When I first started homeschooling, I was constantly thinking about all the things:
- Hours spent homeschooling daily
- Hours spent on each subject weekly
- Books read
I could go on and on and on.
Sometimes, the kids would get off track. They would start talking about something else, something I had not pre-planned in my mind. I would answer their questions and then redirect the conversation.
No sooner were we back on course than some other distraction would intervene.
A random thought.
I’d try to be patient, but I would also have my eyes on the clock, running through all of my must-dos in my mind. The more off track we became, or the longer we were off course, the more frustrated I became.
I fought it.
I fought hard.
And it didn’t help at all.
Here’s the thing that I’ve come to realize: We don’t give our kids enough credit.
We don’t trust them.
Kids are born to learn. They are little scientists. They are naturally curious and passionate and driven.
We need to get out of their way because learning happens all the time when we just relax and let it.
I’ve come to this realization through my evolution as a homeschooler, by witnessing my children learn, and by reading great books like this one and this one.
I’ve learned to respect those rabbit holes.
Respect Those Rabbit Holes: Surrender to Delight-Driven Learning
In recent months, I’ve been much better at respecting those rabbit holes and surrendering to delight-driven learning. This is easier to do when all the other things are going smoothly. As soon as the to-do list and stress from other life things start to mount, I can feel myself rejecting the rabbit holes.
But on a good day, I respect them.
And as I grow as a homeschooler, those days are becoming more frequent.
And days like these are easier and less stressful and more fun.
Today, I’m going to share how I respected those rabbit holes one recent morning and then I’d love to hear about rabbit holes in your world.
A morning of respecting those rabbit holes:
I used to wake up and want to tackle the “harder” subjects right away, just so I can cross them off of our list. I felt like if I could get math accomplished when the kids were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, it would be a morning win.
And then, somewhere along the way, I realized that it’s a whole lot easier to start off with what I’m good at. And I’m good at reading.
So I start each morning with a strong cup of coffee and good books. Sometimes I plan them ahead of time. If we have been light on science or geography, or whatever I will try to pick great books that touch on those subjects. Other days, I just grab some books that I love to read aloud.
Lately, on Instagram, I’ve referred to this as Coffee and Books. I’ll share a couple of examples.
And here is the morning we decided to learn about hexagons and bees and ended up making candles. Some day that post will climb its way out of my drafts folder, I promise!
This morning’s coffee and books: bees, bees, bees!
A photo posted by MyLittlePoppies (@my_little_poppies) on
And then there was the rabbit hole day:
The rabbit holes…
You can see from the image above that I started off our Coffee and Books with three picture books and an atlas. I called it an around-the-world morning. As we read each story, we frequently paused to refer to the atlas.
We started off reading My Granny Went to Market by Stella Blackstone, a rhyming book that follows granny as she flies around the world on her magic carpet collecting goodies from different countries. At one point in the story, Granny collects boomerangs. Last week, we studied ancient Australia with History Unboxed and we made our own boomerangs. The kids were excited to see boomerangs mentioned in the text and asked if we could look on the internet to see photos of ancient boomerangs.
And so we did.
Once we had our fill of boomerangs, we continued with the story. Granny collected nesting dolls and while my older two knew what they were, my youngest did not. With one quick internet search, we were able to show him gorgeous nesting doll images.
Next, we read We’re Roaming in the Rainforest by Laurie Krebs. In this colorful rhyming book, three children journey through the Amazonian Rainforest and meet interesting creatures and people. Each discovery is paired with an adjective, making for a wonderful and educational read aloud. The kids had many questions during this read aloud. We took several breaks to answer them and to dive down those fantastic rabbit holes including:
- We watched YouTube videos on pink river dolphins, dolphin echolocation, and bat echolocation.
- We paused to research the terms for animal babies because my youngest observed that dolphin babies are called calves, just like elephant and cow babies.
- We watched a time-lapse video of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly.
- We watched a video on sloths.
- When we got to the page with the poison dart frogs, we took a moment to read a National Geographic book that my youngest is obsessed with because the book talked about the terribilus frog.
- We watched a video on the weapons made by people native to the area, including poison darts (made with the poison from frogs).
- When we got to the page with the river otters, we had to watch this adorable otter video again. This then led to watching a video with an otter giving birth to her baby.
- We researched the difference between plantains and bananas and talked about the delicious fried plantains we had made a few weeks ago.
- We looked at images of the various homes depicted in the book, including the Yanomami’s shabonos.
- My oldest had to grab this Magic Tree House favorite to show us some parallels between the two books.
This book is more than just animals, it speaks of the importance of making a difference and caring for our planet. The book reminded us of two of our favorites: The Lorax and The Curious Garden.
Then we moved on to We’re Sailing Down the Nile by Laurie Krebs. This is a fantastic rhyming and counting book that introduces young children to Egypt and the Nile River Valley. As we journeyed through the book, we stopped to learn about the following:
- We looked at the Nile on a map to see how long it is and how it compares to the Amazon River.
- We looked up King Tut on the internet and learned more about him.
- We located Cairo on a map.
- We stopped to research mummies, including crocodile mummies.
- We watched multiple videos about the pyramids (how they were built, their size, their age, etc.).
- We researched the Pyramid of Giza.
- We learned about the Sphinx.
- The word Sphinx reminded my youngest of the word scorpion and he went on to tell us that Meerkats eat scorpions. He shared several other Meerkat related tidbits that he learned from this book, which we have on CD.
- We researched the flooding of the Nile.
- We looked at the Egyptian flag and then had a conversation about this book, which we had read the night before.
And then… when the reading was finished….
The kids measured Pharoh Linda and made a sarcophagus for her out of magnatiles! And to think that some folks don’t see play as educational!
Homeschool today has been fun! I’ll probably write a post about it, but let’s just say that it has involved a STEM challenge to build Pharoh Linda a temple to rival that of Giza.
A photo posted by MyLittlePoppies (@my_little_poppies) on
Learning happens all the time when we relax and let it!
By starting off our day with Coffee and Books and a relaxed attitude, an incredible amount of learning happened. We talked about a wide array of topics covering virtually every subject. This is why I truly believe that you all you really need to homeschool is your library card!
It does take a measure of trust to go down those rabbit holes with our kids – trusting that our kids ARE learning, trusting that they aren’t just trying to get out of their “real” learning by “just playing”, and trusting that the most accepted model of education is not the only way. I’ve not yet been disappointed by trusting ny kids!
It’s amazing what can happen when you relax into it!
Cait – you HAVE to read the Eddie series of books by Sarah Garland, if you haven’t already! Not really rabbit holes, more like great big sink holes opening up, because you don’t really have a choice but to go down them!! Eddie’s toolbox led to mr6 building a bird table (complete with homemade bird food) this morning. I love those rabbit holes, when I actually put aside my anxiety and need for control, and just follow along after the kids 🙂
I’m going to check this one out! THank you, Jo!! 🙂
It actually took my kids a long time to go down rabbit holes themselves! I’ve had to actually encourage rabbit holes. Up until this year, school was just something to “get through” so they weren’t about to get off topic so “school” took longer! My oldest has actually talked about planting a butterfly garden this spring. And, of course, we will need more butterflies to put in there! Can’t wait!
That sounds like an amazing learning opportunity!
Where did you find the National Geographic audiobook? Do you have other recommendations for single subject audiobooks like that?
They were part of a Scholastic order from when the kids were still in school. I’ve tried to find them since and can’t! It’s incredibly difficult to find quality nonfiction audiobooks for this age.
[…] have an affinity for homeschool rabbit holes. I love when children stumble into a passion and fall […]
Do all kids develop rabbit holes? My 5 year old is content to hear a story or two and then go off to play legos or ride his bike. How can I nurture rabbit holes?
I would just follow passions. Whatever he is into at the moment – and I know that changes all the time.