How To Use Strewing To Encourage Kids’ Self Direction
Update: If you haven’t yet seen our bespoke timetable for homeschooling during coronavirus, do check it out- it is completely free and includes all the activities and work for your child.
One of the questions we get asked most as a homeschooling family is:
“Don’t you get bored? How do you keep your kids entertained all the time?”
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. We don’t entertain our kids much; they are pretty self directed after a few years of home education and as you can see from this post on unschooling, conversation and experience are the cornerstones of their education.
We do however have a secret weapon that we can whip out at any time no matter what we have around us and how little energy we have.
Our Best Secret To To Keep Kids Engaged When We Don’t Have Time To Prepare Activities
The secret? Strewing. 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 home ed strewing I’m talking about today.
Strewing in a boredom-busting or homeschooling 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 fun, authentic learning experience without it being marred by an arbitrary agenda or stunted by frustration. An example would probably help…
How To Strew (And How To NOT!)
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 novelty, educational and developmental needs of our children in the ways that are best for them; a kind of intensely tailored yet no-pressure programme of learning. It is free from the stress 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.
What Do We Strew?
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 Lego or train track in a new way is strewing; you don’t have to always get new things to do it. See what I mean about it being easy and no prep?
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 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 for maths; magazines /interesting stationary/ new books for English, etc).
Strewing can also be outside the home; education happens everywhere, not just at home or school. Pausing by a bus stop to look at the timetable may stimulate an interaction about time (maths), or perhaps a socially-focussed discussion about lateness (social skills), or a more politically centred enchange about public services (politics).
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 boredom busting and homeschooling helpful. Some articles that you may be interested in include our how to start homeschooling, 6 surprising facts about UK homeschooling, the answers to the 10 most frequently asked questions about homeschooling, and the different styles and curriculums in UK homeschooling (and how to pick one).