Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Look out! Here come the Zombies!!!!

Zombie Fire Ants, that is.  Got your attention, though, didn't I?

I was asked to review a unit study for This Old Schoolhouse and this is the one they chose for me...zombie fire ants.  Do I look like a Charlotte Mason, nature lovin' momma? Do they not know me at all?  (What?  They don't?  Oh, okay.) Hmm, how does this unit go with the beautiful butterflies that we are currently studying?  It totally doesn't, but we took a little butterfly break and talked about, yes, zombie fire ants.  They do really exist.  Isn't God's creation amazing?  Whodathunkit?

Zombie Fire Ants is part of The Curiosity Files series of unit studies from TOS  There are currently nine titles available in the series and they are sold as a bundle pack or individually (I noticed that a few are on sale for $1!). Professor Ana Lyze and her team of scientific spies delve into some of the oddities of the scientific world - dung beetles, red tides, cicada killing wasps - you get the gist.  Weird stuff.  Gross stuff. Stuff kids think is cool.

Are you curious about what are zombie fire ants?  Did you know that there are 12,500 known species of ants (and an estimated 10,000 more not yet classified)?  I didn't.  I thought there were two:  the mean, biting red ones and the black ones that are being lured into the ant hotels at the entrance of my front door, but nay, there are many, many more.  Red fire ants (or red imported fire ants - RIFA - as they are also referred to) are not indigenous to the US.  They were stowaways in shipments from South America to Alabama in the 1930's.  From there they have spread through southern states and have started migrating up the eastern seaboard.  In an effort to get the population under control (without using pesticides or chemicals), it was discovered that there is a God given predator of the red fire ant in South America - the phorid fly.  Be warned, this is where it gets gross.  The phorid fly will stalk it's victim (Not sure how the ant is chosen. Maybe it's born with "Pick Me!" on it's back - that's under investigation.) and when the time is right, it will lay it's egg inside the ant. At this point, the ant isn't sure what is going on, but the fly larva will work its way to the ant's head to feast on it's brain, turning the ant into a zombie. The zombie fire ant will then wander around until it's head falls off and out pops the baby fly to begin the circle of life again.

The unit study is all inclusive and has a bunch of suggested activities, both at lower and higher levels.  According to the TOS site, each unit is 80-100 pages long and includes:

  • Bible study and Bible memory applications
  • Science, math, history and geography investigations
  • Literature and suggested book list
  • Writing, spelling, vocabulary  and copywork activities
  • Discussion questions, special projects & experiments
  • Art, crafts, drawing and coloring pages 
  • Lapbook/notebook pages and helpful lapbooking links
  • Special needs, hands-on discoveries
  • Art, crafts, drawing and coloring pages 
  • Internet resources, video links and complete answer key
All in all, we enjoyed the unit. For our Kindergarten level, the activities weren't really feasible (with the exception of creating an ant farm (I'm trying to get rid of the ones coming in my house.  I'm not going to voluntarily carry some in at this time.), snack activities, etc.), but we definitely learned things we did not know about the fire ant.  I would recommend that other homeschoolers give these a try.  They will be something we add to our resources in a couple years.  

Man, I just know I'm going to be looking for the "zombies" every time I go outside now. 

Julianna's artistic interpretation of a zombie fire ant

    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    Easter Eve

    Tonight we made "resurrection rolls".  I had heard of "resurrection cookies" (A meringue cookie that you mix up the night before Easter and put into the oven, "seal" the oven with tape and then go to bed. In the morning you roll the stone away (or take the tape off) and the cookies are hollow.) a few years ago when Julianna was still too young to understand.  Now that she is older, she won't eat nuts, so I'm still out of luck!  Thankfully, I stumbled across the recipe for the rolls earlier this week and knew they would be something she'd like to do.  

    In a nutshell, you take a large marshmallow (represents Jesus) and dip it in melted butter/cinnamon sugar (oil and spices for his body) and then wrap it in a cresent roll (the tomb.)  When you bake it, the marshmallow melts and leaves an empty tomb.

    Our tombs getting ready to go behind the stone (or stove door as we call it.)



    We had a great time doing these.  We read the Easter story along the way and I think this is definitely one tradition we will keep...unless she gets over her aversion to "bits" in food then we'll try the cookies. 
    Happy Easter!

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Jumping on the planning bandwagon

    We just attended our state curriculum fair this past weekend.  It's basically just a vendor fair - no workshops, etc. I love, love, love exhibit halls!  Love. Makes me all giddy to be around all that wonderful material.  Oh, my!  The sights...the feel of the books...the prices (yikes!)...the resources that are out there!!!!  Since the planning and set up is one of our favorite things to do, Monique, from, and myself are going to go into business helping troubled homeschoolers out there set up their school rooms and pick the curriculum to use...all while we stick our kids in public school!  The money will be flying in hand over fist, I tell ya.  Kidding!  Actually, our goal is to come up with some type of product or become an inspirational speaker and go onto the HS conference speaking circuit.  You gotta have a dream, people!

    So, onto next year.  This is my plan, so far.  My decisions regarding curriculum tend to be fluid, so don't take what I put here as gospel.  :)

    Phonics/Reading:  Institute for Excellence in Writing, Primary Arts of Language: Reading program, .  I plan to supplement with Abeka and other readers and theme based materials.

    Handwriting:  A Reason for Handwriting, Level A.  We used Level K (Kindergarten) this year and enjoyed it.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    Spelling:  A Reason for Spelling, Level A.  The weekly stories, spelling words, etc. all correspond to the scripture that we'll be doing in handwriting.  I like that link together.   (Note:  The only program I didn't buy from them was their reading and that was only because it teaches using a whole language approach and I don't think we have a good phonics base to go with that.  I loved the reading books though.  All bible story based.  Too expensive to just buy to have.)

    Math:  Right Start Math,  We use Singapore Early Bird this year and love it.  I didn't like the Plain Jane look of their 1st grade level, so I was planning on doing Math in Focus next year (Saxon's version of Singapore), but changed my mind after going to a conference in South Carolina.  I still love M in F (it's very colorful and looks fun), but it's is pricey!  It would have run us around $110 for the first semester. I went to a vendor workshop for Right Start Math in SC and had hubby go hear the dog and pony show this past weekend (it was the same woman presenting here too) and we're convinced it's a good fit.  It's very hands on (it's a Montessori approach) and teaches math by "grouping" numbers (like it's taught in Asia) rather than one to one counting.  

      A Reason for Science, .  We'll focus on Life, Earth and Physical Sciences broken down into 36 weekly lessons and experiments. This year was self-directed and theme based information and experiments.  Yes, this company is getting the majority of our money next year.  Ha!

    Geography:  I'm not sure what we are doing yet.  We did brief overview of world geography this year and she loved it.  I'm debating continuing it next year, but adding more detail and some different countries or switching to US Geography. 

    Art/Music/PE, etc:  These will all be integrated throughout the other subjects.  We may do some things with specific composers or artists. 

    Unit Studies:  I know these are supposed to stand alone, but I may incorporate them into other things along the way. 

    Hmm, did I miss anything for first grade or am I being too ambitious?  lol 

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Ode to Spring

    Oh, Spring, Oh, Spring
    by Julianna
    Spring is here.
    Let's go out and see what's new.
    Butterflies, butterflies, butterflies, come out.
    Blue sky. White clouds spring out of the sky.
    What do bees think? Are they smart?
    No, they are thinkless, weakless, beakless.
    But the most important thing of Spring is God.