Today I sat down to lunch after a completely typical morning of school (math, LA, the basics) and readied myself for our daily Sonlight readings. The goal was to close out a book that has quickly become one of my absolute favorites to recommend to others: Whatever Happened to Penny Candy. I opened the book and, over pb & js, started in. Part of the day's reading was on the concept of government spending in areas of science and engineering. The example given regarded the airline industry. Straightforward enough. I listed the example, and we commenced our normal discussion.
About midway through, I brought up the precursors to commercial airplane travel: namely zeppelins/dirigibles. The kids looked at me blankly.
"You know ... the Hindenburg?"
"That sounds familiar," Atticus said after a long while.
We raced upstairs to our trusty World Book program (thanks, SL!). I pulled up the entry, complete with a video snippet of the airship's demise.
And they, of course, were hooked.
The rest of the afternoon was an absolute wash ... if you're concerned with things like sticking to plans and meeting predetermined goals. If you value the random art of learning then it was a resounding success. After looking up the entire history of zeppelins, finding them in The New Way Things Work and discussing the stability and flammability of certain gases (Atticus: "That was really dumb to substitute hydrogen for helium. What were they thinking?") and talking about which design elements were most likely to have been valued by someone using a gas versus jet propulsion (Logan: "I'd have built mine with bamboo. It's the lightest."), the kids settled in to what became a three hour drawing conference centered on their own conspiracy theories as to what actually took down the Hindenberg. These ranged from the plausible (an errant cigarette from the smoking lounge) to the fantastic (something involving Jedis and lightsabers) to the historically involved (shot down by a band of German resistance fighters who set up shop in the U.S. and plotted acts of terror against the Nazi party).
I didn't plan a bit of this, but it turned out to be educationally challenging and fun.
I love rabbit trails like these, and I know I'm not alone. In honor of this latest hop down the bunny lane in my own family, I'm offering a prize to the family who shares their own most fascinating rabbit trail with me here at Books and Bairns. Simply leave a comment linking back to a post on your own blog, mentioning that you're participating in the "RABBIT TRAILS, ANYONE?" contest and you'll be entered in a drawing for your choice of one of the following:
--a copy of Apologia's Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day
--a copy of Beyond Five in A Row volume 3
--a pack of three historical fiction titles from Salem Ridge Press.
If you don't have a blog, feel free to share your rabbit trail in the comment section. Contest ends April 16.
Happy (rabbit) trails!