Entomology- The Science of Insects

Blog, She Wrote: Entomology- The Science of Insects

This summer’s Hopscotch topic here at Blog, She Wrote is entomology. If you are an Instagram or Facebook follower of mine, then you may know that our nine year old is an entomologist. I thought it would be fun for me to report on how his year has gone and to share what we learned with you all.

As I write this, we are preparing for the 4-H Fair and his first year collection is just about ready. We have some labeling to do, but all of his specimens are pinned and we are in the home stretch. Today’s post is all about entomology- the science of insects including classification, & identification.

What is Entomology?

Officially speaking, entomology is:

A branch of zoology dealing with the scientific study of insects, including their taxonomy, morphology, physiology, and ecology.

This year Joshua has been studying entomology by attending lectures every month given by a husband-wife pair of PhD entomologists. They’ve been teamed up for years to lead an entomology project area for 4-H. For most of the time, he’s been attending with another 8 turning 9 year old boy and his dad. That’s right, parents are requested to be there for the ride. He’s had an amazing year learning all the intricate details of insect morphology while learning how to collect and pin insects for his own collection properly.

Blog, She Wrote: Entomology- The Science of Insects

Classification of Insects

Insects are animals with six legs and an exoskeleton- among other common characteristics. They can be divided into many different orders. Even a young entomologist knows his insect orders! As you learn the orders, try to keep up with the latest research because sometimes they change. Our group is working with the latest findings from earlier this year. When entomologists discover orders are so related to each other they don’t need to be separate orders, they are combined. For example, termites and cockroaches are closely related and are no longer separate orders. This will be important if you are taking your insect collection to the fair!

Orders of Insects (as of February, 2014):

  • Archaeognatha- Bristletails
  • Thysanura- Silverfish, Firebrats
  • Ephemeroptera- Mayflies
  • Odonata- dragonflies & damselflies (each in their own suborders)
  • Plecoptera- Stoneflies
  • Notoptera- ice crawlers, rock crawlers, heel walkers (discovered in 2002)
  • Dermaptera- Earwigs
  • Embioptera- Webspinners
  • Phasmatodea- Walking sticks, timemas
  • Orthoptera- Grasshoppers, crickets, katydids
  • Mantodea- Mantises
  • Blattodea- Cockroaches and termites (formerly Isoptera)
  • Zoraptera- Angel insects
  • Hemiptera- True bugs, moss bugs, cicadas, hoppers, aphids (in suborders)
  • Thysanoptera- Thrips
  • Psocoptera- Psocids (booklice & barklice)
  • Phthiraptera- Lice
  • Coleoptera- Beetles
  • Strepsiptera- Twisted winged parasites
  • Neuroptera- Lacewings, antlions, mantidflies, owlflies
  • Raphidioptera- Snakeflies
  • Megaloptera- Alderflies, dobsonflies, fishflies
  • Hymenoptera- sawflies, horntails, wasps, ants, bees
  • Trichoptera- Caddisflies
  • Lepidoptera- Butterflies & Moths
  • Mecoptera- Scorpionflies, hangingflies
  • Siphonaptera- Fleas (though it turns out that fleas are highly developed scorpionflies so this order may soon be reclassified as Mecoptera)
  • Diptera- Flies

Joshua has to have 20 insect specimens with 12 orders represented in his first year collection. I’ve bolded the orders he’s collected this year.

Blog, She Wrote: Entomology- The Science of Insects

Identification of Insects

Identifying insects comes after understanding insect morphology (form & structure). Once you know about biting mouth parts vs sucking mouth parts and whether to look for wings or not, etc.,  it’s easier to narrow down what the insect is.

Keys help you to look at the insect closely and make decisions based on the characteristics of the species. Use this dichotomous key to identify an insect down to its order.

Joshua has been memorizing the insect orders and trying to remember their features. If the name has “optera” in it, then it’s a flying insect, for example. He’s getting good at identifying by sight, but he still benefits from using the dichotomous key.

Blog, She Wrote: Entomology- The Science of Insects

Resources for Classification & Identification of Insects

When we meet as a club, the leaders bring their guides to share with us. We also have our field guides. A comprehensive guide is important to an entomologist. Unless you have very young children, I would recommend skipping the children’s guides. I find my kids outgrow them very quickly. They can be less intimidating, but they lack information and sometimes make it hard to identify a specimen.

  • National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects & Spiders (North American)- This is our main field guide. Not only does it have plenty of information on various species, but the color photographs make it easy to compare in the field- or at pinning time.
  • A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America- This one was useful to us as he identified all of the aquatic species in his collection. Can you tell the difference between different species of mayflies? This book will help! Joshua has at least two in his collection this year.
  • Dichotomous Key- Going beyond matching pictures is sometimes necessary for identification, especially in the insect world. A dichotomous key has students analyze features of the insect and make a choice between one presentation of a characteristic and another. By process of elimination, you come to the final choice which will tell you what the critter is.

One of my favorite things about this entomology club is the way they choose to instruct the kids. Rather than watering down the information, our mentors lecture on the information as if their audience is much older. The wonderful thing is to watch the boys ask for more after an hour of listening intently as anatomy is drawn on the board. I love that it is real science- not classroom oriented, mini-demonstrations or labs.

Knowing your student and providing him with the materials he needs to grow is crucial to seeing your kids stick with a project area and gain experience.

The rest of this series will be about the equipment, collecting, pinning, and displaying an insect collection. Please join in!

Other bloggers with the iHomeschool Network are sharing their own topics in this summer’s Hopscotch. See what they’re up to!

iHN- Hopscotch July, 2014

Eco-Fashion Runway Show

Blog, She Wrote: Eco-Fashion Runway Show

It’s time for the results you’ve been waiting for! After all the spring work Rebecca did on the Eco-Fashion Design Project, she was able to participate in the contest’s Eco-Fashion Runway Show as a designer and a model.

The Eco-Fashion Contest

eco 13-1 The task was to construct original or redesigned fashions and accessories made from reused denim, plus at least one other reused material (thread & fasteners can be new).

The entries were judged by a multi-generational panel on the following criteria:

  • wearability
  • comfort
  • creativity
  • quality of construction
  • cost
  • non-wasteful use of materials
  • and general coolness

The contest was an opportunity for Rebecca to take her skills to the next level and to create something of her own design within the parameters set by SewGreen.

Blog, She Wrote: Eco-Fashion Runway Show

The Eco-Fashion Runway Show

The designers were invited to participate in the runway show wearing their own design. Some of the designers had others model for them- especially if they entered more than one garment.

By joining in as a designer and a model she:

  • Got a front and center view of what the fashion industry is like on a small scale
  • Participated in a runway show- another look at the inside of fashion as a designer-model
  • Had a LOT of fun!

There were four sets in the show and Rebecca got to model in three of them- the third was an audience participation set.

  • Set 1: What is Ethical Fashion? Apparel that meets one or more of the following criteria: locally-made, US-made, organic or sustainable fibers, vintage/used, refashioned, or repurposed, classic style wearable for many years. Rebecca modeled a classic vintage, wool coat dress in this set.
  • Set 2: Viva Classic! All about wardrobe basics. Items that will work for many situations. Things like: white shirt, denim jeans, hoodie, leggings, pencil skirt, scarf, little black dress, etc. Rebecca modeled a hoodie. Which, she declared, would not be on her list!
  • Set 3: Surprise! Members of the audience modeled aprons made by class members for the volunteers at a local soup kitchen.
  • Set 4: Denim Plus- the featured set of the evening with original, hand made fashion by entrants in the Denim Plus contest. Rebecca modeled her original dress made from lots of leftovers.

The show focused on the reuse and refashion of denim and featured many unique garments and accessories. Prizes were given to one designer in each of three categories- adult, teen, and child. There were fifteen participants with one winner in each category. Two additional awards were given. One was for “Best Use of Multiple Materials; Best Artisanry” awarded to a woman who made fabulous garments from denim and vintage table clothes. The other was given to Rebecca for “Most Creative Combination of Materials”.

She worked tirelessly on this dress from start to finish and she is really pleased with the outcome.

Blog, She Wrote: Eco-Fashion Runway Show

Benefits of The Eco-Fashion Project

Choosing to enter the contest was a major undertaking for Rebecca. How was the time well used for her homeschooling?

  • Opportunity to put to use all the fashion research she’d been doing in her history & fashion studies for this year
  • Practice in pattern design and construction
  • Trying and learning new skills with new types of fabric
  • Meeting a goal within a set time frame
  • Finishing a project well
  • Made a connection with a design professor at a nearby university- it was one of the highlights of my evening to talk with her about pattern drafting and how we can continue to encourage Rebecca’s talent
  • Received an invitation to be a part of a curated show at the library

All in all, it was a great experience which allowed her to stretch her skills and knowledge and gain new experiences in the area of her intense interest.

An Invitation to a Curated Gallery

Blog, She Wrote: Eco-Fashion Runway Show

At the end of the runway show, the director of the show told us that a local gallery curator was interested in having her dress for an upcoming show this summer. We worked with the curator to prepare the curated display of Rebecca’s dress.

The show is called, The Common Thread: To Sew or Not to Sew, and is a collection of garments and fabrics which highlight change in the fashion. Rebecca’s dress was chosen to represent the reuse and refashion of many materials into one garment. This new show is all about change in the fashion world, moving from one-at-a-time garments made with scissors, needles and thread, to unlimited quantities produced by industries that cut with laser beams and held together with seamless seams. The question for us is: do they have anything in common?

After months of waiting, we delivered the dress to the gallery this past week and it’s now on display. Rebecca helped to get the dressform and dress into the case and we are excited to see the final display on Friday when we attend the opening night of the show!

Admittedly, she is pretty jazzed about having her first curated show as a designer and will be there dressed for the occasion. The gallery is in our county library and she is in good company with local designers and students from Cornell’s Department of Fiber & Design Apparel.

A High School Plan

I can hardly believe it, but Rebecca is entering 9th grade this year. That means two high schoolers now! I’ve been working on their four year plans (really my junior’s last two years) and all of her interests and opportunities this year have solidified one of her electives. She will be leading the way in a course just for her entitled, “Sewing & Design”. More on this in future posts, but it will involve goal setting and growth toward those goals.

We are excited to see what happens with this. I have known for a long time that we would be incorporating art and sewing into her high school coursework, but it wasn’t until this weekend that a clearer vision of the plan came into focus.

It’s been a lot of fun to see how she is using her gifts to build experience and learn more. When the details unfold, I’ll be sure to post. I hope our journey is helpful to others who want to build a custom high school program.


Online College Credit in High School

Blog, She Wrote: Online College Credit in High School

Thank you to blog sponsor JumpCourse.com. I received an e-course for free and have been compensated for my time in writing this post. The opinions contained in this post are solely mine.

As the parent of two teens, one of whom will be a high school junior in the fall, the thought of college preparations, credits, transcripts, and college acceptance are all ever present in my mind! As I navigate this path for the first time with our oldest (and his sister not far behind), I’ve seen so many options for students to get prepared and get ahead or to take a less conventional way to their destination.

There’s a lot of information and resources out there for homeschooled families to wade through. My husband and I have been through the college selection process along with plans for and admission to graduate school. However, we were public school kids and that was a long time ago now.  How do you make sense of everything available? How do you know what will be the best path for your student? How does a student know the best path?

Out of several options for earning online college credit in high school like AP exams, community college coursework, I am new to the CLEP test. CLEP stands for College-Level Examination Program.

Benefits of Earning College Credit in High School

So, why bother getting the head start on college credits in high school? Families choose this option for a number of different reasons, but here are a few which would make the list in our family:

  • Knock out The Prerequisites- Earning college credits in high school means having the opportunity to get the prereqs out of the way. This would have been handy to have done when I decided to add education to my college experience. I had to take Pyschology 101 over the summer so I could take Educational Pyschology the following semester.
  • Accelerate Your Program- Besides just getting the basics finished early on, what you are really doing is getting ahead! Who doesn’t love the idea of having credits before you arrive on campus for the first time?
  • Saves Money- This probably makes everyone’s list. College tuition is costly and many students (and their parents!) are looking for ways to save. A JumpCourse.com course is $99 plus there’s an exam fee so you save on college credits.
  • Achieve Elective Studies- Between semesters or during the summer. I like the way this gives students options especially if they change trajectory sometime during their university experience.
  • Explore Careers- By taking online coursework in different areas. Online classes are a great way to check out something your student thinks he likes without making a huge financial commitment.

Blog, She Wrote: Online College Credits in High School

Ways to Incorporate JumpCourse into Your High School Course Work

There are a variety of ways to earn college credit during high school. JumpCourse.com can help students prepare for both the AP and CLEP exams. Homeschooled students are in a unique position to chart their way and make ideal candidates for JumpCourse and CLEP Exams. How can JumpCourse Homeschool enhance your homeschool?

JumpCourse.com Course Choices Include:

  • Psychology 101
  • Sociology 101
  • Macroeconomics
  • Financial Accounting
  • Organizational Behavior

Besides earning college credit in high school, online course work makes an engaging way to explore careers.

One note of caution as you plan for high school and college credits in high school. Dual enrollment is a homeschooler’s dream. We love two birds with one stone, but as with any course work you undertake, be sure to check with your colleges and universities to see what credits they will take.

Not every college will accept credits you earn and count for high school as college credit also. In fact, one of the top schools our kids will apply to will accept those credits toward high school OR college but not both. It’s important to check in with the institutions your student wants to pursue before making decisions.

Discount on JumpCourse.com Content

Enjoy even more of a cost savings in two ways:

  • 50% off discount on one course through June 30, 2014 with the code HOME50.
  • 20% off unlimited number of courses through August 30, 2014 with the discount code HOME20.

Not ready to start now? Once you purchase a course, you have access to it for a full year so you can buy now using these discounts and wait to use it this fall or even next spring.

Still not sure? Take advantage of the Jumpcourse free trial.

Connect with JumpCourse.com

Homeschooling high school can be intimidating. Just when you think you’ve got it handled, something new comes along or your student’s interests change or decline. Keep in touch with JumpCourse so all your options stay on your radar.

Kindle Fire Giveaway

Do you use a Kindle Fire in your homeschool? We love our Kindle Fires! You might enjoying these Five Reason to Use a Kindle Fire in Your Homeschool. I have found so much educational value using these economical tablets. Enter today to win a Kindle Fire from JumpCourse.

Are You Homeschooling High School?

You can connect with Blog, She Wrote several ways for homeschooling high school. Have you seen these?

Not only is JumpCourse.com new to me, but so is the CLEP exam. CLEP exams can be taken at any point- not just before a student begins college. That makes using JumpCourse and taking CLEP exams a smart way to earn college credit in high school and beyond.

How are your high schoolers earning credit in high school? Leave a comment and let us know!

Project: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

It’s time to report on the wrap up of our Literature, History, & Fashion unit on Jules Verne and Steampunk. Rebecca had been working on reading Jules Verne and learning more about Steampunk origins and fashion. In the first post I shared the content of our unit and the beginning of the dress making process. Today, I’m following up on that post with the conclusion to the project- at least this time period for the ongoing history & fashion project.

Jules Verne Project Review

The main elements of the project included:

  • Reading Jules Verne books
  • Learning about the life of Jules Verne
  • Writing an author profile & some analysis essays on Jules Verne and his work (these came from Excellence in Literature)
  • Steampunk Fashion- learning about what it is and where it came from
  • Fashion Design- Steampunk style

You can see the original post by clicking on the link above or the picture below. There are more details on the books and assignments there.

Blog, She Wrote: Jules Verne Literature, History, & Fashion

I interviewed Rebecca to find out what she thought of this project and if she had any tips or advise for you all. In the first post, you can see how the pieces of the pattern came together in the bodice and below you can see the first fitting.

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

What Is Your Favorite Part about Drafting Patterns?

  • Drawing the designs
  • Choosing fabrics best suited for the fashion
  • Drafting the patterns from my sketches

By far her favorite is the drafting which is curious considering it requires effort and math! Rebecca is always up for a crafty math challenge. What better way to apply skills?

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

Why Do You Prefer to Draft Your Own Patterns?

Rebecca has always preferred to make her own patterns rather than follow store bought ones. What makes pattern drafting so appealing? She has some very specific opinions on this:

  • Makes you more familiar with the pattern
  • I will know how all the pieces fit together
  • I know how the garment deconstructs in my mind.
  • Gives me independence- I don’t have to stick with the pattern I’m given. It can be my pattern, my way.
  • Shows me why something needs to be done in a certain order

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

What Would You do Differently?

She learned a few important things from this project. Even mistakes lead to better understanding and she did have to take the garment apart at least once during the process.

  • Make sure the sleeves have the proper seam allowance and make sure they do not taper but stay straight. Dolls cannot cup a hand to squeeze an arm into a sleeve! You can see how she chose to modify the design so she would not have to recut and sew the fabric.
  • Whatever you do to the front of the dress, you must do to the back. In this case she had four or more pattern pieces that made up the bodice and she had to make sure they lined up well once they were put together.
  • Make the lining from the same fabric or a similar color so that if the fabric peeks out from the seam it is less noticeable! Rebecca made a fabulous lining to the bodice, but it easy to see when it’s out of place.

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

Tools for Drafting Patterns

Here are some basic items to have on hand for pattern making:

  • ruler
  • pencil
  • bendable ruler- helpful for tracing curves for the armscye (armhole in the sleeve) and necklines
  • large pieces of paper (larger than printer paper)
  • doll (or a person if you are sewing for people)
  • tape measure
  • pins- for fittings
  • fabric marking pencil or pen
  • dress form

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

Some Helpful Drafting Tutorial Sites

Rebecca has learned a lot from books and websites on how to draft her own patterns. Here are a few of her favorite sites.

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

How Do You Go from Sewing Tidbits to Drafting Patterns and Putting Together Garments?

Rebecca has been sewing since she was 8 years old. At three months shy of 14, she’s been sewing for 6 years and I’ve watched a lot of growth in that time. My sewing skills are fairly basic, so how did she go from sewing simple projects to drafting her own designs from sketches and successfully sewing a garment that is tailored? I know what I’ve done to mentor her and she had some ideas to share as well.

  • Build up endurance for longer projects! How? Sew a lot and get better at it. It doesn’t matter if they are small projects at first just as long as you keep at it.
  • Try new techniques- once you have the hang of the basics, challenge yourself to keep trying new skills. Build your skills slowly and steadily.
  • Use a visually pleasing tutorial- so it’s easy to understand and use the books and tutorials to tackle the drafting. Rebecca’s Kindle Fire has proven to be very helpful in following the tutorials right where she is working. I can’t recommend this homeschool tool enough! See all the ways we use this economical tablet in our homeschool, 10 Reasons to Use a Kindle Part 2- Kindle Fire
  • Provide materials for the work- make sure your sewing student has the tools of the trade that allow her to learn the new skills.
  • Provide space for the work- I can’t emphasize enough how much this helps the learning process. Rebecca would not get nearly the work in that she does if she had to make a big deal about getting started every time she wanted to work.
  • Give them the time- Time to work is a huge part of the success of Rebecca’s skill acquisition. She is given long blocks of uninterrupted time to work out the drafting process and fix mistakes without distractions.

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

Costume Design

This project area has spurred a lot of interest in costume design. The dress that Rebecca put together is all her own idea based on some steampunk influences including a dress that was made for me and the Steampunk Pinterest Board I created for her.

She adored the process of envisioning a dress and making it come alive. The last piece to the puzzle was in all the details of this dress. We scoured the craft stores for the hardware to add to the steampunk design. We found the perfect accessories and doodads! Steampunk is all about late 1800s style with futuristic capabilities all made from steam power and gears that do work.

She is already thinking about how this work could be a part of her future.

Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting


Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting


Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting


Blog, She Wrote: Steampunk Fashion Design & Drafting

This history and fashion project for the year has been very successful. Rebecca is building quite a portfolio with the next step being the county fair. She has read books on period clothing and learned a great deal about culture at the same time – whether it’s the steampunk genre or life in the middle ages.

She is about to take her skills to the next level by constructing her own gown for this year’s Civil War Ball. I can hardly wait to see the finished product.

Methods for Teaching Middle School & High School Homeschool

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Middle & High School Language Arts

This week the iHN is hosting a Hopscotch on “How I Teach”. Here at Blog, She Wrote I’m sharing methods for teaching middle and high school students in all the major subject areas. We’ll be discussing strategy and curriculum. Today our topic is language arts.

Strategies for Teaching Middle School & High School Homeschool Language Arts

My philosophy on teaching writing and language skills from a young age is one of a coaching role. My job is to meet my writers where they are, give them the tools they need and how to use them and to help them to meet their goals. What is the goal? To be an effective written communicator. That’s what it’s all about.

  • Play with Words- enjoy exercises and fun ways to engage with words to increase vocabulary. Click the link to see five great ideas I wrote for Bright Ideas Press.
  • Collage Words- More details on reflecting on a word and exploring its meanings.
  • Resources for Coaching Writing- a list of some of my favorite resources for coaching writers.
  • Conferences- I meet with my kids regularly to go over their written work and to see what can be improved. I take a look at the first draft and usually ask the student to go back and self edit, naming the thing they are notorious for forgetting- whether that be correct capitalization or wild commas. If the piece of writing is hard to decipher because of poor organization/grammar/spelling, I have them read it to me. When they read it aloud they realize that without grammar conventions/organization, the reader will not experience the piece the way the author intended. This goes a LONG way to encouraging kids to edit their work.
  • Writer’s Workshop- I’ve been hosting a workshop that includes my kids along with about five other homeschoolers in our home since September. I’ll be posting more detail on this soon, but having kids write for an audience is one of the best investments I’ve made in time this year. If you’d like a little more information now, click the link above on Resources for Coaching Writing.

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Middle & High School Language Arts

Our Favorite Middle School & High School Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum

  • Cover Story- This is a middle school writing program written by Daniel Schwabauer, the creator of One Year Adventure Novel. My 6th and 8th graders are working on building the pieces to their own magazine issue based on a theme they chose. There are video lessons which are well done along with resources for the parents. The younger siblings of OYAN students approve!
  • WriteShop- WriteShop Junior & WriteShop I and II. I love WriteShop for its ability to break down the writing process into pre-writing, drafts/editing, and final, published copy. We use this between the informal early elementary years and the time we begin creative writing and expository writing programs. I also use units from WS 1&2 to help with organizations of essays at any time during the teen years.
  • One Year Adventure Novel - Write a novel in one school year. That is the aim of OYAN and it is adored by us all. The lessons are thorough and draw the students in. My two favorite things (besides the novel) are: 1) How the curriculum provides excellent talking points about literature with our teens. 2) The community Mr. Schwabauer has created for teens to interact with each other. My 10th grader loves the OYAN forums where he can be himself and be in community with other kids who love books and stories as much as he does. There are also regular webinars with extra instruction.
  • Other Worlds- The follow up to the One Year Adventure Novel. This one is focused on writing fantasy and science fiction. My 10th grader is working on his fantasy novel. I enjoy the lessons on the history of science fiction and fantasy and how they are different from adventure.
  • Literary Lessons from The Lord of the Rings- Spend time immersed in the three books that make up The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Wonderful vocabulary studies, chapter discussions, essays, and unit studies based on this fantasy tale.
  • Excellence in Literature- Classic literature is taught in four week modules with honors options. I have all five volumes so we can skip around. They are meant to be use 8th-12th grade. This program has been a great model of student led reading and writing on the classics and has been very successful so far.

Slow and steady wins the race. We try to keep moving forward and see our kids make progress in their writing skills. We add in what’s necessary as they gain skills so they can be stretched to the next level. Our kids are immersed in reading and writing in many forms from a young age and we love to watch them gain confidence as they get older. Coming soon news from our Writer’s Workshop!

The iHomeschool Network is hosting a Hopscotch series this week on “How I Teach”. Join other iHN bloggers to see how they teach Language Arts. You’ll find information on working with special needs all the way to gifted kids and everything in between.