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Fall, Apples and homeschooling…

9 Oct

Perusing friends posts and great fall photos got me to thinking about what I love about fall. It’s one of the richest times of the year-the trees are turning gorgeous colors, there’s a lot of activity by both animals and humans as they gather in and store foodstuffs, there’s a flurry of activity as football games are played weekly, harvest fairs and festivals take place, craft fairs spring up. The air itself becomes changeable. Now we really know the seasons have swung-some days the air is crystal with the red and yellow notes of autumn in the trees, other days it has a blue smudge along the hills from shifting air patterns and wood smoke. Smells are more pronounced-apples are abundant and if you drive by an orchard there is a winey fresh crisp scent that makes one want to run and shout. A late rose has a spice to it reminding one of cookies, dry leaves a different spicy smell and so on.

Once my children and I began to explore this world we found a ton of things to do, books to read, places to explore…really an explosion of colors, scents, tastes-the whole sensory experience!

I loved to do what we called Unit Studies, which takes a theme, say “Apples” in this case, and ties together all the disciplines and includes hands-on as well as the more formal writing reading and arithmetic. Of course, I took this farther by adding to them myself, and encouraging the children to add as well (to the extent that they’d come up with their own “unit studies”) With different age groups I tried to have activities and books for all levels so there was something for all. We often ended up rabbiting onto other topics, but that was okay-learning was actively happening!

One experience that comes to mind is the field trip to the local apple orchard. We spent the majority of the day at Gizdech Ranch which is a wonderful ranch, as it has not just apples, but all sorts of berries as well-you can do u-pick for about 3/4 of the year there…As well, there is an on-site bakery, fruit ‘stand’ (a store really), antiques shop and cider mill. You can spend the day there!

For our field trip the kids started with a tour of the orchards where they were taught how the apples were grown, what kinds there were, how the pickers knew they were ripe, how they were picked, what they were made into and what happened to the excess or apple waste! Whew. They then picked a bushel to take home, a job made quick by the fact apples are so large-if you aren’t careful you can pick quite a few in thirty minutes. At an u-pick farm that can add up quickly-apples are much heavier than berries! 🙂 This was followed by a tour of the apple sorting, washing and packing facility and the cooler. We watched a batch of apple cider being made (the non-alcoholic kind) and then it was off to the bakery! My favorite part-they were making apple pies with mounds of apples! Yum. Once the tour was done, apple pie was on our menu-before lunch even!

The day was so full it seemed foolish to push anything else into the schedule, however with all those apples it also seemed silly to not create! Apple pie, applesauce, apple butter, dried apples…we came up with a lot of things to make in the next week. A lot of apples were munched up in hand-really one of the best things about an apple; a quick snack, loaded with fiber, pectin and more! The ones we picked were small too, a perfect snack for little hands-big ones too.

So besides baking and preserving, lots of other things can be done with apples. Apple themed math of course-weights and measures, graphing, even addition and subtraction. For literature, we made apple books-large apple shapes, colored to reflect the child’s favorite apple and enclosing enough pages for them to draw and write inside. (A journal would work too, especially for old kids) These books were devoted to the exploration of apples, including poems, Journaling about the field trip, observations of apples… We cut apples in half different ways and made botanical drawings showing the seeds and stem along with the flowers. As well, I pulled out all the books I could find, plus more from the library with information about apples, or apple themes. It is amazing what you can find! (That was in pre-internet days too!) We covered history, famous people, stories both true and fiction-I don’t think we exhausted the subject either!

Crafts are fun done with apples. There is printing with halves-gift wrap, bags, aprons. Cinnamon-applesauce ornaments. Apple heads 🙂 which are hysterical when done-they start out all nice and plump then become wizened and wrinkled. Apple pomanders. The four seasons of an apple tree using tissue paper on a rail road board-draw four trees, color then add the foliage and flowers, or apples. Fun!

It’s easy to do this yourself. Call around to local orchards, many have tours or would be happy to have you come out. Much of what we did was just pulled from our bookshelves or various places around the house-it doesn’t have to be expensive. I ‘ve provided some links for you below-more can be found by searching for different phrases. Don’t forget your local library either-it can have a ton of resources and books (fiction and non-fiction) available, fun to look through and read. I’ll rustle up some of my favorite recipes and ideas and post them next!

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