Homeschool Secrets Revealed: When Science Experiments Go Awry

Okay it’s confession time. I admit that I love to blog about wonderful, creative hands-on projects and experiments we’re doing. And I’ll admit that sometimes when I take snapshots of the third great project we’ve done this week- knowing of course it’s going on the blog- I may feel a little smug. If you’re a homeschool blogger, admit it. You’ve felt this way as well.

I’ve read very few homeschool day in the life posts that read “First one kid spilled the milk this morning at breakfast. I snapped at her to clean it up. But it obviously wasn’t very clean because my foot stuck to that spot all day. Then another child was slamming around the bedroom because the schoolwork was pretty complicated today. I spent thirty minutes talking him down, so he could at least accomplish something today. Then, when I got back to the other kids, they had pretty much trashed the schoolroom with every toy we own in the house. By the time they got it picked up, it was lunch time. No school has happened yet. I made lunch- frozen pizza again- but I burned it. I cried. The kids cried. And everybody ate cereal again. At least we had more milk.”

Homeschool secrets revealed: when science experiments go awry

Okay, there aren’t too many days like that. But it always seems that when I have had one of those, it’s the day I stumble onto a blog post that details some absolutely terrific, creative, awesome activity that someone’s kids did. The house is clean in all the pictures. And the kids are all smiling. Even at their siblings. I read those posts, and I feel pretty crummy about my real life day.

But never fear. Today’s post is all about honesty my friends. I’m going to share about our great science experiment yesterday. And I promise- whatever you’ve managed not to accomplish today will seem better,

Ashlyne and Rachel and I have been reading about inertia and Newton’s Laws of Motion in our Apologia science. There have been some pretty cool, hands- on activities as we’ve read, and the girls and I really do enjoy stopping to do them. I knew that the one for yesterday would be really cool because it involved a raw egg and a glass of water- a “magic” trick explained by the laws of physics.

I set up the experiment- one glass of water at the bottom, a metal pie plate, a toilet paper tube, and a raw egg resting on the tube. After it was set, I moved my hand back about 12 inches (as directed in the book), held the glass with the other hand, and smoothly but firmly hit the metal pan. The metal pan and toilet paper tube popped out of the way, and the egg had a safe landing in the water glass- exactly as planned! The science behind the idea is that energy from my hand is transferred to the metal pan. The toilet paper tube has very little mass, so the force from my hand moved it. The egg has more mass, so it doesn’t move and just dropped into the glass. Ta da!

As we finished up the experiment, Charles- who was done with his school work- popped into the room. He wanted to try it. “No, no, ” I said. “I’ll show it to you, but you don’t need to do it.” (I know my son and his propensity for accidents.) I performed the experiment again, and it worked again. Hooray. Charles wasn’t content. He really wanted to do it.

Here I’m injecting some just, plain honesty. I didn’t feel like arguing. I’ve been struggling for a few weeks off and on with fluid and pressure in my ears. It’s caused lots of pain and pressure and just general yuckiness. After finishing school and resting, I was heading to the doctor to see what I could do. So, I didn’t feel like arguing. I didn’t feel like giving my child an instruction and sticking to it. I was lazy in the face of his persistence. I told him he could do whatever he wanted if he took it in the kitchen. With a little more badgering, I agreed to take a slo mo video for him. The following pictures are taken from the video (thus the blurry parts) and will do a good job of illustrating our science experiment gone bad.

1- Charles has happily set up his experiment. It’s set up exactly like ours.

2- As he draws back to hit the plate, notice he’s not holding the glass on the bottom. Unfortunately I didn’t notice.

3- Notice the karate chop motion about to happen to the pie plate. This was NOT in the book! )I think he was influenced by watching his cousin break boards in his martial arts belt test last week!)

4- He struck the pie plate with intensity. Notice the egg popping off. It did not do that in my version of the experiment.

5- Charles has the first inkling that something is awry. The egg appears to be falling on the table. The pie plate, toilet paper tube, and glass are nowhere in sight.

6- Oh yes. The blur in this picture is not just from the fact that I was dropping my phone and screaming. It is also because the glass was shattering, water was spilling, and egg was cracking EVERYWHERE.

7- I found this final picture at the end of the video roll. I had put the phone down, but it was obviously running. Notice the child hiding behind the laundry curtain? I’m not sure if it was to avoid getting egg on the new shirt she was wearing or because I was screaming like a mad woman.

After that, things just went downhill. I didn’t yell. But I am pretty sure my words were not extremely edifying. In fact I do remember telling Charles not to move- because of all the shattered glass- and a few minutes later questioning why he wasn’t doing anything to be helpful. Gulp. It wasn’t my finest homeschool mom moment. I’m pretty sure there were no fuzzy feelings as we finished up that wonderful, hands-on experiment.

I’m sure there are lots of lessons to learn here. But, honestly, that’s not why I’m writing this post. I want to encourage you, friend, that these moments happen. And for every great post with sweet, happy children working in a great, creative moment, there are a handful of times it didn’t go the way it was intended. The project failed. The kids failed. I failed. I stopped by Charles’s room a few minutes later. I reached up and hugged this boy who is now taller than me. “I love you,” I said. “Even when I want to kill you,” I added as I squeezed his neck a little harder. “I love you too,” he said. And he does. And that is why I do this. For every hard moment, for every mess I have to clean up, for every time I’ve wanted to throw up my hands and enroll them in school, there is this. The “I love you”s. And that’s worth any science experiment gone bad.

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