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: 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



Cooking With Your Kids: Gingerbread Cookies

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So, I am a day late with my “Cooking With Your Kids” series post. On Friday Big B and I made gingerbread cookies, but they needed to be refrigerated for 3 hours and we wanted to wait until Dad was home today to decorate them. We wanted to make it a family event.

Gingerbread Cookies

I’ve never made gingerbread cookies before, but I thought it would be a fun holiday activity to do as a family. I found a really great recipe from Food Network here. The link has directions for Royal Icing that I have not including since we used store bought cooking decorating icing. It allowed us to have multiple colors, and they came in nice neat bags that made it easy for Big B to use.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 large egg
Whenever we do more difficult recipes I will premix all of the seasoning into a very small bowl so Big B can just dump them into the mixture all at once.

Gingerbread Cookies

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and pepper and set aside.

Gingerbread Cookies

Using an electric mixer at high speed beat the butter and vegetable shortening together until well-combined. Add the brown sugar and beat for about 2 minutes. Finally beat in the molasses and egg.

Gingerbread Cookies

 Big B was not a fan of the constant loud “beating” of this recipe.

Gingerbread Cookies

Using a wooden spoon this time gradually mix in the flour mixture until it forms a stiff dough.

Gingerbread Cookies

Divide the dough into two disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled. About 3 hours. The dough can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.

Gingerbread Cookies

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Deal with one disk at a time allowing it to warm for about ten minutes before trying to roll it out. If you attempt to roll it out too soon it will crack. Lightly dust the counter with flour to prevent the cookies from sticking. Roll out the cookies to about 1/8 thick.

Gingerbread Cookies

This is where my camera battery died, so I don’t have any images of the cutting of the cookies. Use the cookie cutter and put the gingerbread men onto a non-stick cookie sheet about one inch apart. Once on the cookie sheets Big B and I added raisins to the cookies. Cook for 10-12 minutes. Cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire cake racks to cool completely.

Gingerbread Cookies

 Now the fun part… decorating! This is the example I did for Big B…

Gingerbread Cookies

 

Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread Cookies

We had a great afternoon decorating cookies together as a family! I think this will be a new holiday tradition.


Snowman Family Display

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The Snowman Family Display is our third, and final winter window display for our classroom/dinning room. First, we had the Popsicle Stick Snowflakes. Then we had The Three Jewels (which can be found at the bottom of the Bodhi Day post).

Snowman Family Display

This fun display features an image of each of our family members’ faces on the head of a snowmen. Each family member made their own snowman (except for Little B, who is too young to participate), so that personalities were able to show.

I didn’t get a lot of photographs of the process of this craft. We were having too much fun. I realized after all was said and done that I just had a huge mess and no pictures… Although Big B was very happy to pose for a “process” picture for me.

Snowman Family Display

Materials:

  • Pictures of each family member. Make sure the images are relatively the same size.
  • Glue (stick and bottled)
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Construction paper
  • Random art supplies that can be used to decorate the snowman; buttons, beads, string, etc.
Start by making the background scene on your window or board. I did a snowy ground with a winter tree. I put everything up with tape. I did use the glue stick to keep the skinny branches on the window. I am sure you could use the glue for the whole display though. I have seen people use glue stick glue effectively on glass before.
Snowman Family Display

Cut the faces out of the photographs

Snowman Family Display

Cut three circles out of white printer paper or construction paper, making each piece larger than the last. Do this for each family member. Keep in mind the size of the person in real life, and make the snowman family proportionate… as best you can. To put the snowman together use the glue stick and slightly overlap the circles.

Decorate your snowman. For paper decorations use the glue stick. It will hold the piece stronger, dry faster, and wont cause the paper to wrinkle. For heavier decorations use the glue from the glue bottle. It holds the heavy decorations more securely.

Snowman Family Display

Allow your snowman to dry completely. If you put it up too soon the heavier decorations will fall off.

Snowman Family Display

Add your snowmen to your background. I put them up with tape.

Snowman Family Display

As you can see my husband got a little carried away with his snowman. He rarely gets to do our crafts or homeschool activities with us because of his work schedule. He liked getting the chance to join in on the fun… I think I might have to plan more crafts for times when he is home.

Snowman Family Display



Cooking With Your Kids: Banana Bread

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Banana Bread is one of my favorite things to bake. It’s something that I make often, and because of this I already have a “go to” recipe, but since we have been cooking out of my favorite childhood cook book, Alpha-Bakery Children’s Cookbook, I decided to use the recipe out of the book instead.

Cooking with your Kids: Banana Bread

I do have to give a little disclaimer when it comes to the banana bread recipe in the Alpha-Bakery book; when I make banana bread, or really any bread for that matter, I mix the wet ingredients in one bowl and dry in another, then mix everything together. It allows you to mix all the ingredients thoroughly. This recipe however, instructs the baker to mix everything in one bowl. I’m assuming because it’s a recipe geared towards children, and they want it to be as easy as possible. We decided to go along with the recipe and mix everything together in one bowl, and when I was eating a piece later that night I got a nice bite of what was either baking soda or baking powder… not pleasant. Determine what is best for you and your child. Either mix everything in one bowl or mix the wet and dry ingredients separately first, but know that with one bow you will have to take extra care while mixing.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 Cups of Sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 Cups of Mashed Banana (About 3 large bananas)
  • 3/4 Cup of Vegetable oil
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 1/2 Cup of Chopped Nuts (Optional. We didn’t use nuts)
  • 1 Teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 2 Teaspoon of Vanilla
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt

Preheat oven to 325

Grease a loaf pan – 9x5x3 or 8.5×4.5×2.5

Mash bananas

Cooking with your Kids: Banana Bread

Mix sugar, bananas, oil and eggs in a large bowl.

Cooking with your Kids: Banana Bread

Mmmmm… Smells good!

Cooking with your Kids: Banana Bread

Stir in remaining ingredients.

Stir well, especially if you are doing all the mixing in one bowl. Then pour into pan.

Cooking with your Kids: Banana Bread

Bake until a toothpick poked into the bread removes clean, about 60-70 minutes. Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan.

You can’t go wrong with banana bread! It would be a great gift for your child to make for friends, family or neighbors.



Puffy Snow Paint

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It’s starting to get chilly here in Central Virginia (although we have had a few warm days in a row recently), so Big B and I have been talking about winter quite a bit. We have been exploring the changes outside and reading winter themed books. This past weekend while in search of more painting projects that we could do I ran across this recipe from education.com for snow paint. I was so excited to try it out.

Snow Paint

Materials:

  • White Glue
  • Shaving Cream
  • Paint Brush
  • Paper

To make the paint mix equal parts white glue and shaving cream.

Snow Paint

Paint like you would with any other paint and allow to dry.

Snow Paint

The paint is smooth, puffy and firm enough to give you nice texture. Even when dry it maintains it’s texture and soft/fluffy feel.

It wasn’t the easiest painting project to photograph but here are two examples of paintings that Big B did with the snow paint

Snow Paint

Snow Paint



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!



Cooking With Your Kids: Elephant Ears

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As a child I loved to cook. Most of the things I made came from my imagination, and I’m sure they were actually pretty terrible. I did however have this one cook book that I liked to cook from, Alpha-Bakery Children’s Cook Book. When my mom was visiting for Thanksgiving she brought Big B my old copy.

Cooking With Your Kids: Elephant Ears

I have vivid memories of making some of these recipes, so I thought it might be fun to do some of them with Big B, starting with my favorite one of all… Elephant Ears!

Cooking With Your Kids: Elephant Ears

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 Cup of Butter
  • 1 Cup of All Purpose Flour
  • 5 Tablespoons of Sugar and an Additional Sprinkle
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/3 Cup of Milk
  • 1 Teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon

Start by heating your oven to 425 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet

Melt butter and set aside.

Stir together flour, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the baking powder, and salt into a bowl

Cooking With Your Kids: Elephant Ears

Stir in milk and 3 tablespoons of melted butter until dough forms.

Cooking With Your Kids: Elephant Ears

Sprinkle a surface lightly with flour. Knead and roll dough out onto the floured surface. Shape dough into a 9×5 inch rectangle.

Cooking With Your Kids: Elephant Ears

Cooking With Your Kids: Elephant Ears

Brush with the remaining melted butter.

Cooking With Your Kids: Elephant Ears

Sprinkle with remaining sugar and cinnamon

Cooking With Your Kids: Elephant Ears

Roll up dough, beginning at the narrow end. Pinch edge to seal the roll. Cut into 4 equal pieces with sharp knife. Place onto the cookie sheet cut side up and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake until browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!