Elementary Science Olympiad 2016 and the Homeschool Team

ESO TeamSitting in my room, I suddenly realized that I didn’t give y’all an update on Sleepy’s Elementary Science Olympiad competition. He and his teammates placed in the top 5 in both events! This year Sleepy’s events were Aerodynamics and Mousetrap Vehicle.  Each were what he was hoping for, which made both of us happy because if he’s happy then he’s more motivated to do the work himself.

Sleepy:  Increased Motivation and Self-Led Learning

Me:  Less Prodding, Nagging and Energy Exerted

It’s a Win-Win!


So how did we do it?


1. Find a neutral place to meet.

Our first meeting with Sleepy’s partners and their parents happened at a library in between both of our families homes.  This provided a neutral space where none of us felt stressed and uneasy.  For the kids, this time was more of a meet and play, once they found their commonalities.  Isn’t it quite different from adults?  Children talk to find similar interests.  Adults, on the other hand, talk and dwell on their differences.  But I digress. 

Pepe and Sleepy working on their Mousetrap Vehicle.

Pepe and Sleepy working on their Mousetrap Vehicle.

2.Both Families must agree on a plan and stick to it.

Us parents spent some time getting to know each other then we got to work scheduling our next meeting, going over the event rules and mapping out a learning strategy that we could each implement separately during the week.  This strategy worked much better than the previous year’s, in which one parent took on the bulk of the teaching responsibility.  The peer accountability also helped with getting things accomplished.  Learning apart helped each child take ownership of what they were learning, as well as learn according to their own style.

Sleepy and Pepe

Sleepy and Pepe

3. Conquer the obstacles.

Each competition brought it’s own preparation challenges.

a) Space Issues

Both required a lot of space, which I rectified by asking if we could use our church for aerodynamics. But the mousetrap vehicle was a bit trickier. To prepare for this event we needed 10 meters of uninterrupted, level old-school-hallway linoleum floor. In other words something that we didn’t really have. But what we did have was almost 8 meters in our basement. So even though the schools could not let us in without a background check done well in advance, we could at least start at home. The boys each came up with their own prototype and tested them on our “track” which consisted of our slightly bumpy 1950-basement linoleum floor with masking tape marking the starting and center lines.

b) Focus Issues

Once the space issues were dealt with, at least for the time, it was time to work together to focus.  The trick for us moms was to ask our boys a series of questions:

  • How did it do?
  • Did it go straight?
  • How far did it go?
  • What do you think stopped/slowed/veered it?

These questions got them thinking about what parts of each car and plane worked and what didn’t. This also allowed a detachment to form between builder and vehicle and get them using the best elements from each into their new design.

Sleepy, Pepe, Roly, and Alvin at Hobby Lobby doing a test run on their vehicle.  Thanks Hobby Lobby!

Sleepy, Pepe, Roly, and Alvin at Hobby Lobby doing a test run on their vehicle. Thanks Hobby Lobby!

4. Sit back and let the magic happen.

With each child flourishing it became our job to sit back and watch. The hardest part for us moms was knowing what they had to do and what would work best, yet only giving an opinion after what they tried didn’t work.  I think I finally understand why know-it-alls can’t keep their mouths shut.  It just pains them to see someone stumble through something they already know.  Yes… I must be a know-it-all… tsk tsk.  I had to bite my tongue and turn away so many times, but it was worth it because in the struggle they learned what didn’t work and by doing so were much closer to finding what did work. It also brought me comfort to know that I wasn’t the only parent on pins and needles.


Sleepy and Pepe doing some tinkering on the vehicle.

Sleepy and Pepe doing some tinkering on the vehicle.

5. Step In When Necessary!

For Mousetrap Vehicle, once our children figured out what they needed we set to work going to stores to find the components.  I’m telling you, don’t waste your time looking for ball bearings!  Those were not in any of our local craft stores (we have four!) nor any of our home improvement stores.  If you absolutely need those then order them online in advance, but for the ESO it is definitely not necessary.  We were under a time crunch so we made do with what we found.  We stepped in to help figure out measurements and supervise them using the craft knife.  My last time stepping in was when we noticed that the mousetrap was glued on backwards right before our last meeting for the test run!  I spent a large part of the night removing the glue from the balsa base trying not to tear any of the balsa wood when I moved the mousetrap.  When that didn’t work I took the craft knife to the bad boy, which sped up the process but did leave some damage which I had to repair with another piece of wood.  Much more glue and wood clamps (Honey didn’t think I would ever use those again. LOL!) and a triple check on the mousetrap’s


Sleepy with both of his ESO medals!

direction and we were good.


6.Competition Pins and Needles

At least the kids were good.  I can speak for myself and say that I was on pins and needles!  Friday we were able to meet at our local unsuspecting hobby lobby to test out our vehicle since they have a seemingly unending smooth and level linoleum floor and the library we met at earlier in the day decided that it would be better to not allow us to test our car in their hallway.  The workers at Hobby Lobby accommodated us although they were probably wondering what in the world we were doing.  Thanks Hobby Lobby!!!  Our kids tested and tweaked until they felt they knew what their car would do and how to wind it so that it would run properly and we went home to prepare for Saturday, the ESO Competition.  Competition day, almost all of the homeschool parents were on pins and needles.  The thing about an ESO homeschool team is that the team  is not just the students and the teacher.  The team is the students and their entire families.    All of our children were involved in one way or another, either in making their own paper airplanes and watching aerodynamics videos or building their own mousetrap vehicles and helping to find the needed materials.  The entire day the children compete then play until the awards ceremony and after each event the parents seem to calm down a bit because it’s over.  We have encouraged our children to do their best, they did and we show them how proud we are of them and the effort they put forward.  What else can we do?    But when the ceremony starts we brace ourselves for the results because we secretly want to win. Afterwards we hug and hold high-five and listen and finally all breathe.  It’s over!  Now we can rest on a normal for us schedule and think about ESO and in our case SO in the coming months.

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