Homeschool Word of the Day: Strewing

Strewing means scattering, or dispersing haphazardly. In homeschooling, to strew is to leave education books, materials, and games lying about in the child’s path.

Strewing is a word used by unschoolers. While unschoolers allow their children to follow their own paths, many do manage to direct the kids a bit with strategic placement of learning materials. Sandra Dodd, who coined the term, explains this practice well on her website. She explains, “Some of our most successful items have been toys or objects for playing with (sometimes not purely a toy) like pattern blocks, castle blocks, magnets (or some new magnet toy where something swings or moves), a prism, odd little crafts things with some tactile element people will just HAVE to pick up and mess with (fuzzy, furry, slippery, gummy…), printouts of good cartoons or little articles or humor lists (generally taped inside the bathroom or left on the counter there, or on the dining table), new foods, snacky stuff, in a bowl, interesting rocks, rinsed, in a bowl, on the table… But there’s another element which isn’t physically “strewing” but involves instead taking the children out and about with the idea of their seeing (hearing, tasting, smelling, touching) things they might not have come upon otherwise and that you can’t lay casually about the house.”

The first time I heard of strewing, I didn’t know the word for it, but recognized it as an ideal way to unschool students. I came across the story of former homeschooler Erik Demaine who was educated by his father. His father basically traveled the country with him and constantly layed out books that might interest his son. His son consumed those books and some. He entered Dalhousie University at 12 and earned his bachelors degree at 14. Now at the age of 28, he is an associated professor of Computer Science at MIT. Mr. Demaine is a clear example that this method of “teaching” works.

Strewing can actually be a bit of work for the parents, but when done correctly the children never notice it. Basically, a child shows an interest in something, and WALLA! A book or game on the subject appears. Another example is when a child is consumed in a subject and coming to the end of all the age appropriate information a parent can find, so the parent searches for a related subject and resources to keep the child engaged and learning.

In the blog post “And Then There’s Classical Unschooling” , Melissa Wiley remarks that her vision of natural learning requires mom and dad to work behind the scenes. I have also come across a few message boards where parents share information on what and how to strew materials to keep their unschoolers learning.

~If you liked this you should also read my blogs at the home blog, the parents blog, and the frugal blog. You can read my recent posts here.

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More Homeschool Vocabulary Words: syncretism, autodidact, extreme and mediocrity and more.