A couple of days ago, I wrote about how schools often take the “camp bus” approach to learning: load all the kids on the bus at the start of the year, take them all for the same ride, and arrive at the same destination.

Imagine a family trip planned this way. Grandpa calls the house one day and says, “We’re all going on vacation to Disney World this summer. The whole family, kids, grandkids, everyone.” Sounds wonderful, especially when he adds that he’s paying.

“I already booked the hotel and the flight. We’re all meeting at the Philadelphia airport and flying to Orlando.”

Problem is Grandpa didn’t consider that these plans might not work for everyone in the family. Mom just found out she was pregnant, due a month after the trip. She won’t be able to do much of anything in Disney World, not to mention what Florida weather is like in August. Mom’s brother lives in Atlanta, so it makes little sense to have him come to Philadelphia to fly to Orlando. Then there’s Mom’s sister, who is a cast member at Disney, so she’ll be working through this “vacation.”

We could imagine a number of other similar scenarios that would affect the wisdom of planning a trip this way: Cousin Eddie won’t fly. The nephew gets violently ill on any moving vehicle (even the tram from the parking lot would be iffy). The new granddaughter is terrified of mice. You get the idea.

How often in school do we make our kids get on the plane where we predetermined they need to get on? Instead, what if we were to show them the destination and help them make their own way there?

Or better yet, let them choose their own destination. Take it back to the vacation: what’s the purpose? Is it family togetherness? Is it to have the Disney Experience? Is it to be somewhere warm? Let the family talk about all the possibilities and plan it together.

How could this play out in your school or classroom? How do we deal with the reality of common standards and imposed expectations? We usually respond to these with the convenience of the camp bus or the prearranged flight, but could there be other ways? How can we marry the nonlinear nature of learning with the neatly scripted curriculum that we are increasingly given?