There Be Dragons

I’ve had my share of tough homeschooling requests – like a certain 10-year old who wanted to build a working model of a jet propulsion engine. He had just read The Radioactive Boy Scout and was inspired by the teenager who built a nuclear reactor in his garden shed. (This is a true story.) My guy was inspired and this was, to him, just a natural extention of his current passion with aeronautics.

Multiple trips to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, model plane kits, an aeronautics class, and loads of books and online simulations just weren’t enough. I reached out to my special community of friends and they politely stifled giggles when they told me they had no leads to share.

I finally had to tell my son that, sorry little man, no can do. This humanities mamma had neither the skills, the wherewithal, nor even the finances to figure this project out. I was surprised by how disappointed he was and his interest in aeronautics ended soon afterwards.

When I saw the story about the 7-year old Australian girl who wanted a pet dragon for Christmas, I totally understood why her parents suggested she write a letter to the scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. While some kids can understand why an answer must be “no”, they still hold out hope that maybe their dream will come true.

The scientists at CSIRO apologized for not having ventured into the R&D of fire breathing dragons, but then things got interesting. Sophie’s letter went viral. The first world wanted to see a little girl’s dream come true. So, the scientists reconsidered what they could do.

On January 10, 2014, a dragon emerged from the recesses of CSIRO.

News reports are sharing that Sophie is super excited about her new dragon she and all her friends are super interested in science now, more than ever.

Well played, CSIRO. Sometimes, indulging an imagination is a good thing!



Alessa Giampaolo Keener, M.Ed. homeschooled her children from kindergarten into college. Over the last 15+ years, she has also worked with families in creating individualized learning plans. As a professional curriculum developer, Alessa has created afterschool youth development programs for a Baltimore-based nonprofit, as well as teaching materials for homeschool parents and brick and mortar school teachers.