Substantive Education

March 29, 2010

Temecula Olive Oil Company

Our school group went on a great field trip this month to the groves of the Temecula Olive Oil Company.  I had visited their store in Old Town Temecula and purchased olive oil there, but I had no idea just how fascinating a trip it would be.  We wereTom, one of the owners and our guide for the morning. met at the grove by one of the owners, Tom.  Tom gave us a quick history of the olive trees in California and then took us out to the groves to explain more about the trees and the process of growing, grafting, and harvesting the olives.

One of the  stories the kids are still talking about was about a man who came into the store and told them how he processed olives…for eating, not for oil.  I’m sure you realize, olives are extremely bitter and must go through some sort of process to make them edible.  One method is just to soak them in water, rinse and repeat, over, and over, and over again.  Well, this gentleman accomplished this by putting his olives in a mesh bag in the tank of his toilet for a month.  The water there is clean, and it gets replaced regularly.  Needless to say, the kids were intrigued.

The pressNext we went into the pressing shed, not sure if that is exactly what it was called, but close seperating the oil from the waterenough.  There we learned about the process of getting the oil from the olives and how all parts of the process are then used on the ranch.  The first, gentle press produces the consumable olive oil.  The next step, separating the olive oil from the water that is present, produces water that is then used as an herbicide on the ranch.  Next the olives are put through a harder press that produces more oil that is used for bath products and to fuel the tractor and truck.  Lastly, what is left is mulch.  Talk about not wasting anything!

Now, I’m greatly simplifying what we learned, which was really fascinating…but the bottom line is, you should buy California olive oil. When olive oil is grown for the markets in Europe it has to meet stringent requirements…the oil that is rejected is then sent to Italy where it is repackaged, sometimes cut with canola oil, and shipped to the U.S.   This oil, as an import, is not subject to the quality controls it would have to meet in Europe. We are getting the reject, sometimes rancid oils.  (I sound like a commercial…lol)

TastingHowever, olive oil grown in California has to meet the same, if not more stringent guidelines.  To prove that what we are used to is not the same quality as what is sold by California growers, we were able to do a tasting.  Yep, it’s true.  The name brand from the market smelled remarkably like playdough, and the other  olive oil had a fruity smell.  The kids were champs about tasting aOn the porch outside the store. variety of oils.

After being convinced of the superiority of their olive oil we headed into Old Town Temecula to visit their store.

It was a fun, educational day.

If you want to check out their oils yourself you can head into either the store in Temecula or San Diego…or go to their website.


March 8, 2010

Some things to do this Spring

Filed under: Field Trips,Uncategorized — kbagdanov @ 8:30 am
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I set out to find some great family day trips that will be celebrating Spring and Easter. Here is a sampling of what I found. My encouragement is that you pick one or two and schedule a time, even a school day, to get out and enjoy spring with your kids.

Note: If you are going to one of the flower exhibits, check their websites. It’s been a cold, wet winter and that will affect bloom times.

San Diego Flower displays.

  • A spectacular display occurs annually between February and April in San Diego East County’s 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park as colorful wildflowers bejewel the sun-scorched desert landscape.  Since the phenomenon depends upon the timing and quantity of winter rains, the blossoms are at their peak for just two weeks.  Guests are advised to call the Park’s 24-hour “Wildflower Hotline” at 760-767-4684 before planning a tour of the desert flora.
  • At the Flower Fields of Carlsbad California, a vibrant sea of giant ranunculus flowers transforms 50 acres of hills into rows of brilliant color.  During March through May, guests can stroll past oceans of flowers and through beautiful gardens, including a miniature rose garden, fragrant sweet pea maze, a garden featuring more than 50 All American Rose Selection winners and a spectacular display of red, white and blue flowers planted in the shape of a giant American flag.
  • Balboa Park’s Offshoot Tours provides free, one-hour tours that highlight the park’s lush botanical offerings; the tours begin at 10 a.m. on Saturdays in front of the Balboa Park Visitors Center. Must-sees are the beautiful Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden, displaying approximately 2,500 roses of nearly 200 varieties, and the award-winning Alcazar Garden, with a floral design patterned after the gardens of Alcazar Castle in Seville, Spain.
  • On April 17 – 18, the City of Coronado presents the 85th annual Coronado Flower Show in Spreckels Park.  Flower exhibits are displayed under tents and a central gazebo, creating one of the largest flower shows on the U.S. West Coast.  Guests also enjoy flower sales, live entertainment, food and a trophy ceremony.
  • The San Diego Museum of Art blossoms during Art Alive 2010, April 29 – May 2, an enchanting spring exhibition.  Transforming the museum into a colorful display of art and flowers, more than 100 floral designers take inspiration from the museum’s renowned art collection and create floral renditions of famous paintings and sculptures.

The Glory of Easter at the Crystal Cathedral

Long-running musical passion play featuring over 100 actors, soaring angels and special effects.
When: Runs for about 10 days before Easter
Where: Crystal Cathedral, 12141 Lewis St, Garden Grove, CA 92840
Cost: $35-$45, $20 Discount nights available
Parking: Free on site
Note: Not recommended for children under 9 years old due to vivid portrayal of Christ’s death. Dress warmly.

Bunny’s Spring Fling at the LA Zoo & Botanical Gardens

Kids can make bunny ears, pet bunnies and have their photo taken (for a fee) with Big Bunny and other cartoon characters at this three-day event at the LA Zoo. There will be crafts, face painting, music and more.
When: Easter Weekend, 10 am – 4 pm
Where: the LA Zoo, 5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA, in Griffith Park, off the I-5 and 134 Freeways
Cost: Check website
Parking: Free

Blessing of the Animals at Olvera Street

The Merchants of Olvera Street and a cow decorated with flowers lead a procession of gaily decorated animals past a priest delivering the blessing. The procession with Cardinal Roger Mahoney begins at 2 pm. Animals and their owners assemble on the north side of the Plaza.
When: Saturday before Easter, noon to 5 pm
Where: El Pueblo Historic Park at Olvera Street
Cost: Free
Parking: For a fee in area lots
Info:, (213) 625-7074, (213) 485-8372

The Great Easter Egg Hunt at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden

Activities for children of all ages include nature crafts, games, and photo opportunities. Easter baskets are provided for every paid child; no outside baskets will be allowed.
When: Saturday before Easter, 10 am – 2 pm, Arboretum hours 9 am – 5 pm
Where: LA County Arboretum, 310 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, CA 91007
Cost: General admission, plus fee per child to participate in the hunt.
Info:, 626-821-5897

March 7, 2010

Additional Field Trip Tips

Filed under: Field Trips — kbagdanov @ 4:41 am
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Hopefully the last blog inspired you to go on a few more field tirps, but how do to you make sure you are getting the most from your excursions? Well, there are several things that come to mind.

First, go prepared.  For example, a trip to an art museum is always fun and children are quick to have favorites and recognize beauty.  However, there is a whole different experience available to the child who walks into that museum with a little preparation.  If they have read about one of the artists, learned funny stories about their childhood,  they begin to feel an affinity for them and viewing their work is like meeting an old friend.  It becomes a personal experience.  The museum trip will hopefully generate interest to learn more.  Exploit this.  If your child expresses an interest in something they have seen on the trip, find ways to pursue that.

Second, all of us are used to google now, so go check out the internet before you head out the door.  It’s a great idea to check out websites and prep your kids for what they will be seeing.  Prepping your kids for a new field trip has never been easier.  With the advent of the internet we have the world at our fingertips and the more your prep the more this will allow your child to enter more fully into the experience.

Thirdly, after a field trip is over the learning experience hasn’t ended.  There are many productive ways to wrap up the experience.  Most of us are looking for ways to get our kids to write…how about having them write a note to Grandma about what they saw and learned.  If you have taken photos or purchased postcards of the trip they could put them together into a short book to share with family.  Maybe they could write a poem,  a story, or create a poster.  Whatever you chose to do, having your children create some kind of summation of the trip, as elaborate or simple as you want, will help them process and remember what they have learned.

March 6, 2010

Field Trips

I can’t really emphasize enough what a critical role field trips have played in my sons education. I know sometimes it can seem that the effort outweighs the benefits. Field trips take time away from your regular schoolwork, they add an additional cost, and they often feel inconvenient as we struggle to fit all we need to do into our week. Believe me, I get all of that. However, I believe the benefits far outweigh the ‘costs’.

You are all familiar with the ‘law of the farm’. It’s a concept that is very important in education. Basically, the idea is that, as a farmer you can’t wait until it’s time to harvest to plant your crop. You need to consistently be doing the daily chores if you hope to have a bountiful harvest at the end.

Field trips are like that. Each individual one is not going to be a life changing experience, however, 12 years of getting out of the house and into museums, nature centers, parks, symphonies, plays and all the rest add up to an enrichment of your child’s life that cannot be gained in any other way.

As my kids are coming to the end of their homeschooling days I can more clearly see the benefit of all the time, energy and money we spent going on various day trips. One of my sons, in his college entrance exam, used examples of all the places he had been on field trips to demonstrate how, as a homeschooler, he had received a rich education. It was interesting to me, the trips that he highlighted. I’d had no idea they had made an impact.

Sure, the boys probably giggled at the naked statues at the art museum, chatted with their friends while a docent was talking, or mindlessly played with the science exhibits without reading the information. However, they also, with continued, regular exposure, came to appreciate fine art, love poetry, respect nature, and comprehend the scope of history. I feel sure that it was the routine exposure to the world beyond our door, that has contributed to their thoughtful, seeking attitudes as adults.

A natural outgrowth of their homeschool days has been the choices they have made since leaving home. Decisions to study abroad, try new things, meet new people…it’s all part of the whole. Education is so much more than books and paper. Our children, to become life long learners, must be interested in what is beyond them, they must know that they don’t know, be intrigued by new ideas, new places, new people.

Field trips, even the simple trip to the library, plays an integral part in expanding our children’s horizons, their enjoyment of life and their ability to take delight in the familiar, as well as the exotic. I’m personally thrilled to see that my boys, now men, still enjoy a walk through the hills, a trip to pick apples, or listening to a book being read aloud. As a mom, there is comfort in knowing that as they finished high school they didn’t just have a solid academic foundation, but also the skills to enjoy living.

June 9, 2009

National Parks Waive Fees

This summer many of our National Parks are going to be waiving admission fees for three weekends.  So if you were looking for a nearly free getaway this could be it.  Check out the weekends and which Parks near you are participating at  this link.

December 10, 2008

Southern California Christmas Fun

Sorry if not all of this is timely. I was having computer challenges getting it up.

christmas-treeNow is the time to plan and schedule in some fun, family time before the outside demands of the season sap your energy, time and money. Christmas is full of memory-making moments as well as teachable moments, take advantage of them. For example, the materialism we are surrounded with at this time of year is a great springboard for conversations about kindness, giving, and remembering those less fortunate than ourselves. All of the lights remind us that God sent Christ as light into a dark and lost world, giving gifts reminds us of the gift that God gave us, the use of evergreens reminds us of everlasting life…and so it goes. So take the time this Christmas to make some great memories and to infuse the traditions your family uses with meaning.

I’ve begun a list of things you can do, and I’m sure all of you can add many more. Some are basic, but bear being repeating, others are unique to our locale. Most are free. For those of you with elementary school children, you may choose to put all schoolwork but math on hold over December and really entire into the spirit of things. We always did this and I don’t feel they missed out on anything. Read Christmas books, make cards and gifts, write songs, and spend a lot of time with family. Your child’s education won’t suffer and the lessons learned will stay with them throughout their lives.

So here we go….

-Bake Christmas cookies and share them with an elderly neighbor. dec-3

-Listen to Christmas music.

-Make special Christmas cards for all your far away relatives.

-Be one of Santa’s elves and perform an act of kindness for someone who isn’t expecting it.

-Buy a role of brown shipping paper and let your kids decorate their own, personal wrapping paper.

-Memorize the Christmas story from Luke 2.

-Rewrite the Night Before Christmas…but make it about your family.

-Legend has it that on Christmas Eve, all animals are granted the ability to speak until daybreak.

Eve Bunting’s book Night Tree could inspire your children to prepare appropriate goodies: pinecones rolled in peanut butter and birdseed, popcorn and cranberry garlands, orange and apple slices suspended from pipe cleaners and decorate their own night tree. (We will be doing this activity in our Elementary Science class.)

dec-4-Read Christmas books…don’t have any…the library is free.

-String popcorn for your tree.

-Invite over another family, pop some popcorn and watch a Christmas movie.

-Make a thermos of hot chocolate and drive around and look at lights.

-Take a walk and collect items to make a wreath…if you are feeling really inspired drive up to Idyllwild and collect some greenery and mistletoe to decorate your home with.

-Try to make a gingerbread house…just remember the fun is in the process even if the end result is less than satisfactory:)

-Make green and red paper chains to decorate the kids rooms.

-Get out the tape and construction paper and let your kids decorate their bedroom doors for the season.

-Together as a family choose a family, person, or cause to help out this holiday season.

-Build a fire in the fireplace (after hanging the stockings), turn out the lights and roast some marshmallows…don’t have a fireplace…you can still roast mini marshmallows over candles…I know, we’ve done it.

-Attend a special Christmas Service at your church.

-Take a basket of homemade muffins to the fire or police station to say thank you.

-Encourage your kids to perform their own Christmas Pageant.

-Learn all of the verses to an old Christmas Carol.

dec-5-Join the group Advent whose goal is to help people worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all.

-Start of tradition of having your kids create an ornament from a photo that they have taken this year. Over the years examining these will become favorite holiday tradition.

-Make a Jesse Tree. Somewhere in your home put up a tree, either a small real one, or a construction paper one…and each day leading up to Christmas make an ornament to add to the tree that tells the story of how Jesus came to be our savior. For details check out this website:

So here a is a list of places to go around Southern Calif for fun Christmas activities, and many of these are free. If you come across something fun let me know and I’ll post more ideas on the website. I’m just going to give you the basics, if one of these sounds like something you want to pursue the details are all on the web.

The Festival of Lights in Riverside is a great tradition and enjoying it is free. The Festival centers around the Mission Inn in downtown Riverside. You can stroll the area to see the spectacular lights, listen to the strolling carolers, take a horse drawn carriage ride, and go outdoor ice skating. There are special food booths set up, and the stores on the promenade are open and decorated.

Hunt Park in Riverside also has a Holiday Festival on Dec. 15 from 9 in the morning to midnight. There are lights, activities for the kids, food and fun. The park is located at 4015 Jackson St.

dec-1If you are looking for a shopping alternative away from the mall you can check out the Christmas Craft Village at Knotts Berry Farm. During the week the cost is $8 for adults and $2 for kids. Along with the decorations, visit to Santa, and shopping, you can also see two Christmas plays and watch Snoopy’s Christmas on Ice. The plays being presented this year are ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘The Gift of Magi’.

Also Knotts Berry Farm will also be having their annual Toys for Tots drive. If you bring an unwrapped toy worth $10 or more on Dec. 6,7,13,14,20, or 21 you get free entrance into the park. It’s a little more crowded on those days, but it’s all for a good cause.

Balboa Park in San Diego has their December Nights on Dec. 5th and 6th. There are all sorts of special concerts, activities, and decorations to enjoy. All of the Museums are free that evening from 5-9.

Other options in Balboa Park are the Old Globe Theater’s production of ‘The Grinch’. Tickets start at $30 for adults. This is a Broadway caliber production with fantastic sets and costumes.

Dec. 21 in Balboa Park at the Spreckel’s Organ Pavilion there will be a Christmas Sing a Long at 2:00 in the afternoon. A fun day to relax at the park, enjoy the outdoors and some Christmas music, all for free.

dec-2The Newport Boat Parade is only one of many Christmas Boat Parades this season, however this parade as been voted into the Top 10 Christmas light shows in the nation by the New York Times. The parade is going on Dec. 17th to the 21st. The route has changed some this year, but it can be viewed from several public beaches. Check out the route online.

For a fantastic local light experience you can head down to 44001 Terraza Ct. in Temecula. A great light show set to music.

For the music lovers among us the California Philharmonic will be presenting ‘Christmas with the Maestro‘ at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Tickets range from $29-$88.

Griffith Park in LA offers several fun Christmas events. Among them you can ride the train through travel town to visit Santa…check online for times. Griffith Park also hosts a Holiday Lights

Festival. You can stroll along the displays until Dec. 7th, and after that it becomes a drive through event.

Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, located at 2201 S. “A” St., has a Santa Train available Dec 6, 7, 13, and 14. There are Christmas activities for the whole family both weekends. Entry to the Railway museum is free, but there is a fee to ride the trains.

Other events in Perris, if you want to keep it close to home, include a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 5th. A Holiday Boat Parade and Car Show at Lake Perris on Dec. 6, A Christmas Parade on Dec. 13th, and Christmas with Santa on Dec. 20th.

Nuevo has it’s own Tree Lighting on Dec. 6th.

November 24, 2008

Festival of Lights

mission-innI’m always looking for free things to do around the holidays and this weekend is a great one if you live in the Riverside area. The Festival of LIghts begins Friday night with the lighting up of the Mission Inn.

Every evening from November 28 to January 4, festival goers can enjoy holiday decorations with more than three million twinkling lights along Mission Inn Avenue, ice skating under the stars, horse-drawn carriage rides, live entertainment and of course, Santa Claus.

The Festival takes place in Downtown Riverside on the Main Street Pedestrian Mall where visitors can find a variety of options for dining and unique shopping.

It also features holiday-themed vendors every night, offering specialty food and gift items. Come experience the Festival. Have dinner, shop and enjoy the holiday fun.

So If you are in the area have a fun, free, family evening enjoying the sights and sounds of Christmas.


October 25, 2008

Animal Grossology Field Trip

Last Tuesday we went to the Reuben H. Fleet Museum to visit the Animal Grossology exhibit, along with the rest of the exhibits. The exhibit focuses on all things gross. There are displays on a cows many stomachs, the way a fly vomits onto it’s food before it eats, and the many colors of blood. We played games about animals that use slime and games about beetles that lay eggs in dung. There were poop exhibits next to exhibits on hair balls and tape worms. It was an elementary school boys dream. Absolutely disgusting. Here are some photos…you’ve been warned:)

October 3, 2008

Masters of the Night: The True Story of Bats

Filed under: Field Trips,Science — kbagdanov @ 12:55 am
Tags: , , ,

Unfortunately, we don’t have time to go to the exhibit as a group, but for those of you who want to check it out, it looks like fun. The Discovery Center is in Santa Ana at 2500 North Main Street. For other information about the Discovery Center visit their homepage at Here is the information from their website.

October 4, 2008 – January 4, 2009

Discovery Science Center is bringing the mystery surrounding bats out of the dark!

Bats are a mystery to most people. Very few have ever seen a bat up close. What little most people know comes from folklore, myth or superstition. The truth about bats is they are gentle, beneficial, and amazing animals. Their value has been overshadowed by their tainted reputation – a reputation based on ignorance and fear of the unknown. With lifelike cave piece sets, models and interactives, the ecological importance of bats is revealed, and visitors are given a true appreciation of the wonders of the bat world.

From medieval gothic lore to the beneficial nature of these agile creatures of the night, Masters of the Night: The True Story of Bats dispels misconceptions, while engaging children and adults alike. The exhibit brings the mystery surrounding these nocturnal creatures out of the dark. It’s the real story behind these fascinating animals and their unique appearance and skills.

September 6, 2008


Filed under: Education,Field Trips,Shakespeare — kbagdanov @ 7:33 pm
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Here are the details of our visit to see Twelfth Night at Cal Poly Pomona. We will be going on Friday Sept. 19th. We need to be at the school at 7:00.  I will need to reserve our seats so we will not be able to refund your money if you can’t go at the last minute. Tickets must be paid for by Tuesday classes before the performance…that would be Sept. 16th.  Students are $12 and Adults $15.  See you there.

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