Time for Some Strewing

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.
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Comments

  1. Reply

    Ohmygoodness! The internet hates me today. I tried leaving a comment earlier on my phone – got lost. Then I tried sharing your post on facebook, and it went away!! One last time!! I love this post, Sue, and I love how it gives people a real life view of what a day in the life of an unschooling family looks like. I'm sharing it with all my friends. Strewing this week over here: An visit to the airport to pick up a visitor, how-to watercolor videos on YouTube, read aloud (Benedict Society right now), and LOTS of paper airplanes. =)

    1. Reply

      Elisa,

      How frustrating! Thank you for persisting and also for the link on Facebook!

      Watercolour videos on Youtube? Oooh they sound interesting! We've been using watercolours in our doodles. Nothing impressive. Just having fun. I came across several great paper airplane websites. Maybe I should strew the links again!

    2. Reply

      I just went to YouTube and typed in "Watercolor 101" and got a bunch of good videos! We also really like this website: http://www.watercolorpaintingandprojects.com/index.html

    3. Reply

      Thank you so much for the link, Elisa!

  2. Reply

    Strewing: a fascinating way to learn and take an interest in something! I have only used the word strewn in conjunction for the very messy pile of paraphernalia that is every room of our home 🙂 but this strewing you do is an interesting concept in igniting the imagination and interest!

    1. Reply

      Monica,

      Oh I love messy piles of paraphernalia! You should see my desk. It's overflowing with books, my camera, keyboards, pens, pencils, paper, Kindle, baskets of odds and ends, a printer… If I could fit my sewing machine on the desk, it would be there as well. All that stuff represents my creativity and I love it!

      I bet you have some wonderful piles of art supplies dotted about your place. btw, Charlotte has started the Cereal Box Paper Dolls course and is enjoying it very much. I'm sure you're having an equally wonderful time with your fairy tale art!

  3. Reply

    I love strewing, too! My only problem is that we have to put it away before my husband comes home because he's very OCD about stuff lying around.

    1. Reply

      Shelly,

      Oh I can understand about wanting to come home to a tidy home. It would be so calming after a day at work. We try to confine our mess to certain areas of the house like the family room where we spend most of our time. As long as the living room is clutter-free and we can get into our beds at night we cope with a bit of mess.

      Perhaps you could have a table where you strew interesting things. That would keep everything in one place. Your children might enjoy visiting the table to see what's new.

  4. Reply

    I have learned a lot from your description of strewing (in this and earlier posts). I've learned from you what I think of as "Strewing Without Stressing." I am seeing lots of benefits here, too!

    I think I would like to have a strewing table. I have certain shelves in the home school room where I put special bins of things to get into: magnets and magnetic stuff, optics, seashells, bones, whatever, but I don't think I change it enough, and it's not central enough.

    Also, all the Zoomlians love Cogno. We even have the second game: one is a deep sea adventure, and the other is in space.

    1. Reply

      Wendy,

      Strewing without Stressing… That would have made an excellent title for my blog post!

      I didn't read your comment before writing the reply to Shelly's. A strewing table? Yes! I remember a friend of mine having such a table when her children were toddlers. She'd change the toys every few days, and the kids would visit to see what was new.

      I can't wait to play Cogno now that I know your children love it. The game is a second-hand one which arrived in a pile of games given to us by a friend who no longer has young children. Some people are so kind passing on things they no longer need!

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