YMB #104 Following Rabbit Trails with your Kids: A Conversation with Colleen Kessler

I can’t wait to share this fun podcast with you. Colleen Kessler joins me to talk all about how to capitalize on your kids’ interests and add them to your Morning Time. How do you know which interests to follow? Which ones can you do as a family? And finally how do you stay on track and keep from losing your mind while still honoring their interests. We talk about all that and more in today’s episode.

Pam:

Following interests build a more well-rounded and self-confident and resilient human being. And that’s really kind of worth it. This is your morning basket, where we help you bring truth, goodness, and beauty to your homeschool day.

Hi everyone. And welcome to episode 104 of the Your Morning Basket podcast. I’m Pam Barnhill, your host, and I’m so happy you’re joining me here today while also joining me on today’s podcast is a very good friend of mine, Ms. Colleen Kessler from Raising Lifelong Learners and Colleen and I are going to be chatting today about something that we get quite a few questions about. It’s all about rabbit trails and following rabbit trails, not only in your homeschool, but also in your Morning Time, or what do you do when you have a bunch of kids together, different kids with different interests. And it seems like you can just never get your Morning Time done because they’re always coming up with new questions to ask. And so we’re going to be diving into all of that today, why it’s a good thing and how you can tame the chaos just a little bit now before Colleen and I get on with that conversation, I want to share with you something very special that we have at your morning basket.

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Right now, we have our Christmas Around the World Explorations. Now this is normally something that's only available to our members, but we are giving it away this Christmas absolutely free. You can come and get our Christmas explorations, which includes an entire month of fun Christmas activities that we are giving just to you as a Christmas gift this year.
Now, when you come and download those Christmas explorations, there's going to be a little offer for you on the backside. So not only can you get the plan, these lesson plans absolutely free, but for a small fee, you can join us for a live art lesson daily text with some fun Christmas things, some Christmas bingo and contest, and a few other surprises as well, all for just $5. So, so come download your Christmas explorations, absolutely free. And we would love to have you join us for the Christmas club as well. You can find that at Pam barnhill.com/christmas and now on with the podcast.
Colleen Kessler is an education consultant with a master's degree in gifted education. She's also a passionate advocate for the needs of differently wired kids and is a homeschool mom of four gifted and twice exceptional kids of her own, one of whom has now graduated. Colleen is the founder of the popular podcast and website Raising Lifelong Learners and the learners lab, a member community for neurodiverse families. She's authored more than a dozen books like raising creative kids, a collection of creativity prompts for children and also Raising Resilient Sons. A boy mom's guide to building a strong, confident and emotionally intelligent family. She's also one of my very best friends.
Colleen, welcome back to the podcast. Yay. Thanks for having me here, Pam. And you're one of my very best friends too. It is So much fun to have you on because I always learn so much when you and I get to spend time chatting together. And I think this is really going to be a fun topic. This rabbit trails things. So before we dive into rabbit trails, let's talk just a second about your family. Tell everybody somebody who might not know you a little bit about your kids.
All right. Okay. So we are a family of four, like you said, and not, not a family who ever thought we would homeschool. It was kind of a journey that brought us kicking and screaming to the idea of it 12 years ago now, and that oldest kiddo is now 18. He'll be 19 in two months. Can you believe that? And he, he just didn't fit. He didn't fit into the school system. He didn't fit in any of the boxes. He was always in trouble. Yet his preschool teachers described him as an extreme thinker. He was just all over the place, always questioning. And so it just didn't work out. And so we pulled him and then decided we'd take homeschooling kid by kid year by year. And here we are, 12 years later.
My son graduated. He is an entrepreneur. He's building a business right now and kind of seeing where life takes him. And my 14 year old is a theater buff. She does a lot of musical theater. She's very talented. She just got accepted into an a capella group at her music school, which is super fun. It's a different kind of music. And I have a 12 year old daughter. She's very imaginative, creative. She struggles with some sensory processing challenges, anxiety disorder, and then some learning disabilities.
And then it is all rounded out with an eight year old Spitfire. He is a little firecracker that keeps us on our toes and is always busy, always moving, always questioning.
Oh gotta love them. Gotta love them. And been watching them grow up. Okay. So if there are any kids out there that are going to be following rabbit trails, it's your kids, but you know what, all kids love rabbit trails, but let's explain to everybody what we mean when we talk about rabbit trails in Morning Time, but just in general, can you give us an example of a rabbit trail that you followed?
Yeah, so pretty much, especially over the last, I would say like seven or eight years, all of our homeschooling is rabbit trails with some core areas. So a rabbit trail kind of in my own definition is following our kids' interests and taking advantage of some of those interests in sparks that we see and then diving deeper into a topic. So for example, when my oldest was young, he was very, very interested in the solar system. And so we were trying, at the time we did a lot more of the kind of more textbook homeschooling, like what the stereotypical homeschooling, right. Sitting around the table, doing assignments, checking in, checking boxes, but he was so interested in. And so hyper-focused on the solar system that I thought, well, let's just run with it. He did his math. And then every everything else we did, we brought in through the idea of the solar system.
So it was reading books, non-fiction books and fiction books that took place in space and on the moon and things like that. We watched documentaries, we went on some field trips, we have a local planetarium. And we went to an event that had a junior astronomical society. He was eight at the time. And he had gotten so much knowledge just because he was so interested in reading and watching things about anything space related that he asked great questions of these volunteers who were there presenting this program.
And so we kept in touch with some of them for a while. And when he was, gosh, I think it was like 10. He was inducted as an honorary member to the junior astronomical society, which was like the youngest member ever. So following rabbit trails in that case was just like seeing what he was interested in, in bringing it in as many ways as we could to keep him motivated and interested. So he did his reading and his writing and his history and his science all through the lens of that one topic.
Okay. That sounds like some great, authentic learning and your kid was totally into it, but what do you do? I mean, you, that's one of your children and when we're talking about the concept of Morning Time, we're often talking about families and I know you have a little bit of an age gap between that oldest and those younger ones. Have you ever followed rabbit trails as a family when some of your other kids were kind of working together on something and then how do you manage that? If you've got one kid who's really interested in, like, I want to study all about Laura Ingalls, Wilder, and Little House on the Prairie, and then, you know, you've got another one over here, so what do you do?
Yeah. So I know families do this differently. One of my kind of motivating tenants in my homeschool, I don't even know if that phrasing makes sense, but one of the edicts, one of my values, one of my core values in our homeschool is that we're doing this together. And so if I'm pulling a bunch of stuff on the solar system, we're all doing our and our history and our stuff through the solar system in their kind of general ability level. And so in that case, at that time, I had a toddler and a preschooler. So they were just kind of following along. Right.
And now a perfect example. My youngest two are very into the Harry Potter books. And so we pulled a unit study on Harry Potter from my friend, our friend mutual friend, Jessica Waldock over at the Waldock Way and they're loving it, but they are both doing it. And while my twelve-year-old is kind of like, she'll, she'll roll her eyes a little bit at some of the copy work, she's still doing it because once we finish this deep dive, it's definitely more for the eight year old boy who's wearing his robe. And pretending that he's in the hospital wing by lying on his bed, in his room, it's definitely more for him. So she's, we're gonna follow a topic that's more, more her for the second half of the year, probably something to do with animals. I'm not quite sure where we're going to go with that, but she's very into animals, and like that technician type stuff, she's into animal training. We're getting a puppy in a few weeks. So I'm sure we'll be doing some animal training when it comes to that. So we kind of flip flop when it comes to their different interests, especially if they're not all interested in the same thing. Now you're right. I do have an age gap.
So, and I also have an ability gap while there's only two years between my two middle daughters. There's definitely an ability gap that makes that seem a little bit bigger. So my oldest, my older daughter is doing stuff that's more independent and she can join in. When, if she's interested in hearing the book, the book that they're listening to on audio, or they're watching one of the Harry Potter movies, or they're doing an experiment or something that seems fun. And we bought some Harry Potter Perler beads and a Quill set with letters sealing wax, and she'll join in when we do those kinds of things. But other than that, she's doing her own stuff.
So when you have an age gap, you can pick and choose what they're a part of, as long as they're kind of doing some of it for fun and recognizing that everybody has different interests. And it's good to be exposed to a lot of different things. And then with those kids who are lumped together because their abilities are similar, then I've always taken the tack of flip-flopping switching.
I would make myself crazy and anybody listening, who's trying to meet the interests of every single kid simultaneously is going to make themselves crazy. And they're going to, you're going to burst your wallet because you're not going to be able to just give them everything. So choose whose interests you're following, and then bring other books into topics that are interesting to the other kids.
So they can read on their own or do things on their own, but your core group stuff, you can follow one kid's interest. And then the next kid's interest in the next kid's interests. One of the things we do for that, and I think that talked about this too Pam is we have a big piece of chart paper each year that we put up in our family room or our school room, which is our dining room now. And we jot down things we want to learn about throughout the year. And so we can always go to that and let the next person pick the next thing. Or if something sparks us, like we were watching a documentary or reading a book, then we might just take a day and all go down that rabbit trail together and then go back to what our regularly scheduled programs were the next day.
Okay. Yeah. I love that. And I will say I kind of default to my oldest child's interests because I, you know, she's going to be gone first. Right. And so then we moved down to her brother and he'll get a chance to pick things. And then there'll only be the little one left and, you know, he'll get a chance to pick things.
And so when I'm looking at kind of the overarching, what we're going to be studying in a year, I tend to default a little more towards her for subjects that we're going to be doing together and then, you know, move things around from there.
So let's talk, we're kind of talking, we kind of gotten into this idea of a rabbit trail being something big that mom plans out but what about more spontaneous little rabbit trails? Do those ever come up in your day? Like when you're reading the kids and maybe you had planned on doing some kind of Harry Potter or something or other, but then you get into herbology and something comes up about plants or fungus and you're off in another direction. This happens, right?
Totally like all the time. So, a perfect example of that was yesterday. My twelve-year-old Logan found a book that I had bought for her big brother years ago that he never opened because he had so many different things. You know, being the first born with an age gap, he was like an only child for a while. And it was one of those Lego books that has all, it had like a small collection of Lego pieces and you build machines with it and stuff like catapults and things like that.
So before I even got a chance to sit down with them and do the, the, what is it? Oh, I forget the rock and minerals thing that we were doing. I forget what we were calling it, but it's Harry Potter themed. Before we even got to that they were off and running. She got his, the younger ones interest sparked because hello Legos. And they built a catapult and they got little toy dolls and they were shooting them, seeing how far they went, which one did you know, with the longest distance, how to tweak the catapult to make it go further. And then they ended up like creating this huge amusement park in our school room, in our family room with all sorts of simple machines.
And they weren't calling them simple machines, but there were levers and there were wedges and there were catapults and all sorts of different things, pulley systems. And so in that case, we just scrap the stuff we were doing for the day. And today they went right back to their math and the stuff that they were supposed to do for today. And so, yeah, that happens a lot. Actually it happens when they're reading a book, it happens when they're at a friend's house and something was interesting to them.
I, after 12 years of homeschooling know that we can always pick back up some of the, you know, other stuff. And so if I'm in a position to let them run with it, I will, if we're on a deadline or we're, you know, going on vacation or they're taking a class that they need to finish something up for, then I might reign them back in to finish something and then run ahead with it. But if I can say, yes, I'm going to say yes in those situations, because there's so much other learning that takes place informally when we do that.
I love that. If I can say yes, if I can say yes, I'm going to say, yes, in those situations. So, so much so, okay. I want to touch on a couple of things there. If you have a lot of kids, like you could be following rabbit trails all the time, could you?
Yeah, you could. Okay. So in, this is always going to be different, right? You and I talk to people all around the country, we talk to people of all different types of personalities and homeschool styles, and sure you could follow rabbit trails and make that all of what you do with some core things thrown in there.
You could follow rabbit trails when you're up for it. You can squeeze things in. There's lots of different ways you can do your homeschooling. And so what I, what I would say to that really is you have to know yourself, right? You have to know what you need in order to feel like you're doing a good job as a homeschool mom.
Pam, you call that minimum viable day. I call that must do’s. And so if we're not getting our must do’s done consistently, then I, I tend to need to reign them in. I need them to show me that they're progressing in math to some degree, I need them to do some reading. I need them to do some critical thinking and talking.
And so, so I'll pull them back. I am a little bit looser than some, a little bit more structured than others in that, you know, I'll let them go with things like amusement, parks, and death, defying trapeze with their dolls. You know, as long as they're showing me a math lesson and getting along and keeping their stuff tie-dyed up and not like moving from one thing to another, without destroying the house in the process. And then I have very good friends who they have to get, you know, there are certain subjects on their online for classes. So they have requirements that need to be done before they could go down those rabbit trails. I don't think there's a wrong or right way.
I think that the most important thing is, and I, you said this, Sarah said it I've said it you're, you're the one that's in your homeschool the most consistently what Sarah says, you're in the homeschool the longest. Right? And so you need to be comfortable too. And so if it's not comfortable to follow rabbit trails all the time, make sure you build boundaries around that and give yourself the structure that you need while still giving your kids some of the freedoms that they need.
Okay. So I want to talk about those freedoms in just a second, but I also want to talk about, I could totally see this happening in my home. Actually. It's probably happened in my home before. My kid gets interested in something. I go out and get a lot of things and make some plans and somehow without meaning to end up sucking all the fun out of the thing for that kid.
So how do you keep from being the fun sucker? And I really don't mean to it. Is it me? Is it the kid? I don't really know. Right. But how do you keep from being the fun sucker and messing up the rabbit trail?
Yeah, I've done that so many times. And I think that the key to that is not having the expectations and not spending a lot of money. I think that the most successful rabbit trails that we end up following are the ones that I don't really spend anything on. I don't go out and get a bunch of stuff. I pull free resources. I get library books. I borrow stuff from friends, or I just kind of let them evolve and let them ask for things. And then I only get them what they ask for.
And then if they use that stuff, then we go and do some more. So perfect example of this. My daughter, a couple of years ago expressed an interest in knitting. One of the little girls that she was in a show with would knit backstage. And she was so fascinated by it. And she wanted it. We now have knitting looms for hats in multiple sizes, and we've got pompom makers and we've got various sized knitting needles, and we've even got crochet hooks and all sorts of books about knitting and crocheting for kids and tons and tons of yarn. And she's knit, like not even a full washcloth and she's crocheted like two chains of things. And anytime I suggest she pulls out the knitting, she rolls her eyes at me.
And I'm like, you must do this. You wanted this. I bought all this stuff for you it’s just sitting there collecting dust. But that's my expectation. And I didn't need to get her all of that stuff in the first place. Right. Had I just borrowed a book from the library or asked a friend or a neighbor to teach her and let it fizzle out or catch on.
It probably would have caught on, but I just like bombarded her with everything there was to do with knitting. And she was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, this is too overwhelming. I think that in just, we overwhelm our kids a lot of the times when we see them get excited about something, because we're so excited, they're excited about something.
You know, we, we hear about this. When we go to homeschool conventions, we read about it on blogs. We listened to it on podcasts, you know, find what your kids are interested in and passionate about and let them use that to drive their learning. And I'm a huge advocate for that. But oftentimes our kids don't know what they're passionate about and they're trying to figure it out.
And so if we spend all this money on something that they had, like a little spark, we might not like fan the flame. We might just be dousing it. And so we want to get as little as possible to start moving them forward in it and then watch. Be a student of them. See if that spark catches. And if it does let them come to you with more stuff or more questions or asking for more things, you don't want to overdo it because you'll just get frustrated and broke.
I love it. Okay. Such great advice. And I'm so grateful and thankful to hear that I am not the only fun sucker out there. I've often felt bad about it.
Okay. So, this I'm just going to be honest with you. And this is I've often said it like, this is why I can not be an unschooler. They'll probably more than this. Just this reason why I couldn't be an unschooler, but this is one of the big ones. Like this sounds like a lot of work for mom. I mean, you've got to be like paying attention to your kids. I know it's so hard, but you gotta be, you really do. You have it?
Okay. So it sounds so much easier just to say, we're going to go get the box with a grade seven on it and put it in front of my kid, sit here for a few hours a day, do the things, close the books and be done with it than it does to actually pay attention to what your kids are interested in, pull in some resources, but not too many resources, you know, and then allow them the freedom to kind of disrupt your life some, and this is, this is not easy for moms to do. So let's go with some of the benefits. What are, why do we need to put ourselves out there in this way?
Yeah. Okay. So first I want to say, cause I actually just got this question. It's sitting in my inbox right now. I need to, when we get off answer some emails and this is one of them like explain more to me about unschooling and I'm not going to explain, this is not the topic of this particular talk, but I think the thing there, right, is that unschooling has to be all or nothing. Right? And it doesn't, it's just following kind of some of those sparks and interest in some unschoolers have their MVD be math and handwriting and writing. And some have them, you know, do some things, but they, they get some say in it. So I don't want you Pam or anybody else listening to think you couldn't do something because remember homeschoolers, the best homeschools, the most comfortable homeschoolers are those that pick and choose what works from each of the different strategies. And so this is one of those strategies you can draw from.
So what are the benefits? The benefits are...they're just numerous. First of all, socially and emotionally, first and foremost, the benefits are independence, more critical thinking that the kids are empowered to know and take charge of know that they, they can, and they should take charge of some aspects of their own education. We're we're teaching our kids that education is not something that's done to them. It's something that they're an active part of when we follow their interests. And we see, and we watch and we fan those sparks. And then we tell them what we're doing. I'm a huge advocate for talking to your kids about what you're doing and why you're doing it.
So if you're pulling some of the knitting stuff, you could say, Hey, you mentioned this. I thought you might want to try it. So I got a couple of inexpensive needles and some yarn and a book, and you know, maybe we could learn it together or maybe you can go work on it and try to teach me, you know, one day. So talking to them about why you're doing what you're doing, it builds conversations. It builds, it builds the ability to have passions, right? It also, for all of those kids who don't know what they want to do, they have no idea. It opens them up to the possibilities of a future. They don't have the experiences to know all the different things that are out there.
My son is wonderful behind a video camera and he is becoming stunning behind a camera. And he just thinks it's fun and play. And two separate photographers recently have looked at his work and said, this is, this is natural talent. This is something that you might want to think about running with. And he's like, I'm just playing. This is nothing.
They don't know that what they're just playing is actually viable. And it's actually something that they could build a career or business or a hobby off of. And so by giving them the opportunity to follow some of those sparks, we give them an opportunity to see the potential in their own lives, for careers, for futures, for connections, with others who might share similar interests.
And then also for the fact that not everybody knows everything. And so mom doesn't know everything about crocheting. So she's, you know, she's showing me that she's willing to go get a book and some yarn and let me try it. She can't teach it to me, but that's not making her feel inadequate. That's making her feel like she needs to empower me.
And so those social and emotional benefits are strong, but also just academically, any time we try new things, we build new neural pathways. So we're strengthening our brain and growing our intellect and our creativity and our critical thinking ability when we're trying new things and we're talking about it and we're allowing ourselves to fail and we're allowing ourselves to succeed. So following interests builds a more well-rounded and self-confident and resilient human being. And that's really kind of worth it.
Oh, I love that. I love that so much. Okay. Let's talk a little bit about the fact that we get all of these kids together for our Morning Time, and we're encouraging them to be curious, people who are following their interests. And we're trying to, let's say, read aloud to them or watch a video together, do some kind of activity as a family and every other sentence they're like going off in a different direction and asking me things and what do I do about that? It's like, we want them to be curious and we want them to have all these ideas and things like, am I supposed to just drop what I'm doing right then? And run off in all these different directions?
Sure. Yeah. You all the time in the world, right? Absolutely. No again, you'll make yourself crazy. And I think that actually that's of those traps that homeschool moms fall into, and that's when they're feeling like they're failing at everything because they're being pulled in all the different directions. There are some super practical, easy things that you can do that help you put boundaries around different times in your day, even if you're an unschooler or a free flowing kind of eclectic person. And they, they hail the ideas that I share hail back from my days of being in a classroom setting with gifted and twice exceptional kids who never stopped talking and asking questions and always have something to say about everything you're doing right and wrong. And so like a super simple, quick and easy thing to do is give them a notepad and say, I know you've got lots of ideas when they come to you, jot them down, put it aside. I'll give you two minutes at the end of this Morning Time to ask me all the questions you have, but we've got to get through this right now and reminding them that they're not the only learner in your home.
And then if you have an only child reminding them that, you know, there are some things that you need to do as a mom. This is your job. Just like learning is their job. And so you want to hear everything they have to say, but you might just need to do that after you've gotten through the read-aloud or the things that you know you're doing. And so helping them understand that everything that you're doing has a purpose.
And it's kind of for a greater, it's not a greater good, but like a bigger thing than what they're seeing right then at that moment, you know, where I started the kids, listening to the Harry Potter books before I had introduced that we were doing the unit studies because I knew that they were ready for them and they might be interested in them, but they didn't know why I was getting them interested. And then we've got another thing coming up that's related to Harry Potter. And so they didn't know any of this, but, but they started getting the little pieces here and there and you can do the same thing. Like we're reading aloud right now, we're doing this. This is the time to ask questions and then set, set that time. If you've got a kid who is asking tons and tons of questions, that is something to honor and respect and encourage because you want them to be questioners, right? You don't want them to just take everything at face value, but you also want to help them disagree at appropriate times, disagree in an inappropriate way, ask questions appropriately of others while being respectful.
And so you give them the time that they need to do that. And then again, same thing with the yes. If I can say yes, if I can answer a question in the moment that's not super disruptive, then I will, if not, I'll be like write it down. So just be aware, gauge the situation, say yes, when you can give them the time when you later when you can to do it in the moment.
Oh, I love that. Yeah. Cause that's the question that we get quite a bit is, you know, my kids are just, they have so much to say, and we can never get finished with this Morning Time. And yet, in some ways that's a good thing. And you know, in some ways it can be a little frustrating sometimes. So I know in our family, sometimes we, we just let it go. If, if it can go for a while and there's nothing pressing on us at the end of the day, we just let it go and enjoy those times. And it doesn't have to be every day.
Well, before we close out, let's talk about gaps. If I'm always following my kids' interests, when do they learn the things that they're supposed to learn? And what do I do about these gaps?
We have never heard this question before Pam. So those of you listening, we hear this question every single time we do a panel at any convention or conference we are at because it's, it's a really, it's a real fear that homeschool moms have, right? So here's the first thing. There's no such thing as gaps. So I'll address the actual concern in a second, but overall there's no such thing as gaps. There's nobody that graduates high school that knows everything. And so the idea of gaps is completely fabricated. It is. It's something that you really legitimately do not have to worry about because there's no cookie cutter anything. And even if our education system seems cookie cutter, they're still not getting to everything all the time. It's impossible. And you know, statistically, you read and hear that 75% of a book being finished is like a textbook is a complete year. You count that.
That's why all grade levels have review at the beginning and preview kind of at the end because they're going to review it when they get to the next grade. It's why college professors review all that stuff with their undergrads. It's why college math is a lot of the math they got in high school because you don't retain everything and things get missed. People, move curriculums are different in different areas. And so let that go first and foremost.
Second, if you're following your kids' interests. And especially in the later years, their interests are really kind of aligned with what they're planning to do and go into, they're not going to need some of that other stuff anyway. And so you can really, and that's a whole other discussion about, you know, high schoolers and helping them figure out where they're going to go and what they're going to need for that. But my current high schooler is going to have a lighter math load in high school because the different career choices she's considering, none of them are math heavy. And it's like tears all the time when it comes to math. And so we'll do what she needs to know and what she needs to get into program she's interested in, but we're not going to go beyond that. We're going to go beyond that in the areas that she's interested in, because those are the things that are going to set her apart from the other applicants. And so when you're looking at your kids and you're following interests and you're doing different things, think about all the other ways that content is getting in.
If they're studying the solar system, they're probably studying astronomers, which brings history in because there's a timeline of when things were discovered and things were talked about and things were disproven and then proven, and there they're learning about science because they're learning about the gravitational pulls of the moon and the different planets and the other planets moons and how that all works and how one rotates and longer than, you know, another one and why days are different on different planets. And so they're comparing and contrasting and thinking critically about how those things relate. That's also integrating math and then they probably have a regular math program that they're doing too. And then they're writing because they're documenting their learning in some way. And they're reading about all that different stuff. So there's no gaps in there.
They're still getting science and history and language arts and all the different electives that are interesting to them, art and stuff, all related to the different topics that they're studying. They're just doing it in a different way. And there's nothing that says they have to do anything in a certain order. You've got to give them a little bit of physical science, a little bit of earth science, a little bit of natural sciences, a little bit of physical sciences. So they kind of are like well-rounded and they've gotten exposed to all these different things, but there's nothing that says how those different modalities or subject areas or genres need to be taught. So you can be creative within that. And then they're actually richer for it because they were interested in the way that you presented the material.
I love that... richer because of it. And I think that's exactly what happens when we take the time to, to study some of those rabbit trails. And I love the fact that you pointed out earlier to the extent to which you are comfortable, you know, as a homeschooler. So very much so
Well, Colleen, thank you so much for coming on today and talking to us about some of the benefits and some of the acknowledged challenges of following rabbit trails. I really appreciate it.
I appreciate you having me. It's always fun to talk to you, and this is a fun topic. So I love sharing about it and you can always reach out if you have more questions,
Love It. Okay. Tell everybody where they can find you. Oh, you can find me raisinglifelonglearners.com. The podcast is there. There's a contact form that goes directly to my inbox. Along with a voicemail widget, you can leave me a voicemail. And all of my social media is there too. So Raisinglifelonglearners.com
And there you have it. Now, if you would like links to any of the resources that Colleen and I chatted about on today's podcast, you can find them on the show notes for this episode. Those [email protected]/YMB104.
Also be sure to come over and download our free gift. These are our Christmas Around the World Explorations.They're a $15 value. And just because you're a podcast listener, we're giving them to you absolutely free this Christmas. We think you are going to love them so much. And while you're there take advantage of our Christmas club upgrade for only $5, you can get the free art lesson, the daily text with all of your activities right inside. I love this so much, guys. My family uses this every single day, plus the bingo, the contest and the community online all for five bucks. So Pam barnhill.com/christmas for that one.
I will be back again in a couple of weeks with a wonderful interview with my good friend Brandy Vencel. Now, Brandy has a plan every year at Christmas time to help work with their kids in Morning Time on their Christmas manners. She even has a free download that goes along with this, just so she doesn't have to be embarrassed by some of the things that kids don't know better than not to do. When they're around family at Christmas time, it's going to be a really fun and informational episode. I think you're going to love it. So until then keep seeking truth, goodness, and beauty and your homeschool day.

Key Ideas about Following Your Child’s Interest

Following rabbit trails in your Morning Time is all about following your child’s interests and taking a deeper dive into that topic. One way to get the most learning out of that topic is to view all the other subjects through the lens of that topic.

One of the things we need to be careful about when we are following rabbit trails with our children is to avoid unintentionally overwhelming them. Sometimes, we can get so excited that they have found something that interests them that we can spend too much money providing them way more than they really need. Instead, try borrowing books from the library or a friend and providing only the minimum necessary for them to get started.

And lastly, don’t worry that following rabbit trails will lead to gaps. The truth is, no student knows everything when they leave school. So, focus on the core subjects and then allow your students to really explore their int

Find what you want to hear:

  • [2:46] meet Colleen
  • [5:50] defining a rabbit trail and how to follow them successfully
  • [12:50] dealing with spontaneous rabbit trails
  • [18:00] how to avoid squashing their interest
  • [21:05] benefits of following your child’s interest
  • [25:56] balancing spontaneity with real life
  • [29:53] avoiding gaps

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Doing so helps me get the word out about the podcast. iTunes bases their search results on positive ratings, so it really is a blessing — and it’s easy!

  1. Click on this link to go to the podcast main page.
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Thanks for your reviews

  • Life Affirming
    by Logandinco66 from United States

    This podcast is amazing and has helped me so much as recovering perfectionist homeschooling mama! Pam gives so much great insight into so many aspects of life and focusing on homeschooling.

  • Life giving!
    by lapatita5 from United States

    This podcast has been so great. It’s so practical and encouraging without being overly preachy or narrow. It gives ideas in a take-what-fits kind of way. I have used many of the recommended resources and ideas mentioned and been inspired by many others. Even the episodes that I found less relevant to me specifically, often had tidbits that I could use. Pam’s podcasts, books, and resources have been a godsend to me in my beginning years of homeschooling, helping me discover my own way to teach my kids in a way that prioritizes what is most important to us.

  • You've made my school year!
    by Lizzie O' from United States

    Pam, My children are almost 11 and 13 and I never sent this review in! I found it sitting here. This is testimony that I am still so blessed by this podcast years later. So here it is: I wrote you an email when I first felt it placed on my heart to homeschool my now 6

  • Love the show!
    by Startup Travis from United States

    Love your content and the guests you have visiting the show! I am a huge believer in using the morning hours well. Thank you for your direction and products!

  • Enjoy the podcast & some thoughts…
    by rufocused from United States

    I enjoy listening to tips on starting and using morning time as I am just starting it this year. We have kind of done it in the past, but when you only have one child you tend to just call it bible, story time, etc… but now that my second one is old enough to join we’re going to have more of a true morning time. I did notice Pam mentioned CNN ten in one episode. CNN can be pretty liberal biased in the main news, I’m not sure if they curb that in the “CNN ten”, but thought I would mention the Daily Wire, which is from a conservative viewpoint (and often covers indoctrination in public schools) and could be fun to compare and contrast with CNN. Our family also recently discovered Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family which has a very Christian perspective, which has been refreshing as news can be so depressing sometimes! Just thought I’d throw that out there… but really do appreciate the perspectives and insights of these women who have been doing this for awhile!

  • Very helpful and pleasant to listen to.
    by Heather homeschooler from United States

    I have listened to many episodes of this podcast and have highly recommended it to others. It has been a wonderful source of inspiration and encouragement. Pam has a great voice and presence and I love that she does not interrupt or talk over her guests. Thank you for your hard work!

  • Always insightful!!
    by method_money from Canada

    Pam always has great great guests who bring great insights and encouragement! I so appreciate her down to earth style and ability to ask great questions! Keep up the great work!!

  • A wildly encouraging and equipping podcast for homeschool families.
    by Eryn Lynum from United States

    As a homeshool mama of four (Ages 2-9), Pam's podcast has been an increidble encouragement to me. Not only that, but I have discovered so many helpful resources for focusing on what is lovely and true during our homeschool days. I love that it is not overwhelming in nature, but instead a gentle help for moving forward one day at a time in our homeschooling adventure.

  • Best podcast for homeschooling/variety of topics
    by Bethetal from United States

    I love this podcast for so many reasons. (1) Pam is friendly, funny, humble and kind (2) She covers a multitude of topics (one at a time)- I have learned about nature notebooks, classical music study, narration, living books, Shakespeare and so much more. Whenever I have a question about a new (to me)HS term or practice, I come here to listen to Pam interview someone about it. Her interviewees have all been all-in on their respective areas of interest/expertise and I love the way she interviews/asks questions to really let the guests shine as they speak. I have changed the structure of my homeschool, found books for my kids and me, purchased materials, and found inspiration due to this podcast and I can’t recommend it enough! This podcast has shaped my homeschool in so many positive ways, most of which I probably can’t even articulate yet, as the changes have been done inside of me. Thanks, Pam!

  • Great!!!
    by Eloblah from United States

    I love the variety of things that are talked about on this show for homeschooling - things that I would never even think about including or doing - with easy ways to do them. Very much recommend this podcast

  • New home schooling mom
    by A prit from United States

    I am listening to the past episodes and loving it. This podcast has helped me develop my own homeschool. So many ideas!! I love morning time so much, we do a nightly family time so my husband and public school attending son. We do all the things instead of watching tv, playing ps4, and YouTube. My kids hang around me every evening asking if we are doing family time. I can tell they love it but don’t want to admit it.

  • Morning Time Magic!
    by DrewSteadman from United States

    I am so excited Pam is back to her morning time focus for 2020. Our homeschool has been shaped by the rich ideas and practical wisdom shared here.

  • Yay! Morning time is back!
    by Homeschooler in Germany from United States

    I was so happy and excited to learn that Pam is shifting her focus back to Morning Time for 2020! I’ve missed the morning time exclusive podcast and can’t wait to hear her back in my earbuds.

  • So excited for 2020!
    by JCrutchf from United States

    I absolutely LOVE this podcast and was so disappointed when I realized you were not actively producing it! I’m NOW relieved to know there is a whole year of episodes ahead! I’m beginning my homeschool journey with 4 little ones very close in age and my style falls somewhere in the Classical and Charlotte Mason. I found your podcast by chance via Instagram recommendation as I was doing research on “morning menus.” Your content is beautifully philosophical but at a level most parents will be able to grasp and appreciate. Filled with truth, beauty, and goodness! Your episodes fill me up and leave me feeling inspired personally and in regards to my children’s education. Everything is so good! Please don’t stop producing ever again! I’ll be grateful forever!

  • So glad Your Morning is back!!!
    by alissajohn2020 from United States

    So glad to have the morning basket podcast back! Thank you for bringing it back!!

  • So good I ran out of gas.
    by JoanieHummel from United States

    This podcast is awesome! It was recommended to me a few years ago by a very wise and experienced homeschool mom but I didn’t start listening until I saw it come up a few more times on Facebook, recommended in various groups (in particular, episode number 41). I wish I had picked it up years ago! So much great information, I’m learning so much! Be careful though, I was so interested listening to this podcast that I didn’t notice how low my gas tank was getting! I ran out of gas and as I write this review I’m stranded on the side of the road waiting for a friend to come rescue me! Happy listening!

  • Knowledge Goldmine
    by A.J. Edwards from United States

    I’ve just been eating up every episode of this brilliant podcast over the past few months. The guests are stellar and Pam’s interview style is wonderful. She gets each guest to the meat and potatoes of their topic but it’s anything but a plain meal. This is a feast for the homeschool mom’s mind. I know I’ll be revisiting many of my favorite episodes again and again. Feeling so inspired by each guest!

  • Myths and fairytale truths for homeschoolers
    by Allierhn from United States

    Mind blown! I’m listening to the myth podcast and it’s absolutely perfect. It is answering so many questions I’ve struggled with my whole life. It helps me to view our curriculum and informs my teaching so much more.

  • Super Helpful!
    by Jennlee C from United States

    I can’t speak highly enough about this podcast. It has been a huge inspiration and a practical help to my homeschool! Thank you so much Pam Barnhill and everyone else who contributes to this. It has been an amazing blessing to me and my children… And possibly generations to come!

  • Practical Inspiration
    by Mamato3activeboys from Australia

    Not only am I inspired by each episode of this podcast but I have actually put so many of the ideas into practice in our own morning time. Such a huge help as I seek to inspire my non-stop boys to truth, goodness and beauty. We are now memorising poetry as they jump on the trampoline and they love Shakespeare. That's a parenting win in my book!

  • So many great ideas!
    by Parent 98765 from Malaysia

    Thank you, Pam! I’m now bursting with inspiration and can’t wait to start our 2019 school year with a strong morning time routine.

  • Joy
    by Ancon76 from United States

    My heart is enriched and I can’t wait to learn more.

  • Just what I was looking for!
    by Joey5176 from United States

    I was looking for morning basket ideas—simple ones. These podcasts are giving me a picture of a good morning basket.

  • Wow!! What amazing nuggets of knowledge
    by HeRo84 from United States

    This is truly life changing information for me as a homeschool mother. Thank you Pam for this amazing series.

  • Love it!