I am terrible at sticking to curriculums. It’s just not in my nature to do it. To me they feel like straight jackets, restricting the blood supply to my brain and cutting off a world of possibilities. The thought of having to contain myself within the walls of the National Curriculum, as other states are being herded towards, makes my wings feel clipped.
Now don’t get me wrong. I like a plan to start from, and to touch based with, occasionally, but I consider a curriculum (written or purchased) as our launching pad, or home base, and not our detailed itinerary. I like being able to come and go as we please.
Just look at this year’s plan, for instance. I planned to spend the year learning about Asian History and Geography. But that was before we knew about our trip to Europe later in the year. Who in their right mind continues studying Asia when they are heading to Europe?! Probably people tied to the lock step approach of the National Curriculum. But not me. We changed our plans and have dived deep into European History and haven’t yet come up for air. I love that the HEU allows this kind of flexibility. (I pray they continue to see the light and don’t get ideas from the darkness over the border!)
We’re don’t always completely change course as we have this year. Usually we manage to follow our basic plan, but are always deviating off down some delightful rabbit hole. Currently we’re off exploring Shackleton’s fateful expedition to Antarctica. This was no where in my written plans. In fact I don’t think you could stretch my written plans to find a place where we might have crossed paths with Shackleton. And that’s what I love. Shackleton has been a treasure we didn’t expect to unearth. Within the boundaries of a strict curriculum, we certainly wouldn’t have had the time to set aside our scheduled work to follow Shackleton to the Antarctic.
You wouldn’t guess how we found ourselves on the Endurance with Shackleton and his men. So let me tell you. It all started in a chapter about leadership, in the book “Boyhood and Beyond” by Bob Schultz. The story grabbed my little men and they started asking questions – homeschooled kids do that a lot. I was honest with the boys and admitted that I knew nothing about the man, but promised that I would find some books that might answer our questions.
That’s how it started. First a question, then some books and we were off and flying.
We read “Trapped By the ice!“,
“Ice Trap” by Meredith Hooper (I love her books. The language is always beautiful.),
“Avoid Joining Shackleton’s Polar Expedition” (My boys love this series of books),
and “Who Was Ernest Shackleton?” (This series is always brilliant!).
We’re big documentary watchers so I also borrowed several from the library to watch as a family in the evenings. We watched “Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventures” the other night and the boys loved seeing movie footage from the actual expedition. I might have to dig around and find some more.
Although there may be plenty more footage on the other two documentaries, waiting in the queue to be watched.
I’ve even found a novel set on the Endurance. Hopefully our interest will continue long enough to include it in our tangent, otherwise we’ll include it in our free reading list. Not sure how much longer I’ll be able to restrain myself from diving into it though. Oh and yes, Shackleton really did have a stowaway!
To cement our exploration firmly in our brains, we’ve also written a report about Shackleton’s expedition. Writing a summary of your learning is a much more valuable and efficient way to learn than mummifying chickens, solving thematic crosswords or filling in the blanks.
Where to from here? Well I’m anticipating that we may start to ponder the explorers Scott and Mawson or perhaps Antarctica itself.
Once we reach the end of our rabbit hole, we’ll climb back out and touch base with our basic curriculum plan. Then we’ll continue on until we find ourselves heading off on a new unexpected expedition.
I love this freedom…and never take it for granted.