see future post for the entire day). Part of the day included a visit to the Castillo de San Marcos. You never know how much imagination you are going to have to use when you visit a fort or battlefield. Will the battlefield be just a grassy area now? Will the only thing that remains of the fort be a few blocks if even that? You did not have to imagine much here. This fort was great and still intact. The kids got to hear information about the fort from a park ranger, watch a movie about weapons used in the fort, and see the barracks and the magazine. One of the highlights was seeing the cannon being fired. This fort was particularly interesting because it told about the Spanish history in the United States which we don’t hear a lot about. It was built by the Spaniards in 1672 and is the oldest masonry fort and only extant 17th century fort in North America. It was never defeated in battle and is quite impressive. The kids did the Junior Ranger program. The program was well put together and the kids enjoyed completing it. We let them dictate the longer writing assignments. Claire purchased Kids Passport to Your National Parks here. I highly recommend it. It gives space to keep record of which National Parks you have visited and Junior Ranger programs completed. It also has a place to make list of bird, plants and animals that they have seen.

On the way back home from the Disney cruise, we stopped in Georgia at Fort Frederica. At first look you think you will need a lot of imagination for this fort. The picture on the website is deceiving because what they show is the only part remaining of the entire town which is not much. Despite this, the site is very well laid out and it has placards at each site to tell the story. And it has the BEST Junior Ranger program we have done to date. The ranger tried to discourage us from doing it because she said it would take an hour and forty five minutes. We really did not want to have a long stop but decided to do it anyway. We are so glad that we did and it did not take us but about an hour. Again, we helped with the writing. She said the program was for eight to twelve but allowed Claire to do it. The kids each got to borrow a satchel and a period hat for the program. There was a entire town inside the fort and the program gave you the story of this community. The kids had to look through a spy glass, measure the distance of the cannon would fire on a map with a protractor and much more. It was very hands and on and we all loved it! This National Park is not too far off 95 and I highly recommend it if you are passing through. Don’t let them talk you out of the Junior Ranger Program!

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