snow days

The past few months the children and I have been reading Exploring the World of Chemistry by John Hudson Tiner. It is the history of chemistry, leading figures and pertinent discoveries, told in sixteen chapters. Ella and Roone said they were interested in chemistry this year, and since science isn't my strength I had to think through this request. (This is what I get for asking, "What are you interested in learning?") 

When I don't know something or if something doesn't come to me naturally I have to take the time to research and understand it. (Meaning, I didn't want to just get a chemistry set and go for itWhen one thinks of schooling and chemistry one thinks of diving into experimenting. From my hazy memory of junior high chemistry class that is all I can recall. I thought I'd take it from a different point of view with the kids and first read a history book about chemistry. Of course, they were suspicious about this idea, but it turns out that the book was short enough to get through in a semester's time with plenty of room to read additional books about prominent scientists. It has been an interesting, enjoyable time (for all, I think) and this non-scientific homeschooling mother has more of a grasp on the why's and what for's of chemistry. I can find almost anything interesting if it is explained in a reasonable way.

The idea now is to proceed with chemistry experiments over the next few months. This will be another challenge for me as the interest doesn't come to me naturally. However, it's not like it will be difficult. It's simply researching do-able experiments, of which there are a plethora, and gathering the supplies. 

I write all that to mention that in the history of chemistry book we read about Wilson Bentley (1865-1931) from Jericho, Vermont who discovered a way to photograph snowflakes without them melting first. It seems these days due to technological advancements that accomplishments have a way of not being impressive. I think we're numb to accomplishment maybe because it has become so accessible to so many, or maybe because the information about it has become so accessible. At any rate, experiencing the season's first snowfall and going on a Christmas Eve hike through the snow made me think of Wilson Bentley and how astounding of a discovery and accomplishment his photographs were at that time. As I scooped a mound of snow while hiking and looked at it with my husband I realized that the ability to photograph snow crystals is just as marvelous today. A compilation of Bentley's snow pictures was eventually made into a book, Snow Crystals. I can't see how I can now experience a snowfall and not think of Wilson Bentley.