You'd Have Been Suspended! - Eva Varga

October 21, 20096

Since April, I have been teaching a middle level science class for area homeschool kids. The first 5 months, the group was composed of entirely girls. This time around, I have a class of nearly all boys. This has led to some very amusing situations that I will attempt to describe here.

Yesterday morning, the focus of our lesson was on ionic and covalent bonds. After a brief lecture, we moved on to the lab whereby our goal was to use heat to separate the covalent bonds of a sugar molecules (C6H12O6). To do so, each pair of students was given a piece of aluminum foil, a candle, and a teaspoon of sugar. The foil is used to create a small spoon like shape to hold the sugar above the flame. As I was helping each team get their materials, the foil began to tear off the roll erratically in a way similar to a roll of toilet paper. I tried to get my fingernail under the foil along the edge but it had somehow been compressed and I couldn’t get it to budge. One of the students then offered me his pocket knife and he handed it to me (blade closed). I looked up and smiled, “Oh, yes! That should do it.” Sure enough… with a little manipulating with the blade, I was able to fix the problem. All the while, I couldn’t help but laugh. Had I been in a public school classroom, I would have been obligated to take this young man to the principal’s office and he would have been suspended.

Shortly after this scenario, I began to go around the room to light the candles for each team. I had 5 new lighters with me but couldn’t get a single one to flame. The boys soon began to clamor… “Let me try!” “Oh, I can do it!” I thereby handed out the lighters and actually left the room briefly to see if I couldn’t find another in the kitchen. As I was rummaging through the drawers, I heard one of the boys exclaim lightly, “Fire!” There was no alarm. I knew immediately that someone had gotten one of the lighters to work, nothing more. I thereby returned to the adjacent room whereby it was pointed out to me that the lighters had a little safety mechanism that required you to reset the switch after each failed attempt to get it to light.

One after another, most of the teams lit their own candles. Many even fashioned holders for their foil spoon so they wouldn’t have to hold it manually through the burning process. In all the years that I was teaching in the public school, none of the students thought to create little stands for their spoons! They would never have been allowed to use the lighter themselves! They would never had been allowed to even carry a pocket knife on their persons!

I love teaching this class! I have all the benefits of teaching and none of the nuances (grading papers, collecting homework, concern over missing assignments, etc.) We simply share a love of science – I teach what I know. They learn what they want. Awesome!


  • Alex

    October 21, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    sounds like a great class. we have a few teacher friends, and that is what they complain about, that they loose their passion of teaching because of all the other stuff they have to deal with…

  • Oregon Mom

    October 21, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    That is awesome! I wish we were closer so our kids could benifit from your expertise! Science is one of my biggest weak points. I could sure use your help!!

  • School for Us

    October 21, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    LOVE it!!! And, that’s exactly how learning should be!

    OK, this isn’t school related, but pocket knife related. My sister-in-law got married a few years ago in Oklahoma. It was an outdoor reading at her home on a hill. My daughter was the flower girl & ring bearer. When it came time to get the rings, they were tide on too well! The preacher asked, “Does anyone have a knife?” and you should have seen all of the pocket knifes that automatically appeared. It brought a lot of laughter!

  • Heidi

    October 23, 2009 at 3:39 am

    And then they came home to re-create the experiment. 🙂 Thanks for all you do, Eva. We are so blessed. And thankfully not suspended. 🙂

  • 6atkins

    October 25, 2009 at 4:48 am

    This is so true! That is exactly what I love about homeschooling and hated about teaching in public school.

    Funny knife story: When we were adopting our daughter, we had to go to the courthouse for finalization. A good friend of ours came with us. He is an “adopted” granddad to our girls. We were teasing him about not getting in trouble by carrying in his knife. I forgot that I had one in my camera bag. When they put it in the scanner the man was teasing me about erasing my pics and he didn’t see it. When we found it that night, we laughed so hard! I guess I don’t look like the knife toting type! 🙂

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