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



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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Growing up on The Freckled Farm – Benefits of Raising Children on a Farm

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First… I am sorry for the lack of posts last week. We had a really terrible cold run through this house. It hit Little B and me the hardest. Of course Big B, with his immune system of steel, simply got the sniffles. When your sick, with sick kids, it pretty much takes all of your energy just to get through the day, but I did give a lot of thought to what today’s installment of “Growing up the Freckled Farm” would be, and it became very clear after the weekend that we have had… The benefits of raising children on a farm.

Benefits of raising children on a farm

My mother-in-law came into town this weekend to watch the kids while my husband and I finished the goat fencing and prepared for the goats to move in next weekend. Nothing makes you realize how different your life is in the country than to have someone from the city come and visit for a while. Things that you just take for granted as just a part of life is likely completely foreign to them.

Friday evening after dinner we were all sitting in the den settling down for the evening. I was on the couch looking through a goat supplies catalog, trying to figure out what we would need to purchase over the next year. The discussion of the farm costs came up and my mother-in-law voiced concerns about vet bills. I explained that over the next few years that we would learn to do most of the minor vet procedures ourselves, like drawing blood for tests, deworming and vaccinations. There were also a few topics that came up while looking through the catalog that obviously, and rightfully so, made my mother-in-law uncomfortable, like castration and artificial insemination. I know the necessity of these things on a farm, and they don’t really bother me, but for someone who hasn’t been exposed to it, it’s a lot to take in. Then the conversation of all the skills that “country children” learn during their childhood came up. They are exposed to such a different world and leave home with a completely different set of skills than children who grow up in the suburbs or city.

Before they are teenagers our children will know how to care for animals from infancy, through pregnancy, and into old age. They will administer minor vet procedures, and care for animals when they are sick. They will learn how diet and nutrition affects their production, and they will be responsible to help maintain a balanced diet for the animals on the farm. They will witness life coming into this world, as well as leaving. They will milk our goats, and learn to create products like cheese, butter, and soaps. They will grow their own food from seed, and have to figure out how to balance soil PH in order to ensure the best crop. They will need to figure out how to preserve crops, so we are able to benefit from them long after the season is over. They will understand problem solving, responsibility and patience in a very different way. All of these skills can be translated into life outside the farm in some way. There is so much to learn and experience and the greatest part of all of this is that my husband and I will be experiencing it right along with them.

Already our children, at 3 years old and 7 months old, have experienced something very special. Something most children have no exposure to… They have watch the building of this farm. Big B aided in the construction of the chicken coop, then watch the chickens grow from day old chicks, he watch as the barn and fencing was constructed, he visited many farms, and has already gotten to milk a goat. I see the pride and excitement in his face as he talks about our progress on the farm and it often hits me how this must look like through the eyes of a three year old, it’s huge for me, even as an adult.

I hope all of this gives my children a better appreciation for life, for the food they eat, and for hard work. I want them to leave this farm with skills. Maybe they wont choose to be farmers, or vets, but they will understand hard work and can translate many of the skills learned on the farm into life outside of the farm. The benefits of raising children on a farm are truly endless.



Learning Patterns with Mega Blocks

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I recently ran across this blog post about repeating patterns. Patterns are one of the units in my preschool/pre-kindergarten math curriculum, so I decided to do this lesson with Big B. It was a huge success, and he has asked to play the “blocks game” over and over. It a great way for preschoolers to learn patterns.

Materials:

I started by making an ABAB pattern with red and green blocks. I handed it to Big B along with the blocks necessary for him to make the pattern himself. At first I had to walk him through it, but he picked up on the concept very quickly… I have to add that this child is a puzzle master! So that might have played a role in how quickly he learned the process.


We did a few more patterns, then took a break. When we came back I did not give him the pieces he needed to make the patterns, he had to pick them out of a large pile of blocks. Even with this added obstacle he was able to easily make the patterns I gave him. This simple activity really helped him understand pattern. After he finished copying my pattern he would say “next would come …” He understood that the pattern could continue and knew what would come next. This is a great activity with a product that most already have in their home.

 

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Local Resources All Homeschoolers Should Utilize

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If you are a homeschooler, or are planning on homeschooling, then you have likely had someone bring up “socialization” to you at one point or another. It’s the “go to” argument for people who haven’t been directly exposed to homeschooling. Socialization may have been an issue decades ago, but there are so many programs out there now that it is easy to connect with other families. The following is a list of different local resources all homeschoolers should utilize in order to enhance their children’s homeschooling experience.

Co-ops

The most obvious group that homeschoolers should utilize is their local co-op. If you don’t have one that shares the same ideas as you (i.e. secular, religious, unschooling, or more structured) then start one yourself. Our closest local co-op is religious based and since we are secular homeschoolers  a friend and I have decided to start our own. It’s small now but continues to grow. Here are a few co-ops if you are in the Richmond, VA area.

Parks and Recreation Classes

Parks and rec departments are a great resource for homeschoolers. Our local Parks and Rec offers a wide variety of classes including dance, karate, soccer, drama, art, music… and the list goes on. If you live in the Central Virginia area here is a list of Parks and Rec programs:

Park and Museum Classes

A lot of parks and museums offer classes that are geared towards homeschoolers or school groups (co-op field trips). Here is a short list of classes offered at parks and museums around Central Virginia

Library

As homeschoolers the library will likely become your best friend. If your library is anything like mine they hold story times several times a week and special events scattered throughout the year. Sign up for your library’s newsletter in order to keep up with up coming events.

Sport Associations

Whether you choose to take part in community sports or join an actual homeschool league you have a lot of options out there for you. Homeschool Richmond has a full list of athletics for your homeschoolers.

Community Associations

Don’t forget to consider the community associations that we all used growing up! I plan for my children to be very active in our local 4-H Club.

There are programs and classes out there for every interest. Sometimes it just takes a little research.


Educational Value of Backyard Chickens

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When I decided to add chickens to our farm I wasn’t thinking about their educational value. I just wanted pretty birds that ate bugs and provided eggs. It wasn’t until after the chickens were grown and had been in their coop for a while that it really hit me how the whole thing was a great educational experience for my son… It just goes to show how much you learn just living life

Educational Value of Backyard Chickens

Building the Coop

I found a picture of a coop that I liked online and asked my husband to build it for me. He and Big B spent the next few months working. I was very pregnant with Little B, so I mostly lounged around.  Big B spent hours outside “helping” his dad build the coop, which mostly consisted of him drawing on the wood and pretending to hammer, but he was there through the whole process and showed interest in each step. Every few minutes you would hear “Ok what’s next dad” and when he got an answer it was always followed up with a “Why?” He was taking it all in and would explain to me what was going on when I would come out to check on them. Months later he is still extremely proud of the work that he did with his dad. If you go within 5 feet of the coop he will tell you all about how he and his dad built it.

Chicks

Big B was not allowed to touch the chicks (see warning) but he loved watching them and observed me taking care of them. Like with everything, he was full of questions and learned a great deal about chickens in the few weeks that they lived in the brooder in the house.

Taking Care of the Chickens

Big B now helps to care for the chickens in many ways. He helps spread scratch, he collects plants (mostly dandelions) around the yard that he knows they like, and he helps “herd” them back into their coop. Since we have hawks, and hunting dogs that make their way onto our property we only let the chickens free range when we are outside. During those times he watches them and observes their behaviors. When we have guest he teaches them about his chickens. He talks about the chicken’s behaviors and eating habits, including the time he saw them catch a frog!

Benefits of Backyard Chickens for Children:

  • Taking care of pets teaches responsibility and respect for animals.
  • Watching animals grow from babies teaches about the life cycle.
  • Observing the chickens laying eggs aids in teaching children where their food comes from.
  • Being able to collect food (eggs) gives the children a sense of self-sufficiently.
  • Observing the chickens free range teaches about chickens’ behaviors and feeding habits
  • And on top of everything having backyard chickens provides your family with wonderful fresh eggs and hours and hours of entertainment.

Warning:

Many suggest that you wait until all children in the household are above the age of 5 before adding chickens to your family. I have known many families, like us, who have had chickens and young children at the same time. The issue is that chicks from hatcheries and chickens can carry diseases, like salmonella, and it is important to wash your hands thoroughly after handling them. It is harder to ensure that children under 5 will keep their hands out of their mouth, nose or eyes while handling chicks and chickens. Salmonella can also have a more damaging effect on young children. Be very careful with your chicks because, even though it is extremely rare, they can pick up salmonella from the hatchery, and be sure to keep your coop clean and take measures to keep rodents and wild birds out of your chickens’ coop and feed, so they don’t catch Salmonella as adults. We don’t let Big B touch the chickens. He helps take care of them without actually coming in direct contact with them. Always keep in mind that they are wild animals and you should never be totally trusted. Keep an eye on your child at all times and practice good hygiene.