Sunday, September 30, 2012

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World + Apples in Harvest Unit

September is not only apple season, but Johnny Appleseed is remembered on his birthday, September 23rd, when children around the nation learn of his love for apples, animals, and humankind. In our homeschool, it was no different.

We rowed How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman, which is a Five in a Row: Volume 1 selection.

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World is a humorous story of a girl who wishes to make to apple pie. When she finds that the market is closed, she hitches a ride to Italy for "superb semolina wheat." But she doesn't stop there. She travels all around the world for the best and freshest ingredients to make the best apple pie.

This book was unavailable at our library so we watched it on Youtube. Thank goodness for Youtube!

Day One: Social Studies/Geography

I had printed geography cards from Homeschool Share, and after "reading" we applied the cards on the map while talking about each location.

We talked about Sri Lanka being a pear-shaped island off the coast of India and Italy's resemblance to a boot.

Day Two:

The home-based charter school we belong to had an adorable K-1 Camp on Tuesday. Their theme was Apples in Harvest. Aidyn spent a few hours there with other children reading apple-related books, making crafts, and devouring applesauce. When he came out of his class, he was wearing a towering apple hat.

He made us smile when he walked out of the door. With the new autumnal wind that's starting to blow, we had a bit of difficulty walking this apple-sail boat to the car.

Day Three: Johnny Appleseed and Cooking

On the third day, we read The Story of Johnny Appleseed by Aliki. We read slowly and perused the pictures of the pioneering naturalist. Aidyn asked for an encore so we cuddled up and read through the story again.

During downtimes of our homeschool day, Aidyn watched other apple-related videos, including some old Disney favorites.

This was one of my favorite Disney shorts when I was little:

We also watched Disney's version of the Johnny Appleseed story:

Aidyn also watched a favorite video of his from the library: Apple Farming for Kids.  (This link will take you to their website.)

Later in the day, we were busy in the kitchen making homemade organic applesauce.

While cutting, cooking, and blending, he filled out some apple worksheets about apple parts.

We identified the core, leaf, seeds, flesh, stem, and skin. We also guessed how many apple seeds were in the first apple we cut. Aidyn guessed 3, and we counted out 10!


Afterward, we had a big bowlful of yummy, pink applesauce!

Day Four: Field Trip to Apple Hill in Placerville, Ca

On Friday, the family took a day-long field trip to Apple Hill, a close gathering of apple farms (over 50 farms in all!), in the evergreen-topped hills of Placerville, Ca. As our car climbed the hills, we noticed the red dirt, mammoth evergreens and beautiful sprawling vineyards.

Our first stop was Abel's Apple Acres.

Here's Aidyn with his dad, grandma, and some random bear that made our acquaintance.

Abel's Apple Acres not only had apple pies, apple fritters, apple donuts, apple butter, applesauce, apple cider, scores of apple and autumnal crafts, fudge and so many amazing goodies...

...but they also had horses for riding.

Aidyn chose Boots, and the two of them took a jaunt together.

We even found a Johnny Appleseed cut-out and a height measuring tree.


Proud to be 46 inches tall!

Later, we went down the road to a U-Pick apple farm. Armed with his bag and some tips from the farmer on twisting and yanking the apples off the branches, Aidyn plucked several apples from the trees.



We had so much fun at Apple Hill! Before leaving, we made sure to purchase a gallon of fresh apple cider, apple-pumpkin bread, and a classic apple pie.

We baked the pie when we got home that evening. I know that a home-baked apple pie would have been sweeter, but with my new pregnancy status, I'm delegating as much as possible! Here's Aidyn, sleepily chomping on apple pie.

What a delicious way to end a heartwarming unit study!



Thursday, September 27, 2012

Autumnal Outdoor Hour

It has been said that people usually favor the seasons in which they born. As a November child, I've always loved autumn-- the colors, the fragrances, the food! I'm thrilled that our outdoor hour nature walks will morph into these beautiful strolls among fiery leaves and cool morning air.

Yesterday morning, we were luckily enough to have Dad home with us, and we decided to take a walk to the corn field. It grows behind where we live, and, over the last few weeks, we have watched it sprout like magic beanstalks.

Venturing in always stirs up the excitement. For me, I was thinking of every horror movie I'd seen with creepy children or creatures emerging from the eerie corn fields. The two guys, though, bravely soldiered in.

It wasn't long before they started disappearing.

Aidyn, standing on Daddy's shoulders.

I love the excitement on his face.

And here's the Daddy. :)

This is going to be a beautiful season. I can just feel it.

To read about our other outdoor hour challenges, peruse these posts.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Saving-for-Disneyland Battle Plan

We are one month out from a long family vacation at Disneyland.  We know that certain items (everything from a cup of coffee to a souvenir t-shirt) are ridiculously expensive. Rather than deny ourselves the thrill of purchasing, say, a new Star Tours tee or Jack Skellington wallet, we learn where and how to cut corners.

I've already talked about to save money by cutting costs at home and how to make a trip to Disneyland a learning opportunity. Now I'll be laying out a battle plan to save money while on vacation.

1. Book a hotel/motel with a fridge.

Having a hotel with a fridge is super helpful. You can:

a) save that unfinished turkey leg you thought you could finish.
b) store water bottles, juice boxes from home, and snacks
c) store pre-prepared meals

Amount saved: Varies. Imagine all the extra meals and drinks you won't have to purchase.

2. Bring food/drinks with you (or purchase them in Anaheim)

Pack a cooler with high-protein snacks, healthy beverages, and pre-prepared meals. If you do not have room in your car for a cooler, run down to a nearby grocery store and buy sanely-priced food and drinks. Having food and drinks on hand will save you from buying overpriced selections in the park and nearby gas stations.

Plan ahead and buy these items at home using coupons or by visiting a discount store.

Amount saved: Water bottles in the park =$4 (multiply that by members in your party AND days at the park. Difference between an expensive meal ($25 to $8 or $10) adds up.

3. Bring food and drinks into the park.

Yes, you CAN bring food and drinks into the park, as long as you're not hording in giant picnic baskets. Water bottles and some snacks are reasonable items to bring into the park.

What You Should Bring:

  • water bottles (duh). With all that walking, you're bound to get dehydrated if you don't have water. Disneyland has water fountains all over the park for refilling.

  • healthy snacks. Fruit snacks made up of 99% high fructose corn syrup won't cut it. You need simple, healthy snacks that will keep hunger at bay and energy levels up. Good choices include: dried fruit, grapes, apples, oranges, string cheese, beef jerky, trail mix, seeds, or pretzels.  Snack on these while you're waiting in line, even if you're not hungry. By the time you are ready for a meal, you won't feel the desperate need to blow all your money on an overpriced burger only because it looks good or no other options are nearby NOW.
4. Bring your comfiest shoes.

How on earth does this save you money? Disneyland's First Aid station's biggest service is helping people who a) are dehydrated and b) who have sores on their feet.

Once you get a blister, it's dreadful to continue walking. Hobbling around the park means fewer rides for you, which equals well-earned money down the drain.

Wear comfortable shoes, and you'll outwalk the rest.

Saved: the aggravation of blisters, bandages, and missed opportunities.

5. Bring your own coffee maker/toaster/other needed appliance.

Some people don't think of this one. Many hotels charge guests for coffee pot use. Daily cups of joe at Denny's in the morning add up quickly. If you are someone who needs coffee in order to function, bring your own coffee pot, coffee, sugar, creamer, and cups and spoons.

Bring any other appliance that would help you make food in your hotel. Toast or Pop-Tarts in the morning is a nice way to eat something light before heading into the park.

Amount saved: daily cup of joe at Denny's = $2 (times family members and days in park)

6. Bring prepared meals to your hotel.

Make your family's favorite meal (or something they would actually want to eat) that would travel well. When we went to Disneyland for the half-marathon, we brought tupperware containers FULL of pasta. That tasty and high-protein/carb meal kept us full when we returned midday to our room and went back to the park.

You can make and bring: any variation of pasta (spaghetti, lasagna, etc.), macaroni and cheese, a casserole, a stew, burrito fillings, etc. Bring loaves of french bread or tortillas, too.

7. Return to your room midday.

There are many people who just "don't believe" in doing this. We've found that returning to your room midday:

a) restores your energy
b) allows you to refuel with food/drinks from home, thereby cutting costs
c) helps you avoid the most crowded time of day in Disneyland
d) gets you out of the sun when it's the most draining
e) helps you assess your money and come up with a new game plan for tackling the park
f) allows you to peruse the park map and see what you missed

We often return to eat lunch, take a quick nap, change clothes, swim in the pool, sit in the hot tub, zone out on TV to shut our brains off for a second, and rub each other's tired feet.  We usually come up with a new game plan for returning to the park. After an hour of recharging, it feels wonderful to burst back into the park, refreshed and remotivated.

If you book a hotel far away, you could always rest in the park. Find a quiet corner to sit and eat, watch a show like Aladdin or Great Moments with Lincoln. One time a friend and I stayed in the park, splurged on a coffee and sat for an hour, talking, on a quiet side street off Main Street.

8. When eating in the park, choose filling meals and/or share meals with family members.

If you want to eat in the park, pick something hearty that will keep you full for hours. The clam chowder bread bowls at the Pacific Wharf in Disney California Adventures are mightily filling and can be split between two people.

The Plaza Inn on Main Street serves big helpings of fried chicken and mashed potatoes that will keep you satisfied.

Rancho Del Zocalo in Frontierland serves big portions of delicious Mexican food that can be easily shared between two people.

If you're far off from a vacation at Disneyland, you could set up a savings game with your family. The Blue Bayou is an expensive but unforgettable sit-down restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. One year, we made a goal to eat there only using spare change. (No, we did not bring a sack of quarters to the restaurant!) For a whole year, we saved spare change in a jar and called it the Blue Bayou fund. Just prior to going to Disneyland, we cashed in our change, which totaled $127. With that we dined at Blue Bayou ( a $30/plate establishment) completely guilt-free.

This is our usual battle plan for saving cash at Disneyland. Saved money can be spent, without guilt, on treasure souvenirs. Are there any other tips you can think of for saving money at Disneyland? I would love to hear more!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

This week, we rowed Virginia Lee Burton's Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. The story centers around a devoted hoisting operator, Mike Mulligan, and his near-obsolete steam shovel, Mary Anne. Even though Mike Mulligan takes good care of Mary Anne, steam shovels are becoming a thing of the past, replaced by gas, diesel, and electric shovels. Despite Mary Anne's obsolescence, Mike Mulligan moves out of the city and takes a job in the country, in the small town of Popperville, digging the cellar of the new town hall. He claims that Mary Anne can dig the cellar in one day and, if he can't deliver, the selectman, Henry B. Swap, won't have to pay. The pressure is on for Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne to finish the cellar job, but they have a crowd of fans and a bright young boy to urge them on.

The story really communicates the importance of stewardship, diligence, and good old-fashioned hard work!

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is featured in FIAR: Volume One.

Language Arts- Story Writing Characters

The first day we read the story, we talked about characters in stories and how writers can include all sorts of characters-- good, mean, happy, helpful, trouble-making characters.

We talked about the specific characters in the story: Mike Mulligan, Mary Anne, Henry B. Swap, and the little boy. I asked him to tell me about those characters and what they are like and dictated his descriptions in our lapbook.

Social Studies- Character- Diligence
The FIAR book suggested focusing on stewardship and flexibility, but we emphasized diligence because midweek we had a homeschool class on character training that specifically addressed diligence.
On the second day of reading, we talked about diligence and how the characters exude a good attitude about working. We talked about how Aidyn shows diligence and what sort of jobs he does that require diligence.

The next day, we attended the character training class on diligence. The teacher, full of vim and vigor, taught them a song about diligence, which they sang and performed. She also told them a story about a family of beavers who worked hard to build a secure dam. We went home with a binder of more stories of diligent people in history, arts and crafts ideas for diligence, and ideas on how to be more diligent.

We also track Aidyn's good attitude through an informal point system. After Tuesday, we switched to Diligence Points. He earns point for showing diligence and is awarded with a field trip or extra fun activity at the end of the week. On Sunday, he's going to Six Flags with his Grammy.

Art- Drawing Trees in Motion

For art, we combined two of FIAR's suggestions, drawing trees and motion. On our Outdoor Hour Challenge, we observed trees and sketched two of our favorites. While reading the story again, we admired the way Virginia Lee Burton created the look of motion in her drawings.

Mama: How do you think she made the steam shovel look like it was moving so fast?
Aidyn: She made those swooshes up.

We decided to make our own "swooshes" on our trees to show wind blowing through the leaves.

Social Studies/Science-- Construction and Steam Power
We found a delightful video on construction machines called I Dig Dirt. It's a simplistic video about earthmovers, but it also introduced different kinds of earthmovers and how they work.
Aidyn also watched The Magic School Bus Gets Energized.

Cooking-- "Neat and Square" creations

Mary Anne diligently digs the cellar "neat and square." To illustrate, I made some Neat and Square Chocolate Pancakes one morning as a special treat.

(sorry, no picture there. I simply made a base pancake recipe and swirled in chocolate frosting. When they were done cooking, I used a square cookie cutter to make them "neat and square")

I also made a Neat and Square Chicken Casserole.

And, for the finale, I made the ubiquitous Neat and Square Chocolate Cake with (a version of) Mary Anne in the center, digging like crazy.

I used Buncha Crunch for the rocks.

I made the cake late one night, and it was absolute torture for Aidyn to wait all night for it to cool in the fridge. But, as a special treat, we each ate a slice for breakfast as we read Mike Mulligan one last time (for now).
(I wish I had pictures of our chocolate breakfast, but my camera battery had died.)
After "breakfast," we talked more about squares. I pulled out his dry-erase board and asked him to describe a square.
I played around with him, drawing shapes to his specifications.
A: It's a shape with four sides.
I drew a rectangle.
A (laughing): No, no, no. Those sides are too long. The sides are the same!
I drew a rhombus.
A (laughing more): Oh, my gosh! No, that's a rolled-over square! These lines are straight up and down.
M: And what about the corners? Are they n---?
A: Neat and square!
After we got the laughs out, Aidyn drew a square, found and cut one out of a magazine, and, with help, wrote the definition of a square.

Many of our ideas and projects came from Five in a Row: Volume 1. I also consulted Homeschool Share and was inspired by Delightful Learning.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Outdoor Hour Challenge #4

The next challenge at The Handbook of Nature Study blog encouraged us to focus on a specific element of study. Our lesson with Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel asked us to look at trees and things in motion. We decided to combine our studies to focus on trees in motion.

First we observed the tree nearest to us, touched its bark, commented on its high-up branches. We saw another tree further on with striking differences to the first. We simply traveled from tree to tree, comparing each to the last.

Eventually we plopped down and began sketching. We talked about the "shape" of some trees, that many evergreens look "pointy," while other trees like more rounded.

Aidyn sketched a mammoth evergreen tree and a little tree with pink flowers blossoming on it.

When we returned home, Aidyn added splashes of color.

Adding some brown bark.

As we read Mike Mulligan, we noted the illustrator's style in creating motion in her drawings. Aidyn noticed the blurs of color to show that something was moving. We revisited our tree picture, and I showed him how to take a piece of chalk, create lines from the moving part and blend in the direction it moved.

He tried it with his evergreen, and his tree looked like it was experiencing a blustery day!

We are both so enjoying our outdoor hour challenges. We both come in refreshed and ready to start the day. Aidyn's attitude, as well, is much calmer and peaceful if we've had a morning nature walk.

What we were able to accomplish this day:

  • Aidyn wrapped up Unit 1 of his math book and took the unit test.
  • We played a few rounds of the sight word/tower building game, only this time he had to also put the word into a sentence. I lost three times.
  • Aidyn wrote his sentences for the day with very little assistance from me.
  • We read about the gods of ancient Egypt, specifically Osiris, Isis, and Set. Afterward, he colored a picture of Osiris and shared the story with his grandma and dad.
  • Aidyn played outside with his friends, with his new cement mixer toy (from the Dollar Tree) inspired by Mike Mulligan.
  • I made a "Neat and Square" Mike Mulligan Chocolate Cake.

Check back for more Outdoor Hour Challenges and the FIAR row of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Outdoor Hour Challenge #3

Yesterday's Outdoor Hour Challenge was to find something in nature to draw. Aidyn snoozed way past normal, and I made 'Neat and Square' chocolate pancakes a la Mike Mulligan so I was sure a nature walk just was not going to happen.

Although I had informed him that it would be a quick walk, taking our time proved inspiring.

We walked around, trying to decide what to sketch. We eventually watched a colony of red ants soldiering around. These guys were HUGE and walked like beasts. Because the goal was to eventually draw them, we observed them quite a bit longer than we ordinarily would.

There were some poor little ants that looked like they showed up to the wrong  family reunion, but we just watched how they all seemed to get along.

After I had finally asked, "So are these red ants what you'd like to draw?" he said, "No, I want to bring something in the house with us."

Nearby, he found a small log, just resting on the ground. Turning it over, he quickly found that the damp part of it was home to a family of pill bugs. Even though Aidyn was startled, he was so excited and watched them scurry, saying, "I wanna draw these!"

On our way home, he asked me what pill bugs eat, where they like to live, if we can have one as a pet, etc. As usual, I had little knowledge of the pill bug but told him we would definitely find out.

As Aidyn drew in his nature journal, I found a pill bug site for kids and shared with Aidyn that:

  • pill bugs are the only crustaceans that live entirely on land
  • pill bugs eat rotting vegetation
  • pill bugs enjoy moist environments
(::GASP:: "We found them under a wet log!)

  • pill bugs have 7 pairs of legs
  • pill bugs have armor
  • pill bugs have antennae
  • pill bugs do not spread disease or contaminate food
What has surpised and delighted me about these outdoor hour challenges is that we never know what we'll find or what questions these walks inspire. I also realize how little I know about nature and the holes in my own education. Every day I say at least once, "I don't exactly know, but we can find out!" Nature walks also help with calming and grounding us for the whole day. We both have better attitudes and more patience.

Keep checking back for more Outdoor Hour Challenges, and maybe start your own at The Handbook of Nature Study blog.

To read about our other Outdoor Hour Challenges, visit Our Outdoor Hour Challenges.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Outdoor Hour Challenge #2

You might remember that last week we went on our first Outdoor Hour Challenge from The Handbook of Nature Study blog.

For this morning's challenge, we decided to find 5 living things, be they flora, fauna, and/or human.

It's funny how amongst all the grass, trees, and nicely landscaped bushes that, when asked, "Do you see anything living?" Aidyn's first response was, "No, there's nothing here."

Eventually we found a pearly white cat that met Aidyn's qualifications for a living being. Afterward he happily picked a sunflower and asked a bajillion questions about sunflowers, and I confidently supplied the answer to about four of them.

Then we walked amongst rows and rows of growing corn stalks.

"See anything alive?"


At some point, he accepted that so much around him was alive, and we spouted off all the living things near us.

We even spotted a small tunnel opening with scores of ants slowly marching around it.

"Why do you think they're moving so slowly?" I asked him.

"Maybe 'cuz it's cold."

I was intrigued by their colors, half black and half brown-red. When we got home, I looked up these crazy ants while Aidyn drew the five living things he found in his nature journal. We also read about sunflowers and tried to answer the last 996 zillion questions.

Same as last week, going out on a morning nature walk granted me a calm and collected little student today. His attitude was stellar, and we got a lot accomplished, including:
  • "Digging" into our new book, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, talking about characters in the story (and how stories need characters) and writing his thoughts in our lapbook.
  • Cuddling on the couch and watching two old Disney shorts featuring steam shovels as characters.
  • Playing the sight word/tower building game again. Losing twice.
  • Letting Aidyn work independently on his phonics sheet. He did so well!
  • Jumping into a new chapter book/graphic novel.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Field Trip Friday: Sonora/The Candy Vault

Today we trekked to Sonora in California's Gold Country to sample the shining, glittering examples of LUSCIOUS CANDY. (We'll cover the Gold Rush later.)

Here's Aidyn and his grandma practically dying because I made them take a picture before busting through the doors to candy heaven.

But as it turned out, Aidyn walked past all the candy and headed straight for a little toy section at the back of the store and found a huge whoopie cushion.

Eventually my there-ain't-no-way-I'm-buying-a-12-dollar-whoopie-cushion face led him to choose a more reasonably priced (and insanely adorable) stuffed lemur.

Here he is strolling with his new lemur in a neat educational supply store we found down the way from The Candy Vault.

A goofy hat he just had to try on.

We left the Gold Country making out like bandits.


A "rain-icorn" lollipop (he watches too much Adventure Time)
A stuffed lemur
A laser light lollipop
A Rocket Pop
An Auto Bingo game (which we all played on the way home)
Little educational tchotchkes


A bag of candy consisting of chocolate gummi bears, chocolate covered sunflower seeds, root beer gummi bottles, and sour gummi strips, and chocolate seashells

For my husband

A box of zombie bubble gum
Full rights to my candy bag