Kel's Roach Ranch, Part I, by Kel

 

This is the story of how I became the owner of Kel’s Roach Ranch.

Ask any mother what she’d do for her child and she would most likely answer, “What wouldn’t I do?”  Most moms will quickly tell you they’d give up anything and everything for their child’s happiness.  They wouldn’t hesitate to lay down their life for their child, but ask them if they would willingly and eagerly let roaches into their home, and you’d probably get a response like, “No WAY, no HOW!”

I knew as a homeschooling mother I’d have to be willing to take on tasks a traditional public or private school mom wouldn’t face, and I was OK with it.  I knew I’d give up some time for my own hobbies, and I was OK with that.  I knew at some point I may have to teach higher level Math, English, and Science, and I was OK with that.  I knew I’d be the one supervising the dissections of frogs and the like, and I was OK with that.  Had you asked me if I’d be the mom who would order a colony of twenty-five roaches and try to breed them, I would have said “What? Why would I ever do that?!”

I will let you know I’m the animal-loving mom, who never batted an eye when the kids wanted rats or mice or other unusual pets.  I encouraged my daughter to save up for the one thing she’s wanted for years: a reptile, more specifically, a dragon.  This past May she’d finally saved enough money and purchased the little guy. He was barely four inches long and tipped the scales at a whopping seven grams.  You may know that reptiles eat things like mealworms and crickets.  Well those crickets were never a favorite of our little buddy, Spock, so we started researching for alternate sources of food.  We found Phoenix worms, which are really just Black Soldier Fly larvae, and he readily ate those for a few months, but then he stopped eating as much and was losing weight.  We started researching again and found out that a great source of food was something called a Dubia Roach.

Dubia Roaches are a tropical species but can live in a typical house at room temperature. They require very little in the way of care: give them a good quality dry roach chow and keep their water crystal hydrated, and you’re good to go.  So we decided to order some.  Spock loved them.  He started eating and growing again.

The next time I needed to buy, a favorite retailer was holding a Facebook auction.  I could get a breeding colony, twenty-five female and ten male roaches complete with the food, water crystals, and food dish if my bid was the highest.  So I placed a bid and wouldn’t you know it, I won!  This was awesome! If I could get the roaches to breed, then I wouldn’t have to keep paying for someone else to send me 1000+ roaches a month to the tune of $45-$65 per order.  I was so excited, and my group of homeschooling friends had mixed reactions. Some thought I was the coolest mom ever and some thought I had completely lost my mind.

My colony arrived a week later.  I got them all set up in a Rubbermaid bin, with a hole cut in the top and covered with screen for ventilation and a heat source placed underneath.  I had actually only gotten a couple of adult females and one adult male; the rest were what are known as “sub-adult.”  That was OK, because that meant that they weren’t old and close to the end of their lives.  I was so happy when they arrived I posted a big thread in my Facebook group for homeschool moms, telling all about how I set them up.  Later that weekend, I moved them to a better bin and had my husband take a video of me holding the different roaches so I could explain if I was holding an adult or sub-adult and let the viewers know if each was a male or female.  I had promised some of those ladies I would do this so they could show it to their kids.  Many couldn’t believe I was willingly holding a roach and letting it crawl all over me! During the conversation about the video my colony was dubbed Kel’s Roach Ranch, and I have to admit, I liked the sound of it.

Read Part 2: The Babies Are Here!

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April 2013 — Early Winter

by Rose-Marie

Previous post: Late Summer – Early Winter

I was *terribly* impressed by this first picture here! I really think her drawing skills are improving, though we have quite some way to go before achieving brilliance in the style of the Edwardian Lady’s journal. (Which is not necessarily a goal, but is certainly something to sigh wistfully about.) While I did have to remind her to give it legs, anyone from our part of the world would recognise this as a crimson rosella. These rosellas are seasonal visitors to us and they are so gorgeous I can’t help but love them, even when they are making a mess in my veggie garden!

aged 6, grade Prep

This next picture was from our trip to Steavenson’s Falls, which we chose, for our nature study tours, as our ‘wet woodlands’ location. I’m not 100% thrilled with the site because there are a few too many invading blackberries and I’d rather there weren’t, but it is accessible and we don’t need to worry about coming back one day and finding it closed indefinitely for regeneration. I’m really not sure about the colours, but that is definitely her standing beside the waterfall.

aged 6, grade Prep

Another spot we visit on our nature study tours is St Clair. There is nothing particularly remarkable about the site. It appears to be the location of an old township but is pretty much a paddock up in the hills. One of the major terrain types in our state is the alpine area, and this is the closest we can get that is accessible all year around, since it is a through road. And, this is very important, it doesn’t cost us $50 to access like the ski resorts do in winter! Daughter was disappointed there wasn’t any snow *again* but we got to see some sedimentary rocks just like the ones David Attenborough was talking about on the documentary we’d watched recently. Almost as good as snow is seeing things she’s watched on documentaries. A very simple picture, but you’re seeing the sedimentariness of those rocks, aren’t you?

aged 6, grade Prep

This picture was drawn at home. We looked out the window and saw a couple of young kangaroos fighting, with the swamp wallaby on the opposite watching them too. It was such an amusing picture (to me, anyway) that I suggested she draw it into her journal. For some reason known only to herself, she drew a mother and a joey instead. *shrug*

aged 6, grade Prep

You remember those ants we saw at the Hattah-Kulkyne national park? Well guess what? They were still there this time!

aged 6, grade Prep

And this picture is from another site on our nature study tour, the estuary at Barwon Heads, where we go to look at mangroves. Mangroves are cool. I really like this picture book, Mangroves by Glenda Kane and Lisa Allen, which I think is out of print at the moment. Rhyming books that you can read more than once a month without wanting to dig your eyes out should never go out of print. Boo hiss.

aged 6, grade Prep

Next post: May 2013 — Early Winter

Rose-Marie was one of those enthusiastic planners who began researching when she was pregnant with her first. She wanted to homeschool because it sounded like an affordable adventure, then she met her kids personally…
DD is 6 years old and has Echolalia and some processing issues so isn’t speaking fluently yet. DS is 4 years old, has retained primitive reflexes and while there may be a deity somewhere who knows what’s going to happen with this kid, he/she/it hasn’t chosen to inform us. They live on a hill in rural southern Australia without enough solar panels and like it there.

March 2013: Late Summer – Early Winter

by Rose Marie

Previous post: Late Summer

No entries from the early winter part of March, it must have been a shock to the system.  All of these were from rambling at home.

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I think this is the big, grey frog.

That would be a swamp wallaby, otherwise known as a black wallaby, which is a better name since they don’t restrict themselves to swamps. Actually, this wallaby hangs around our house, half way up a hill, and eats the scraps I put out for the chooks (chickens) if he gets to them first. Who knew wallabies liked gnocchi?

Next post: Early Winter

Rose-Marie was one of those enthusiastic planners who began researching when she was pregnant with her first. She wanted to homeschool because it sounded like an affordable adventure, then she met her kids personally…
DD is 6 years old and has Echolalia and some processing issues so isn’t speaking fluently yet. DS is 4 years old, has retained primitive reflexes and while there may be a deity somewhere who knows what’s going to happen with this kid, he/she/it hasn’t chosen to inform us. They live on a hill in rural southern Australia without enough solar panels and like it there.

How I Taught 7th grade Chemistry

test_tube

by Jane-Emily

Last year I had a twelve-year-old in seventh grade and a nine-year-old in fourth.  For science, I wanted to concentrate on chemistry — one of my very favorite sciences!  It’s the recipe book for the universe! — I wanted to make sure that my twelve-year-old would be very well-prepared to take AP Chemistry, or some equivalent thereof, later on.  I searched high and low for materials that would make it possible for me to teach a solid chemistry course without too much math.  I also invited another kid along for lab days; I find that it is more fun if we have an extra kid or two along for the ride.

For a text, I found Friendly Chemistry, a course designed for homeschoolers with plans for larger groups.  Friendly Chemistry is quite clear, and it teaches a lot of chemistry, from atomic structure to stoichiometry to ideal gas laws.  There is some math and it sometimes got difficult, but together we figured it out.  There is not much of a lab component; it’s limited to easily-obtainable home items.  It has quite a few games to aid in memorization of elements, ions, and so on, and several of them are well-designed.  There are a few typos, but otherwise my only problem was that the solutions in the back of the book did not provide help with working out the problems. Only answers were given, and sometimes we got stuck.

I wanted lots of lab work, so I ordered the biggest chemistry set Thames & Kosmos stocks: the C3000, containing instructions for over 300 experiments designed to take the student from basics to more complex organic chemistry.  T&K being a German company, I did find that a few extras it required were hard for me to find, such as hartshorn/baker’s ammonia and so on.  Of course the experiments followed a completely different logic than the Friendly Chemistry did–it is all practical chemistry–but we didn’t have too much trouble with that.   The variety was nice, and all of us appreciated the fun of setting things on fire.  I needed more glass test tubes than were provided, and I came perilously close to running out of a few chemicals.

Meanwhile, my nine-year-old came along for the ride for much of this.  She had the Real Science 4 Kids Chemistry text, which was OK but not wonderful.  I would have preferred something else, but I didn’t find anything I loved.  She and I worked through those chapters together, and otherwise she played the games, participated in the experiments, and did just fine.  I am confident that she absorbed plenty of chemistry for her age.

Our schedule was as follows:

  • Tuesday, read the chapter for the week.  Start exercises and finish by Thursday.
  • Thursday: lab from 12:00 until at least 2:00 (with extra child, who was also doing the same text at home).  Go over the week’s lesson and make sure exercises are understood.  Do any activities from the text.  Do a section of experiments from T&K set and talk about them.
  • Friday: give the chapter test.  And make sure to practice memory work through games throughout!

Some of my favorite activities included:

Element/Ion Bingo: this was at the very beginning of the year, when we needed the kids to learn the elements and their symbols.  I filled large bingo cards with all the most difficult symbols.  After a couple of weeks of that we changed to ion bingo so they could practice distinguishing sulfate and sulfide, etc.

The Doo-Wop board: this is a proprietary game from Friendly Chemistry that helps students understand the structure of the atom.  I found it quite helpful myself!  We would pick an element and fill the shells with electrons until we had it right.  (The electrons were white and chocolate chips, which made it a very popular game.)

Lego chemistry: I found legochemthis to be a great help with stoichiometry (which is figuring out how much of what goes into a substance).  Get a large tub of plain Lego bricks, and assign each color an element.  We had fun making them appropriate, but you can’t do that with all of them.  Carbon = green, sulfur = yellow, calcium = white, etc.  We made tiny white bricks be hydrogen.  You can then build each molecule.  Build ions first and then attach them.  You can make this work pretty well for molarity, even.  It is a great way to visualize everything and work out the formulae if you’re finding it confusing. The main trouble with this activity, of course, is getting more distractible kids to pay attention to the molecules instead of the really great spaceships they’re building!

We did some really great chemical experiments too, such as producing hydrogen by mixing aluminum with sodium hydroxide (lye), burning various substances to see the colored flames (a good time to talk about fireworks!), and so on.  I wished for a lump of sodium to blow up, but I never got one.  Someday!  I videotaped one of our experiments, and here it is for you.

 

I also love popular bookPeriodic-Tales-Williams-Hugh-9780061824722s about chemistry.  Here are some titles that you might enjoy; you can tell the stories as you teach, or you might have an older student who will like one.

Janejane-emilyEmily homeschools two daughters in California.  She is a librarian who loves to quilt and embroider, and she’s a Bollywood addict.  Her favorite author is Diana Wynne Jones. She blogs about reading at Howling Frog Books.

February 2013 — Late Summer

by Rose-Marie

Previous post: Introduction

I decided to start our nature study journalling with the beginning of Daughter’s first year of school, which began around the end of January here in Australia. Naturally, it took a month to get around to it. Since I can’t remember the truth, I’m going to pretend that was deliberate, as I had come up with a brilliant idea to visit each of the major terrain types in our state, once each season. We live in ‘dry woodlands.’

I need to get another pet hate out of my system, if you’ll bear with me.  I think it is silly the way Australians whinge about the seasons not conforming to an inverted Northern Hemisphere system, when the Indigenous people have perfectly good and, unsurprisingly, more accurate calendars of their own. I am on a one-woman crusade to try and make people notice this and will post this link featuring our local indigenous calendar (which seems true to the Melbourne area and a fair chunk of central Victoria) whenever it comes up in online conversations. Which it just has. Heh.

Just so you all know, I have great plans for my daughter’s handwriting to end up better than mine. I do my best to encourage her to narrate the captions for her pictures, but as I said in the previous post, her learning challenges (Echolalia) get in the way a bit. So, for the foreseeable future, any writing in the journal will be a team effort.

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This is the one hand-drawn picture she did about our first round of nature study tours. We went to the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park (would link if I could find a site with decent photos) to see the Mallee and Inland waterways terrain types. Lovely scenery, nearly went insane with the flies trying to climb into our eyes, ears, and noses. What you see below is an ant hill.

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Her contribution to the notation was “the sand was orange and the ants were black.”

Next post: Early Summer to Late Winter

Rose-Marie was one of those enthusiastic planners who began researching when she was pregnant with her first. She wanted to homeschool because it sounded like an affordable adventure, then she met her kids personally…
DD is 6 years old and has Echolalia and some processing issues so isn’t speaking fluently yet. DS is 4 years old, has retained primitive reflexes and while there may be a deity somewhere who knows what’s going to happen with this kid, he/she/it hasn’t chosen to inform us. They live on a hill in rural southern Australia without enough solar panels and like it there.

Introduction to My Nature Studies Series

by Rose Marie

Virtually everyone thinks nature study is a good and healthful thing to do. Most people think nature journalling is a good thing to do as well, but many find it hard to get enthusiastic enough about it to actually go out and *do* it.

One problem people have is knowing where to start. They want some kind of method to follow to feel like they are doing it properly. Looking out the window, I expect all of us would agree that there is some kind of “method to the madness” but it may not be humanly possible to sort it all out so we’d better not allow that to stop us! I must admit though, I felt a need for guidance when I was dithering aboutwallaby-feeding beginning nature journalling with my daughter. For several reasons, personality and language disorder among them, “draw something” was not something she’d respond to. I wasn’t even sure “draw this” would work, so I purchased some journal pages to get us started. Being in Australia, I purchased mine from Downunder Lit but I have it from a reliable source that North Americans get excited over The Handbook of Nature Study. Apologies to the rest of you, you’ll have to look on Pinterest!

The other problem people have with beginning nature journalling with small kids is, well, it looks like it was made by a small kid! There is something about nature journalling that can make a person feel like everyone else’s kids were born proficient water colourists while your kids’ drawing looks like a dog’s breakfast. What I hope to do in this series is show the evolution of my daughter’s nature journal, right from her first entry. Obviously *my child’s* nature journal could never look like a dog’s breakfast, not even to the unenlightened out there, but I must confess, it does look like the work of a small child. I would like to invite you to keep us company as we journal on…

But first, let me get my pet hate out of the way. I know it’ll come out sooner or later, so better to get it over with.

*There is no such thing as “fake nature” unless it really is made of plastic, ok? Weeds growing through cracks in the footpath are not very interesting in the scheme of things, but they are are as real as anyone else’s farm, mountain or coral reef. If you live in a concrete jungle and all the nature you have to look at is weeds and the neighbours’ hanging baskets, look at them. Seasons affect them. Bugs munch them. They are real! If you don’t even have that, look at the clouds. Everyone has weather and weather is real enough that people spend careers studying it.

*I quite agree that grass isn’t all that thrilling, but learning how to find the grass in your front yard interesting is a valuable lesson. A more valuable lesson than seeing a bear or a swamp wallaby, cool as they are. If nature study was only about the cool factor, we could go to the zoo once a year and call it good.
Ok. I’ve got that out of my system. Moving along…

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What a grand beginning…
I think I said she could cut out the picture or stick the whole page in. I guess she wanted to do both.

Next post: February 2013 — Late Summer

Rose-Marie was one of those enthusiastic planners who began researching when she was pregnant with her first. She wanted to homeschool because it sounded like an affordable adventure, then she met her kids personally…
DD is 6 years old and has Echolalia and some processing issues so isn’t speaking fluently yet. DS is 4 years old, has retained primitive reflexes and while there may be a deity somewhere who knows what’s going to happen with this kid, he/she/it hasn’t chosen to inform us. They live on a hill in rural southern Australia without enough solar panels and like it there.