Friday, February 17, 2017

We're the Cotton Ball Fireball Fail Army

Only eleven more days left in February, and I haven't cracked yet! I've got 12 hours of cookie booths this weekend, with transportation and cookie stock micro-managed only slightly imperfectly; I have the muslins made for Syd's Trashion/Refashion Show garment, and all of the reclaimed fabrics ready to cut out and sew, AND a plan for the wearable twinkle lights; the kids are happily working their way through the last readings in the National Mythology Exam bibliography, with the understanding that they'll need to re-read them before the Tuesday test, AND I should have a lesson on test-taking strategies before then; school is otherwise progressing smoothly, even though I've given up our other units for the time being to focus on the NME, Science Fair, and the kids' regular daily work, AND even though their computer has been malfunctioning again and we've all been sharing my laptop for all of our various projects, meaning that sometimes I get left messages like this--

--both kids know exactly what they want to do for Thursday's Science Fair, and Syd even has her presentation written, AND Will has made the spare plaster of Paris volcano and the rocket candy fuses and should be ready for her first experiments tonight.

You'd never look at Will's Science Fair topics and think that she was anything but *that* kind of homeschooled kid. Last year's Exothermic Reactions was just a cover for learning about explosions, and led to us making a bunch of homemade smoke bombs of varying non-success. She again was given free reign this year, leading her to come up with the topic of Fire Volcano.

She wants to build a plaster of Paris volcano, then fill it with a variety of flammable materials, from the usual to the unusual, then burn them and see what happens.

See? That's SUCH a homeschooled kid topic. But so what? It's not following the Scientific Method, exactly, but I've always thought that's forced too early, and that it takes the fun out of a lot of experiential learning. But what her topic IS is self-selected, and it interests her. It's made her enthusiastic about planning, and goal setting, and hand-building, and researching, and she's willing to write a presentation and build a display. These are activities that my kid is normally not enthusiastic about. She's also learning chemistry and physics, building her STEM skills and her practical life skills, and its made learning into an exciting adventure.

Shouldn't learning always be an exciting adventure?

I should tell you, though, that my Secret Mom Goal is to gently focus her presentation on Flammable Materials (that just happen to be tested in a Fire Volcano), with comparisons between the reactions of different materials to the same fuse, and recommendations about to properly store and dispose of flammable materials. Perhaps even a bit about first aid for burns? Maybe the formulas for some of the chemical reactions? We'll see...

Lofty goals aside, Will's first foray into research led her to the following discovery: "Mom, nail polish remover is highly flammable! Also, look at this video!"

The video stars a tween--who clearly, based on his nervous glances out of the room, should NOT be doing what he's doing--making a cotton ball fireball using nail polish remover and a lighter, and gently tossing it from hand to hand.

My Mom Response should have probably been horror and disapproval. Instead, without even looking away from the video, I shouted "SYD!!! Do you have any nail polish remover?!?"

Reader, she did. And I had cotton balls. We also had a lighter.

In other words, we were all set!

Well, except that it turns out that Will is more chicken than the chickens:

Fine. I'm more chicken than the chickens, too! Our demonstration quickly devolved into... ridiculousness. Just ridiculousness:

Thank goodness for Matt!

Will is bummed that we can't actually do live performances of any of her Fire Volcano experiments in the meeting room of the public library during the Science Fair, so even though the nail polish remover's real demonstration is going to be done tonight, on the driveway, inside the plaster of Paris volcano, I've told her that we might be able to swing taking some families outside the library onto the sidewalk and maybe demonstrating the cotton ball fireball there.

Of course, she'll have to actually be able to bring herself to actually do it by then...

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