Saturday, June 13, 2015

A day at President Andrew Jackson's estate

A year ago I hoped that our family could wrap up Year 3 of the Tapestry of Grace history cycle with a trip out West. In April, my wish came true! Our first stop was the estate of our country's 7th president, Andrew Jackson.

At the end of this post I have included 7 tips for visiting The Hermitage with kids.

The museum is full of artifacts, and the big boys swooned over all the swords and coins.

The garden I enjoyed the most. There are signs posted throughout the property with numbers you can enter on the audio device (included with admission) to hear stories and facts. A4 was delighted to press the numbers himself and listen to the kids version, hosted by Poll the parrot.

C17 and N17 did the house tour without the little ones and me; I'm just not brave enough to take a wiggly toddler and preschooler inside the historic building. The little ones had plenty to explore while their big brothers participated in the guided house tour. 

7 Tips for visiting The Hermitage with kids:

Get there early (or buy online) and book the horse-drawn carriage ride right away. Otherwise, if your kids spot the wagon tour and want to ride, you'll have to walk back to the visitor center to buy tickets and probably wait a couple hours for the next available ride. We arrived about 30 minutes after the estate opened and booked the wagon tour when I bought admission tickets, and the first wagon tour available was at 11:30am, which worked perfect for us! The tour is $11, but kids under 5 ride free. 

Save your money on the upgraded "Presidents Tour" admission package. We didn't try the multimedia tour, so I can't comment on its value, but the audio tour included with the "Generals Tour" was plenty for us.

Pack lunch. There is an on-site dining option, which is probably a good choice as well, but the picnic tables were conveniently located next to the Visitor Center. 

Wear a hat or sunscreen if you go on the wagon ride. The wagon is uncovered and mostly in the sun. The breezy ride is pleasant, but sunburns, not so much. 

Use your AAA card to save on admission. 

Interact with the student interpreters. A school group was participating in a field trip, and pairs of costumed students were stationed throughout the grounds with scripted facts to share about Jackson and the estate. 

Plan to stay for 4 hours or more. 

Cool Andrew Jackson items from Amazon (affiliate links):

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

On the roads for less: Dinner on the road

We are part-time road schoolers, averaging two month-long treks and a handful of smaller trips each school year.

On the road, staying healthy, sane and on budget is just as important as it is at home. But, restaurant food is often overloaded with fat, sugar and salt. I'm all for the occasional splurge, but three restaurant meals a day won't work. So what do we do?

We often eat dinner in the hotel room. I say often, because sometimes we will eat an early dinner at a restaurant, like we did at Christiana Campbell's Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, but it's just too much work to keep the wiggly little ones still for a leasurely restaurant meal at the end of a big day. At the end of the day, I'm usually tired! So, we pick up frozen dinners that can be microwaved (a like Annie's Broccoli Cheddar Bake or an Evol bowl) and a bag salad, sometimes bread or fruit, and eat at the hotel. The little ones can wiggle all they want, and after dinner we can get on with R1 and A4's bedtime routine just like we do at home.

How do you do dinner on the road?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Hatching dinosaur eggs

We can now add dinosaurs to the list of things A4 is obsessed with: super heroes, his tire swing and pirates.

He's learning that dinosaurs were reptiles, and reptiles hatch from eggs. He acts this out by putting himself inside a cardboard box, making squeaky sounds then "hatching out" of the box. 

We also did an activity at a children's museum where kids "hatch" dinosaurs out of eggs.

Really it's just water frozen inside a balloon with a miniature plastic dinosaur stuffed inside. The balloon helps keep an egg-like shape in the freezer, then I just cut open the balloon and put the ball of ice in a bowl. 

He uses salt and warm water to melt the ice away and collect the miniature dinosaur. Obviously this isn't really how an animal would hatch but it's fun for him. He's done it about a dozen times in the last few weeks at home. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

How do you do All About Spelling?

When I first considered using All About Spelling, I looked at approximately 3,258 blogs to see how other families stored and used the letter tiles that are a big component of the spelling program. So many great ideas are out there! Many moms use 2' by 3' marker boards (link to AAS tips about marker boards), either permanently or temporarily on their walls. Others use sheet metal with a decorative frame, or even an oil drip pan.

These are all wonderful ways to use the letter tiles, but right now I just didn't want to buy any new stuff to put on the walls.

So, I just used my fridge. 

The letter tiles are obviously magnetic, so this works well. 

But, you're probably wondering how we write on my black fridge. 

Being able to practice words with a dry erase marker isn't mandatory for the AAS program, but it is helpful. I have two solutions! 

The magnetic sentence strips I bought from Rainbow Resources, but a similar product is available on Amazon. 

The neon dry erase markers were purchased from Amazon. Little A4 uses these same bright, chubby markers to color and practice writing letters on the lower part of the fridge. 

If you're wondering what letter tiles are, please visit the All About Spelling site. They'll explain he The letter tiles are a key component of the Interactive Spelling Kit.

How have you set up your All About Spelling letter tiles? Please share your link below!

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