Sometimes the best lessons are the ones that were never planned. Our most recent surprise lesson was the study of crystals found in Grandma’s backyard.

I try to get the kids outside everyday to play and enjoy nature. This can be a challenge for the boy who doesn’t like to be told what to do and the girl who just wants to write. Trevor prefers to choose his own activities and directions. Molly gets caught up in her world of make-believe and just wants to keep creating. Logan, on the other hand, would stay outside all day and night if she could.

On this beautiful May day, though, I was able to coerce convince Molly and Trevor both to head outside with Logan to “explore and look for God’s fingerprints” while I made lunch. They played happily for a bit, searching the ground with magnifying glasses and “specimen” boxes, and I enjoyed a moment of quiet to sip my coffee before preparing our food.

Trevor came running in first with an amazing find: a chunk of a broken geode. For those of you who don’t know what a geode is, I adore this description from the website rocksandminerals4u.com: “Geodes are like the Tootsie Roll Pop of the geology world because underneath the hard exterior lies a surprise center!” Isn’t that fabulous? Geodes are hollow rocks with crystals inside. Check out their site for some more fun information about geodes.

As if finding a geode in the backyard of a very suburban neighborhood wasn’t exciting enough, Molly came running in a few minutes later with a chunk of pink-hued dolomite. Dolomite is a carbonate mineral made up of calcium and magnesium. Since lunch was late now, and Logan was in I-need-a-nap-meltdown-mode, we put the finds aside, ate, and chatted about the beauty and majesty of nature. We were amazed that Grandma’s house {where we are temporarily living} was home to such examples of God. While I put Logan down for a nap, Trevor and Molly searched in vain for more precious minerals.

 

Mineral Specimens

For inexpensive “specimen” boxes like ours, head to Michaels {or another craft store} and buy these “wedding favor boxes” with a coupon.

 

Once Logan was down, Trevor, Molly, and I broke out some science tools. First, we looked at their stones through magnifying glasses, then through our handheld pocket microscopes, and finally our large microscope. Both decided that they wanted to draw the image from the microscope in their science journals. It was really cool to see the angles and flakes of the crystals.

Finally, because there was a bit of {ahem} disagreement over the identification of Molly’s mineral, we used this online identification tool to decide once and for all that it was indeed dolomite, and not the rose quartz they both wanted it to be. Logan even checked out the crystals in the microscope when she woke up {a much happier toddler} from her nap.

 

Geology Collage

 

Since this surprise lesson occurred, and I believe because it was allowed to occur, we are the proud owners of several “break open your own” geodes, a mallet, a second-hand rock tumbler, a make-your-own crystals science kit, and are eyeing this Rock Hound’s Backpack Kit.

You may not be able to follow your child’s lead all the time when homeschooling, but it’s great to capitalize on their interests and passions at least some of the time. You never know what you’ll discover – or what new tools you’ll accumulate.

When was the last time you followed your child’s lead in matters of education? How did it work out? What discoveries were you able to make together?

 

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Colleen Kessler

Colleen is an explorer, tinkerer, educator, writer, creator, and a passionate advocate for the needs of gifted and twice-exceptional children. She has a B.S. in elementary education, a M.Ed. in gifted studies, is a sought-after national speaker and educational consultant, and is the founder of the popular blog and podcast Raising Lifelong Learners, as well as Raising Poppies, a community of support for parents of gifted children. She lives in northeast Ohio with her four bright and quirky kiddos, patient husband, and ever-changing collection of small reptiles, mammals, and insects.