Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Curve of Learning

I love homeschooling and "learning along with the kids".
But I prefer some types of learning to others.
Today was an example of the kind that I'm not too fond of:
spending oodles of time and energy, only to have a project "fail".
Hmmm . . . here's a recap of our day.

We have been studying the 13 colonies
and I wanted the kids and I to dip candles like they did "back then".
Found some instructions off the web,
bought the ingredients (spent more than intended!),
and planned the day.

First, we cut up the chunk of wax and put it in the double boiler.

We got the water boiling,
added the pot with the wax and began melting.
So far, so good.
We added our color chips
and a little fragrance too.



Then we took our measured wicks and began to dip.
My idea was to have each child dip their candle
and then move on to the next child.
While waiting, they were playing nicely in the front room.



After dipping in the melted wax, we dipped it in cold water.



Well, after two children dipping,
we realized this was going to take forever.
So we decided to set up a "drying station"
and had 11 wicks (2 candles each) drying at once.
We dipped, dried, dipped, dried, dipped, dried . ..
for what seemed FOREVER.


After about an hour of dipping and drying,
we had very little to show for it
and were getting a little discouraged.



We decided that our wax was too hot
and waited for it to cool down to 160 F.
Do you know how long it takes for wax to cool?!

One of the safety precautions said to
NEVER leave melted wax alone.
Sigh.

I sent the kids out to play, while I waited,
(This was our "off from the books week". We do 3 weeks "on" and 1 week "off".)
staring at the pot of melted wax.
My oldest came in and offered to
"stand watch" for me while I went outside
to see what they had been doing.

So I grabbed my camera and headed out the back door.


Jonathan introduced me to their "fort"
built along the side of the house.

He showed me what he was "cooking".



I was further amazed to see how much the girls had set up.
It reminded me of some "shanty" during the depression era.
I'm sure they have things much better than some
of the poor in Los Angeles!


This was the girls' kitchen:



Here is Annie cooking up some delicious treats.



Here is Molly tending the fire.


We had Santa Ana winds today
and it was blowing dust everywhere.
So, I retreated back to my kitchen,
closing all the windows and doors.




Finally, the wax cooled down enough and we tried again.
Sigh.




After about another HOUR, this is what our candles looked like.

Hmmm.
Something is not working right.

But I don't know what.

Did we miss something?

Did I miss the direction that says
"Be patient. This could take up to a week!"
?


I remember dipping candles at a summer camp
when I was a kid and it was so easy and quick.

Wonder if that particular camp director is still alive
so I can find out his procedure?

Well, we didn't have a week to spend on this project.
We had piano lessons to get to in an hour and a half.
So, I fixed myself a much deserved mid-morning snack,
rinsed out the container,
and David helped me pour the wax.


Instead of making "taper candles",
we took our melted wax and made a "pillar candle" instead.

Had to do something with all that melted wax.


Then I headed out back to see where the kids
had disappeared to again.

Found them on our back hill . . .

fishing.



Here's Molly baiting Annie's hook:


David fishing.
I think he is also "wishing" that this river they created
actually had water and fish!

(Notice the "worm cans" David fashioned.)



They almost had ME believing that they were really fishing!


A Tom Sawyer life in modern day Surburbia.
Fascinating.

So, we didn't succeed in making our taper candles,
and it wasn't much of a group project,

but we did get a candle made
and the kids were excited.

(If anyone out there has some tips and suggestions, please share!)


I think I'll call my friend and see how their "marshmellow catapults" turned out.



2 comments:

Greg Silsby said...

Yes, even failure can be a learning experience, if we will let it... and a good one, too. It's great to see how creative the kids are in their unsupervised activities. Sometimes just doing things together might be the most important thing, whether or not the wicks end up surrounded by candles, or the river has water or fish.

Bekka said...

Great post Mrs. Miles! =]

The munchkins were gonna show me their fort when I was over there, but it was dark and apparently Emily said they weren't allowed outside. Thanks for the pics though! I'm in awe of your kids imagination (and humor!). Perfect example of kids actually using their brains instead of sitting in front of a TV all day. Haha. Thanks for the laughs and encourgement! Looking forward to your next one!

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