Rabbit Hole Homeschooling – John Philip Duck

When Lewis Carrol wrote “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” he described falling into a rabbit hole and discovering a whole new world on accident. Although the phase has several connotations, what I mean by this metaphor is: accidentally falling into a line of study that becomes engrossing and leads us down a path we didn’t foresee.

Here’s how one of our latest “rabbit hole homeschooling” endeavors happened.

I was thrifting, and going through the shelf of children’s picture books and stumbled upon “John Philip Duck” by Patricia Pollacco. Now, if this title had been by another author I probably would’ve passed it by. John Philip Duck!?! What in the world is that about? But because it was by Patricia Polacco, into the cart it went.

A few days later, I had some extra time at story time and decide to read it aloud. Turns out it’s about the ducks in the fountain at the Peabody Hotel, and it references John Philip Sousa as the main duck’s namesake.

We had never heard of the composer, John Philip Sousa or the famous Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.

Google search: found a video on the history of the hotel.


Library card catalog search: found a CD of John Philip Sousa’s music and a short illustrated biography.

A few days later we’re listening to the CD borrowed from the library of John Philip Sousa’s most famous pieces of music on the drive home. The kiddos are drumming along on their knees in the backseat.

Later that evening, we finish the CD while I read the short illustrated biography of this famous American composer who lived during both the Civil War and WWI. We remind ourselves about why those wars happened and the outcomes. His most famous piece, “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, he felt, was directly inspired by God. We listened to that song twice.

The Stars and Stripes Forever by John Philip Sousa

Meanwhile, my oldest son (age 12) figures that if Edward Pembroke can train ducks to march in a line from the roof of the Peabody hotel, down hallways, and riding elevators, to the fountain in the foyer on the ground level, what might he be able to train our new Americana chickens to do? So he gets into the online card catalog and looks for books on chicken training at the library, He doesn’t find any, so we look on Amazon and find 2 books on training chickens plus an animal training clicker. He compares prices and decides to purchase the books used with his own money plus the brand new clicker.

Then, coincidentally, Simply Piano (the piano lesson app we use) added John Philip Sousa songs to celebrate Independence Day! How cool is that?

So, we’ve covered, music appreciation, history, math, science, geography, religion and research skills for the cost of a book at the thrift store (75 cents), a library card (free for most people but not for us), and about $20 of my son’s savings for extra books and an animal training clicker.

I’ve written this post to show you that you can give rich, really good, beautiful homeschool lessons with just a bit of creativity and research! Now, just to be well-rounded, not every random book I pick up at the thrift store lends itself to such a delightful rabbit hole. Some are duds. But that’s okay too because the kiddos learn discernment and how to evaluate quality. To rabbit hole homeschool effectively the most important thing is to be creative and look for ideas in the story to expand on. Ask who, what, where, why, how, and when. Does the story mention a food or recipe? Find it, make it, try it. Where is the setting of the story? Is there somewhere similar you can go for a field trip? You could look up the animals in the story and learn about their habitats. You can find the places mentioned on a map. Recreate pieces of art, look up poems or songs that are referenced in the story. Use you imagination and have fun!

Happy Homeschooling friends!

3 thoughts on “Rabbit Hole Homeschooling – John Philip Duck

  1. I absolutely love, love, love this post! Going down a rabbit hole is wonderful for home schooling, but it is very rewarding for those of us who want to have an enriched life. I also like the part about how sometimes the search can be a dud – but you write about the good in that, too! Years ago, when we visited the Dana-Thomas house in Springfield, Illinois (a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright), we were told John Philip Sousa had played there. However, when I researched this to confirm my memory, historians are not 100% sure. But even so, it’s another path down that rabbit hole. Architecture! The love of learning you exemplify and are instilling in your children will enrich their lives – their whole life long. And your post reminds me to keep curiosity alive!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I love homeschooling and learning along side my kiddos. It brings me a lot of joy!
      And yes, you’re right about the architecture avenue. The Peabody Hotel video talked a bit about architecture. I forgot about that! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rabbit holes are great 🙂 We listen to John Philip Sousa at the band concert in Ashland every 4th of July 🙂 Great music. And yes, you can totally clicker train chickens. My aunt went to a clicker training camp where they had to train chickens to do tricks…to help prepare them for competitive dog agility. If they could train the chicken they’d do just fine with their dog. Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

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