Titanic Museum

We started studying about the Titanic almost 2 years ago. It was a subject that just fascinated my kids. One of my daughters would often check out books from the library about the Titanic and even did a report on it (which I didn't require her to do!) Sometime last year, we learned that there was a museum dedicated to the Titanic, one in Tennessee and one in Missouri. When we were talking about going to Tennessee this summer, we said that the Titanic Museum was on our list of must do's for sure!

The Titanic museum was easy to get to as it is located on the main road in Pigeon Forge Tennessee. It's easily spotted due to the replica of the ship that makes up part of the museum.

(click to enlarge all photos)

When we walked up to the "boarding station" (White Swan Line), the staff, dressed in outfits like the staff would've worn on the Titanic, greeted us at our entrance. They were super friendly and engaged us in conversation. Before "boarding", you were handed a card that had the name of an actual passenger of the ship along with a short biography about them, their age and what class of the ship they were on. The adults were given a card of an adult (guys got guys, gals got gals), the kids were given a card of a child that was on board. 

At the end of the tour of the museum, you would find out whether you survived the sinking or not.

Oh I forgot to mention, before we left for our trip, I printed out a paper from the Titanic's website that is a scavenger hunt for the kids to do while they walked around the museum. I loved this idea as it kept the kids engaged and it makes a great piece to put in their homeschool portfolio!

By the way, they have a whole section on the website dedicated to education and ways you can incorporate the different subjects into learning about the Titanic.

Back to the tour. . . 

The museum also has the option of purchasing an audio tour while walking throughout the museum. There is so much information to take in just doing the museum alone but the audio tour adds another level to this. You can rent a handheld device to take part in this. 

Throughout the museum there are numbers that you enter to listen to the recording that goes along with the artifact you are looking at or the area of the museum you are in. You hold it up to your ear like a phone to listen to. There is also a children's audio tour and they have a separate number they enter to hear information more geared to their understanding. Our kids took turns between the childrens & adult audio tour. They enjoyed being able to listen on their own. Many times one of them would come up to me and tell me to listen to what they just listened to!

I do want to preface the fact that once we walked into the museum, there was no photography allowed so unfortunately I don't have pictures from the inside (though I was given some pictures from the museum themselves with permission to share here.) I know, it's a bummer not to take photos of the many amazing displays but I do understand why it's not allowed. The museum is made up of many small rooms you walk through and if everyone were taking photos, it would ruin the visit. This was one time we didn't worry about taking pictures but rather focused on soaking in the experience. Another thing I appreciated about the museum is they only allow so many people in at a time so it doesn't get crowded (which is why it's a good idea to order your tickets ahead of time.)

When you first walk in, you are in a room that gives an overview of the Titanic. Each room you went through throughout the museum took you down the chronological timeline from the building of the ship to the sinking of the ship. Not only are facts presented throughout the museum but personal stories of the many of the people involved in the Titanic as well.

I couldn't even begin to tell you which of the rooms were my favorite, they were all wonderful! The kids & I had already known a lot about the Titanic but we walked away learning even more. In fact, there was a room dedicated to Father Frank Browne who took the only photographs that were saved from the Titanic. How did this happen? He was on the maiden voyage of the Titanic when it left from Southampton and stopped in Queensland, Ireland where he disembarked and didn't finish the journey across the atlantic. I never knew this! The room displayed many of the photos he took on board, including the only picture of the captain on the ship.

Scattered throughout the museum were actual artifacts recovered from the Titanic. Seeing these items just brought the Titanic to life for me as I tried to envision those whom these items belonged to.
A purse handle & bracelet

One of the deck chairs

Another neat feature of the museum is they have rooms set up to recreate what different areas of the ship had looked like.

Actual size of a 3rd class cabin

1st class stateroom

There were displays of the clothing they would've worn, what one of the ships hallways would've looked like, etc. Another interesting room was solely made up of artifacts and information from the filming of the movie Titanic. There were signed pieces from the actors, behind the scenes pictures as well as some of the actual props they used for the making of the movie. They even explained how they shot certain parts of the movie.

Before you go to the second floor of the museum, you are brought to a true-to-size replica of the infamous grand staircase that you actually walk up to get to the next floor. (there is an elevator for those who need it). 

Before advancing to the second floor, we were gathered in a group by a very engaging employee named Ron who shared facts about this beautiful staircase. In fact, before he started his presentation, he noticed my family & the friends with us and asked about our group. I mentioned we were homeschoolers so he said before I go to the next floor, to see him as he had some information to share. He gave me a website that contains wealth of knowledge about the Titanic (it seriously is an awesome resource!) I appreciated he took the time to talk to us.

As if all this wasn't enough, there were different interactive displays as well. There was a replica of a hall & stairwell and when you pushed the button, water began to rush into it like it would've on the ship. It started out slow but eventually began to pour in. I can't imagine what those people thought as they saw that. 

There was a tot Titanic area for the littlest ones to explore. 

The sloping decks were also neat to try out (I had Ava in the moby wrap on me so I didn't try them but everyone else with us did).

I think one of our favorite interactive places was when we walked "outside" of the ship onto what was a simulation of that fateful night. It was dark and 32 degrees in that room. To the side was an actual piece of iceburg we could feel then we moved to the front of the ship where we could put our hand into water that was the exact temp of the ocean water when the ship sank, a freezing 28 degrees.

Oh my goodness, the pain you felt in your hand when you put it into the water was insane!! Before we put our hand in, the employee that was there encouraged us to not just do a quick dip but move our hand around and keep it there as long as possible. Wow, I can't even imagine what those people felt as they were plunged fully into that water. He said within 2-4 minutes after being submerged, hypothermia set in and  they were unconscious then within 10-20 minutes they died.

At the end of the museum, we came to the memorial room where every passenger of the ship was listed. It was there we learned our fate, if we survived or not.

We discovered Kevin & I both died and all the kids lived.

At the end of the museum, there is a gift shop. There seriously is so much more to this museum I didn't mention. I know we could easily go back a second time and discover things we overlooked this past time. There was so much to learn & discover here, by far it was our most favorite museum we've been to. In fact, anytime someone has asked my kids what their favorite thing they did in Tennessee (next to visiting our friends) they said it was seeing this museum for sure!

You can order tickets ahead of time. They even have a reasonably priced family pass for 2 adults & 4 kids ($60.58 plus tax), group rates as well as special homeschool pricing. If you are in the area, I would definitely recommend making time to tour this amazing museum!!

My family was given tickets and audio tour in order to facilitate an honest review. All opinions expressed are those of myself & family. No other compensation was given. 

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies

We decided while in Tennessee to do some field trips. One of the places we wanted to see was Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, so on Monday August 5th we headed to Gatlinburg where the aquarium was located. It was easy to get to the aquarium as it was just a skip from Pigeon Forge and on the main road as we got to Gatlinburg.

(you can click on all pictures to enlarge)

We followed the signs for parking which happened to be in a parking garage behind the aquarium which is a no go for us being in a 12 passenger van. So I hopped out and went to guest services to inquire about where else we could park (it's a busy little town so I would've had no clue where else we could've parked). The gal at guest services said we could park in the bus parking right behind the building, perfect!!

Let me tell ya, this place is bigger inside that you realize! When you first walk in, you can see you are on what looks like the second floor with an open atrium overlooking part of the floor below.

(this pic taken by one of my kids)

The way this aquarium was laid out was in a natural flow pattern, you didn't have to wonder what to go see first, you just kept walking and were guided to see all the displays and exhibits. In my opinion, this kept crowding limited as everyone flowed through the aquarium in the exact same pattern. Everything is stroller & wheelchair family as there aren't any steps between exhibits, just ramps which I was thankful for as we had 1 of our little ones in a stroller. Also when we arrived, we were handed a schedule of activities that were taking place throughout the day that listed times & locations of different diving and feeding shows. We were so busy seeing the displays that it never timed out for us to hit a show.

I can't begin to list all the cool aquatic displays we saw, so many neat fish from small to huge! We appreciated that by each of the tanks was a plaque that told you what you were looking at and some facts about each animal. The homeschooling mom in me loves when we can throw in some education along with the fun side of things!

There was a neat section of the aquarium that as you walked through, you had the feeling of being under water just by the way the lighting was. (this picture doesn't do it justice).

Eventually another area we arrived at was a huge tank where you could look down and see sharks & stingrays (there might've been other animals but that's what we saw while standing there.)

Even my recently turned 2 year old loved seeing all the fish! She would make fish faces and get excited each time she saw new ones!

Not only are there display tanks but several interactive areas. There was one section where we saw & learned how the aquarium filters their water, an area where you could touch & pick up horseshoe crabs, a large fish that had buttons on the different organs that lit up and told you about them,  tanks where the kids could go in the center & put their head up the middle simulating the feeling of being in the tank surrounded by fish.

The tank full of sting rays were fun to watch as they swam around. There were all different sizes and even different colored ones. A few of them would swim right up against the glass almost as if they were showing off.

There was also 1 room dedicated to a dinosaur display. From what I gathered, this was something new and might only be there for a limited time (though I am not for sure on that part of it). We weren't in there too long as my 2 year old wasn't quite sure what to make of the huge moving dinosaurs and roaring sounds. But from the little I saw, there was factual displays along with the animatronics and some video clips. (funny, as I'm sitting here writing this & she sees the dino picture, she is roaring so she obviously remembers what she saw!!)

When we got about two-thirds of the way through the aquarium, we came across a cafe area. While we weren't hungry and didn't stop, I did take a glance at the menu and they had several meal deals listed for both adults & children as well as a place to sit down to eat.

Towards the end of the aquarium there was a penguin playhouse. You saw a bunch of them inside, where there was even a place to stick your head up in the middle of their habitat! You then could walk outside on a porch that overlooked downtown Gatlinburg but it also had a display of the penguins swimming in water where you were eye level with the water. The red bands on their arms showed the name of each penguin. There was also a small nursery that houses baby penguins. There was one there while we were there but due to the glass, I couldn't get a good picture as the penguin was towards the back of the room.

(yes, that's my 2 yr old using my phone to take pictures of the penguin swimming right in front of her!)

I saved our most favorite part of the aquarium to mention last. I knew going into it that there was an underwater tunnel you can walk through to see sharks and other fish. It sounded neat but I didn't expect a whole lot. Well let me tell ya, it blew us away! First of all, the tunnel contains a conveyor belt you can stand on (and the stroller fit as well) so you can concentrate on just looking up and all around and not worry about walking (and potentially tripping or running into someone!) though there is also a place to walk if you don't want to stand on the conveyor belt. And the second part was how long this tunnel went. It weaved all around this tank and lasted for quite awhile, which was a pleasant surprise! There was no lack of sharks, we saw plenty swim right against not only the glass next to us but right above our heads as well. We saw plenty of other fish as well.

(I love how Olivia is looking up at the sharks here)

A huge jellyfish, Ava & I in front of the tank overlooking the sharks, a stingray in stingray bay that you could lean over the side and touch, and 2 huge Japanese fighting crabs (seriously, from leg to leg they were like 3 feet wide!)

At the end of the aquarium there is a large gift shop before you exit the building.

We really enjoyed our time at Ripley's Aquarium and loved seeing all the different aquatic life, it was definitely worth the time we spent there! (They even have a facebook page you can check out.) If you are vacationing anywhere near Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge TN, check out this aquarium for a fun family day! (They also have an aquarium in Myrtle Beach and one opening next month in Canada). 

Stop back soon for more posts on the rest of our Tennessee trip!

My family was given tickets to this aquarium in order to facilitate this review of my honest opinions. No other compensation was given. All opinions and pictures are those of mine & my family. This post & photos are protected under the copyright law.

Tennessee Trip

Earlier this spring, several of my homeschool co-op friends were planning camping trips for the summer. We occasionally go along as well as we all have a great time together. In addition to camping locally, they also mentioned wanting to go to Tennessee. We've talked about going to Tennessee in the past as I have a dear friend who lives there. My kids also had heard about the Titanic Museum down there as well and really wanted to go.

 So we decided to make one big trip and do it all. We planned to spend 2 days visiting with our friend who lives in Tennessee then head east to the other side of the state to camp with our other group of friends.

About a week before we left, the 2 children of my friend in Tennessee were up here visiting their grandparents and rather than them make a special trip to get the kids home, we offered to have the kids ride to Tennessee with us. I knew my kids would enjoy having friends along to help make the drive go faster. I admit I was a little nervous driving so far with a not yet 2 month old and 2 year old. We've driven to Florida before which is a lot longer of a drive but the kids were all older.

We were aiming to be on the road by 4am (Thursday August 1st). I didn't get to sleep till sometime after 11:30 the night before. Sweet Ava decided to wake at 12:30 to nurse, ha, it would figure!! And of course I couldn't get back to sleep then. Around 3am, I started hauling all our stuff out into the driveway. Packing a vehicle is like putting a puzzle together, I have to see everything that needs to go in the van laid out so I can get it all in just right maximizing each inch of space. If it hadn't been dark out and if I wasn't so worried about staying on schedule, I would've snapped a picture. Because we were staying in a cabin for the 2nd half of our trip and wouldn't have a kitchen, I had to pack a ton of extra things. I managed to get everything in and still had room for the 8 kids. haha Oh yeah, don't forget about the bike rack on the back of the van yet too!!

We got on the road by 4:15am. And we drove, and drove some more. In fact, we didn't stop until 5 hours later in Virginia! The kids all were doing well and surprisingly Ava slept that whole time. So it was a gas/diaper change/potty/breakfast stop all at once.

A quick pic taken with my cell of all the kids. Yes Olivia is still rear facing and will be for quite some time!

We made one other stop around 2pm and arrived at our friends house around 4:15pm (and according to them, we made good time even with our stops!) You are probably wondering if Ava nursed only those 2 times we stopped. Nope she ate quite a bit more in fact:

(that's just my arm/hand in the bottom of the pic, no worries ;)

What nursing mom hasn't ever done the whole hovering-over-the-carseat-thing?? On a long road trip it's just one of those things ya need to do because if we stopped everytime she wanted to eat, we never would've gotten to Tennessee!! (and yes, I tried pumping and doing the bottle thing but she didn't like the bottle we tried to give her and I only had that one kind along).

It was so good to be able to finally spend time with Renee, I only wish it had been longer! We often email or talk about food we cook so it was fun to be able to work together in the kitchen. She tried a few new recipes which is something we both enjoy doing (and they came out great!!! Paleo waffles & chunky monkey muffins, yum!) It was nice to also finally share conversation over coffee as we often have said we would love to do. I so wish we lived close by to get together on a daily basis.

On Friday, we walked to their neighborhood pool for the kids to spend some time swimming. After swimming we went to a local park for the kids to play then afterwards we finally got to visit sweet Weston who helped bring our families together. Often when Renee goes to visit Weston, she walks to the gas station nearby to get some cappuccino and takes it with her as she sits with her precious son. So that's what we did, we all walked over and she treated the kids to an ice cream treat, she got her cappuccino and I would've as well but it was hot out & I was wearing Ava in the moby so I turned my cappuccino into an iced coffee. Then we went at sat by Weston's grave chatting about our boys.

Renee & I with our boys! Still amazing how they brought us together even though we live states a part!

That evening, we had a yummy supper cooked over the firepit outside then made s'mores for dessert! I know we both wished for more time to just be able to sit and chat. Even watch our favorite beloved Anne of Green Gables together. 

Saturday morning we packed up and left Renee's family around 10:15 to head east about 3 1/2 hours to meet up with our friends who had just arrived at the campground. 

I miss you already my dear friend and am so thankful we were able to hang out together for a few days!

We arrived at the campground Saturday afternoon and unloaded everything into our 1 room cabin. Yup, all of us in one room with one bathroom (yes at least we had one!). Friends of our friends who live in the area cooked for our group that night so I didn't have to make supper. We had venison burgers over charcoal, yum!

Sunday we just hung around the campground. The kids went swimming, it was a pretty laid back day. I made pork & veggies kabobs over the fire for supper. Ahhh nothing like food over a wood fire!

Because we were in Tennessee for a total of 9 days, I'm going to be breaking up the posts over the next few days. Next up, our visit to Ripley's Aquarium of the SmokiesCade's Cove & the Titanic Museum!

America the Beautiful -Review

This past school year, the kids asked if we could dig deeper in American History. I was all for it as I enjoy being able to follow their interests but I had no clue whether I wanted to piece together our own lessons or use a laid out curriculum source. So I was tickled to have the chance to review America the Beautiful from Notgrass Company. I had actually never heard of them until this review but at first glance, I was intrigued!
What it is:

America the Beautiful is a one year American history program with a Biblical worldview that also includes geography & literature studies. It was created by a Christian homeschooling family and contains 6 books, created for kids in grades 5-8 (ages 10-14). It includes:

-America the Beautiful part 1- This is a hardcover book with 452 pages, 75 lessons that start with with life in America before the Europeans came. There are both black & white and colored pictures throughout.

-America the Beautiful part 2- This is a hardcover book with 572 pages, 75 lessons that picks up where book 1 left off and continues until current time. It also contains many black & white and colored pictures.

-We the People- This is a hardcover book that has 220 pages of 150 varying collections of newspaper articles, poems, letters, speeches, documents, etc.

-Maps of America the Beautiful- This book ties in with lesson assignments given in the America the Beautiful books. There are 30 different maps with instructions on how to complete each map.

-Timeline of America the Beautiful- This is a timeline that ties in with most lessons starting with 1000 AD to present time. Some facts are already filled in but the students fill in most facts, directions given from each lesson.

-America the Beautiful Answer Key- This contains answers for the timeline, student workbooks, lesson review and has vocab assignments as well.

And if this all wasn't enough, you can also purchase the student workbook ($11.95) for grades 5 & 6 or the lesson review ($9.95) for grades 7 & 8 to accompany the main curriculum package. If you don't want to borrow the literature books from the library, you can purchase the literature package with all 10 books needed for $59.95

I know this seems overwhelming but it isn't! In fact, we truly are enjoying this curriculum. The main selling point to me is that I can use it with all 4 older kids together as it fits right with their grades. Not only that, but everything is laid out and there is no prep work for me, a double plus!!

Each unit contains 5 lessons (a total of 150 lessons, so almost 1 per school day if you do 180 school days like most states require). At the end of each lesson, there are directions of what to complete, whether it's some map directions, filling in a timeline piece, writing out a Bible verse, reading some of the recommended accompanying literature, reading something from We the People, page assignments from the workbooks or other suggested activities such as writing assignments. At the end of each unit, there is a family activity to do as a family that ties in with what was studied in the previous unit. This could include a craft, recipe, game, etc. What a great concept that my kids love! While there are many suggested things you can do, the beauty of homeschooling allows us to each pick & choose what suits our schedule & interests! You could do all or just 1 depending on what works for your family.

a glimpse of some of the pages from the different books

How we used this:
I admit I love that the older the kids get, the more work they can do independently. What the kids did with this curriculum is they took turns reading each lesson as a group. The lessons were only a few pages long, interspersed with pictures. They would either gather around the person reading so they could see the pictures or they passed the book around once the lesson was read so they could each see the pictures. My 5th grader used the student workbook and my 7 & 8th graders used the lesson review books. Once they read the lesson, as a group, they would follow the suggested activities listed at the end. I usually required them to do a majority of the listed activities and even if I hadn't, they would ask to do them all as they found them enjoyable. For the literature books, we were able to find them at our library and also used this as a read aloud. When time allowed me, I would sit down and read either the book or the lessons aloud to the kids. I truly enjoy a curriculum that we can do as a group! I find that it really opens up more in-depth discussion.

We felt that the quality of this curriculum was great! The kids really appreciated seeing the many pictures shown in each lesson, helping to bring to life what they were reading. I also felt that "We the People" brought an added depth as well. Each lesson took us about 45 minutes to an hour to complete. This is what we are using this year for our history curriculum and look forward to completing it all!

You can purchase the 6 main books as a package for $99.95. Students workbooks are additional. Considering you can use this as a group study and that it includes not only history but geography & literature studies as well, we felt with all the textbooks provided, it was well worth the price! (and since reviewing this, I've had the chance to share with some of my homeschool friends about this program and have found others who will be using it as well!)


Baked "Crab" Rangoon

We love chinese food in our house! But it is costly to eat out so I am often trying my hand at making some of our favorite chinese dishes at home. (I've mastered eggrolls as well as sesame & general tso's chicken). Crab rangoon is a yummy side or snack. To make this healthier & more cost effective, I use the "fake" crab meat and bake them instead of frying! Or you could omit the crab and just make these a cream cheese stuffed wonton. Remember, recipes are often just a guideline, adjust to your tastes!

16 ounces cream cheese, softened 
1 (6 ounce) can crabmeat, drained and flaked (or the equivalent of the fake crab meat)
4 -5 green onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 (48 count) package wonton skins
1/4-1/2 cup melted butter (or spray with olive oil/butter cooking spray)

In medium bowl, combine all ingredients except wonton skins and butter.

Mix until well blended.
Place 1 teaspoon filling in center of each wonton skin.
Moisten edges with water.

Bring the opposite corners up & pinch them together. Bring up a 3rd corner, pinch with the other. Finally bring up the 4th corner to the others. Pinch in all the edges. Or instead of all that, fold in half to form a triangle.

Arrange on baking sheet that has been coated with vegetable spray.

Brush with melted butter (or spray with cooking spray).

Bake in 425º oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve hot with desired sauce like sweet & sour or hoison. 
baked crab rangoon, recipe, chinese

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