Sometimes life provides my children with more than enough learning experiences without any help from me. A bushfire might be burning on our doorstep, giving everyone a unique learning opportunity. At other times, ordinary life provides one question after another for us to answer: We might discuss the problem of a broken washing machine or we’re anticipating the installation of a hot water system. We might have a pile of books we’re engrossed in, or we have dozens of projects we’re working on. There’s lots going on. We are discussing and reading and learning heaps without any trouble at all.
Then one day we wake up and the day feels very flat.
“I don’t know what to do!”
“I’ve finished that project. I don’t know what to do next.”
“I’m fed up with learning about …. I feel like doing something different.”
“I read that book. What shall I read next?”
Time for some strewing!
So what is strewing? I guess it’s enriching our children’s environment with interesting resources or experiences. We scatter or strew things in front of our children, hoping they might capture their interest, inspiring them to ask questions, be creative, feel excited… We want them to enjoy the learning that results from something we have placed in their pathway.
So what can we strew?
I suppose we can strew anything… websites, books, ebooks, DVDs, online videos, podcasts, CDs or MP 3 files, computer software programs, places we can visit, art and craft and handicraft materials, cameras, food, maps, science kits, pictures and paintings, games, online classes such as art classes, things we’ve collected from the beach, leaves and flowers…
I am always on the look-out for things to strew. Some I buy. Others I bookmark. Some I gather.
And when I see my children are at a loose end, looking for something to get involved with, I start strewing.
I hang a painting on the wall where my children can’t fail to notice it.
I pop a new CD into the player.
Perhaps I make a pile of new books on the coffee table.
I could gather some art or handicraft materials.
Like most people, we have lots of resources scattered about our house that no one seems to take much notice of. There are piles of games on top of our book shelves that aren’t often used. We have dozens of DVDs we’ve never watched. There’s books and more books, and drawers full of CDs, bags of fabric… Every now and then, I walk around the house pulling out a few things from here and there that look interesting. I make a pile on the coffee table. I don’t worry about mess. Everything stays there under our noses where we can see it. It can wait for someone to discover it or…
I can issue an invitation to share a particular resource.
“I read this book. Would you like to read it too?”
“Does anyone want to watch this DVD with me?”
“I found a version of Swan Lake on Youtube. Shall we watch it?”
“We could go to the lake for a picnic. We could take our pencils, scooters, running shoes, cameras…”
“How about we visit the garden centre?”
My kids love doing things with me. They are happy to curl up on the sofa and watch almost any DVD as long as I’m next to them. They are ready to listen to most books if it means I am doing the reading. But if they choose not to join me, that’s okay. It’s their choice.
Of course I haven’t time to get involved with every resource I strew, so the girls will try out things for themselves. Or I could get them going and then leave them to it. This is what happened when I strewed the website Scratch.
“Hey look what I found, girls! We could make our own animations using code. Shall we give it a go?”
Gemma-Rose and Sophie were interested. Charlotte wasn’t. Soon the younger girls and I were coding. They have returned to their projects many times even though I have moved onto other things.
I often strew electronically.
“I’ve sent some new books to your Kindles, girls!”
“If you bring me your MP3 players I could add some new music/ spiritual talks to them.”
“I found some good websites. I’ll send you an email with the links.”
The girls can dip into these resources (or not) as they please.
If I watch and listen carefully, I get lots of possible strewing ideas.
“If you enjoyed that book, you might like this one.”
“I bookmarked a podcast on that topic. Shall I send you the link?”
“After we were talking about that painting the other day, I found a Youtube video all about it. Do you want to have a look?”
Sometimes I help the girls bookmark certain websites on their computers to visit in their own time.
“Now you know about that site, if you feel like playing… using… reading… listening… you can return to it whenever you like.”
Strewing resources don’t have to be big or expensive. I could strew a simple shell or a leaflet about solar heating or some used stamps or a magnet or a set of Sharpies or a new notebook or a photo…
Sometimes I strew my own interests and passions. I set myself up where the girls will see me and start work.
“What are you making, Mum? Can I try that?”
“You’re drawing! What book are you using? I could do that.”
“What are you watching, Mum? Can I join you?”
Sometimes I deliberately strew something I want my children to know about. I might offer them poems I really like, a DVD of a Shakespeare play, or a novel I enjoyed. Most times they will at least glance at what is on offer.
But what if my children aren’t interested in what I have strewed? What if they reject my strewing? Then that’s quite okay. The world is full of interesting things to learn about. If my children don’t pick up on some of the resources and experiences I put before them, then I just go looking for other things to capture their attention.
I think I might go and do a bit of strewing right now. Earlier today, I noticed a science board game a friend gave us several months ago. We’ve never played it. Do you think if I stand on a chair and reach for it, the girls will say, “What are you doing, Mum?”? When I wipe the dust off the box, will they say, “What’s that game about Mum?”? And when I start to pull everything out and set up the board, will they say, “Can we play too?”?
I hope so!
And if not, I’ll just place the game on the coffee table. It might capture someone’s attention another day.