As a homeschool mom I get the chance to know my kids pretty well and I love being able to present them with opportunities to learn that really mesh with their passions. Seeing their appreciation and enthusiasm about their educational choices is so affirming. Ha, ha, ha.
Just kidding. That never happens here. Although I usually have a pretty good idea of what my kids love my suggestion of an activity or subject is enough to make anyone turn up their nose.
There’s this thing called reality.
Art project, science experiment, a new movie; you name it. My recommendation is a swift and predictable interest killer.
So I stopped recommending and started my own projects, read books, and watched documentaries. Alone. I leave new supplies laying around with no instructions. It’s like being intentionally lazy. Certain things are left on the counter or the ottoman…. for days.
I started doing this midway through our first year of homeschool. It came about as a result of me feeling like I was banging my head against the wall by offering up opportunities and having the kids shake their heads at them. This required a little reverse psychology.
This idea isn’t new. Apparently it’s a homeschool “thing” that I was too green to know about!
Strewing is defined as scattering or spreading things untidily over a surface. So, basically, its leaving stuff out for your kids to have their way with it. Finally, an educational philosophy I can really get behind.
Strewing is often associated with unschoolers which is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. While we are not unschoolers my kids do have large chunks of time available to them each day that beg to be filled with their own interests. There is not enough of me to go around to supply “projects” to last four kids through every day.
Required work is done quickly but the learning doesn’t stop.
My kids are usually done with their required work by lunchtime. We don’t even do “real school” on Fridays. (Yes, we homeschool only four days a week and it’s awesome!) This means my kids have a lot of free hours to fill!
If there happen to be cool new watercolors laying out on the counter my kids will undoubtedly ask to use them.
“Awesome. I get to use them!”
Scenario two is I have the same watercolors in hand and ask them to come sit down at the counter for a “lesson in watercolor.” The reply is much different.
“Right now? Uggggghhhhhhhhh. Do I have to? How long will this take and when can I get back to what I was doing?”
When its not their idea the fun, the spark, is gone and that spark is what us homeschool mamas are hunting for!
What’s wrong with instructing kids on what to do when?
One of the main reasons our family left the public school system is we felt our kids were learning to do a darn good job of following instructions rather than learning how to think for themselves. I don’t want to recreate that same scenario here in our homeschool.
There are some parts of their day that are non-negotiable. (We do math and language daily. Science and history are on a rotation.) They know what their requirements are and generally good at fulfilling them. When those requirements are done they get to fill the remainder of their day with things that interest them.
My job as a “strewer” is to put things in front of them that are interesting and new. I leave out stacks of library books and add movies to our Netflix queue that I know they might not pick themselves but if they are there they may very likely find interesting
When we do a science experiment or work with a specific art medium I often leave the materials out for a few days. Something that they did once may be repeated the same way the next day but more often it evolves as the kids have time to think about it.
They have time to think about what they did, change it up, make adjustments, and then try again. Doesn’t that sound like an amazing learning process? That kind of learning that requires interest and motivation, and time is the same kind of learning that really sinks in.
The same science project or art materials may be used in a slightly different manner at least three or four times in a row before we finally put it away! Learning isn’t always a straight, neat line.
Strewing can help beat boredom and, dare I say, inspire!
It has taken my kids an entire year or more of being out for the public school system to even begin to figure out what they are really interested in. That’s because an eight hour school day plus sports after school leaves very little time to be creatively filled. My older boys showed this in a more dramatic way because their lives had been so full of planned activities for so long. They honestly had no idea what they were good at or what they really wanted to know more about because they had simply never had time to explore those things.
As time goes on I see all of my kids being better at filling their time. Of course their interests vary wildly which makes strewing all the more interesting and my counter all the messier.
A messy counter is totally worth it. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
The above image is ultra pinn~able and would just love to be strewn around Pinterest, Facebook, or any social media you love!
I am too much of a neatfreak to do this completely, but that said I do try to introduce and have on hand new things and lots of educational things that the kids have 24hr access to. I do wish I could handle having things sit out for days.
Theresa~ some days I can stand more chaos than other! I’m a big fan of baskets and totes too. Having things in their “piles” helps it seem more purposeful! Thanks for stopping by!
I sooooooo agree with what you’ve outlined! I do this as best I can with extremely limited space! Thank you for writing this post!
Thanks Jeani! It can be a delicate balance between strewing things that might catch our kid’s interests and mom’s mental state! Haha. I’m glad you’ve found the sweet spot that works for your family!!