How to use strewing in home schooling
We often get asked “how” we home educate. It is a very broad question to answer, as we do countless things that contribute to our children’s education and it is difficult to summarise all that in a few sentences. However, breaking it down there are a few aspects or things that we do frequently that we have found really beneficial as a family and we’d like to share.
“Strewing” is one of them. The kids do one version of this, when I ask them to get dressed and they take it as prompting to empty all of their clothes out of the drawers and fling socks around like underwear confetti. This is really annoying and definitely not the kind of strewing I’m talking about today.
Strewing in a home education context is the practice of providing a resource in a way that allows a child to discover it for themselves and learn naturally from it. This allows a strong, authentic learning experience without it being marred by an arbitrary agenda or stunted by frustration. An example would probably help…
Say I found a bird’s feather and thought, “Ooh, this will be good for the kids to learn biology and physics. We can talk about the anatomy of a bird and how birds use feathers to fly”. This may be a fair enough idea, but the child’s primary interest may be in the colour or texture of the feather, leading to a rich time of art education. Another may have seen feathers used in Native American dress and want to explore foreign cultures. You may have one child who is fascinated by how it allows a bird to fly and another who wants to use it to make a a quill pen or an arrow. With strewing we use resources to meet the educational and developmental needs of our children in the ways that are best for them; a kind of intensely tailored personal programme of learning. At the same time it is free from toxic stress and pressure that often discourages children from exploring something fully, with the fear that they will ‘get it wrong’. Another benefit is that it is a great way to engage several children of different ages with one resource; perfect for families with multiple children.
We strew all kinds of things in all different ways. We might set out a collection of pine cones, leaves and flowers that we have gathered on a walk. We might see a new and exotic fruit in the supermarket and pop it in the fruit bowl or cut it into slices and put in alongside an afternoon snack. I might find a book in the library about dinosaurs, which our four year old loves, and I might say “oh look this looks great!” or if she’s busy I might just leave it in her room, open at an interesting page. I might find a few brightly coloured buttons and leave them on my eldest daughter’s art table. Even rotating their toys or setting up their Brio track in a novel pattern is strewing; you don’t have to always get new things to do it. If you have a child that is resistant to suggestion, just start doing something- drawing, painting, making a cake, playing with K’Nex- and it is very likely that they will be intrigued and want to join you.
We find that strewing, and indeed home education, works best when we do not project an arbitrary agenda onto the kids. Our philosophy of autonomous education means that we are very happy and confident supporting our kids in their lives without separating activities and resources into subjects. However, we also understand that some people like working in subjects or topics, and strewing makes it easy to provide interesting resources that target specific areas of learning (depending on the age of the child think buttons/ counters/ LEGO/ something cut into pieces for maths; magazines /interesting stationary/ new books for English, etc).
Strewing can also be outside the home. Pausing by a bus stop to look at the timetable may stimulate an interaction about time, or perhaps a socially-focussed discussion about lateness, or a more politically centred enchange about public services. Going to a new playground with different equipment is perfect for developing new physical skills. Booking a holiday or short break somewhere new opens up a world of learning potential and resources, from unfamiliar accents, to maps, to new food and landscape. Travel for us is one of the ways we can strew endless novelty in our children’s path; so much so in fact that it would be almost impossible to stop them learning constantly.
We always love sharing our experiences and we hope that you found this post on strewing for home education helpful. If you would like strewing ideas for your kids, please ping us a message with their ages and interests and we will do our best to help!
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Travel journalists, home educating our lovely brood of 3 girls. Planning a year-long RTW trip late Summer 2017.