Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Maple Syrup Week

Recently, I had a reader ask me to divulge some of the secrets of my homeschooling endeavors. Well, frankly, since I’m still in year 1 of teaching only one child, I have yet to feel that I have any tricks of the trade worth divulging. However, I have learned that, as in many things, simple is usually best.

We open with a prayer and have our reading lesson. Then, we read a selection from the Bible (we concentrate on one story or Psalm per week). We might have a brief math lesson or listen to our favorite Bible verses CD. And, then we all curl up with a selection from our learning basket, a little basket of four to six books that  rotate weekly, which is kept on a special table that I lay with a seasonally-themed cloth.

Each week, I have a theme for our learning basket. If there is a holiday or Church feastday that falls during that week, the theme usually revolves around that holiday or saint. Other themes have included apples (our very first unit!), pumpkins in October, turkeys in November, the year, snow, owls, and this week’s theme which was very well received by both Sophia and James: maple syrup!

This is just about the time of year when New Englanders and Eastern Canadians tap their trees for sap and boil it down into the sweet, sticky stuff kid’s dreams are made on. Coming from upstate New York, maple syrup and maple sugar are a part of my heritage. I remember going to the local cider mill with my parents in the fall, and almost as much as the cider what I looked forward to were the locally-made maple sugar candies. Real, fresh maple sugar—the kind that is soft and pillowy and cleaves away gently to melt on your tongue—is nothing like the hard, stale, saccharine tidbits sold in most stores across the country. When I have the opportunity to taste real maple sugar, it is a true delight, a little taste of home.

Alas, I have yet to find a maple sugar tree in the corner of the country I now call home.  And, there are no sugaring exhibitions or festivals like the ones in the area where I grew up. (Those were the things this history-loving foodie’s dreams are made on!) But, that certainly wasn’t about to stop me from passing on this little bit of heritage to my sweet children—and having some fun myself, in the process.

As it turns out, my scientifically-minded daughter loved the unit. Mama loved recalling the old traditions and the history of sugaring. And, everyone loves syrup! James, in particular has a voracious sweet tooth.

This fourth week of March is the perfect time for a maple syrup week. March 25th (this Friday) is Annunciation Day, which oddly enough is the perfect opportunity to drizzle a stream of hot, fragrant syrup over crispy waffles. Varfrudagen (that’s Lady Day in Swedish) sounds very similar to Vaffeldagen (Waffle Day)! In honor of the feast, we’ll be diverging slightly from our fast to make the traditional Swedish waffles. Considering our fasting regulations this year, it is sure to make the feastday particularly memorable.

Making the waffles will be our hands-on project for this week (I always like to do at least one). If we had a maple sugar festival in the area, that would be a wonderful field trip. You could also just take your children to a park where sugar maples grow. I also love having something tangible for my children to play with that emphasizes our weekly theme. I had my eye on this adorable wooden maple tree, but never got around to ordering it. It should make a lovely surprise beside our book basket next year, though. I am certain that maple syrup week will be a repeat at the Cider Mill Schoolhouse for many years to come!

So, now it’s your turn, my fellow homeschoolers: What have been some of your favorite or most successful units with preschoolers?

1 comment:

  1. I had never thought of doing a Maple Syrup week, but this is the type of thing my children love to do. Fall, of course, takes us to one of the many apple orchards in our area. We live in Ohio, virtually surrounded by lovely orchards. We have one that has a store in the shape of an apple barrel - it is family run. They will give a tour, read a book or two, teach the Johnny Appleseed grace, and offer a snack of apples and honey. So fun. We have a basket with all things fall. Fall books, etc.
    We of course do Advent activities. This year, each child offered up good deeds through out Advent as birthday gifts to Our Lord. I wrote them down on stars, and let each child hang them on a door that had been decorated for this purpose.
    Lent, of course brings lessons on Spring, on fasting and abstinence. On making small sacrifices and offering them up. We focus on how Easter brings new life, just as Spring itself brings new life, with books and visits to see baby bunnies and chicks of friends in 4H.
    Homeschooling is lovely, isn't it?

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