This post was originally published as the introduction to an issue of TheHomeSchoolMom newsletter.
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Homeschooling is boring, your child is resistant, the curriculum seems “complete” but moves on quickly and without depth. You can improve this kind of homeschool experience by opening yourself to following the rabbit trails.
What are rabbit trails?
What are rabbit trails? They are the paths you make as you help your child follow their curiosity about an interest or a question from one resource to the next. Delight-directed learning through rabbit trails can help you break the cycle of resistance to curriculum, boredom, or outright misery.
Did your curriculum cover volcanoes, which fascinated your child? But now it’s onto another topic? Hit pause, and follow that volcano rabbit trail.
What resources can you use?
What are some of the resources used in a good rabbit trail?
- Library books, fiction and nonfiction
- Documentaries and movies
- YouTube videos
- Field trips
- Maps, Google Earth
How can you take rabbit trailing further?
How can you help children deepen their interests through rabbit trails? Help them use what they’re learning to:
- Talk to or correspond with an expert
- Make a current events connection
- Make art
- Find a related controversy (great for teens!)
- Explore something international
- Have an experience
- Do a project
Following interests: an example
Using the example of volcanoes as a topic, try these ideas:
- Check a lot of books out of the library for her to read or for you to read aloud.
- See if your local university has a lab with a seismometer, so you can explore the relationship between earthquakes and volcanoes.
- Can you visit the lab?
- Find video and discuss news reports of recently or currently erupting volcanoes.
- Build a model volcano with your child.
- Watch a documentary on volcanoes.
- Help him plot active volcanoes on a map.
- Allow her time to write a story that includes a volcano in the setting.
- Show how to make a lapbook, poster project, or slide presentation about volcanoes.
Yes, your curriculum, if you use a curriculum, will still be there. When the volcano moment passes, you can return to curriculum until the next interesting topic presents itself.
Homeschooling using only rabbit trails
You might be surprised to know that many homeschoolers don’t use a curriculum at all, simply moving from one rabbit trail to another for years. I know.
Rabbit trails are in-the-moment unit studies, a deep dive into a topic that provides interdisciplinary learning. They can help you to customize homeschooling to fit your child, one of the biggest benefits of homeschooling.
You might follow a rabbit trail for a few days, a few weeks, or more. We once got sidetracked by Ancient Egypt for most of a year. Mummies, pharaohs, and pyramids—oh my!
Take heart and step on the rabbit trail. You won’t regret it!