Strewing in Action

Strewing can be a little bit like setting a trap, but not at all for meanness. It can be like leaving a gift to be discovered. It can be a little bit like the tooth fairy came, or the Easter bunny. Colleen in New Hampshire wrote:

Hi Sandra –

I came across a magnetic poetry kit that I had forgotten about in a closet the other day – so I put a bunch of words randomly on the side of our fridge, and left the rest of the box nearby.

Thought you might smile seeing what I came upon about an hour later – seems neither Robbie nor my husband could resist 🙂


In June 2012, Karen James wrote at Always Learning:

Just tonight, my husband came into the kitchen, before he went out to the bbq, and casually said to me, "I didn't know that the pyriform shape of eggs helps to prevent them from rolling off the edges of cliffs." After a brief moment, I knew he was talking about something he had just read this beautiful egg book I propped up in the bathroom. It has been there for weeks. I change the pages of it when I get tired of looking at the pictures. I rarely read the words in this book. I like the natural decorations on the eggs.

My son came into the kitchen as we were talking. He asked what we were talking about. We told him. Then we took an egg out of the refrigerator and rolled it around on the counter and watched its motion. We all had a deeper respect for the shape of eggs. Then we all went on with what we had been doing before. We came together over this book for one very nice moment in our day.

One thoughtfully placed book can lead to a richer living and learning experience. That is my understanding of and experience with strewing.

Sandra, in response (again) to someone thinking strewing should be "educational materials":

"Interesting things" was in the original strewing description. Not educational things. And rarely, at our house, were they things we spent money on, or if so more likely from a yard sale or thrift store. They were found things, usually. Sometimes found in the top of my closet or in the shed.

Colleen Prieto:

Yesterday, a neighbor offered me something that looks sort of like a cross between a bell and a gong, a stand to hang it from, and a mallet. It was interesting and I figured we'd find some sort of use for it, so I accepted 🙂

I brought it home and put it on the coffee table.

In the less than 24 hours it's been in the house, my 9 year old has:

The fun (and learning, and connections) that can come from exploring one simple item can be amazing.

Not everything I bring home or get out or leave about grabs his attention in the way this has - but it's such fun when something does, and it inspires me to keep looking for more interesting things to strew about 🙂

February 2017, Karen James:
I feel like the joy of strewing is in the spontaneity. It's the thrill of finding a treasure. It's the excitement of leaving a treasure for someone else to find. One time I left a four leaf clover on the kitchen counter. Doug (my husband) saw it, and mentioned it was cool. Ethan (our son) found it and wanted to know more about it--where I found it, when, how. Then we raced into the front yard where I had found it to search for more. He found several. He was so thrilled, telling me all the statistics of four leaf clovers he knew. I had no idea he even knew what he knew!

One time I glued a bunch of little train people around the house--some running around the top of a lamp shade, one guy with a camera in the front door window looking out, a few scattered in other funny places. Slowly Doug and Ethan found them all. Doug saw the man with the camera in the door, and thought it might be a good idea to get some cameras for the attic to see if we have critters. He did, and we've been playing with the cameras around the house. They haven't made it to the attic yet. Ethan mostly thought my scattering of little people was a little kooky. 😉

I found the most perfect pine cone a few months ago. It had fallen from a tree next to our house. I brought it in and placed it on the kitchen table. No one really commented on that, but, as the days passed I got to slowly watch it open. That was thrilling to me, seeing one side open, then the other, then the top. It seemed to have a plan. :-) I ended up putting it with some of the other things I collect when I'm outdoors. Some of those finds from nature have little train people scattered in funny poses throughout. It makes me laugh, and sometimes it brings delight to whoever finds them delightful!

Sandra had a spinning top with a pen on one of her unschooling pages (I think, if I remember correctly). I thought that looked really cool, so I purchased one and put it out on the kitchen table with a large piece of paper. It went unnoticed mostly, so I began playing with it myself. The swirls and meandering lines caught Ethan's attention. He thought the patterns they made were cool and wanted to see how they were made. We spun the top, making more. He wanted the top to go longer so we began experimenting with making our own spinning tops with pens from things we had around the house. The top itself was not what caught Ethan's attention. For me, it was. For Ethan, it was the swirly lines that were the treasure he happened upon and wanted to explore more.

Strewing for me, is a little bit of magic. It's like the potential energy of wonder that's all stored up in something unexpected, waiting to wow a person specially primed to be wowed by its offering. Each person brings their own experiences and interests to everything they meet. It's a mystery what might capture the imagination of a person and to what degree it will hold their attention. But that's the fun of strewing and finding, I think. For me it is!

Karen James, February 17, 2017

Note from Sandra:
Karen was talking about Doodletops. I ordered some and helped arrange to get them to home-ed families in England. If you're leaving (or visiting) the U.S. these might be a great gift to carry out. Google up a good offer when the time comes. Check toy shops or Amazon. They're made by University Games and come in different packages (1, 2 or 3 tops), and they sell replacement pen tips. The images below are links; search for other suppliers if you don't want to buy from one of these.


Many years' worth of strewing ideas

Building an Unschooling Nest

Help for Unschoolers