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.



Preschool Penguin Unit

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We are continuing our lessons on cold climate animals with one of Big B’s favorites – Penguins.

Preschool Penguin Unit

Books: The library is always our first stop when we are starting a new unit. The following are a few fun, educational books that we found:

Movies: There are GREAT penguin movies for kids. I am sure you are familiar with them:

Science Projects:

  • The Cold Climate Animal Experiment that I did with my Hibernation Unit will work with the Penguin Unit as well.
  • The penguin’s feathers are made waterproof by an oily substance. This protects the penguin’s body from the frigid temperatures of the water. I found a great experiment that demonstrates how water is repealed from the penguin feathers on the Perpetual Preschool - Cut feather shapes or even a penguin shape (like we did) out of construction paper and have the child color the entire paper with black and/or white crayon, then drip water onto the paper. The paper will soak but the areas with the crayon will repeal the water. The waxier the crayon the better.
  • Preschool Penguin UnitPreschool Penguin Unit
  • Penguins also stay warm by huddling together. If you are teaching the unit to a group of children, and it is currently cold where you are located, you can show the kids how huddling helps provide warmth. Take the children outside and have them stand separate from each other. Talk to them about how even with their coats on it still feels cold. Then have the kids huddle together  in a tight group for a short time. Ask them if they are warmer huddled as a group. Explain to them that penguins huddle together in order to stay warm.

Physical Activities:

  • Waddle like a Penguin! Recently Big B has enjoyed pretending his is different animals. After reading our first penguin book my husband demonstrated the penguin waddle for our son and they had a great time waddling around the house.
  • Place a ball on top of child’s feet and have them waddle around like a daddy penguin protecting his egg. You can also set up races where kids waddle with the ball on top of their feet.Preschool Penguin Unit
  • Preschool Express has a version of the “Penguin Hookey Pookey.” It’s a really cute idea.

Art Projects:

Footprint Penguin – White paper, Construction Paper, Paint

  • Paint the bottom of your child’s foot and make a print on a piece of paper so that the toes are facing down. We didn’t have black paint so we used blue
  • Cut a circle shape out of white construction paper for the belly and a triangle out of orange construction paper for the beak. Once the paint is dry glue the shapes onto the penguin footprint
  • If you have goggly eyes glue them above the beak. We didn’t have goggly eyes, so I make eyes out of construction paper

Play:

  • A great way to reinforce the fact that penguins swim and can’t fly is by playing with penguin toys during bath time.

Snacks:

  • Penguins eat krill, squid, and fish. Give your child a chance to taste what it is like to be a penguin. If you have an adventurous eater attempt to cook a whole fish for your child to try. If not, make a tuna and mayo mixture for them to try on a cracker. This was not a great experience for Big B. He is not a fan of tuna however, Big B loves squid. We get calamari every time we go to a restaurant. Take your child out to try calamari at a local restaurant (unless you are talented enough to cook it at home).

I hope you and your children enjoy learning about penguins as much and Big B and I have!

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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 – 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.



Our Field Trip to Vote!!

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Every year I take Big B to vote with me.

Big B was one month old when he took his first field trip to the polling place and it has become a tradition that we do every year. I want him to grow up knowing the importance of voting… even in the smaller elections, as they affect you in a more direct way.

Last night Little B started to come down with something. She went to bed with a 101.8 fever, and I woke up at some point during the evening suffering from the same sickness. Luckily my husband was able to stay home with us today, otherwise it would have been a rough day. Sick or not I was going to make it to my polling place (my apologies to the polling place people for spreading my germs). We went as a family, but took turns going in so Little B could stay in the car. Big B and I went in together. While waiting in our short line (the benefit of living in the middle of no where) we talked about how important it is to vote. I voted with him on my hip so he could see what was going on and he was given a sticker on our way out. I hope each year that we do this that he understands more and more the importance of voting.

I don’t care who you vote for… just vote! 


Rainy Days = Puzzles and “Tea”

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With Sandy bringing us days of rain here in Virginia this is what our house has looked like most of the time. Big B loves puzzles! They are his favorite activity rain or shine, but rainy days are special… it means puzzles and “tea.” While I drink my green tea Big B drinks warm water that is slightly flavored with apple cider mix, which he believes is tea (as you can see from the photograph he is going through a bit of a straw phase).

The weather is getting colder as we get closer to winter, so I am working on a large post for the blog, and for my own purposes, of fun indoor activities to do with your kids when you are stuck inside. What is you and your kid’s favorite indoor activity/craft? Feel free to post links in the comments.

 


Cooking With Your Kids: Pumpkin Bread

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This week Big B and I tried this Pumpkin Bread recipe from Simply Recipes. It involved a little more help from me than some of our past recipes but Big B was extremely excited about the outcome.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (although I skipped this stepped)

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda

Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs, 1/4 cup of water and spices together.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients. This is where you would add the nuts… I am hoping to serve this at our next co-op meet up and we have allergies within the group

 Pour into a greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until skewer comes out clean when poked into the loaf.

Big B loves it and I have to say that I am really loving doing this series!!

Few things say fall to me more than pumpkin recipes. This pumpkin bread recipe really kicked our fall season off right!



Food Portioning Activity

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I recently ran across this food portioning graphic from ChooseMyPlate.gov. I felt like it was a better, more age appropriate way of showing Big B how much of each food group he was supposed to eat in a day. I created this food portioning activity in order to give Big B a visual of how much of each food group that he should have on his plate

While I will eventually introduce him to the food prymid, I didn’t think he was old enough to understand the concept just yet. This is visually done in a way that is easier to understand.

With this activity I used the same laminated foods that I used during the “Good Food Choices vs. Bad Food Choices” activity, however I think the activity would have been easier if all of the foods were the same scale.

I gave Big B the food pieces and explained how they fit into the different categories. He had been exposed to the food groups before but we went through a quick reminder. He then built a plate…

 



Fall Photo Scavenger Hunt

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I love coming up with activities that we can do on our afternoon walks, and if it includes photography, even better! My son loves taking pictures, it might have something to do with having a photographer for a mother, so I created this fall photo scavenger hunt

Objectives: Reinforce colors, and identify fall characteristics.

Materials:

  • I created this document for our photo scavenger hunt. It identifies what objects the child needs to find on their scavenger hunt, and has boxes that they get to check off when the photo has been taken: Fall Photo
  • This is the camera Big B uses, but if you feel comfortable you can just allow your child to use your point and shoot. I highly recommend the Kid Tough Camera. These are two of the models. Ours is the first one. It has less features than the second, but we find it works just fine for us. (Clicking on the images will take you to the cameras on Amazon):

Directions:

I gave Big B the piece of paper, and read through it with him. I explained that he had to find the items on the list, photograph them, then he could check them item off the list when he was done. He responded with a “Lets DO this!”

Big B’s Pictures

Yellow Leaf: 

Brown Acorn:

Red Leaf:

A Colorful Fall Tree:

Leaves on the Ground:

 

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