Meanwhile, Back at the (Roach) Ranch, by Kel


I’ve decided to write the third and final installment of Kel’s Roach Ranch now instead of keeping my readers in suspense. Life will start getting very busy as swim season is winding down to championships and Little League season is just ramping up; we may also be moving at just about the time I had planned to write the third article. I also decided that I’d add more information about Spock and bearded dragons in general.

The roaches are doing well; they are actually thriving. I’ve seen lots of babies, and over the last month I’ve seen quite a variety of sizes of juveniles, which means more babies are being born. Tonight I even had the luck to see another female with an egg sack and was fortunate enough to get a picture of her. It’s not the best picture but getting them isn’t easy as they like to hide when the bucket is open. They are roaches after all, and like the dark.

I’ve changed their diet up a bit and weaned them off of dog/cat food. I have started giving them oats, Cheerios (a favorite of theirs), apples, collard greens, carrots, oranges, and any other vegetables I have lying around.

We’re not at the point where we can start using the juveniles to feed Spock because they aren’t quite big enough to fill her up without having to give her hundreds of them a day. So in an effort to be a good Empress to my colony, I’m letting these guys grow up so we can end up with more adults, thus having more available to reproduce.

Hmm, you may have noticed that in that other sentence I said “her,” and not “him,” when referring to Spock…that’s right, It’s A Girl! The exotic pet store in town had offered to help us figure out if Spock was really a boy or a girl, so one day when we were running low on feeders, we packed her up in her handy little plastic tote and brought her along. She wasn’t very fond of the car ride but loved the attention she got at the store. They confirmed that she was in fact a female, and told us we had “One good-looking Dragon.”   Annika took the news in stride and responded with, “Good thing I didn’t name her Sheldon,” which had been the other name in the running back in May when we purchased her. Spock seems to have had no ill effects from learning that she was indeed a girl and has adapted well to being Grandma’s Pretty Dragon now instead of my “buddy.”

About a week ago Spock took a nice bath, then decided to find a nice quiet corner of her tank to brumate. This lasted just one week, but was interesting, nonetheless. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, brumation is basically a reptile version of the hibernation we see in mammals. All dragons will brumate in their own way. Some will find a nice dark area and sleep for weeks on end; some will sleep for a week, get up, have something to eat, and then hunker back down; some will just stay in their dark hiding spot for a while just hanging out; and others won’t brumate at all. They really don’t need to brumate if they are captive dragons, as we owners provide everything they would ever need: heat, plenty of food, and adequate UVB light. For Spock, brumation seems to have ended when her mama, my daughter, took her out of her hiding place to give her a nice warm bath so she didn’t get too cold, and to make sure she stayed hydrated.

Dragons very rarely drink water from a standing water source, because they actually absorb water through their vents (a.k.a. their bum) by lying in water. It is very important to make sure that they stay hydrated when they brumate, and some will actually have to be held so they don’t accidentally drown while bathing.

Our little girl is doing well. She’s about 10 months old now, and is now 15.5 inches long and weighs in at a whopping 292 grams. That’s a far cry from the 4 inches and 7 grams she was when we got her!

I hope many of our readers here at Sandbox to Socrates found these articles informative and interesting.  I know I have enjoyed writing them.


Kel is a military spouse of almost two decades to her husband Matt and mom to her three children who range in age from elementary to high school that she’s been homeschooling for almost a decade. She is keeper of the two dogs and a cat, and grandma to one bearded dragon. She has a needle art business, and also blogs at Fawkes Academy.

Kel's Roach Ranch Part 2: The Babies Are Here!

by Kel

About a month ago, I wrote Part One of this three-part series explaining just how I ended up owning what has become known as Kel’s Roach Ranch.  The roaches have been doing great, puttering around in their bin, not making noise, enjoying their lives.

Just before Christmas I opened the bin to find the best thing the owner of a breeding roach colony can see: a female carrying an egg sac!  I had done it.  I had managed to keep them alive and happy long enough for them to breed.  A few days later the weather turned cold, the house got dry, and my poor roaches got stressed.  In fact one of the males got so stressed he took his chance when I was cleaning the bin and escaped. I didn’t realize this until one morning I happened to notice that the star on top of the Christmas tree had a big dark spot on it.  I thought it had broken or that a bulb had blown, but as I got closer I realized that it wasn’t a star malfunction at all, but a full grown Male Dubia roach happily warming himself on the star.  I picked him up and transported him  back to the bin.

This change in temperature and humidity also resulted in a dropped egg sac, and no babies. It was a setback, but I didn’t let it deter me.  I cleaned the bin, regrouped and was extra vigilant to make sure the water crystals stayed well moistened, and that the roaches were happy.  A couple weeks later I found another female with another egg sac and we were on the way to success.  I just had to make sure that I kept that bin a nice stable little biome of roachy happiness.

I kept up the daily feeding of greens, carrots, ground high quality dog food, and the rehydration of the water crystals. Then on Monday, January 13th, I opened the bin and what did my eyes spy in the food dish but a tiny 1/8″ long BABY ROACH!  I had done it! Well, actually the roaches had done it, but I gave them what they needed to successfully breed!

It will take about 4-5 more months before we’ll know if they are reproducing enough for us to feed Spock off this bin, or if we’ll need to let more of the roaches grow into adults first.

tiny-pictureKel is a military spouse of almost 2 decades to her husband Matt, mom to her 3 children, ranging from elementary to highschool age.  that she’s been homeschooling for almost a decade. She is keeper of the 2 dogs and a cat, and grandma to 1 bearded dragon. She has a needle art business, and also blogs at Fawkes Academy.

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!

If I Could Have a Do-Over…

by KelKel_do_over

It’s a question you hear quite often in home education circles, sometimes it’s a new homeschool parent asking veterans, to try to glean some wisdom. Other times it’s a veteran reflecting on their journey. After home educating my kids for the past seven years, there are many things I wouldn’t change, but some I certainly would.

The first thing I wish I would have done was to listen to my gut more. For the first couple of years I was sure I would do something drastically wrong because I simply had no experience in educating kids. I wasn’t a teacher, I hadn’t even gone to college. I was simply a mom who wanted to do better for her kids. Too many times I questioned my abilities, which led to questioning of curricula choices, which led to seeking out those more experienced, which led to the now dreaded ‘grass is greener’ syndrome. I should have learned to listen to my gut, my mother’s intuition, after all who knows my kids better than I? Listening to myself would have resulted in me being more of an advocate for my daughter, who is now an eleven-year-old girl who still struggles to read. I would have hunted down those that could help me find out just what is going on in that brain of hers that makes this area of study so hard. This poor child struggled for years because I listened to all those that championed “better late than early” without question, because they had done this longer and knew more than I. All the while something deep down inside kept telling me this isn’t just a matter of a child not coming into her own, or not being ready. She wanted desperately to read, she begged me to teach her, but I just kept saying, “You’ll get it, we just have to give it time, your brain just isn’t ready yet.”

The next thing I would change is giving the kids materials that worked for them individually instead of trying to make the same thing work for all of them, even when it was clear it wasn’t. My gut kept telling me to give them their own programs, but I didn’t listen to it. “Each child is an individual, one size does not fit all when it comes to education,” this is what I’d been telling myself, it’s one of the reasons I pulled my oldest son out of public school, so why then was I trying to force them into this cookie cutter when I didn’t have to? The only answer I can come up with to that question is that I refused to listen to my own advice.

The last thing I would change is all the hopping from curriculum to curriculum because I was convinced the kids couldn’t be enjoying something, since it wasn’t the shiniest or the newest. This last one was something my now fourteen-year-old son recently brought to my attention. For the fifth time I was going to change his writing program, because it wasn’t the newest thing people were raving about on the home education forums. He couldn’t be enjoying what we were using, because people kept saying it makes their writing formulaic and stilted. So I printed out the pages for the new program, which we’d already tried twice before, and left them on his desk. That morning my son gave me a wake up call. He came downstairs ready to do some work and saw the pages for the writing program on his desk. He pointed at it and said “What the heck, mom, I thought we’d talked about this. I like the writing program I’m using, I know you want me to get better at writing, but this bouncing all around is not going to accomplish that. Let me continue with what I’m using, I’ll do which ever theme or package you pick from there and I won’t complain a single time, but enough with the bouncing around, woman!” My son had taken a stand, it was a weird position to be in because he’d never done that before. He had always just gone along with the craziness. I realize now it was craziness, and after I sat down that day to reflect on what he’d said, it dawn on me that I had been going against my gut many of those times. Are you sensing a pattern here?

So when it comes right down to brass tacks, the one thing I wish I’d done differently is listened to my gut, to that little voice in the back of my mind.

Kel is a military spouse of 16 years to her husband, Matt, mom to her 3 children, Everett, Annika Clare, and Lucas, whom she has home educated for the last 7 years, keeper of the 2 dogs and a cat, and grandma to 1 bearded dragon. She is currently living in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.