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The Existential Homeschooler

HOW does coal generate electricity? Old Mom here looked it up in the "wicky-wacky-pedia" as he calls it. Here's the answer. First, write in the comment section that you understand this answer. Second, explain it back to me so that a seven and eight-year old would be able to be satisfied with that answer without asking any more questions. I just read parts of the highlighted passage to Elf and when he had questions I'd go, "I just read you the answer! See? It's in English, too!" and watch the confused look on his face. That was a lot of fun, but he got so frustrated that I eventually had to admit to him that I didn't understand it, either.

I just hate not having an answer that is understandable. On a recent oral test, Emperor said, "God, in His wisdom, hath ordained it to be so," after a question asking for a "why" detail. I'm looking for something a little more specific...? And wow, "hath ordained?" Where does he get that stuff? Because I don't talk that way.

Emperor loves to mix up his science and theology. He says things like, SCIENTIFICALLY, if God is all-powerful, he cannot make a rock so big he's unable to move it. Because SCIENTIFICALLY, if he can do everything, God would be able to move whatever He makes. (He's so cute!)

God CAN make a rock that He cannot move, Elf declares. And furthermore, it doesn't have to be a big rock. It could be a tiny pebble.

Not following you there, Elf.

Well, he says, all God would have to do is make a tiny pebble and then say, "I will not move this rock!" and then He wouldn't be able to do it. It is impossible for Him to lie and go against His word. Then the rock would stay there forever.

Hm. I'm wondering what his answer to the "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" would be, but he has evaded me with the question of, how many does God WANT to dance on the head of a pin... and that would be your answer.

Now, how am I ever going to have a good argument with someone like that? You just can't even have a discussion with someone who keeps setting the parameters of the chat all wonky.

Elf has many questions about things that need to be answered, but much as he enjoys science experiments, he likes chatting even more. Elf wants to know WHYYYY the sun burns even though there is no oxygen in space. He has me there, you know, but I don't want to admit it! I mean, I just got done a few days before that admitting I didn't know how coal made electricity.

I told him that he had discovered the secret to the universe by asking the question he did. I told him that it's impossible for the sun to burn with no oxygen. He's right! Now, he realizes that all his existence is nothing but someone's imagination. We aren't REALLY here, you know, Elf. We're just something God imagines. Now that you know that it's impossible for the sun to burn with no oxygen, you know that YOU are impossible to be real, as well.

Oh, goody! And the explanation worked!!! Some little kid got pretty worried there. It's been about a month and a half since that little discussion and sometimes *still,* Elf will ask whether he is real. I have had to admit (AGAIN and again) that I was just playing around with him because I didn't have a good answer about the sun burning. Now I've traumatized my kid. Fiiine. I have to go back and say, "Elf! It was a joke, ok? And you fell for it."

I guess I have to go look up more stuff online and try to figure out some easier explanation for everything that's gonna work for them. I probably shouldn't mess with their little brains *just* because I don't know the answers to their questions. My dad did that with me a lot, and now I have to live in Missouri because if I get too close to the coast, I'm afraid I'll fall off the edge of the world.


But I might just have the children do a research project on the tree octopus, just to see what their thoughts would be on the subject. Bwa ha haaa.


  1. If I remember my high school geology...burning coal + water = steam. Steam then powers some kind of turbine, which is mechanical energy. How? The steam spins the turbine's innards. The mechanical energy turns into electrical energy when the steam forces magnets inside the turbine to spin over coils of wire. The spinning of the magents over the wire makes electrons...which is electricity. Basically, there are several ways to make electricity, and burning stuff is one way.

    Along the way, the process releases a lot of ickiness, including mercury. Heating coal to a temperature where it produces steam releases stuff like nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and a ton of carbon dioxide. While there are way to minimize the release of this nasty stuff, few coal companies have signed on - so I assume these methods are rather pricey?

    Is the tree octopus a joke? I thought they needed you know, *water* to live?

  2. LOL Yes, Allison, the tree octopus is one of those fake "scientific" websites. Look around and you will see references to Sasquatch harvesting the tree octopi regularly. :]

  3. lol, good...obviously, I am not Nature Girl.

  4. That's how my dad was! LOL. When we were little and truck driving with him, we would ask him all kinds of questions. I would ask him why there is a sign that says, "Watch For Rocks" next to the road. He told me it's because they are saying, "ohhh, look at that rock! Isn't is beautiful. That one there also!"

  5. I can't come play with your boys. I'm a head messerer. Ditz once did a whole project on dragons because they're real you know...

  6. First suggestion: Start using Simple Wikipedia. It may help.

    And, yes, steam produced from burning coal is used to spin magnets around coils of wire which create a charge by making the electrons in the wire move because they have a magnetic charge too. least, that's the current theory.

    I believe the reason the sun "burns" without oxygen--if it truly is without--would be because it isn't a flame but rather a nuclear reaction. To my knowledge, nuclear fusion does not require oxygen like flame does.

    And, yeah, "Christian Science" claims that everything is just the thoughts of God... but that particular view is neither Christian nor scientific, so I tend to steer clear of it [smile].



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