Though I have a general direction for my kids’ study these plans often get interrupted as we go down a rabbit trail.
I started this year with a well written direction for each term. There were specific things I wanted the kids to focus on. But within the first week a learning opportunity came up which was just too good to miss so we tweaked our plans. Then in term 3 I once again had an idea of study direction and the kids both mentioned a specific subject they wanted to study. So we tweaked our plans to incorporate these things.
Last week Naomi asked if I could cover punctuation at some time. Now, my kids write often, and they use punctuation, but she wanted details! So we stopped our regular lessons to focus on punctuation. It didn’t take long, but it was relevant, because she had a question. I am sure the different uses for commas, dashes, and an ellipsis will stick with her much better now – because she was interested.
The day before this Daniel wasn’t feeling well and asked to read a book we had previously studied on the human body. He wanted to read up on a particular system/function. On the one hand I could be discouraged by this – it was revision, we had done this work, but on the other hand – he had a question and knew where and how to find the answer. This is a good thing.
Rabbit trails can be a moving away from plans where it only takes an hour such as what happened in our house last week, or they could deviate for a month, or term, like what happened with our Australian history at the beginning of the year.
The challenge is to find the balance between living on the rabbit trails and being intentional. Rabbit trails are great while there is interest, but as soon as interest drops, if nothing else has sparked their interest study can become pretty ordinary. I believe this is where we, as parents, need to have an overall picture of the things we need to teach our kids and we need to keep this in balance with the interests and abilities of our individual kids.
The idea of jumping from one rabbit trail to the next can be overwhelming – we can be left thinking we are inconsistent and uncommitted. The one thing that has kept me feeling as if we are making progress is remembering the difference between content and skills (and I know this is not in keeping with current educational trends of National Curriculum etc) but it has helped me.
I have a list of overarching skills that my kids need to know and whatever content they study these are the things that they need to learn. This year has been about thinking and communicating ideas. They have done that with our Bible studies, Australian History, various science units they’ve studied, books they’ve read. Daniel has practiced these skills while he’s studied the Crusades and Naomi while she has read about Art History. While they pursue their interests, they are learning important skills. These are the skills that they will take with them whatever they study.
So rabbit trails can capture the imagination, they can be the spark that brings a subject alive. We need to see the value of a question off topic, or a little out there because that is the kids inviting you to join them down a rabbit trail… down an adventure of learning something wonderful.
PS – and yes, I know that image isn’t bunny prints!! But it gives the idea of going every which way…