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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Another bright idea

Per our Sonlight schedule, we read a short biography of Thomas A. Edison this week. Actually, the book was scheduled for three days in my IG, but it was written on such an elementary level that we flew through it in one afternoon.

Being somewhat disappointed with the book--especially since I knew that Edison would hold endless appeal to Atticus--I began gathering resources to supplement the topic. It was one of the easiest mini-units I've ever pulled together; Atticus already owns not one, but two electricity kits that contain various experiments (basically reenactments of Edison's own trials), and our library is chock full of books and videos on the man and his work. I also found some websites that my children found fascinating. They spent an excited hour or two just tooling through the National Park site alone and enjoying the interactive features, listening to snippets of recordings and watching original clips filmed in the Black Maria studio. The online quiz that Edison used to stump his potential employees with was enlightening, to say the least.

We had basically moved beyond the topic as of today, and were settling--to my glee-- into the remarkable and infinitely engrossing period of the Reconstruction (guess what my area of academic concentration was?) when I realized that one of the recessed lights in my kitchen was out. Normally, this is what I would do:

Nothing.

It's my husband's job to manage the facilities, so I allow him to do so as he sees fit. This sometimes means that a burned out bulb remains in place for several days, but frankly, I'm o.k. with that. I have no desire to usurp the man.

Today, though, I saw this dead bulb as what it really was: a hands-on learning experience. And so, with all the drama I could muster, I started barking orders:

"Logan, get me a chair! Atticus, paper lunch sack! Jo, three magnifying glasses! Let's move, people!"

The children all clambered into action, and before they knew what was happening, I was perched on the kitchen counter unscrewing a big bulb from the 9 foot tall ceiling. Being of fairly sound mind, they knew what I was doing, but not why. As I've said, they don't see Momma doing this kind of thing very often. Curiosity was high.

After I made it safely back to the ground, I let everyone examine the bulb. Then--still cashing in on the drama factor--I proceeded to slip the bulb into the sack and smack it on the counter until I heard the glass shatter.

As you can imagine, the kids were all atwitter at this point. When I pulled the remains of the bulb back out, though, they ooohed and ahhhed. There, naked before them, were the inner workings of an incandescent light bulb.

We spent quite a while poring over the details. Atticus ran out to the schoolroom and returned with our handy copy of The New Way Things Work. We used the magnifying glasses to get a closer look at the coiled filament and to track the thin wires that led the electric current to and from the filament itself. The New Way Things Work explained the gases involved and talked about metals and wattage.

The children were enthralled. It was random learning at its best. A very bright idea, if I do say so myself. :-)

1 comment:

Karla said...

You know how many homeschool moms it takes to change a lightbulb, don't you?

Just one... but...

First, mom checks three books on electricity out of the library, then the kids make models of light bulbs, read a biography of Thomas Edison and do a skit based on his life.

Next, everyone studies the history of lighting methods, wrapping up with dipping their own candles.

Next, everyone takes a trip to the store where they compare types of light bulbs as well as prices and figure out how much change they'll get if they buy two bulbs for $1.99 and pay with a five dollar bill.

On the way home, a discussion develops over the history of money and also Abraham Lincoln, as his picture is on the five dollar bill.

Finally, after building a homemade ladder out of branches dragged from the woods, the light bulb is installed.

And there is light.

(I'm sorry! This just reminded me of you! LOL!)