Answering a Strewing Question

Harry Potter Greenhouse by Masked Builder(CC BY 2.0)

Strewing or enriching a child’s environment…

I talked about this topic in my last video What is Unschooling?  And then I received a question…

Can I talk through an example of strewing and how it works?

I’ll try!

What if you had a son and his interests were Lego, Minecraft, Harry Potter and cooking? What would you strew? I have a few ideas, but I would appreciate your input, especially as I’m not familiar with three of these interests. So if you have anything to add, please stop by!

Now I know a lot about cooking. There are many chefs in our home. I actually wrote a post containing lots of strewing ideas centred around cooking. It’s called When a Child Has Only One Interest. I started with the word cooking, then brainstormed associated ideas. For example, shopping for ingredients involves writing lists which is English, and money which is maths. Watching cooking shows, based around a particular country or region’s cuisine, or a particular period in time, could lead to geography and history. Cooking is science. There are other ideas in that particular post if anyone is interested.

Now I don’t know much about Minecraft. I know many children (and adults) love this game. One day I decided to find out more. Perhaps we were missing something wonderful? So I invited my girls to explore Minecraft with me. We signed up for Minecraft accounts and then downloaded the game. We managed to work out the basics of the game together, and I told the girls I’d buy them a full subscription after their trial ran out if they wanted. But for some reason, they weren’t interested. Maybe they will return to Minecraft another time.

I‘m told kids learn all sorts of things while playing this game. I believe that. But how to extend the learning experience? Perhaps the experience is rich enough in its own right. I have heard of Minecraft school but why make an enjoyable experience into school? What do you think?

I’m not an expert on Harry Potter either, not having read the books. But I’m wondering if there are other similar books that could be offered. And the movies… I know Kenneth Branagh played one of the characters. We know Branagh from his Shakespeare plays. It would be interesting to talk about that. How about the other actors? What other movies have they been in? Finding out might lead to some great conversations.

Lego… My children have enjoyed Lego, but at the moment they are not passionate about it. Gemma-Rose has some My Friends models and they are on display in our family room, but she hasn’t actually touched them for weeks. But I do know there are lots of Lego activities if you go searching for them online. I don’t really know what WeDo Lego is but I found out it can be used in association with the animation website Scratch (which is a site we all love):

The LEGO® WeDo™ Construction Kit is a simple robotics tool designed for ages 7–11. It allows users to design their own interactive machines, and then program them using drag-and-drop software like Scratch.

Here’s a link to a WeDo-Scratch tutorial.

There are lots of Lego challenges on the DIY website. Children can earn the Lego Master skill by doing such things as making a Lego stop-motion video or creating Pixel Lego Art or constructing certain machines or words or…

There are endless Lego ideas. Just Google the word ‘Lego’ and you’ll find instructions to make thousands of things including jewellery and salt dough figures and Lego crocheted bags and Lego patterned sewn pillows…

So what have I been doing? I’ve been looking for strewing ideas. I started with a child’s interests and then looked for related activities and information that might extend that interest. I think it’s important though not to spoil an interest by insisting a child do all the activities we find for them. I wouldn’t want to turn a passion into a unit study (though that might suit someone else.) If a child is not interested, she is not interested. And usually if a child is happily immersed in an interest they are still being challenged. There is still something to learn. Maybe it’s a case of seeing the value in the passion, and translating that into suitable educational language, rather than using that activity to entice a child into different areas.

Of course, I don’t have to confine my ideas to my children’s interests. Sometimes I stumble across something new I think they might enjoy. It doesn’t hurt to offer such a resource. What’s the worst that can happen? My strewing could be rejected. But if I like my ideas that much, I can always use them myself.

So I have some resources I want to strew. But how do I do that?

I could strew them by sharing them in an Evernote planning notes notebook. This is my latest way of strewing! I might email interesting links to my children. Or I sometimes bookmark the websites on my children’s computers so they can find them easily. Usually, I tell my kids something about the resources I find. I invite them to take a look with me. Sometimes I will use the resources myself, and my girls will look over my shoulder, or work alongside me. Then I leave them to it. They can use them or not.

Books, DVDs, CDs and games can be scattered in a prominent place. Sometimes these resources will be noticed without any help from me. Other times they are ignored. I could say, “Does anyone want to play this game with me?” or “I’m going to watch this movie. Anyone want to join me?” I could offer to read a book aloud. I might say, “This book is similar to Harry Potter. Would you like to hear the first chapter?” Offering to take children on outings can be a form of strewing. We can strew ideas while we’re talking. Actually, I think conversation is one of the richest forms of learning there is.

Sometimes life gets very busy. Often we have work of our own to do, as well as helping our children with their interests. Can we invite our children to share our own passions and involve them in our work (which might also be a passion!)? At the moment I’m trying to format a book. The girls have been helping me with possible book cover designs. They all want to know what I am doing. They have their own ideas about what looks good. I think I’m going to pass most of the formatting work onto Imogen because I know she will enjoy working it all out. All I really want to do is write, not format books. I’m happy to pass that job onto a willing daughter. So I guess I am strewing lots of learning experiences in front of my children by inviting them to share my work.

And of course, there are times when ordinary life is interesting on its own, or life takes an unexpected direction, and strewing isn’t even necessary.

So what do you think? Do you strew? How do you decide what to offer your children? Do they usually like your ideas? And how do you feel if they reject the resources you offer? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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    • San
    • May 26, 2014

    I am sending you a massive thank you and a big cyber hug!! I will be checking out all your links, past posts and following through with alternative suggestions. You have given me not only information but an all important framework which I can use as a reference point. Benedict has been showing an interest in what has been occurring in the sewing room, so maybe I can find a task for him as I go about my business.

    This post has truly made my day 🙂

    San xxx

    1. Reply


      The cyber hug feels good! Thank you. I'm glad my answer was okay. At least it might be a starting point for further ideas. Oh yes, involve Benedict in your work. Kids love being involved in all aspects of our lives. By the way, I love your handmade items. I especially love your skirt and the knot bag. I should have stopped and told you so on the appropriate post on your blog. I often fail to do things I want to do. Sorry! Your comments made my day too! xx

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