How Children Learn

Sometimes it starts with two simple words: I'm bored. We are very fortunate to not hear this phrase often at our house, but it happens sometimes. Tuesday morning, George and I were both busy with projects, all the neighborhood kids were at school, and Avery didn't know what to do. She asked if we could make a volcano. I knew this project was looming in our near future, and I had been thinking about the design and materials, so I was prepared.

"Sure", I said. "Let's find a piece of wood, some screen, newspaper, starch, and paint."

"Can't we just mix baking soda and vinegar in a bottle?" Avery asked.

My kids could mix baking soda and vinegar every day and never cease to be amazed by the results. I've encouraged them to conduct their experiment in the toilet, and see what happens when they scrub the concoction with a toilet brush, but they're too smart for that trick.

They took their experiment outside, adding a new ingredient to the mix: dish soap.

The dish soap made a big, foamy eruption that lasted much longer.

I found the perfect book to read aloud while the mad scientists worked. Pompeii: Lost and Found by Mary Pope Osborne, a non-fiction companion to her fictional chapter book, Vacation Under the Volcano.

According to the book, today is the anniversary of the devastating eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. The eruption occurred in 79 A.D.

We did the math to discover the eruption happened 1,928 years ago. Aidan asked me if I was alive then.

After using up all our vinegar, baking soda and dish soap, we went inside to draw volcanoes.

Avery had an excellent idea for Aidan's lava flow: we traced his hand, upside down, on top of the volcano. He colored in his hand, and sure enough, it looked like lava flowing down the side of his volcano. He then drew a person flying out of the volcano; his idea of a fun adventure no doubt. Avery turned her picture into a Red Cross Poster for natural disaster relief.

Our morning turned into an impromptu unit study; unplanned homeschooling at it's finest. We covered science, math, history, social studies and art in one fell swoop, and had fun to boot. To think it all started with boredom. Following ideas - that is how we learn.


  1. lol!!! IF YOU WERE ALIVE THEN!?!? Oh kids!!! lol!

  2. Looks like fun. Can I come to your house?

  3. Fantastic! Love the way you think!

  4. this is just awesome!
    you are *so* lucky that you get to stay at home with your kids. seriously!!! as a working mom, i would glad trade EVERYTHING in the world to get to do what you do (even though i don't think i have the patience to homeschool them...lol)

  5. LOVE LOVE LOVE. I'm totally stealing this! Have you done the one where you put the vinegar in the bottle, the baking soda in the baloon, then stretch the baloon neck over the bottle neck? When you raise the baloon to spill the baking soda in, it gets filled with the gas and blows up. Good fun.

  6. Wow! I love your impromptu unit study. That's what's so perfect about unschooling - it's doing what your kids are interested in doing in the moment.

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Next time someone asks me what "unschooling" is, I'm going to send them here ;).

  7. As a former teacher seeing you in action is quite impressive! I do believe you are better than I ever was! Sounds like you are doing a great job!

  8. Wonderful! Such a perfect example of child led learning. I think we have a project this weekend. My kids are always up for some volcano action - I'll let you know if the "in the toilet" trick works for me.

  9. and that is why homeschooling ROCKS!!!!!(we used to buy vinegar, baking soday and red dye in bulk- funnest experiment ever)

  10. By the way, love the name Blogging Molly. I totally get it! Ha!

  11. Love this post! Following ideas and experimenting...exactly.

  12. Wow! my kids are going to love this!!

  13. Your blog has such great pictures! The perfect compliment to your family fun.

    Also: I want in on your husband's alternative propulsion operation (to avoid a certain word).

    Addendum: you should enable adsense on your blog. Some might consider it crass, but I think you get enough hits to make a small profit with no effort on your part.



email: mollydunham@sbcglobal.net
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