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School Adventures

February 15, 2013
US Weather Map illustration

School time is never without some new adventure in the works, and this last week was no different. We were sitting around the table working on math when my nephew Jeremiah, who was looking out the window daydreaming, exclaimed that it was snowing. We all ran for the door, but to our disappointment, it was not snowing but sleeting. Snow and sleet are very rare where we live, so the children were too excited to continue with school as usual—if there is a usual. Gracie and Jeremiah wanted to go out and pick up the sleet, which they did. Seeing this as an opportunity to teach them something, I brought them back into the house and told them we were going to learn why it was sleeting and where it comes from. I started by putting in an earth science DVD that my sister had brought over to share with us. They had watched this before, but it had not sunk in. It was about five minutes long, and the kids were amazed at how sleet froze in midair and hail was just tossed around before it fell to the ground. We then went to the computer and I opened the weather app and showed them how the different colors meant different things. They saw that we were in the sleeting color and that it was snowing north of us and raining south of us. We then went to the porch and looked at the thermometer to see how cold it was. We talked about the temperature and what it meant; they saw that it was above freezing right then. After this they went outside to look at the sleet again and to bring in bowls full to examine.

It has been a week since that day. I just asked them questions about how sleet and snow are made, and they have not forgotten a thing. School is fun when you look at it as an adventure in discovery and learning.

We also have a science kit where we mix different elements to make dancing water or a colorful waterfall, or just watch red cabbage water turn blue when you add baking soda, or turn pink when you add citric acid, then turn clear again if you let it sit for a few days. It raises questions that they want answered. Questions are the root of all learning.

Last week we mixed baking soda and citric acid together to make carbon dioxide gas, and then we talked about it. Afterward the kids watched a ten-minute science show on the lungs and how we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Today as Jeremiah was doing school he was reading in his second-grade pace science book about fish and how they take the oxygen out of the water. He stopped reading and asked, “How do they get rid of the carbon dioxide?” So we stopped working in the workbooks and went to the computer. With great excitement all five kids stood around me, and with the baby in my lap we looked it up on the computer. Soon we were learning all kinds of fun facts. The kids were interested and asked if they could make some more carbon dioxide. So back to the science kit we went. From my eight-year-old to my sister’s two-year-old, we all sat around the table again and watched the baking soda and citric acid bubble and fizz. It is when children ask questions and we take the time to answer that they learn the most.

But some questions I am happy to leave for another day. Today, as Jeremiah was reading his book on fish out loud at the table, it said that fish lay their eggs in warm water when the days grow longer. Gracie, who was listening along as she did her school at the table, interrupted. “How do they make the babies? Are there daddies? Do they kiss under water?” Jeremiah excitedly jumped up and said, “Let’s go look it up on the computer!”

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9 comments on “School Adventures”

  1. I am interested in the sentence "questions are the root of all learning". I, of course, agree with this completely. I wonder, however how you feel about your father's article on children who ask "why?". He seems to suggest that questioning is a bad thing and should be met with "three licks of the switching instrument of your choice". Do you respond in this manner or do you fundamentally disagree with your father? Are you allowed to disagree with him I wonder?

    1. J, I think you are speaking of two different things. If a child asks a question out of curiosity or a want to learn, you obviously wouldn’t condemn that. However, if I give a child a command to do a task, to ask why may be rebellion. It’s imperative to train a child to perform a command when expected because one day it may be life or death. If I say duck! Or stop! And you hesitate to ask may cost your life.

    2. I think you read the words and missed the intent. "Why" is not a "trigger" word, the parent must discern if the child is asking for knowledge or raising an objection of authority. Rebellion is what warrants reproof. A loving parent is tuned into their child's heart and does all reproof for the ultimate benefit of the child. The belief that eliminating physical boundaries is always in the ultimate benefit of the child has not had the sad experience of seeing children that are alienated in society because no one can stand to be around them.

  2. I absolutely love the lifestyle of learning mindset, I've also succumbed to the "unschooling" mindset that children will learn what they need and are interested in. I have a 13 yo who mostly lost her love of learning when she was young by "1st" grade, while in public school. We have since brought her home and have tried to "unschool" her, we have tried different curriculums etc. She just does not have much excitement or desire to learn things. I have come to the realization that she has such an easy go with the flow personality that she doesn't do a whole lot without regular direction. She has some interest but I struggle with the educational factor to most of her interests. She takes after her father and likes things like Star Wars, Dr. Who, Marvel, Shield, etc. These are what she's interested in. She has several Star Wars lego sets. She knows a ton about those shows. How can I help her regain that passion to ask questions about real life stuff? She finds any curriculum boring, she used to like historical novels but now only wants ones that are based on true stories and real people. (not as easy to find in a writing style that is not necessarily biographical in nature) She has "episodes" of interest, for example she had an interest in the Norden Bomb site used in WWII. She searched out how it worked and info on it, we even took a vacation to the national airfoce museum where she could see one but she was not able to get close to it. Her interest in that has not transferred to the history behind the wars themselves really. She also has an interest in cars (her daddy is an autobody tech) and they have conversations about names of cars and she can point out a great number of cars based on tail lights. I still struggle with the rest of life though. No interest in people in general or the who's, and why's of history.

    1. Hi Jasmine,
      Yes! Real life, hands-on learning is the best! There are so many educational science DVDs/CDs available, here's a few resources:

      If you're looking to purchase pre-made kids you can find many available here:
      However, Debi's Big Book of Homeschooling is LOADED with DIY science experiment how-to's!

  3. Hello,
    I love this article. I homeschool two boys and will be the Director of a Christian homeschool campus next year. Where did you get the Science Kits and the short science DVD’s? I want our homeschool to be more of an adventure; not filling out worksheets.