Was participating in the ESO worth it? With the issues I raised previously in Part 1 you might think it wasn’t, but you haven’t heard the rest of the story.
While at the ESO, Giant had a lot of fun! Bioprocess was Giant’s first event, which we were almost late for because our van decided it was not going to start that morning. So instead of this being a family event, Chad and the rest of our children stayed home while he worked on the van. At the time this seemed like an inconvenience, but it actually turned out to be good for our pocketbook during lunch. We ran from the parking garage about 144ft (~44m) trying to find the building where our team’s homeroom was located. Actually we ran more than that because we couldn’t find the building and everyone we asked didn’t know where it was. The building we were looking for turned out to be a building within a building, a bit confusing especially with no outside signs to communicate this fact, but I digress. We made it to our homeroom with enough time to drop off the juice for our families, then we ran to the building which required us to go outside in the February cold of Northern Ohio again, just barely making before the proctor closed the door! Phew! While Giant was inside taking his test, I was able to sit outside the room and talk with his partner’s dad about different science opportunities that they have their sons participate in. I’m still actually waiting for the information for the robotics competitions. It was a good thing too, because, even though I remembered to give them both their goggles and plenty of sharpened pencils, I had forgotten to give them their calculators! Thank goodness their proctor was nice enough to come ask me for them!
It seemed like the time went by so quickly because next thing I knew they were filing out of the classroom. I asked “Hey! How’d it go?” Giant, with a sheepish grin, told me “Mom, we didn’t even need our goggles, we only had a test! But we had the one question like the one you showed us, but it had plants instead of animals and it asked us for the area and the plants in the area. I remembered you showed us how to solve it, but we couldn’t remember how.” After reassuring them with a, “That’s okay” I asked if they had fun and both of them said yes! Score! I didn’t scare them away from science after all! Giant and his partner then proceeded to tell us about the genetics problem that was on the test, that involved potential neglectful alien parents, an abandoned alien baby, and the alien version of Child Protective Services. They explained to us that the point was to figure out which combination of parents could have produced the baby with those specific characteristics so that the police could take the parents to jail. That not only raised my eyebrows, but later on the rest of our group’s parents’ eyebrows raised as well! But they thought it was funny and had fun figuring it out.
Immediately from Bioprocess we needed to rush over to a different building to meet Giant’s second partner for the Circuit Wizardry event. That was the longest part for me because my son’s partner’s teacher was only able to stay for a few minutes into the event. So I sat on the floor in the hallway with a book and read for a while, taking brief breaks here and there to watch the children run through the hallways and enjoy their laughter echoing through the halls. Our team was the last to finish the event, which actually worked in their favor because afterward they were able to stay with their proctors and work with them through some of the questions they had. This event was hands-on about half of the test, which was good because they were prepared for a hands-on test. Giant enjoyed the Circuit Wizardry event, he actually enjoyed it more than the Bioprocess event!
Both events and really the whole day gave me a joy and a feeling of belonging, but those immediate feelings of excitement were accompanied by tension and apprehensiveness of the preparation I would have to endure again and a few months away has given me a slightly different perspective. Speaking for myself, through this experience I have learned so much more about the fields of science I didn’t study and even relearned some things I had forgotten. Even though it was stressful at times not knowing exactly what to prepare them for, especially for the more broad events, I grew with my children as we took two months to prepare for the ESO. Although our team took home medals in five out of ten events we participated in, we didn’t win either event, But Giant had fun. He had so much fun that as soon as it was over he was already wishing that ESO 2016 was here, which definitely does count for something! I enjoyed seeing so many children who are interested in science, running through the halls of the old college building having fun. The cheering during the awards ceremony for each winning team and runners-up was so inspiring and brought joy to my heart! This competition also gave Giant a chance to take a timed test, which apparently a lot of homeschoolers miss out on. My sons (I took all of my children to every meeting) developed friendships with the other homeschoolers on our overall team and to nurture those friendships we thought we would try a science co-op with our group, which opened up a whole other dynamic that I don’t have space for here. This experience also helped me to see what I value most for my children. Best of all, my children gained an extra appreciation and love for science, new friendships, more knowledge, and self-confidence. I think it was worth it!