Sunday, October 10, 2010

Where Things Come From

Lately we’ve been learning where things come from. We have an awesome Let’s Find Out book called “What was it Before…” a series that includes “…it was orange juice?" " was a sweater?" " was a chair?" " was ice cream?" It shares appealing, simple explanations of the process each thing goes through from beginning to end. How a chair was made from a tree, how ice cream comes from cow's milk, chickens' eggs, sugar plants, vanilla beans and so forth.
We happened to have some oranges on hand a few weeks ago while reading the orange juice section and the kids had a blast drinking juice from oranges. Just cut a small hole out of the top of the orange, stick a straw in and let the kids squeeze while they sip! I cut the straws in half to make it easier to hold and get juice. It worked really well. They went through two oranges each; my daughter took delight in the fact that she could drink her orange, literally. (Sunkist and Florida Citrus also have helpful, free educational sites with teaching materials: Sunkist Link, Citrus Link for older kids & Florida Juice Link)

Timing on finding this book was perfect for us in many ways. The orange juice portion (written by Jane Belk Moncure) shares how the oranges were picked on trees, and later takes the reader through how they are processed, rolling down a slide into a warm bath and how some roll into big machines and are squeezed into juice.
This process came to life before my kids’ eyes on a recent homeschool field trip to a large local apple orchard, where we had an educational tour, rode the wagon out to pick our own apples and even got to see the apples being washed and squeezed into cider. My daughter immediately recognized what was happening as the apples rolled by on the belt, instead of just seeing a big, fruit-ride machine. She understood and took pleasure in watching it happen.

Spiced Apple Cider Recipe

I love making spiced apple cider in my crock-pot for dinner gatherings. It’s simple and always a big hit! Just pour a gallon of apple cider into a large crock-pot and heat it up with a tablespoon of whole cloves and 3 cinnamon sticks. A spice ball works wonders for this, but if you don’t have one, just retrieve the cloves and sticks with a slated spoon before serving. Let it heat for a few hours, one at the very least. Serve with cinnamon sticks for guests to stir with.

Apples and oranges are not the only source we are studying. Last month the kids went on a field trip to a family farm and learned how bacon comes from a pig, milk, butter and meat comes from cows, etc. One of our members runs a small hobby farm with a pig, cows and chickens. This woman gave a spectacular tour, explaining the many different uses for animals, including food source, fertilizer and more. My daughter loved watching her make homemade butter from the cow’s milk! It was funny, when my friend was trying to shape the homemade butter with a towel after taking it out of the blender, my lil kindergartner, obviously thinking it still looked a little lumpy and unshapely (not like the butter on our table) innocently raised her hand and asked, "but how do you get it shaped ALL the way like a rectangle?"
Bless her heart, the woman tried to keep shaping it more like table top butter for them. On the way home my daughter was telling me all the fun stuff she learned, like the fact that whip cream is just butter that hasn't been whipped/churned as much.

We've started a decently sized vegetable garden this year. The kids have delighted in watching as the things we plant turn into the food we eat, like fresh pea pods, strawberries and watermelon, all from our own backyard. You can actually see the lights going on as they learn and take it all in, and ask curious, smart questions about it. For me, there's no greater joy! (See our photo journal of this year’s Sunflower Project) We've also started a whole new world this year and taken on the task of raising some bantam chickens! (Something I never in a million years thought I would ever do, you can read about the start of that adventure here) so when they start laying eggs for us to eat, that will be exciting. My daughter knows eggs come from chickens, but collecting the eggs from the chickens you've been feeding and chasing for months and helping mom scramble them is a priceless lesson when you can learn it first hand. (Here's the post: Which came first, the chicken or the Egg.)

Along the same lines of where things come from... I think it will be a great tie-in to where we come from, as I teach the kids about our Finnish heritage and how some of the recipes and activities we use are traditions from our ancestors. Stay tuned for when I share my family’s delicious fall pasty recipe, talk about grandma’s sauna and how we celebrate Juhannus. The Finn in me.

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