‘Tis the season…of apples. During the 16 years we’ve lived in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, where orchards cover hundreds of acres, apples have become a gala event in the Jones household.

It started with an accidental tradition, albeit a delicious one. One year I discovered a dozen varieties of apples at a local farmers’ market. I bought one of each and announced that the family was going to have an apple-tasting. We rated each apple on its sweetness, texture, and taste. The familiar Granny Smith made a cameo appearance, but it lost out to the juiciness of a Fuji or the flavor of a Nittany.

My spontaneous enterprise was wildly successful. The family has asked for an apple tasting nearly every year since.

This autumn, I came home with my biggest haul yet: 15 different types of apples, ranging from the petite Pink Lady to a massive Crispin. Darren was even more excited than the kids about this year’s traditional tasting. In honor of Apple Day, he decreed, we would do school a little differently.

Instead of the usual routine of math, science, English, and all that jazz, Darren checked out twenty-some books from the library, all having to do with apples. Then he created a point system. One point for reading this book; two points for watching this video; three points if an older sibling read a book to Ranger. Each child had a certain number of points to accomplish during the school day.

“When we sit down to do the tasting,” Darren concluded, “be ready to tell me something you didn’t already know about apples.”

A break from school? Bring it on! Not every child loved the point system, but hey, when in Rome…They went along with the plan, racking up their required points. Around the dinner table, they shared their new knowledge:

  1. If an apple’s seeds don’t form properly, the apple itself will be misshapen.
  2. Apples grown from seeds might not taste like their parent.
  3. Apple farmers use a method called grafting that involves stumps and wax in a process that Ranger wasn’t exactly clear on.
  4. Red Delicious apples didn’t used to be so uniformly red. Someone decided to breed them for color, not necessarily taste. So the apples used to be delicious but not red, and now they’re red but not delicious. Whether this “fact” is true or not, Bookgirl shared it with glee.

Everyone, even the teenagers, got into the spirit of the tasting. Mealy apples, like Stayman, were roundly condemned. York tasted like wine, Arkansas Black was admired for its beauty, and Honeycrisp was a hands-down favorite.

In my posts, I talk a lot about the fact that homeschooling gives us flexibility. It’s one of the benefits I most prize about homeschooling. By rearranging our school schedule to savor one of the world’s oldest known fruits, we’ve created a family tradition, good memories, and even expanded our knowledge a little. Oh, and apple pie is on the menu too.

I’d say we struck gold. Or should I say, Jonagold?

Before you move on… I’ve included the names of 17 different varieties of apples in this post. Some of them are easy to spot because I listed them. But 6 are hidden within the post itself. Can you find them? (Answers below.)


Photo Credit: Graphic by Anna Soltis. Following images courtesy of author.

Apples listed in this post:
1.Granny Smith;  2.Fuji;  3.Nittany;  4.Pink Lady;  5.Crispin;  6.Red Delicious;  7.Stayman;  8.York;  9.Arkansas Black;  10.Honeycrisp;  11.Jonagold

Apples hidden in the post (in order of appearance):
12.Gala; 13.Delicious; 14.Cameo; 15.Enterprise; 16.Jazz; 17.Rome