Rabbit Trails are those pesky little topics that often will “pop up” during a unit study. Many times they have loose ties to the topic being studied, but often are not a perfect go-along. During our Titanic unit study, my son became enthralled with learning Morse Code. While I did want him to learn the basics of Morse Code, it was never my intent that we spend a month learning the history behind the code and Samuel Morse or the short wave radio, but that is exactly what happened. If I were the perfect unit study mom, I would say that my response to son’s desire to learn about Morse code was met with eager enthusiasm. But the reality was, it threw off my perfectly planned unit study schedule!

Truth be told, my initial resistance to this changing focus in our unit study came to a quick demise. As I watched my son’s “wheels start spinning” as he designed a primitive radio to practice Morse code and observed him taking every free moment to memorize Morse code, I realized that this was homeschooling at its finest!

As parents, we want to see our children become passionate about a subject they are interested in. We want to know that they understand the value of learning and to be able to teach themselves. But more than that, is the sincere belief that God has a specific purpose and plan for our children. As they pursue their passions and interests-as they delight in learning all about a topic of interest, they are developing into the man or woman God has created them to be.

One of the best things I ever did during our unit study adventures was to stop creating daily lesson plans. Rather than daily lessons, I developed weekly and monthly learning goals. I created lists of resources I wanted them to read or watch. I planned learning activities, research assignments and projects. But rather than listing them into a daily format, I organized them topically into monthly goals. As the inevitable rabbit trails would arise, my children could go deeper or even switch learning paths. Yes, my goals would sometimes need to be revamped the next month, but that was fine with me-they were learning!

The second part of my goal plans was journaling. At the end of each day, I would document the learning that had occurred. Through my notes, digital photographs, mementos from field trips or other activities, I was easily able to assess their learning.

The beautiful thing about the unit study lifestyle is the freedom we have to allow our children to pursue their passions and desires. Give them permission. Give yourself permission to allow learning to flow naturally into channels or rabbit trails and your children will be prepared for a lifetime of learning.

Originally Posted on Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett Blog