A family industry can take shape when you least expect and produce an income along with valuable lessons for children. I want to share with you how a homeschool science experiment can sometimes yield viable products, even when you weren’t trying!
Science and history are the two favorite subjects in our homeschool classroom and because of all the boy crafting that happens in our house. Recently, my son, Grant and I were reading about early days of soap making. We were discussing the story my grandmother had shared with us about making lye soap at her grandmother’s farm in Alabama.
My grandmother’s family would soak wood ashes to create the lye, then mix with lard to form the bars of soap which the whole family would use for the next year. She explained how nothing went to waste and said that most of the time, the water they used for soaking the ashes was dirty dishwater from the kitchen!
After reading our history book and watching a pioneer family video on soap making, my creativity started to flow. Why don’t we make our own soap! Fortunately for me, my boys are game for anything. So after a little research, I ordered supplies to begin our overlapping lessons in science and history. (Thankfully, modern-day technology makes it possible to buy lye in flakes for soap making instead of soaking wood ash from our backyard fire pit.)
I had a two-fold plan for this homeschool science experiment. We would learn the science of soap making by mixing lye with water, oil and our own additives to create a hard bar of soap which we could actually use. I hoped we would also discover and discuss the exact ingredients of our soap and apply the knowledge for Grant who suffers a lot of skin allergies.
Following all the directions in soap making is essential unless you want to end up with a stockpot full of goo. Safety is also very important when working with lye. Grayson and Grant chose to add ground oatmeal, cinnamon, cloves, and vetiver oil. After the mixing process was complete, the soap had to sit and harden for three weeks.
It kind of looked like dirt, which I found fitting for two boys who stay dirty most of the time.
I thought it would be fun to take it one step further and have the boys give their soap a name and create a label. It would be a perfect Christmas gift for friends and family. True to their personalities, they settled on “Dirty Boy Soap”. To top off the name, Grayson and Grant went out to the lake and decided to surprise me with a photo opportunity.
Mud. Lots of mud. Our new product label was born.
That Christmas we gave our soap as gifts and we were overwhelmed by the positive response. We hadn’t expected everyone to love Dirty Boy Soap. While the soap itself was great, it proved to be the name and packaging that was so attractive. It was such a novelty that friends began asking if they could purchase some to give as gifts. I wondered if maybe we were on to an idea that had greater potential.
We took a basket of our soap to one of the craft shows where we were already selling our feed sacks. I did not think we would sell much if any. The boys were just proud to have their soap creation on display. But by the end of the craft show day, all of the soap was gone. Most people bought it as a gift for someone with boys of their own. It had always been a joke in our house that the boys never want to bathe.
I think it is a universal phenomenon in households with boys that they don’t like to bathe. Perhaps having a soap that looks like dirt and has dirty boys on the label makes taking a bath just a bit more fun? At any rate, Grayson and Grant were thrilled that their soap was a hit!
So then, how can you apply a homeschool science experiment to make a profit?
You don’t need to have more than one product to be successful. We have been making the same soap for two years. We have repeat customers and keep extra on hand for new orders. Making a new kind of soap might be successful but, for us, Dirty Boy Soap has been a winner.
I recommend you choose something that is fun for your family to make but you can incorporate educational lessons in history, business, science or something else in order to glean the most reward. Use birthdays and holidays as a time to share your new product with family and friends. They may be your best customers in the future.
Over the years, our family has ventured into several ideas that have produced extra income. We have learned how to embrace ideas that might be unusual and turned them into experiences that have impacted our home education in a positive way.
Using opportunities beyond traditional school books can create an educational experience and bonus income which the whole family can enjoy. Take a look at your lifestyle and the activities your family participates in to see if a new income opportunity is as close as your kitchen sink!