The Golden Circlet

All the good things in life

Homeschooling: Physics for Entertainment

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Our homeschool science text right now is delightfully nostalgic. And perhaps woefully outdated. Originally published in pre-Soviet Russia, and then updated throughout the 1930s,  it’s called Physics for Entertainment, and it is wonderful, and freely available. Me teaching the boy physics is a case of the blind leading the blind, and this is no doubt exacerbated by the fact that I’m not sure I would even recognize any scientific advances that have rendered the 100-year-old text no longer accurate, but the experiments are still fun, and I figure the scientific method as applied to experimentation is a learning experience that transcends the content, thankfully. (Amusingly, the experiments are designed to use everyday materials, but everyday materials circa 1913 are not always so everyday in 2013. When the text directed me to obtain a “lamp glass,” for an experiment, for example, first we had to figure out what that meant, and then whether we had one.  In that case, we had one, but the text demanded several, of different shapes and sizes, yet.)

Here we are, doing an experiment to explore the natural (spherical) shape of a liquid: 

If you want to follow along at home, this experiment is on page 81 of the text (and does not require a lamp glass).

We didn’t have quite enough alcohol in our mixture to make a perfect sphere, but we got close enough and enjoyed experimenting with the proportions of alcohol, oil, and water. Sometimes the boy finds Perelman too dry or a little over his head, but he got a big kick out of this series of experiments and was very sad to stop. (Also a big hit: the experiments making homemade cardboard boomerangs on page 57. As someone who was always frustrated with the toy boomerangs you can buy at the store which never work, I was very surprised that we easily made functional little boomerangs out of cardboard that flew and returned just fine, using Perelman’s instructions. And we’re no handiwork geniuses over here, so I am confident you could replicate the trick if you wanted.)

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