The Dark Side of Homeschooling

We’ve been homeschooling for 10 years now. We’ve had our ups and downs over the years, but it has been a mostly positive experience. 

With one in high school and one in junior high, the curriculum is definitely more challenging than it was in the early years.  Throw in an active 2 year-old undergoing potty training into the mix and you’ve got yourself a real hootenanny.

We’re heading toward the end of our school year, so everybody is getting weary and looking forward to summer break.

Over the years, I’ve been the science guy. I’m an engineer by trade, and so this is just a natural fit.  We’ve done a number different topics: Properties of water, electricity, magnets of all kinds, we’ve even made our own lenses when studying properties of light.

All nice, clean, happy little experiments.  They didn’t always go well, but we could always sum up our lessons in a nice neat package, like a half hour sitcom.

But this year was Biology.  High school Biology. Microscopes, cells, and …dissections. Ugh.

When I took biology, my teacher must have not been big on dissections.  While my older sister had to dissect every thing from earthworms to grasshoppers and frogs, I got away with just a fetal pig.  I thought I had completely skirted around the whole dissection thing.  That part of my life was over.


~D~ had not 1, but four dissections to do this year as part of his biology curriculum, and I as the science teacher couldn’t just wave my hand and say, “Go do your science on your own.” I was there, in the trenches along with him, cutting, gutting, exposing, and probing those unmentionable parts that no person should have to probe.

And now I get to share with you, my reader, those priceless homeschooling moments.

First was Larry the earthworm.  Not your average night crawler, Larry was exceptional outside:


And inside…


Next was Kerry the Crawdad, but I forgot to take pictures.  Lucky you.

The third dissection was Perry the Perch:


Who was kind enough to allow us (to cut) a window into his soul…er guts.



And finally, tonight we did Frankie… Freda the frog.


I’ll have to say…she had a lot of guts.


I was thoroughly skeeved by tonight’s reveal and relieved to have the final dissection over with, until my wife commented to me, “At least it will be easier next time when you do it with ~K~.”

Yes, there is a dark side to home schooling, where you can relive all your science nightmares over…and over.

Until next time,

The Grossed Out Science Guy.


School is Officially Over

Today was the last day of school for our little academy (enrollment: 2).  The teacher read the last pages and the students finished the last assignments, and so the summer vacation begins.

(For the record, however, the science teacher didn’t get all of the experiments done, so there is still the slight possibility that we may finish some of them up over the summer.)

Science Experiments – Jello Lenses

I know I haven’t mentioned science experiments in a while. We’ve been doing them, but some of them just aren’t very exciting and so aren’t worth the mention.

And lately there have been more of them. Our curriculum has been doubling up on subjects: We’re still doing magnitism experiments, but also experiments on light.

One of the cool ones that we’ve done recently was to make our own lenses–out of Jello. We got molds for a convex, concave and flat lenses, and we had to make Jello in them.

Question is, can you tell which is which? Leave a comment if you’d like.

Lens 1:

Jello lens

Lens 2:

Jello lens

Lens 3:

Jello lens

Science Experiments – Mapping a Magnetic Field

Last week we did a science experiment where we mapped a magnetic field. The thing about magnets is that you can feel or see the effects of the magnetic field, but you can’t see the field itself. So to map the field, we took our magnetometer (a magnetized pin on a string) and took readings at different regions around the magnet.

We first taped a magnet to the paper. Then we hung our magnetometer at different starting points around the magnet. We drew lines on the paper in the direction that the magnetometer pointed.

We drew lines tip-to-tail until the paper ended.

Once we were done, we had a map of the field around the magnet.

This week, we have more mapping –this time 2 magnets at opposite ends of the page.  We were going to do that tonight, but it got late and I decided to wait until tomorrow.

Science Experiments – Up in the Air / Strength of a Magnet

We had 2 science experiments this week. The first one had the purpose of detecting and influencing a magnetic field.

We first started by attaching a magnet to the bottom of a pink cup. This cup is not normally used in our house because our 2 boys prefer to drink out of cups of other colors. I thought that this set of experiments would be a good opportunity to help this cup feel useful.
We then tied a string onto a paper clip and let the paper clip hang from the magnet. The string was taped to the table and then we pulled the end of the string. The paper clip seemed to hang in mid-air as it was no longer touching the magnet, but was still influenced by the surrounding magnetic field.

We passed sever objects in the space between the magnet and the paper clip to see what happened.
When we passed aluminum foil, an index card, and a penny in the gap, the paper clip was unaffected. However, when we passed a paper clip, a straight pin, and a metal washer in the gap, these things caused the paper clip on a string to wobble and fall.

We decided that it was other magnetic objects that influence the magnetic field. Non-magnetic objects do not influence the magnetic field.

Continue reading

Science Experiments – Invisible Gears

This week we observed the interaction between two rotating magnetic fields.

We did this by hanging two magnets from the edge of the table in a loop of thread, just far apart enough so that they wouldn’t grab each other and stick together.

The first magnet we spun the string so that it was wound up fairly tight. The second magnet we just let hang. Then we let the magnets go.

As the first magnet spun, its thread un-twisted. The second magnet spun the other way and its thread twisted up. They finally slowed down and started twisting the other way, now with the second magnets thread untwisting and the first magnet twisting.

This went on for a couple of cycles.

When asked what was the invisible gear that linked the two magnets together, my son wrote:

Manedkit forse.

Well said!