A Spontaneous Trip Through Secret of the Andes

So many new homeschooling moms are worried about choosing a curriculum or what to use for science or history, however it’s amazing what you can learn just by being open and interested.

Secret of the Andes

We recently read aloud Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark and I thought I would lead you along our rabbit trail as it unfolded with the book. I didn’t start with a unit study, comprehension questions, or an agenda other than reading the book.

Peruvian Culture

Early in the book, Tortoro reeds are mentioned and curious as to what they were,  we look it up online. Tortoro reed  grows only in Peru and on Easter Island. Even more interesting is that they are used by the native Uros people of Peru who use Totoro reeds to construct islands that they live upon on Lake Titicaca.

I found this captivating. The Uros people have lived in this manner for over 3,000 years and there are over 80 of these floating islands on Lake Titicaca.

Peruvian Music

The beginning of the book also has a flute playing minstrel which led us to listen to Andean flute music on our Amazon Prime Music.

Once the girls found out they could get music from anywhere, they created a “Cultures” playlist that includes songs from  Africa,  India, and China.

Peruvian History

While reading this book, the girls just happened to watch an Expedition Unknown about the undiscovered City of Gold in Peru with their dad. They all love this show and there really is a lot of history discussed in each episode.

Language and Food

Later the main character, Cusi, visits an Ayllu on his journey to Cusco. Since I had never seen this word, we again went to Google.

An Ayllu is the traditional form of a community in the Andes, especially among Quechuas and Aymaras. In English, it means family.

We also found Inkan Corn at our Sprouts and Trader Joe’s! Well, of course, we had to try that! Imagine massive Corn Nuts.


At this point, we were becoming quite fascinated with Peru and I went searching for a video. We quite enjoyed this episode of Travel with Kids I found on Amazon Prime.

And Finally

I pulled off the shelf our copy of Machu Picchu by Elizabeth Mann.

In the introduction, Mann discusses the now more accepted scholarly spelling of Inka instead of Inca. Since there was no written Inka language in the 16th century,  words were written down according to the sounds as heard by the Spanish. Today native speakers are moving away from these spellings and among other things, “k” has replaced the Spanish “c.”

Being Open

None of this was planned, none of it was forced. It was just being curious as we read the book. We took the time to investigate and learn more about so many aspects of Inkan culture.

This really is my preferred method of homeschooling and when it clicks, it’s wonderful. I love to see where the trail will sometimes lead.

It’s not up to us to know every answer or have a course perfectly plotted. One of the best feelings in life is to just jump in the car with no real plan and see where you end up. Homeschooling is no different.


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About Bethany Ishee

Bethany is the mom of six, always-homeschooled children, who one day realized she'd lost herself in the process, probably under a pile of laundry. Her eclectic style of homeschooling draws upon Classical to Unschooling and everything in between.  While homeschooling her children and writing about learning outside of school, she tries to find time to read a book, drink coffee, and pay the bills.

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