Highland Games and Horn in the West

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Sunday Jul 10, 2011 Under Claire, Cobey, Good Eats/Not So Good Eats, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Travel

I had heard about the the Highland Games while I was at school at ASU but never attended. They are held at Grandfather Mountain each year. We got there shortly after lunch and spent a few hours there. The tickets for adults are a little pricey I think at $30; but, the kids are only $5 so that helps. You also have to pay $5 each for the shuttle up to the event.

It really is hard to review the games because we got an inside view with the MacMillan Clan. They have tents surrounding the main field for each of the clans. Our tent even had great food which the kids loved.  There are all kinds of different sports to watch on the field. Claire loved watching the dancing and the sheep herding but did not care for the bag pipes. Cobey was fascinated with the whole thing and wanted to look up to see if we were in clan. We are still trying to figure it all that out. We are worried we may have been part of the clan that joined the Tories in the Revolutionary War. There is a lot to see, do and eat!  It reminded me of a huge family reunion with great entrainment.  I think we will now have to add a family history to our studies next year.

That evening we went to Horn in West. We got there 30 minutes early to purchase our tickets which worked out great. They have a living museum there with frontier home, blacksmith, tavern, and store. They have costumed interpreters to tell you more about the structures and items in them. We went through each of the buildings and then found our seats.

The show was outstanding. It starts with the Battle of Alamance and ends with the Battle at Kings Mountain. The kids had been to the site of the Battle of Alamance and learned about Kings Mountain. I think this made the play even more meaningful to the kids. But even if your kids do not have the background mine did,  the action will keep them interesting and the story line gives them an insight to the people during this period.  If you have an upper elementary or older student you should add it to your must do list.  When you do, rent the 50 cent cushion- the seats are hard and bring bug spray.

We had two great meals at Shatley Springs outside of Jefferson. If you are in the area and would like a great home cooked meal then check them out. We also ate at the Mountain House in Boone. I still don’t believe it is as good as the good ole days. The menu has shifted way from the country cooking and has more steaks and fish. The food and service were good not great.


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A Day at Mount Vernon More Than I Expected

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Wednesday Jun 15, 2011 Under Homeschool, Revolutionary War Sites, Travel, Uncategorized

We arrived to Mount Vernon a little after 10 this morning. I was thinking we would spend a few hours there and then head up to Pennsylvania. We stayed till five and we rushed through parts of it. There is so much to do there that you can easily spend a whole day or more.

We purchased the President’s Package, which gave us access to everything on the estate and an audio tour. We started with orientation film, which I was a good introduction and give a good tip about the movie we would have missed later. We then headed to the wharf to catch out boat ride on the Potomac River.  On the way we stopped at Washington’s Tomb and the slave memorial. Claire was very interested in the were the slave graves where.

The boat ride was my least favorite part of the day. I like boats so that part was fine. The narrative was recorded and only a few brief little segments. It was a little disappointing after other boat tours we have been on.  If you don’t like a lot of talking and just want a nice leisurely ride then this trip is for you. If you don’t have a full day to spend at the estate then this would be what I would skip.

After the boat ride, we went to the demonstration farm. You can find the crops that were grown by Washington., slave quarters and the highlight – a 16-sided barn. This barn was the invention of Washington to help separate the seed from the wheat.

We took the forest trail from the farm area to the house. The trail had some interesting signs along the way describing how the forest had changed since Washington’s time.  It was steep but not too long and a nice walk.

We waited in line less than thirty minutes to see the house and honestly that was not my favorite part. I felt rushed through the rooms and I prefer other house tours that really take the time to tell the stories of the house.  I understand that they are trying to get a lot of people through the house though. Cobey liked seeing the room where Lafayette slept and Claire like Washington’s chair with a fan above that you moved by pressing a pedal.

We then went to the many outbuildings. The Dung Repository made us laugh. Claire liked the Blacksmith Shop. But our favorite was the building where we got to meet Martha Washington.  She sat and just carried on a conversation. We learned what the first Presidential pet was. We learned how being called First Lady came to be. I thought it was interesting how much time she spent with George during the war.  We could have stayed there longer but by this time we were starving. We went to the car and ate quickly then returned to finish up in the museum and education center.

The museum had some interesting pieces including Washington’s bed that had hinges so he could take it with him to battle.  I liked some beautiful pieces of Martha’s jewelry. Cobey liked George Washington’s swords of course. We finished up with our audio tour. I listened to the kid’s one mostly to know what they were learning and I thought it was done quit well. It had stories and was told from the perceptive of the cat at the plantation. I highly recommend it and think your kid will get much more out of their visit with the audio.

We then went to the education center.  We had to rush through this part but it is well put together and lots of interactive pieces.  We did stop to go the movie, which was one of the kid’s favorite parts. The seats moved and even snowed when Washington was crossing the Delaware.  They have an interactive play area for children under eight with a huge dollhouse that Claire would have loved staying to play at and dress up clothes.  The kids also liked the display of the inauguration where you placed your hand on the Bible and repeated the oath.

We stopped in the gift shop where the kids turned in their scavenger hunt and got a souvenir penny as their prize. It is one you can’t get from the machine. How cool is that?

The last stop is about three miles down the road and is a relatively new attraction. It is Washington’s Distillery and Gristmill.  We learned and saw how the corn is made in to cornmeal. The kids really enjoyed seeing the mill in action. We then learned how whiskey was made and the story of how Washington got into the business.  It was a good tour and not too long. I would definitely had this own if you have time.

It was an overall amazing day and more than I expected. I would love to go back and take the kids on the National Treasure Tour and see parts of Mount Vernon not seen in regular tour including the basement. I also want to look into having the kids do the flag raising in the morning. It is on my repeat list for sure.


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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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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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