The Gilded Age: Biltmore Estate

 

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Our family went to Biltmore Estate back in September even though we knew it was out of order for our history journey. We wanted the chance to go during their homeschool days.  The theme for that session was Farm to Table, which is a concept that is near and dear to my heart. We make a concerted effort to teach our children where their food comes from and to buy local whenever possible.

Biltmore had a variety of activities set up for the children to participate in and learn more about food and where it comes from. These activities took place at Antler Hill farm which is on the estate property. They were able to see farm equipment from the early 1900s, watch a blacksmith and a carpenter at work, see a bee keeper and his equipment and participate in a variety of hands on activities. They played farm to table matching, made corn husk flowers, carrot seed tapes, learned about and matched up a variety of foods with different methods of preserving them, and other fun activities. They also had a chance to see and pet some farm animals.  My three year old particularly enjoyed an activity where they used a variety of vegetables to paint pictures showing different patterns and textures.

My eleven year old son enjoyed seeing the blacksmith and the carpenter at work. My daughter loves anything crafty, so the corn husk flowers, bean seed magnets, and painting were favorites for her.  They also sent us home with several activity sheets that the children could work on at home and we had a packet of education activities that they could do before and during our trip that incorporated Biltmore and the Farm to Table theme.

Biltmore raises part of the food for their on-site restaurants. They were able to show and talk about how they use hydroponics for lettuce and sprouts, raise their own beef cattle and pork, as well as eggs from chickens and other crops.

We spent our morning going through the activities over at the farm and then having a picnic lunch. After lunch we drove over to the actual home for our tour and a chance to see the gardens.  The tours are self-guided and self-paced. There is information in the handout about the rooms on the tour and some of the rooms also have employees available to answer questions. They also offer a scavenger hunt/information sheet for the children. I highly recommend this as the house can be a bit overwhelming for children and this helped to keep them focused.

You do not see all of the rooms in the house but there are a good variety on the tour. You see bedrooms, kitchens, pantries, laundry, living areas, the library, and much to the children’s pleasure the pool and bowling alley. While I truly have no desire for a house that big, I have to admit that the wonderful walk in pantries did make me a tad jealous. I can’t quite imagine having a kitchen that large with so much storage area around it. The children all wanted the indoor pool. I really enjoyed the tour but do think that the highlight of the day for the children were the extra activities and the waterfall at the lower end of the bass pond.

Once we had finished the tour we went on a walk through the gardens and green house area. This was beautiful with many roses and other flowers still in bloom. On the far end of the garden is a bass pond and a small waterfall. That was a fun chance for the children to run, play and get a little energy out after a long day. It is a great deal of walking so you want to be prepared for that, especially if you have small children.

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All in all this was a great chance for them to learn about agriculture as well as how the wealthy would have lived during this time period in history. One of the unexpected connections and ‘take-aways’ that the children had was that the games they demonstrated, Graces and hoop and stick, were essentially the same games that they played during colonial times. In today’s world of new games and toys every year it was interesting to see the longevity that toys had in past times.

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