Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wanted: live-in chemist.

He wants to know what you get when you mix beryllium and magnesium or with aluminum or with silicon. (Actually he has been systematically going through the periodic table asking about each element plus each other element....) And why it would or wouldn't work. He listened patiently while I tried to explain that the likelihood of elements bonding is based on their outer shells and whether they are almost full or almost empty. I was totally flying by the seat of my pants, trying desperately to remember a subject that I haven't studied for more than 15 years (and organic chem kicked my butt so hard that I spent years TRYING to forget it!). I can't freakin' tell him why each elements reacts with some elements but not with others!

This is the down side of homeschooling. I can't shove him off on some expert and breathe a sigh of relief. Of course, if he were in school, it would be another 8 years or so before he met someone who could explain it all, so I guess that would be the downside of school. Before now, when he had these hard questions, it was no problems to find the answer on the internet. A simple, here ya go kind of answer. Not this one. With this I get intros into chemistry or things that are too far over my head to even contemplate. But nothing that answers his question.

Add to this Pablo's alarming tendency to just make up his own answers and then BELIEVE them with a will beyond reason, and I tend to panic about finding the right answer. He has no problem deciding that maybe some elements just aren't very nice so they won't bond with other elements or that if you just add enough beryllium something exciting will happen when you mix it with magnesium. He doesn't understand why he can't have a sample of every element, even the radioactive ones.

Most subjects, like geography or astronomy, he can learn basic stuff and when he wants more it is easy to find the answer. But he is missing a lot of basic science between 1st grade and chemistry, so there is so much to learn before he can intrinsically understand where chemistry starts. He wants to jump into the deep end without the basics, and with chemistry, that just doesn't work.

It is such a struggle to figure out what level to focus on. Do I take his curiosity 100% seriously, and help him find answers that are true even though he sometimes seems bored by wading through the parts he is less excited about or do I take his elaborate pretend play as a sign that he just wants to deal with element names and not actual properties? But gods forbid I say something made up when asked a question. He is NOT amused. oy. He has the brain of someone old enough to ask these hard questions, but still wants them to be simplistic, to go along with his 5 year old body.

The worst part is that I know chemistry is just the first of many topics like this. Tonight I am just overwhelmed by it. Did I mention the kids and I are sick? Not related, I am sure.

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