I’ve often said that I should write a book titled, Homeschooling by the Rabbit Trail Method. It was following rabbit trails that led us to a delight-directed approach to homeschooling. One of the most memorable rabbit trails happened for Ben when we began a study of horses. In the unit study we were using, it was mentioned that Pharoahs used horses to pull their chariots. The next thing I knew we were studying about pyramids and mummifying a chicken (so maybe that was a chicken trail?).
Basically, a rabbit trail is like that hole Alice fell through. She didn’t mean to end up in Wonderland; it just happened when she followed the rabbit. In homeschooling, Wonderland can be anywhere at anytime. It just takes the patience and willingness to follow your children as they explore those little things that catch their attention and take you off course.
Today, my friend Kelli shares what following rabbit trails looks like in her homeschool.
When we first began our homeschooling journey, it looked an awful lot like “school at home” verses the delight-directed learning environment it has grown into today. I still require some sit down time, or desk time, if you will. I’m still a planner, and have certain requirements that I believe are in the best interest for each of my children – yet I’ve learned to take advantage of this rabbit trail phenomenon and use it to our benefit.
Children have a knack for following rabbit trails – it’s in their nature. Due to the immense sense of wonder and curiosity they are born with, it makes sense for children to have a desire to follow rabbit trails. We’ve already discussed the fact that there is no cure for curiosity – these days I’ve learned to embrace and appreciate the value in following rabbit trails as another layer of delight directed learning. It’s important to encourage a desire to learn, to inspire your children to want to dig deeper and rabbit trails can go a long way towards making that happen.
Initially, this means letting go of a strict “set in stone” schedule because rabbit trails are not so schedule friendly. Once you’ve let go, it becomes much easier to take it a step further and embrace them.
What exactly happens when we go following rabbit trails?
When children are allowed to become actively involved in the path of their own education, they take ownership of it. They embrace learning on a whole new level when this happens!
They learn that their ideas are valuable, and they feel heard. A child’s confidence is much improved when his ideas are not only tolerated, but embraced in such a way. Rabbit trails open the door for uninhibited creativity to take place.
When children are allowed the freedom to try their own ideas, and sometimes fail in that supportive environment, they learn to let go of a fear of failure. They learn to view such instances as learning experiences – opportunities even – instead of seeing it as failure. They feel heard, and it is empowering!
What is the difference between delight directed learning and following rabbit trails?
Delight directed learning takes place when a child becomes interested and excited about learning. The process is about taking the interests of the child and using them to fuel the fire, to ignite within them a passion for learning. Following rabbit trails, is simply another layer in this process, it’s a technique and a tool to use in order to ignite that fire and direct that passion.
We go to a great deal of trouble, spend a lot of time mapping out a path for the education of our homeschooled children. It isn’t always easy for a homeschool parent when things aren’t going just as planned. It can be quite the struggle to keep it between the ditches. Following rabbit trails may take a little getting used to. They do not have to throw your plans completely off-map, but may be a bit like taking the long way home.
Once embraced – the long way home may provide the most interesting journey!
We needn’t feel as though we must follow every rabbit trail at the moment it presents itself; some can be followed up on later. Write down ideas to come back to when necessary, but instead of shutting them down because they may be “off-topic,” try finding ways to embrace them whenever possible.
Embracing Rabbit Trails – Asking Questions
It’s been said that the best teachers are the ones who ask the best questions. In this way, rabbit trails can provide a platform for stronger academics . . . “What do you think would happen if . . . ? How did that happen? What is the difference? Where can we find out about that?”
Using questions to encourage creative solutions teaches kids to think outside the box. It teaches them to look at other possibilities, unusual solutions, and creative alternatives. Embracing rabbit trails may be just what your homeschool needs.
Kelli Becton is a homeschool mom of 3 boys and resides with her husband, on the coast in Southwest Florida. They have been homeschooling almost since 2003 and have developed their own hands on learning style with Wildlife Adventures Unit Studies. Kelli shares their adventures and loads of freebies at www.AdventuresinChildrearing.com – Facebook Here & Pinterest Here.
I would also love to invite you the community inspired by this series, as we strive to inspire, encourage and empower our readers in everything homeschooling.