How Much Strewing?
                      and can there be too little?

The goal is a satisfyingly-immersed-in-life present - not finding ways to sort of trick a kid into learning something.

Pam Sorooshian

AN EXAMPLE (by Jenny Cyphers):

If he loves to build, strewing might look like this:

...at the thrift store and you see some interesting foam blocks and purchase them because they look useful for building.

...at the park and you see some interesting rocks and sticks and you bring them to where your son is playing in the sand and help him incorporate them into a building design.

...online and you find an interesting and catchy youtube video that has some cool lego building project and you share it with your son.

...you are driving to the grocery store and you see a demolition in progress, so you pull over to watch. Or, similarly, a building in progress, or a great big hole in the ground, etc.

...you save cardboard boxes and pull them out in a time of restlessness and build a box fort with him.

That is just a start, a small start on strewing with building in mind.

Be open to it!

I've heard of unschoolers who say they never bring home anything for their kids—because they feel that puts subtle pressure on them to learn what the parents are promoting. I say hogwash to that. 🙂 I pick up stuff ALL the time—STILL do it, and mine are 14, 18, and almost 21. If I see an unusual fruit in the grocery store, I buy it and take it home and put it on the table for others to notice. If a kid is in the store with me I might say, "Oooh look at this. Let's take it home and cut it open."

Pam Sorooshian


I personally have three wicker baskets that all fit on my coffee table and I fill them with lots of interesting things; some things that the kids just have out a lot so I figured it easier to just leave it out, and some things that I just find interesting that I put in there and am constantly changing things out and putting new things in. It is amazing what sparks their interest! We are even taking those baskets with us on our year long motorhome trip!

Expansive Strewing

[Pam, to a mom who said her daughter chooses things to bring home, but the mom doesn't:] If YOU know that she LOVED Candyland, then you might pick up Chutes and Ladders because it is also likely to be fun for her - you don't need to wait for her to ask for it. She might never happen to see it and might very likely never realize that it is a game she'd like a lot.

[Sandra:] And if someone's interested in Chutes and Ladders, go online and look up Snakes and Ladders (and there are some online versions of it too), which is the traditional game from india on which Chutes and Ladders was based. It was a religious education tool for Hindu kids, and there are all kinds of gameboards. I collect them, and photos of them, and there were a couple on towels recently.

Let one thing lead to another for you. Explore. Not the mom pressing the kid to explore, but the mom exploring and connecting.

[Pam:] Or maybe she loves CLUE - she'd likely enjoy MASTERMIND - both involve the same kind of logical thinking. So - how is she going to know that?

[Sandra:] Neopets has two games that work like Mastermind, where one can not only explore that logic but also consider the computer programming that set those up. The games aren't completely random combinations--they begin with the first colors (one click) and progress to patterns with the later colors. That becomes part of the strategy of solving those particular puzzles.

Oh! Codebreakers is in the game graveyard (still playable, but not at the games link):

halloween graveyard
and the newer one is Time Tunnel
time tunnel
under games, puzzle games.

Public school teachers aren't always as prepared as we wish they'd be for teaching their subject matter, right? Shouldn't unschoolers try to be MORE prepared? A mom who's going to help a child learn from the whole wide world should herself become ever increasingly comfortable with what all is IN the whole wide world, and how she can help bring her child to the world and the world to her child.

Unschooling should and can be bigger and better than school.
If it's smaller and quieter than school, the mom should do more to make life sparkly.

Ideas from Dragonfly:

[W]e'd love to describe some of the things you can do to make sure your son's homeschooled life even happier and richer than his school life. I'll start by describing something we (unschooling parents) all do. It's called "strewing" and it involves making a wonderful variety of resources available to your kids with no expectation or requirement that the resources ever be used.

These can be books, toys, or supplies left casually on tables or in bathrooms or presented quietly or with fanfare directly to your child. They can be posters hung on walls, craft or music or gaming activities that *you* start, Web pages left open on the computer, magazines subscribed to, alternate driving routes taken, etc.

It is SO fun to do, and it creates an environment of discovery and fun in your house. The things you strew can be in support of interests your son has expressed or about just any old thing you think of.

In the recent past, I've strewn my daughters' paths by:

All this happened in and around all our usual activities. Actually, there's been nothing usual about our schedule these past few weeks, which goes to show how little time strewing can take! But never doubt that your usual activites can provide a lot of strewing, too. In our case, we've been making arrangements for my younger daughter's departure to England (lots of history and geography and tidbits gleaned), and I've been doing a lot of networking to arrange some get-togethers with local unschoolers because my older daughter wants to meet more people. And then there's work and going to watch my dh earn his first Iaido (Japanese swordsmanship) ranking and, oh yeah, HOURS of prep work for my younger daughter's 12th birthday party on Saturday — she wants to do about a dozen projects out of this wizard party book she found at the library. We're making candied rose petals today — a first for me in several ways, and yet another example of how they strew *my* path with interesting things. 🙂

Unschooling really is a mutually rewarding lifestyle! My family has never been happier.

dragonfly (Ronnie Maier), to a skeptical newcomer on unschooling.info/forum March 2006


There have been a couple of discussions in which people said strewing was manipulative and sneaky. I don't see it that way at all. If I know what kinds of things my children could use being exposed to to be more well rounded, or to "fill in gaps" in what they know, or to take them to another level of understanding, bringing those things up in physical or conversational ways is no more "manipulative" than bringing more fruit into the house if there hasn't been much fruit consumption lately, or bringing them bottles of water on hot summer days. I don't need to force them to eat oranges or drink water, but I can notice it might be good for them and make it appealing. —Sandra Dodd

Rocks and shells and...

Robert Prieto wrote:

If strewing seems manipulative, think of Mother Nature. Nature has strewn a whole world out there, full of trees and people and birds and animals and rocks and shells and plants and bugs… We each get particular pieces of what she has to offer, based on where we live and how we live (urban/rural, traveler/homebody, etc.)—and those pieces are sitting right there for everyone to pick through, explore, enjoy, and learn from.

]That is all strewing needs to be. Here's the world, kids—and here's a few things from that world that I think you in particular might like, or a few things that relate to you in some way. Have at it.

—Robert Prieto

photo by Karen James

"What else is there to strew?"

A mom wrote about strewing books. I wrote and said strewing books wasn't the best way to strew. Below she quoted, me, asked a question, and I responded. (—Sandra)
You said, "meant to say that strewing BOOKS is lame. If books are a small part of strewing, great! If books are a large part or ALL of strewing, no good whatsoever."

What else is there to strew?

Everything else.

Things that have caught people's interest here:

out of the house to zoo, museums, flea market, farmer's market, live performances of dance/plays/music

My kids have been interested in books and documentaries, but if I only "counted" that, or thought those were more valuable than the other connections, unschooling would fizzle.

Yesterday Holly and I were watching the pilot episode of Lois & Clark, The New Adventures of Superman. She was too little to have seen the show when it came through originally, but she likes Dean Cain a lot, and has lately started watching Desperate Housewives, so the Teri Hatcher presence would be a draw. In one scene they're working late and Clark Kent says he'll go out for Chinese food. They show with a map that he flies to Shanghai and comes back with string- bound bamboo steam baskets. Then they show them opening fortune cookies.

I turned to Holly to say something but she was already saying "They wouldn't have fortune cookies in China." When she was doing research for a girl scout presentation years back she learned things about China none of the leaders knew—like that there WERE no girl scouts in China, and the Chinese flag wasn't blue. (Yeah, not the greatest of troops.) But she also learned that fortune cookies are a U.S. invention, and she remembered. Will that ever be on an SAT test? No, and she might never take an SAT test. But the writer and director and actors on that show seem not to have known.

Everything counts, and every connection made increases the depth and breadth of the map of the universe each person is building. It makes it easier to learn the next few things, because there are more places to hook the knowledge.


Deb Lewis adds:

***out of the house to zoo, museums, flea market, farmer's market, live performances of dance/plays/music***
...and funeral homes...

Dylan and I have been watching the HBO series Six Feet Under. We didn't get HBO and never knew about the series when it was on but a friend thought we might like it and loaned us her series on dvd.

I work at the local flower shop and we do A LOT of funeral flowers, talk to the family, spend time listening to the stories and in that way, I told Dylan, the flower shop is like the funeral home in Six Feet Under.

The other day I had deliveries to the funeral home and I stopped at the house first and grabbed Dylan. The guy in the casket was a man we both knew—not a friend, but a kind of famous character in the community who liked to write opinionated, angry letters to the editor of the paper. We had met him a couple of times at community meetings. He was blustery and frightening.

There he was, in the casket, the funeral music playing, the empty chairs waiting for mourners. We put the flowers in the right places. Dylan asked if I had made the casket spray and how I had known what size to make it and I told him we have casket spray stands that gauge the sizes for adult or child caskets. I said I'd show him next time he was in the shop and told him when I was younger and worked at a shop in Oregon we used to push each other around on the wheeled spray stands when the manager was gone. 🙂 We looked around, looked at the dead guy. Dylan recited one of the fake commercials about embalming fluid from the tv series. The casket was *glorious* and I thought if I had one piece of furniture that looked that beautiful or was worth that much money I'd feel rich. And I hoped the casket wasn't the nicest thing he'd ever had. I hoped it wasn't the nicest thing his mom ever did for him.

***out of the house to zoo, museums, , flea market, farmer's market, live performances of dance/plays/music***
Our town is small and we've been to the museums here more than once but we still find new things to do here. A new store opened so we checked it out and talked to the owner. The radio station moved from the residence of the owners to a building downtown and we took a tour. The mom-in-law of my employer got a bunch of fancy chickens and we drove out to see them. She showed Dylan a coffee table book about chickens. She showed us her little sun room where she grows orchids.

There's always something to do, someone to talk to, some road leading somewhere.

Deb Lewis

More on Strewing

Building an Unschooling Nest

Parenting Topics for Unschoolers