Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Rabbit Trails and Slime Mold

It wouldn't be homeschooling if we didn't head down a few rabbit trails!  This week we are continuing our cell and DNA studies, and after reading a bit about diatoms and spirogyra, we wanted to check out a few more members of the fascinating Protist family.

We began by reading this book by Rona Arato.  It's a good introduction to Protists with lots of great photos and cool info about this odd group of organisms.  The kids like this series of nonfiction because it's written for a young reader but, as Dude says, "They don't talk to you like you're a baby."

I have to admit, we got a serious case of the giggles when we got to this page!  We have four dogs and have seen our share of, uh, slime mold, over the years!

Then it was time to get out the microscope and look at some protists.  Super took these amazing microscope photos.

Amoeba, reaching with their pseudopodia...

 ...Paramecia, dyed with such festive colors...

...and delicate, confetti-like Diatoms.

We learned that malaria and African sleeping sickness are caused by protozoa (which are in the Protist family) and that when you use chalk, you are writing with the crushed silica shells of ancient diatoms.  We read about the dinoflagellates that cause red tides, and about how important Protists are in the food chain.

Finally, we watched this very thought-provoking video:

Hope you're having a great week learning with your family!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 was an amazing year!

Here are a few (OK, more than a few) of my favorite photos from 2014.  After such a busy, eventful year, it was difficult to choose, so please forgive the photographic overload! 

What an amazing year!  We traveled to beautiful places, learned fascinating things, and had a lot of fun along the way!

Thanks for sharing 2014 with us.  We wish you and yours a wonderful 2015!

More cell study...

I think I have mentioned this video before, but we watched it again today and it just amazes me every time!  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Thinkwell Biology Review and Cell Activites

We are really enjoying our Thinkwell AP Biology course, but we are moving at a much slower pace than I had anticipated.  This is partially because we keep going down rabbit holes and discussing side topics and doing supplemental reading...and partially because there is just so much information to cover.  

It's December and we have just finally finished Unit One, so we will definitely be extending our subscription!

The lectures are great because the instructor takes big topics and breaks them down into manageable pieces (about 10 or 15 minutes instead of a typical hour-long college lecture.)  We never watch more than one video a day because we like to discuss the video, go over the course notes, and delve into supplemental information.  

My only criticism is that the video quizzes are useless; they are too short, not at all thorough, and awkwardly worded.  We never do them anymore--I make the tests using the excellent notes that come with the course (above.)

I made a vocabulary matching game to help the kids review for the unit test.  I also had them put some terms in order from least to most complex.

After testing, I thought it would be nice to take a short break from our usual routine.  The kids are always enthusiastic about microscope work! We don't have the greatest microscope in the world so I often print photos of what we're looking at as well.  Today we looked at Spirogyra, Dinoflagellates, and Chlamydomonas, and read a little about each. 

Then we prepared onion slides because, well, it's easy.  And fun!

Onions work well in microscope slides because it's easy to peel off a very thin layer.  We dyed them with regular food coloring.

Note to self: remove the extra onion pieces immediately so you don't cry while trying to use the microscope! 

"Oh WOW!  I can see a nucleus!"

We've never been able to make this work well, but just for the heck of it we looked at cork cells.  They always look clumpy, not at all like Robert Hooke's drawings, and I would imagine that our microscope is more powerful than what he used in 1665! 

That's OK, we still had fun messing around with the microscope.  And the kids did a fantastic job on their biology unit tests!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Solstice Celebration

The kids always enjoy lighting the candle-powered Christmas pyramid.

Each family member shared a Solstice story aloud.

We ended our meal with a "mushroom-covered" chocolate Bûche de Noël!

One little beeswax candle can create so much light!

The longest night of the year...

...and the first sunrise of the lengthening days!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Video Explaining DNA

Here's a good basic explanation of DNA.  We have found these Stated Clearly videos helpful as a supplement to our Thinkwell Biology course. Super did not approve of the dinosaur's choice of snack, however. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lazy Blog Post

We went places and did stuff!

Mesa Verde is one of our favorite places on the planet.

I love all things Southwest.

If you've never seen Newspaper Rock, it's worth the trip.

This was our first time to actually go into Monument Valley and do the park drive.

It's amazing how life can find ways to thrive in the desert.

It was a very quick trip--just a long weekend--but I'm thankful that there is so much beauty near us.