Monday, September 5, 2016

{radical art of homeschooling} strewing

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Unschoolers have a term that is very useful to any parent, called strewing. What it basically means is leaving interesting items ( books, puzzles, toys, food, articles, anything) in the path of your children for them to discover. 

These items can be based on current interests or completely unrelated. By having a rich and novel environment, minds are enlivened and curiosity peaked. I do this by second nature now, mostly with books,  and I am always surprised and happy when one of my children find something fascinating and become engrossed.

It is important that you do not leave things out with an expectation for a particular outcome. If you do, no doubt the interest will wane as you are anxiously watching for engagement. Think of these items as invitations, and it is up to your child to accept them. This does not mean you can not offer your kid things, too. I am always coming back from errand or internet browsing with something to share. 

Strewing is just another layer that adds to a curiosity enriched home. Think of it as a booster shot - extra immunity against stagnant thinking. 

In addition to exposure of new and novel things, strewing allows for and encourages making new connections between disparate ideas and items. It encourages a sense of play, remixing and mashing up. 

Try leaving two unrelated craft or art items and see what happens. 

I adopt this mentality of  keeping our environment dynamic by "strewing" other things too. Try listening to a wide variety of music on Pandora. Watch movies and documentaries far outside what you normally lean towards. Read antique books. Listen to records. Go to concerts and lectures. Strew your whole life with new and interesting content. This should be casual and ongoing - not frantic or stressful. The work you do is minimal.

This works great for all ages. 

What you can strew
coffee table books - either your own or from the library
Pipe cleaners and beads
a basket of curated blocks (for older kids you could add a glue gun, wood burner, or sharpie markers)
a little bowl of foreign money (maybe you have a collection, if not you can find inexpensive money at a coin shop)
a globe or map with sticky arrows to mark places to go
a jar of marbles
a huge piece of paper taped to a window or wall with a little bucket of crayons
board game already set up
a stack of old newspapers and some masking tape

puzzle or riddle written on your chalk board
interesting word or poem written on the wall
balloons (deflated or blow up several before you go to bed)
fresh play doh
old photo albums or baby books (you would be surprised how much fun this one is)
a new to them comic
a funny picture from a magazine with a note on it (my kids love those ads with the cat who looks like he is holding himself - they make them giggle so much)
a craft kit (especially for olders who can do the project themselves) 
FIMO clay and a cookie sheet
cardboard boxes
electronics kit (like little bits or snap circuits)
a basket full of blank books (just folded over paper, stapled and taped) or comic blanks
origami paper and some instructions
coloring sheets (they make amazing ones for older kids now)
wooden pattern blocks
yarn and a knitting loom
extreme dot to dots

Where you can strew
My favorite place is the kitchen/dining room table, if I clear it off at night and put something interesting there, the kids nearly always engage. Other places include coffee tables, the bathroom walls, the car, the kids desk or bed. Also, if your kids are older, you can email or text them links that might be of interest to them. Keep the lines of communication flowing and encourage them to strew or share back with you!

Journal 
Walk around your house for 10 minutes and make notes about some things you might strew that you have not thought of. You do not have to go out and buy things to strew. Just find stuff around the house you already have and might have forgotten about.

Try leaving something out each day for a week and see what happens. Are your kids receptive? Do they like a certain type of activity? 

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