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 I found a great experiment that demonstrates how water is repealed from the penguin feathers on the Perpetual Preschool - Cut feather shapes or even a penguin shape (like we did) out of construction paper and have the child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


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


  • 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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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.


  • 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!

Nature Color Sorting

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This nature color sorting activity helps children identify colors while teaching about the changes that occur during the fall season

One of Big B’s favorite activities are nature walks. We spend at least an hour every day (as long as the weather is nice) wondering around our property. Big B and I have been working a lot on colors recently, so I thought I would take advantage of the lovely colors that come around this time of year, and do a color sorting activity. We went for our normal “after nap time” walk, this time with a bucket so we could collect nature items.

Once we had a full bucket we went back inside.

I laid out 5 pieces of construction paper (red, yellow, brown, green, and white).

I explained that he needed to take each item, and place them on the matching color. He quickly picked up on the concept.

Big B loved this activity!

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.


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


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.


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.


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.

Why I Choose to Homeschool

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I spent four years teaching at the local public high school. I loved my job, I loved (most of) my students, and I truly loved the people that I worked with but when it came to making decisions about my children’s education I had a hard time with the thought of sending them to public school.

Unless you have worked in a public school AND have children you cannot truly understand how broken our education system has become.  When I first started teaching I was proud that my kids were going to be attending school in the county where I taught. It was a great school system… still is. Some of the most amazing, dedicated teachers I have ever known currently teach at our local high school.  It wasn’t until my son was born that I started to really see the flaws. I would sit and think, “This isn’t good enough for him.” The class sizes are unacceptable, teachers are forced to teach to a test (as they are throughout the US), No Child Left Behind has made it impossible for teachers to efficiently do their jobs, and funding is constantly being cut to programs that make our children well rounded people. You can have amazing teachers, who are hard working and dedicated, but that only takes you so far.

When I first started talking about homeschooling a lot of people asked why I couldn’t just supplement my children’s education. I considered this for a long time but it just didn’t seem like enough. All of the negatives associated with public school out weighed the positives and the more I looked into it there were very, very few negatives to homeschooling. Those of you who know me, know that I don’t do anything without researching it to death and anyone who has simply been around me knows how seriously I take parenting. So when it came to my children’s education I wasn’t going to make a decision without knowing the facts. I read books and countless studies. I talked to homeschooling families, and even talked to my fellow public school teachers. I met a only a few naysayers, most of whom knew nothing about public education, and none of their arguments were based in any fact, only assumptions about homeschoolers.

Once satisfied with the research I had to really ask myself… can I do this? Can I dedicate the next two decades of my life to homeschooling our children? The answer was obviously yes. If my mind is set on something I will go to any means necessary to achieve it and that is especially true when it comes to the wellbeing of my children. I want my children to love learning. I want them to be exposed to people of all ages, ethnicity and religions. I want them to learn by doing. I want my children to play a role in deciding what they learn.  I want their pacing to be based on them (at least until the high school level classes) and not the 25-30 other student in their class or a test. I want them to see the places they are learning about… And this is why I have chosen to homeschool.

I could go on and on about the advantages of homeschooling, about the countless local programs and classes that are available to homeschool kids, about co-ops, about the studies supporting homeschooling but I wont. I am not here to convince you. My decision to homeschool really has nothing to do with anyone but my immediate family. Me choosing to homeschool is in no way saying that those who don’t homeschool care less about their children. We all do what we can to make the best decisions possible for our children and for us that is homeschooling… it may not be the same case for you but as I respect other parents’ decisions, I hope you respect mine.