The other night Mr. December and I sat down to watch a John Oliver episode on conspiracy theories. K joined us.
Somewhere along the line he made reference to “tinfoil hats” and K turned to Mr. December in confusion.
“What is a tinfoil hat? Why would anybody want one? It would look kind of stupid,” she added.
Mr. December explained it to her.
“Does it actually work?” she asked.
Now, here is where my (non-foil) hat goes off to Mr. December. He takes every opportunity to let the kids try things themselves. When K was three years old and obsessed with Charlotte’s Web, he helped her build a web out of yarn and then told her to sit on it to see if it held her up (it did.) When a dispute arose about the crispness of our baked potato wedges and I argued that they’d burn if we left them in any longer, Mr. December said, “Well, let’s see,” and put them back in the oven. It’s a trait that is both admirable and sometimes frustrating, but I love that he’s teaching the kids to test hypotheses.
Mr. December asked me to bring them a large piece of aluminum foil from the kitchen. Also, by the way, could I please give him my phone? I handed it over with the air of a long-suffering spouse.
He and K wrapped my phone in foil and then texted me from his phone. My phone stood still — no vibration or ring. They tried again. Nothing. When I unwrapped my phone, the messages came through.
“See?” Mr. December said, “It does actually work. But let’s just make sure. Let’s wrap up my phone.”
Here’s the weird thing: his phone was still able to receive messages while wrapped in the foil. We’re not sure why, but maybe his phone has a stronger signal or some other feature of newer phones (he has an iPhone X; mine is an old iPhone SE that preceded the iPhone 6. Bit of a jump, that.)
He wrapped up the experiment by telling K about Faraday Cages and how they stop electromagnetic radiation.
So during our evening in front of YouTube, K learned some physics, the scientific method, and tinfoil origami. Is this what they call unschooling?