This week’s topic for the Not-Back-to-School blog hop hosted by Home Educating Family is Homeschooling Outside the [Curriculum] Box! This week one of my readers will win the On the Go Planner from Home Educating Family. Look for the details at the end of this post!

Back when Mom started homeschooling my sister and me, there weren’t a lot of options for home educators. A handful of companies sold their curriculum to both private schools and homeschoolers. Most people picked one and ordered all of their subjects from that publisher. Mom used curriculum from ACE, also known as Accelerated Christian Education. Interestingly enough, it’s the same curriculum that was used by the Christian school that my husband attended. ACE wasn’t perfect, but I still got a solid education.

When it came time to choose curriculum for our own children, my husband and I both wanted to try something different. The traditional “school-in-a-box” curriculums were pretty pricy, and I felt comfortable enough to pull together an eclectic mix of books and curriculum. I’d read a bit about Charlotte Mason’s methods by then, and while intrigued by them, I was not confident enough to totally forgo all structured lesson plans and workbooks. Science and history were materials that fit the “living books” type of approach, while language arts and particularly math were closer to traditional, structured workbooks.

I quickly discovered though, that plenty of education went on outside of those carefully chosen materials! All of the “Why?” questions posed by my kids turned out to be great opportunities for discussion, experimentation, and creative projects. A question about colors turned into a Sunday afternoon spent mixing primary color finger paints to see what colors resulted. Driving by a wind farm on the way to the dentist inspired a discussion about power generation.

At first I was frustrated whenever things like this came up during our “lesson time”. After all, I had a checklist for us to complete! I learned not to underestimate the value of unscheduled learning this spring when the kids and I had a picnic. We finished our sandwiches and the three oldest kids started exploring the pond in our backyard. They were making note of the various wildlife they found and happily reporting their observations to me. I’d brought our science book with us, and was just about to call them away from the water so that we could read our lesson, when it hit me… They were already learning science! I started laughing at myself and tucked the science book back into my bag; it really would be OK if we read our lesson later.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have “the checklist” and I’d be lost without my Well Planned Day, but now I know that the list can wait when opportunities arise. The books and worksheets will still be there later, and encouraging the curiosity of the moment is what will bring my kids back to the books to learn more!

Now for the giveaway details! Just leave a comment on this blog post and on Thursday a winner will be randomly drawn from all of the comments. I’ll announce the winner next Friday! Due to international sweepstakes laws, this giveaway is for US entrants only. This giveaway is not tied to any social media site. All prizes must be claimed within six weeks.