The Northern Lights Lesson

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One of my biggest goals with the homeschooling, aside from giving my children the education they need to excel in life, is to give them a life long love of learning. With this in mind I don’t shy away from exposing them to things that they might not fully understand. I believe showing them the exciting things that science and nature has to offer will spark the desire to explore, even if they don’t totally understand the science behind it. That is why I decided that I wanted to expose Big B to the Northern Lights during our Arctic Unit. The science behind the Northern Lights might be too far advanced for Big B to understand, but that doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy them…

Northern Lights Lesson

I found this great article that explains the Northern lights (Aurora Borealis) in simple terms.

I started by giving Big B a very simple explanation of what the Northern Lights are, then showed him this National Geographic video:

Amazing Northern Lights Time Lapse

Northern Lights Lesson

After watching the video we did a fun project where Big B got to create his own Northern Lights…

Materials:

  • A tray or large container
  • Milk (I know it bothers many when people use food for play. It’s not something I like to do often, but this milk was “off” when we opened it, and I didn’t want it to go to waste. If it bothers you, you can use water. The milk just shows the colors nicely)
  • Food coloring
  • A dropper

Northern Lights Lesson

Pour the milk into the tray or container and make a bowl for each Northern Light color. I can never seem to find liquid food coloring anymore. Our grocery store only seems to carry the gel. So I had to mix the gel with a little warm water.

Demonstrate for your child how to collect the food coloring in the dropper and drip the color into the milk. The color will move and swirl around within the milk.

Northern Lights Lesson

Northern Lights Lesson

I allowed Big B to play with this for a while because he seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. He transferred the color into the milk, the mixture back into the individual bowls, and back again. He made quite a mess.



Hibernation Unit

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Our preschool science curriculum features both season and animal units, so with winter here it’s the perfect time to study the change in the season and animals who are either greatly effected by the winter weather or are cold climate animals. We started out this winter season with a hibernation unit.

Hibernation Unit

It’s amazing the things that I have learned while homeschooling my son. I was doing research and learned that bears don’t “technically” hibernate under the original definition of hibernation. Animals who truly hibernate go into a very deep sleep and cannot be disturbed. They can be moved without even being aware of it. Bears however sleep for weeks at a time and can be disturbed. Animals who hibernate include; badgers, bats, chipmunks, dormouse, ground squirrels, hamsters, groundhogs, hedgehogs, nighthawks, prairie dogs, raccoons, and skunks.

Books

I started by reading Big B lots of books about bears and hibernation. Our library has an entire section of science children books on animals. I got a few books that teach about bears and other animals who generally hibernate. I also got a few story books where the animals (mostly bears) are preparing to hibernate.

Snacks

Hibernating animals build up fat reserves (and in some cases store foods) to sustain themselves through the winter. They will eat things like berries, nuts and other vegetation. Offer some of these foods to your child as snack (considering allergies) and talk to them about how these foods help the hibernating animals make it through the winter.

Cave Building

We talked about how animals build or seek out shelter to protect themselves while they are hibernating. Big B and his dad built a cave for him play bear and act like he was hibernating.

Preschool Hibernation Unit

Fat Storing Experiment

I ran across this Animals in Winter science experiment from Preschool – What Fun We Have. I felt like it was the perfect way to show Big B how animals store fat to help them stay warm during the winter.

I started out with two bags, shortening, and ice.

Hibernation and Cold Climate Animal Activity

I covered Big B’s hand with one of the bags and then handed him a few pieces of ice

Hibernation and Cold Climate Animal Activity

I then liberally covered his hand with the shortening and covered it with the second bag. I handed him the ice again.

Hibernation and Cold Climate Animal Activity

The shortening represents the additional fat that helps protects the animal from the cold weather.

Hibernation and Cold Climate Animal Activity

Big B now has a better idea of how and why animals hibernate.



Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Seed Catalogs

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One of the great things about winter is all of the new seed catalogs. These colorful magazines start coming in the mail around the end December!

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Seed Catalogs

Ok, I’ll admit I don’t have much of a green thumb, but when it comes to research and planning I’m a professional. This year we are giving a garden a real try. The last time I had a real garden I was a kid. As an adult I’ve had herbs and that’s about it. I have great memories from my childhood sitting in my garden eating right off the plants. I want my children to have those same memories. I have spent the last year searching seed catalogs and researching gardening techniques, and this spring I think I am actually ready.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Seed Catalogs

Our first catalog of 2013 came in the mail Friday and Big B and I have had a blast looking through it already. Big B really loves looking through seed catalogs. He points to all of the fruits and vegetables that he wants to try and it’s hard not to allow our order to get completely out of hand in hopes that maybe he will actually try them if we grew them. He looks at the beautiful photographs and asks what each plant is and what it tastes like. We talk about the colors, shapes, flavors, and different recipes we can make with each. It’s amazing how much value one can find in a free catalog that comes in the mail.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Seed Catalogs



Preparing for Big B’s First Dental Cleaning

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Big B turned 3 a few months ago and I have been meaning to take him to his first dental cleaning. He has been to the dentist for a check up before, but at that appointment they simply looked at his teeth. Big B is generally well behaved at doctors appointments. He does what his doctor asks, has no trouble answering her questions, and never puts up a fight when it comes time for shots. The difference is that he is very familiar with his doctor and nurse. He has never been to this dentist, and has never had a teeth cleaning, so in order to help this appointment go smoothly I devoted some time to explain what was going to happen and to teach him about dental health.

Preparing for Dental Visit and Learning About Dental Health

The week leading up to his appointment Big B and I talked a great deal about dental health. I allowed him to brush my teeth and well as his sister’s, so he could get a better look at what he was doing. I even finally got around to doing a great dental health activity from Sense of Wonder that I ran across a while ago and have been meaning to do (there are other dental health activities on her post that I didn’t do, so you should check it out).

For this activity I created a mouth using a piece of cardboard and an egg carton. I took the bottoms off the egg holders and glued them in the shape of a mouth on the cardboard. I painted the teeth white and the tongue area pink. I then stuffed the spaces between the teeth with green tissue paper.

I talked to Big B about how the green tissue paper represented the nasty germs that get stuck between your teeth where the toothbrush can’t reach, and that you need to use floss to get rid of them. It was also good that the egg carton I used had crevices throughout them so I could explain how our teeth have lots of peaks and valleys and that you have to be very careful when you brush to make sure that you got them all. You could use the same mouth, dirty the teeth and teach your child how to clean them properly and throughly.

Preparing for Dental Visit and Learning About Dental Health

Preparing for Dental Visit and Learning About Dental Health

A day after I introduced this activity to Big B I found him in the dinning room/classroom doing it on his own. I asked him what he was doing and he said “getting the germs out of my teeth”

Preparing for Dental Visit and Learning About Dental Health

Big B did a great job at his appointment yesterday. I held his hand while the dental hygienist cleaned his teeth. I was so proud of him. I think the time we spent going over the the procedures helped him the most. He was confident going in, and there weren’t any surprises.

If you are interested in reading more about first dental appointments and how the parents prepared their children check out these links:



Celebrating Bodhi Day

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I love learning about other cultures’ and religions’ holidays, so I thought some of my readers would be interested in hearing about a holiday that is important to our family. We are Buddhist. Our friends and family all know this, but it’s not something I often talk about on the blog or online in general, but I did want to share our family’s celebration of Bodhi day.

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

Bodhi Day is a holiday that celebrates the day that Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. This holiday is celebrated on the 8th day of the 12th month (December 8th on our calendar).

Prince Siddhartha left the luxuries of his life in order to search for the root of suffering, and how to be liberated from it. Siddhartha spent six years living as an ascetic under six different teachers. During this time he was unable to find the answers that he was searching for, so left his practices as an extreme ascetic and vowed to sit under the Bodhi tree until he found them. He meditated under the tree for a week and on the 8th day, upon seeing the morning star, he reached enlightenment.

There are many ways to celebrate Bodhi Day, and it generally picks up traditions that are common for the area of the followers. Many use this day for remembrance and meditation. For our Bodhi day traditions we also try to incorporate activities that are interesting and engaging for our children.

Eating Vegetarian

Many Buddhist are vegetarians, but this is not something we practice in our everyday lives. We do however, eat vegetarian on the Buddhist holidays.

Rice and Milk

Rice and Milk is an important tradition for Bodhi day. It’s said that Sujata offered rice and milk (or Rice-Milk, which I am assuming is a mixture of rice and milk) to the Buddha in order to help him regain his strength. For one meal on Bodhi day we consume rice and milk in remembrance of that gesture.

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

Our Holiday Tree

Many religions incorporate a tree into their holiday traditions this time of year. It all started with the pagans for winter solstice, and was later pick up by the Christians. Generally Buddhist decorate a Bodhi tree with multicolored lights to represent the many paths to enlightenment, but we do not have access to the Bodhi tree and because we celebrate some of the secular traditions associated with Christmas we use an evergreen tree instead.

We talk to Big B about how Buddha was sitting under the Bodhi tree when he reached enlightenment. We explain to him that Bodhi trees are very common in India, so children in India are able to decorate the Bodhi tree. Evergreen trees are common for our area, so it is easier, and makes more sense, for us to use an evergreen.

Candles

At the end of the day we light a series of candles at our main Buddha alter. We have three candles set up behind our Buddha. Each one represents one of the Three Jewels; The Buddha, The Dharma (Natural Law), and The Sangha (The Community). As we light the candles we explain what each one means. We have one candle sitting in front of our Buddha. This candle symbolizes enlightenment and is lit each day for 30 days starting on the 8th.

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

Jewel Craft

I wanted to do a Bodhi Day craft with Big B to represent ‘The Three Jewels.’ We recently did a popsicle snowflake window display. I loved the way they turned out, and I thought doing something similar for our jewel craft would be nice in one of the other windows in our classroom/dinning room. I made three jewel shapes with popsicle sticks and had Big B paint and glitter them. I then put a layer of tissue paper on the back so they would be pretty and colorful when the light shined through.

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

The Buddha

Finally, PBS has a documentary on the life of The Buddha. Each year we end the night watching this documentary. It’s beautifully made and narrated by Richard Gere.

This is such a wonderful time of year with all of the different holidays. I hope you enjoyed learning about one of the holidays that is so important to us.


Our Winter Window Display: Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

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Well, it is time to take down our fall leaves window display and put up something more winter themed. I have plans for several window displays for our classroom/dinning room this winter. Today we are starting with popsicle stick snowflakes. If there is anything I have learned during my time as an art teacher it’s that you can’t go wrong with glitter!

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

Materials:

  • Wood popsicle sticks
  • Glue
  • Paint (we used blue and white)
  • Glitter (again, we used blue and white)
  • String or yarn

It’s an easy enough craft with really great results.

Start by gluing several popsicle sticks into a snowflake shape. We used 4 sticks and I made 4 snowflakes for each of us.

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

Paint one side of the snowflake:

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

While the paint is still wet sprinkle the snowflake with glitter:

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

Set aside to dry overnight:

My snowflakes:

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

Big B’s Snowflakes, which I think are MUCH better than mine. The mix of the two colors on the one snowflake had a really beautiful result:

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

On day 2 turn the snowflakes over, and paint and glitter the backside. Once again allow them to dry completely:

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

We glued a strand of white yarn to the back of the snowflake, but you could also poke a hole through the stick and tie the yarn or string off.

Hang and Enjoy!!

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

I was a big fan of our fall window display, but I am already loving our winter themed ones so much more. I can’t wait to share our other ideas!



The Huge Family Holiday Gift Guide: Top 10 Educational Toys for Preschoolers

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The wonderful blogging network (Kid Blogger Network) that I am a part of has put together a holiday gift idea series. There is something for everyone! Links to all of the other gift guides can be found at the bottom of this post.

Top 10 Educational Toys for Preschoolers

For my part of the Holiday Gift Ideas for Kids series I have compiled my top 10 favorite educational toys for preschool children. These toys are favorites of my son Big B. We hope that you enjoy them as much as we have.

                                                                                                       

    1. Melissa & Doug Jumbo ABC Chunky Puzzle: This puzzle played a large role in teaching Big B the order of the ABC’s. He received this toy for his 1st birthday and still plays with it 2 years later.
    2. LEGO Duplo My First Set (5416): This was one of my husband’s picks. Big B loves blocks of all kinds. He spent a year and half playing with mega blocks, and we have now moved on to duplos. These are great for developing mechanical skills.
    3. Battat Take Apart Airplane: This awesome little plane allows your child to put it together and take it apart using little nuts, bolts and a drill. There are several different vehicles to choose from.
    4. Melissa & Doug Band in a Box: I am a huge fan of Melissa & Doug. The quality of these instruments are great and they are wonderful for helping children build an interest in music.
    5. Fisher-Price Kid-Tough Binoculars: These are a great addition to your nature walks. Big B has a pair of binoculars that he loves to carry around with him so he can “see the birds.”
    6. eeboo Pre-School NUMBERS MEMORY GAME: We have several different memory games. This particular one also teaches numbers.
    7. Fisher-Price Kid-Tough Digital Camera – Blue: This is one of Big B’s favorite toys of all time. Educationally we use it for photo scavenger hunts (like our fall scavenger hunt) and documenting nature walks.
    8. LeapFrog TAG Reading System, Green: Don’t say anything, but this is one of Big B’s Christmas presents for us this year. We opted for the Tag Reading System rather than the Tag Junior because you can use the Tag Reader on both Tag and Tag Junior books. It’s a great way to get kids interested in reading and there are other educational games that you can purchase for use with this system.
    9. Playskool Alphie: I had an Alphie growing up, and Big B got one from his Papa for Christmas last year. He has really started getting into it in the last few months, and he has learned so much. You can purchase different booster packs to expand the learning.
    10. LeapFrog My Own Leaptop: This toy was one of the best tools when it came to teaching Big B his alphabet. In the “animal” mode I would ask him to find a particular animal and tell him what letter it started with, he would then search the keyboard for that letter and the animal would appear on the screen when he pressed the key. You can also program the toy to say the child’s name and enter personalized emails for them to check.

All of these toys are big hits in our house! I hope you enjoy them as well!

Fun Gifts Beyond Toys by No Twiddle Twaddle

Book + Toy Companion Gifts by What Do We Do All Day?

Best Art Supplies for Kids by To Train Up a Child

Gifts to Inspire the Imagination by The Pleasantest Thing 

Gifts for Your Backyard Explorer/ Gifts for Your Animal Lover by Blog Me Mom

Educational Games by True Aim Education

Basic/Traditional Toys by Creative Playhouse

Therapeutic and Fun Gift Ideas for Child Development by Creative Learning Fun

Top Toys for Babies by B-InspiredMama

Top Toys for Curious Kids by KC Edventures

Educational/ Headache Free Toys for Christmas and Hanukkah by CAUTION: Twins at Play

4 Gift Ideas for Everyone: Want, Wear, Need, and Read by Home Learning Journey

Gifts that Inspire Pretend Play by Connecting Family and Seoul

My Favorite Books and Toys for Preschoolers by Mama Miss

Educational Toys for Preschoolers by The Freckled Homeschooler

Montessori Inspired Toys by Smiling Like Sunshine

Gift Ideas for Older Kids (9-12) by Kitchen Counter Chronicles

Toys for the Classroom by Teach Preschool

Gift Ideas for Budding Readers by Mom 2 to Posh Lil Dives

Stocking Stuffers: A Teacher’s Top 10 by Kindergarten & Preschool for Parents & Teachers

Book Ideas for Everyone on Your List by Pragmatic Mom

Toys that Stand the Test of Time by Mamas Like Me

Top Board Games for Kids and Families by Coffee Cups and Crayons

Home Made Gifts Children Can Make by How to Run a Home Daycare

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  2. Please add The Huge Holiday Family Gift Guide button or a link to your post or blog
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Painting with Kitchen Utensils

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Last week I mentioned that I was going to be doing a series of different painting techniques with Big B. Painting with kitchen utensils is the second project in that series. Big B loves to paint, and I am trying to expand his creativity and imagination when it comes to his art.

Painting with Kitchen Utensils

This past weekend I collected a bunch of kitchen utensils that I thought would make fun painting tools and I laid them in a pile in front of Big B. He frowned his brow and gave me look like “what am I suppose to do with this?” I simply told him that he needed to use them to paint, nothing more. I wanted to see what he did on his own.

Painting with Kitchen Utensils

He picked up the pasta cutter first and rolled it in the paint, then he said “now what?” I told him he needed to use the tools to get the paint onto the paper, like with a paint brush

Painting with Kitchen Utensils

Some of the utensils required more imagination than others, but in the end he was able to come up with a way to use each one.

Painting with Kitchen Utensils

Painting with Kitchen Utensils

Big B completed two paintings, then asked for his paint brushes. I think the project was a success, but apparently the paint brush is still the painting tool of choice in our house.

 



Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Adjusting to New Animals on the Farm

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Our farm, like most farms, is in a constant state of change. New animals move in or are born, seasons change, there is a time to plant and a time to harvest, all of these things change your chores and routine and for young children this can be jarring.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Adjusting to New Animals

Bringing a new animal onto the farm is much like bringing home a new baby, especially if it is a whole new species of animal. New routines need to be established, and the animals needs to be introduced to any person or animal that they will come in contact with often. It’s an adjustment for the farm’s human and animal residents… new and old.

For small children some animals can be intimating. This is a problem that we are running to with Big B and the goats. Big B has an extreme fear of large dogs. There was a large dog that lived at one of the houses in front of us last year. He was only a puppy, but he was huge, and would jump on people. At first the owner didn’t pin him, and after we complained the owner had terrible trouble keeping him pinned no matter how hard he tried, so the dog kept coming onto our property. Big B was terrified of the dog and for a long time, until the puppy went to live at a new home, Big B flat out refused to go outside. Now, almost a year later, Big B still has trouble with big dogs, and because of the goats’ size, he is also scared of the them. He wants to spend time with them. He loves feeding them and he asks daily if we can go “walk” the goats, which consists of walking around their pasture while they follow us, but once actually in the pasture, after a short time of having them in his face, he starts to get nervous and panics. We are working on it daily by exposing him to them in short spurts and having him interact with them from outside of the fence, but I can see that it’s going to be some time before he is completely comfortable with them. I also know this is only one of the many adjustments that Big B and Little B will have to make over the next few years.

Advice on Introducing Children to New Animals:

  • Children, especially young children, should be introduced to the new animals slowly. Don’t put them around the animal for long periods of time in the beginning. The animal needs time to get used to the child as well. Remember this is a change for the animal and they may behave out of character.
  • Allow there to be space (fence) between the child and animal for the first few interactions with livestock – See above
  • The child needs to be taught that they are still animals and can, at times, have wild tenancies. Establish a set of rules that promote safety (ie: Keep your face out of the chicken’s face, don’t get on the ground around the goats, wash your hands after being around the animals, etc)
  • Have the child feed the animal treats. Teach the child the proper way of feeding treats (with a flat hand) to avoid fingers being nibbled.
  • Demonstrate the proper way to deal with/handle the animal.
  • If your child is afraid allow them to see you interacting with the animal a few times a day. This will help the child to learn how to properly treat the animal, and gives them an idea of what to expect from the animal behavior wise.
  • Understand it may take time and don’t force the child into situations where they are truly uncomfortable.
Change is not easy for anyone but with time and work everyone can learn to live together.

 


Corn Craft

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We are finishing up our nutrition unit and Thanksgiving is right around the corner, so I decided that I needed to come up with a craft that could fit into both. I thought up this corn craft this afternoon:

This craft can work for several different age levels and promotes fine motor skills. In the image above I created the corn cob on the right and Big B created the one on the left.

I started by cutting a corn cob and husk out of construction paper. Then I glued them together.

I completed my example during the children’s nap time this afternoon and had all the materials waiting for Big B when he woke up. I left a few corn kernel spaces so I could demonstrate the process for him. I explain that he needed to tear small pieces out of the tissue paper, ball it up in his hand, then glue it to the corn cob.

He even used the glue all by himself and did a very good job!

 He was very happy with the outcome of his corn cob!

This cute, simple craft was a big hit and required minimal supplies!