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Homeschooling Resources: It’s Apple-Picking Time!

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Homeschooling Resources

By Rebecca Rupp

 It’s apple-picking time! And there are a lot of resources out there for apple-lovers.

Try some of these:


Jody Fickes Shapiro’s Up, Up, Up! It’s Apple-Picking Time (Holiday House, 2008) is a cheerful harvest tale in which young Myles and Amber go to their grandparents’ orchard to help out at apple-picking time. They climb ladders and pick apples (“the size of softballs”) with wonderful names like Winesap, Arkansas Black, and Winter Banana; then they help sell the apples at a roadside stand; and finally there’s an intergenerational family celebration. Included is a recipe for microwave baked apples. For ages 3-7.

In Nancy Elizabeth Wallace’s Apples, Apples, Apples (Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2004) – which has great cut-paper illustrations – a family of bunnies spends a day at an apple orchard, during which they learn all about apples. Included are instructions for making apple prints and a recipe for applesauce. For ages 4-7.

From Scholastic, a lesson plan to accompany Apples, Apples, Apples at has discussion questions, and instructions for a seed-planting activity, an apple graph, and an apple collage project.

In Gail Gibbons’s The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree (Sandpiper, 1998), the apple tree is Arnold’s special secret place. He builds a snow fort around it and hangs strings of popcorn on its branches for the birds in winter; in spring, he builds a swing; in summer, a treehouse; and in the fall he rakes leaves and picks apples. Included is a recipe for apple pie and an explanation of cider-making. For ages 4-7.

The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree at is a detailed multidisciplinary lesson plan for elementary-level kids. Activities include determining the number of seeds in an apple, sprouting apple seeds, making “Apple Tree I.D.” pictures and apple sun catchers, and playing apple games. Included are printable worksheets.

In Marjorie Priceman’s How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World (Dragonfly Books, 1996) a determined little cook in a green pinafore finds that the local market is closed and so – what else? – she grabs her carpetbag and sets off to collect the ingredients for her pie from points around the globe. First she heads to Italy, via steamship, for wheat for flour; later stops include France for a chicken (eggs), Sri Lanka for cinnamon, Jamaica for sugar cane, England for a cow (butter), and Vermont for apples. Finally a multicultural crowd of guests sits down to share the finished pie, and the book ends with a recipe. For ages 5-8.

A geography lesson plan to accompany How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World can be found at

How about an apple PIZZA? For a recipe, see

Can’t Learn Apple without Johnny

Almost inseparable from apples is the name of Johnny Appleseed. For a beautifully illustrated picture-book account of his life and philosophy, see Esme Raji Codell’s Seed by Seed (Greenwillow Books, 2012). Though a good deal of legend and myth surrounds him, Codell explains, we do know “that by doing the same small act of planting seeds every day, Johnny Appleseed changed the landscape of our nation. Seed by seed, deed by deed.” Lessons learned here include respect for nature, the importance of sharing, and the idea that large goals can be accomplished bit by bit, with small steps. Included is a recipe for apple pie. For ages 4-8.

In Jane Yolen’s Johnny Appleseed: The Legend and the Truth (HarperCollins, 2011), each double-page spread has an evocative four-line rhyme, written in old-fashioned script (“Apple blossoms/Top the sill/Welcome baby/With a will/Johnny, Johnny Appleseed”), a short fictionalized paragraph of prose history, and a note about what we know to be fact. Richly colored illustrations feature stunningly dark-red apples. For ages 5-8.

Will Moses’s Johnny Appleseed: The Story of a Legend (Philomel, 2001), illustrated with terrific folk-art paintings, has a more sophisticated text and provides more historical background than most Appleseed picture books. For ages 7-10.

The subtitle of Deborah Hopkinson’s Apples to Oregon (Aladdin, 2008) pretty much says it all: “Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Cherries (and Children) Across the Plains.” Told through the eyes of daughter Delicious, the westward-heading family, with their father’s beloved fruit trees packed in wagons loaded with dirt, head for the Oregon Trail. En route they cope with river crossings, deserts, mountains, and ferocious weather (“Guard the grapes! Protect the peaches!” bellows Daddy), until finally, successfully, they reach their new home. The story is (very) loosely based on that of Henderson Luelling, who founded Oregon’s first fruit nursery in 1847. For ages 4-8.

For a short history of Henderson Luelling, see “The Traveling Orchard” at

In Jane Ray’s sumptuously illustrated fairy-tale, The Apple-Pip Princess (Candlewick, 2008), the dying queen offers each of her three daughters a gift to remember her by. Suzanna, the oldest, choses a pair of scarlet shoes; Miranda, the next in line, a pearl-trimmed mirror; and Serenity, the youngest, a wooden box containing her mother’s treasures from nature: a “splash of sunlight,” raindrops, a bird’s feather, and an apple pip. Then the king proposes a competition to see which of the three girls should become the next ruler of the kingdom – the winner, he declares, will be the princess who best makes her mark. The elder sisters build enormous self-aggrandizing towers, while Serenity plants her apple seed. A beautiful tale for ages 4 and up.

There are dozens of versions of the story of Snow White, famously taken in by a poisoned apple. See The Annotated Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs at for an annotated version of the fairy tale, a long list of Snow White books and movies, a gallery of illustrations, and a collection of similar tales across cultures.

One of the most beautiful Snow Whites is Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs (Square Fish, 1987), translated by Randall Jarrell and exquisitely illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert. My favorite.

The expression “comparing apples to oranges” is traditionally used to describe two things so different that they can’t possibly be compared. For a new take on this, see Mattel’s Apples to Apples, a great family game of creative comparisons. For each round of play, a green-apple card printed with an adjective (NEAT, DISTURBING, INTELLIGENT, SWEET, CREEPY) is displayed and players choose red-apple cards from their hands that make the best match. Usually this is a stretch, since red-apple cards are an eclectic assortment of terms such as THE PYRAMIDS, PIGEONS, CREAMED CORN, and EMILY DICKINSON. Players take turns acting as judge, deciding which match is best. (And yes, sometimes creamed corn is creepy.) Recommended for 4-10 players, ages 10 and up. About $25 from toy and game stores; also available

For lots more apple resources – including bad apples, mathematical apples, and Isaac Newton’s apple – see “Apples All Year Round” at





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One Response to “Homeschooling Resources: It’s Apple-Picking Time!”

  1. […]   Linda Dobson at Parent at the Helm gives us many useful and enjoyable Homeschooling Resources: It’s Apple-Picking Time!  Johnny Appleseed would be proud.   Barbara West offers an index of Tiny Tots-Caring […]

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