Are you sometimes frustrated by the rabbit trails your kids take you off on? Don’t be. Rabbit trails are good!
My kids were notorious for taking them. We would be studying one thing when all of a sudden the conversation would lead somewhere else, and the next thing I knew they were headed for the encyclopedias to find the answer to the question that had just popped into their heads. Oh sure, there were times I made them wait until after they finished their assignment, but more often than not I allowed them the freedom to stop what they were doing and go look it up.
Allowing our children this opportunity serves several purposes. The first is what I call “teaching to the spark.” Teaching to the spark means teaching what most interests your children when their curiosity is piqued. When we do, what they learn tends to “stay stuck.” In other words, children are more likely to retain information better if they are interested in a topic than if they are bored by it. By them initiating a topic, they reveal what interests them most.
The second is that one of our main goals as home school parents should be to instill a love of learning in our children and to teach them that learning doesn’t stop at 3:00 in the afternoon or when they graduate from high school or even college. Instead, we want to teach them that learning is an enjoyable and exhilarating lifelong process. The more we allow them to play an active role in their own education, the more a love of learning is apt to develop.
Thirdly, one of the most important responsibilities we have as home educators is to teach our children “how” to learn and how to retrieve information on their own. God created human beings with an inquisitive nature. That is evident in the fact that one of our first words as toddlers is “why.” When we allow our children the freedom to veer off on rabbit trails we not only encourage that innate “why” curiosity, but we also teach them “how” to learn. Every time they reach for that encyclopedia or, with your supervision, look up the information online, they are learning how to learn.
So relax. A quality education is not about sticking to the book. It is about expanding beyond it’s margins, exploring, discovering and teaching to the spark. What sparks your kids’ imaginations? What gets them excited about learning? What piques their interest? Go with it! Allow them (and yourself!) the freedom to take those rabbit trails when they pop up. As long as they are learning, your time has not been wasted! On the contrary…you will have taught them so much more!
“Getting sidetracked” will not only help you teach to your children’s interests and improve the quality of their education, but it will also help you to ignite a lifelong love of learning. In the process, you will have also taught them that they can learn anything! All they need do is go off on a rabbit trail!