We asked veteran unschoolers in our Christian unschooling groups to answer the typical “new to unschooling” questions. The following are their responses to the following question:

What is your best definition of strewing? How do you go about strewing? Do you have any advice for new unschoolers as to how to strew with confidence and without pressure?

Strewing is so incredibly simple it feels strange to me to even have a word for it. It’s sharing or making available things that you think might interest one or more of your kids. The secret is, as with sharing anything, not to get too involved in if or how another person chooses to receive what we’ve shared. Do we get upset with our friends for not reading this great new book we discovered? Do we get disappointed when our husbands aren’t interested in the myriad patterns and designs of Jamberry nail shields? Usually we understand that not everybody will be interested in every thing. That is, for me, the crux of strewing. ~Mariellen

I have a table in the living room that I have put books of all kinds on. Each morning, I see that some have been taken off of the table and read at nighttime. Warms my heart. I used to do all of the same topic. Now, I pick books from all sorts of subjects. ~Sue

 The bathroom- I put books that may otherwise go unnoticed but are interesting if they get picked up on our small book shelf in the bathroom. Also keep an open Bible in there. In the past we have had a world map shower curtain, posters of random interest in the bathroom, on walls in hallway, as place mats on table.

When I find something cool online I share it with my kids via tumblr, chat, or facebook. Also have a pinterest set up for each though at this point they don’t use them unless they come to me bored. Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook sees multiple posts for Esther and Rachel because they are the ones who use Facebook often. ~Heather

Keeping the house neat and simple instead of cluttered really helps the kids see things that are strewed- hard to strew if it is all just clutter. Moving things around, cleaning a spot and putting something out (like the coffee table currently contains a puzzle in process- obviously my kids are older now. Can’t do that with littles. :D)~ Sue

This is our old place, how we did things there:http://untraditionalhome.com/2012/02/07/strewn/ different now but still use similar concepts. We are in a much smaller place so the book shelf in bathroom is fuller.

With littles, think about how when you clean a room they suddenly want to do all sorts of things in it. THAT is the key to strewing with littles. Clean a spot, set some cool stuff out, and see what they use.

Also, great posts on the Christian unschooling site about strewing, how to do it, and how NOT to:http://www.christianunschooling.com/?s=strewing

Especially this one, Karen ‘s post about how NOT to strew: http://www.christianunschooling.com/the-guide-to…/

Carma’s post on strewing that worked is excellent: http://winging-it.me/2012/09/11/successful-strewing/

Aadel has an excellent ebook and series on her site about strewing:http://thesetemporarytents.com/…/the-art-of-strewing/

More great links on strewing: 

http://www.lifelearningmagazine.com/1204/parental_role_in_unschooling.htm

http://melissawiley.com/blog/2005/01/24/strategic-strewing/

http://sandradodd.com/strewing

http://sandradodd.com/strew/

http://sandradodd.com/strew/how

Also strew on Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime (add things to favorites or shout, “Hey, come here, look at this cool thing I just found.” We do that a lot. We all share interesting tidbits throughout the day. Kids share with us, we share with them. ~ Heather

A fave tip from my MIL: For younger ones, have storage boxes and rotate the strewings of educational toys and games seasonally. Might be every 6 months or every 3, whatever works for your house. It freshens up the continually- loved things while keeping the space tidier and keeping the kids from getting overwhelmed by “stuff organization” and tidying up.

Currently, with teens, I try to do a couple of book purchases every few months. Amazon, second-hand store, whatever.

We, too, do a lot of “hey, check out this YouTube vid!” CathiLyn

Having a place that is safe for older kids to have their stuff without worrying about younger ones breaking, destroying, eating things

Having a few places you always keep neat and randomly set out new, interesting things is good. With littles just putting a toy they haven’t played with for a while opens up whole new worlds.

Also, not getting upset when they mix and match toys. That is as important as putting out new things. Mine used to come up with all sorts of new games and things using old parts. We just had a bin where the things that got misplaced would go so we could find them when we went to use the game.

Something like this works great for when you have littles around: http://www.ikeahackers.net/…/ikea-kura-with-lego-play…. When I was small my bed had a bunk bed top and I used it for playing with my doll house and other small things I couldn’t play with on the floor (brother was 4 years younger.) ~Heather

We had a setup with a bunk bed with just a board and no mattress up top for the older ones to play in. I also turned the bed to make it more difficult to climb up (couldn’t use the ladder) so that only the older ones could get up there. It was great. ~Tami

My best tip on strewing – it’s not the same as spewing. Less is often more. And go for quality over quantity also.

A lot of new unschoolers make the mistake of either stepping back and becoming uninvolved in their child’s learning journey or they see strewing as a way to get kids to do schooly, educational subjects. Neither extreme is conducive to unschooling. (see Karen’s post above)

Left alone, especially if they have previously been to school or homeschooled in a rigid way, kids don’t have the resources to see the wideness of the world and the joy of learning naturally from it. Strewing is a way to enhance their experience. It’s not a manipulative tool. ~ Aadel

I love Aadel’s point about new unschoolers becoming too uninvolved. I felt like I wasn’t really an unschooler if I suggested activities or found things that we could do together. I strew a lot with Pinterest boards, book purchases (I just put them on the bookcase and see what they choose), and often just asking “Do you want to….?” Honestly, my eight year old comes up with enough ideas for us all sometimes, but I want to find ways to make the things that the other children are interested in come to life too. ~Rebecca

Does not cleaning up around the house count? LOL OTHER than that “obvious” way ( which I admittedly do all to often) depending on the “thing” Im strewing or the kid/age our strewing is basically like the ones mentioned above. We have baskets places throughout the house for books or fun crafty things. Tuesday is our garage and book “cleaning” day thanks to fly lady. So we get to refresh our boxes at least once a week.

For e-strewing we use pintrest ( each kid has their own board on my page) and fB..I will share things that I think they will like on their page or in groups they are a part of. Also on netflix they now have “who’s watching” options, so I can add things to their personal queue…which is SO cool…We also add channels to our Roku device like “ieducation” and “ted” for them to check out. I will add apps to the ipad in their personal folders, or on their home pages…they can also add or suggest for their siblings and for me…so its inter-family strewing LOL ~Leah

We do a lot of different things here, but whatever I do I have to do on a minuscule budget. The public library is a great resource for us. It allows the kids to pick out what interests them and it allows me to surprise them with things too. I also like it because it can be an outing. I have littles right now, but I’m slowly transitioning into the point where ds8 and dd5 will be skipping story hour and just spending some time in quiet corners reading while I still take the youngest for the read aloud. I also like to “naturally strew” by walking around our old town pointing out old architecture, through cemeteries and remarking on head stones, park visits, walks in the woods, etc… I always carry my camera so they can take a picture of something in case they want to google it later, a field guide for identification, their nature journals in case they want to draw or write about something they find, etc. Netflix is always resourceful. I also keep Pinterests boards with stuff that I think will interest them. In the local college town where I take ds8 for violin class there is a “book stand” outside the library where you can take free books and any donation goes towards the local humane society. Each week I check it out and will grab books/puzzles from it and leave them in baskets next to our recliners. Some of the books are just one-time reads that I’ll redonate. (I’m stocking our classics quite nicely too.)

In our family strewing works one of two ways. Sometimes I’ll look for things that seem to fit their current lines of interest and I’ll come right out and offer them. Other times I just find new things that are great or that I think might draw their attention and I’ll just expose them in baskets, on a bulletin board, via pinterest, etc. The important thing is that I don’t put emotional merit on whether or not they seem interested. I just give and let go of it, without pressure. When they were loving Lewis and Clark I was beginning to feel like they would NEVER move on to a new topic. Eventually they took hold on the Civil War and I was never so excited for fresh interests. They will sometimes immediately like something I strew. Other things will catch their eyes six months later. Even other things never have been interesting to them. It’s not insulting to me, and it’s not important in the grand scheme of things. I am so excited to see how the pieces of this educational puzzle fit together as they get older. ~Traci

I look at strewing as offering different things and opportunities to my kids. This may be taking them to the library and saying “yes” to every book they want, or allowing them a set limit at our local used bookstore. I try to take them to new places like museums, new stores, parks and restaurants. If they show an interest in something great, if not I’ll just wait until they find something that interests them and do my best to encourage it. Their dad and I try all the time to show them “cool” stuff we see on TV or the internet. Sometimes they want to know more sometimes they don’t. If they are interested in something and want to tell me about it. I do my very best to engage them and ask questions about it. If they build something with Legos or make a craft or draw a picture, take a picture, write a poem or short story I make a big deal about it. My oldest who is 17 now knows that she can share all her interests with me and the rest of us. I love that! So, strewing in our house really ends up being one of us sharing our excitement over something new or interesting with everyone else and hopefully someone else will get caught up in it as well. ~Jen

Some specific ways that I’ve had strewing success.. I keep magna-poetry on the fridge. It’s taught them a lot about sentence structure. The toddlers have always had foam letters in the bath tub. We have a short (coffee table height) table that is painted with chalkboard paint. I will write mathy puzzles or riddles on it, fill in the blank limericks/madlibs, factoids, etc. They sometimes will attack them trying to find a solution. Other times they’ll take a while but they seem to like the variety. Our kitchen table has a basket as part of the centerpiece that we keep story cubes, card games, etc in and will often end up playing after dinner. I put quotes and scripture on chalkboards around the house. (I love words and would do this regardless but it’s an added bonus that they read them.) I try to include whatever their bible verse was in church that week. On our DVR I’ll record interesting shows and leave them for watching at leisure. I keep some bins of things that I’ll pull out and leave on a table on occasion. Miscellaneous building supplies, art supplies, old clocks, etc. Things that they can pull apart, put together or create with. Right now we’ve had craft supplies on our dining table for 4 days. (Much to dh’s dismay ) They will randomly sit down and make/write a valentine to someone, make a puppet, make some origami swans, etc. ~Traci

A great example of strewing happened this week. Our 12 yr old boy’s computer died. We offered to pay for the base anf he could save to add to it. My husband asked advice of his readers, I took tge advice and researched options that fit our price range, compiled those into a google drive document which I shared eith hubby and boy. Issac and I sat down, discussed options, the advice, what he wanted, what he needed. He made final decision but before this didn’t feel he had enough info or confidence to research alone. After this he helped build his new computer and was able to, once I gave him the site we planned to order the stuff he was saving for from, research on his own to choose which keyboard he wanted. Next time he will know where to look on his own and how to research options. ~Heather

Another thing that some people over look is the blank spaces that are windows. We have been known to use dry erase markers to make maps, trace the trees in the yard beyond, play hangman, trace our bodies for silhouettes, etc. I’ve also torn apart outdated calendars with famous paintings, landmarks, etc. on them and tape the pictures on the windows. Once we drew a huge timeline on one, and for fun we drew a map of middleearth. Just beware, use a tape that comes off easily. ~Traci

One of the very first thing I did with my kids, back in the dark ages, was show them how non-fiction books at the library were shelved together by subject. When they were interested in a subject, I’d show them how to look up one book, search for it, and then look at each of the other books around it to pick out the ones that interested them.~Elizabeth

I know that another way to expose my kids to great new stuff is to encourage the grandparents to give them magazine subscriptions, either snail mail (they like to get the mail from the box) or digital. ~Traci

We also spent A LOT of time hanging out at B&N when we were waiting around in town. I’m fortunate that I usually was able to let them buy a book almost every week. I think my dc liked the way the books were arranged by genre better the the library system. ~Elizabeth

We bought a lot of books at the thrift store. Old vintage science books are awesome. And our Veteren’s thrift store even sold magazines for 10 cents – we got a lot of fun ideas from old magazines. ~Aadel

Another good thing to do is for them to be friendly with older people. I can still remember so many stories that my elderly neighbor used to tell me. She was so excited to share stuff she’d talk for hours. And I didn’t mind because she baked good cookies, lol!! ~Traci

And one of the best stewing I have found is people. Oldest loves art and drawing and connecting her with artists and art curators has been encouragement for her. Going to family book discussion, talking with farmers about animals, setting up a monthly meeting with our elderly neighbor (who was a Christian but liberal in her political beliefs and they would discuss world events and she would read the same books as the girls to have something to talk about). ~Aadel

Until recently we always had a library shelf and I would set things there – not just books, but games and new art supplies – for them to explore. Another idea I’ve seen others post about (not sure if it was here), was parent getting out a new art supply and start creating with it. When mom is doing something, especially something new, the little ones almost always want to try it, too. I’ll be honest, I am creatively challenged, so this one scared me too much to actually try and my kids were pretty old when I first read it. ~Elizabeth

Our library (most do) has audio books, like the books that come with a cassette tape or cd to read along with. I think they can be a great learning tool. They also lend out these HUGE puppets of various animals, people, etc that are fun to take and act out silly history scenes with. (I’m just always a little paranoid about keeping them in great condition while we have them.) ~Traci

The most success we’ve ever had with strewing *things* is when it goes hand in hand with strewing my time and involvement. Especially now with my youngest (age 9). He’s unlikely to pick up a book I’ve “just happened” to leave on the couch or the new experiment kit that’s sitting out in the open on the kitchen table but if it comes with my time and genuine enthusiasm…well, he’s game for almost anything! ~Rebecca

How do I strew for my kids? I hand them things from the mailbox with the words, “Here, would you like to look at this?” I e-mail them links to articles, websites, or other internet resources I think might interest them. I find things at the store (like flarp putty) and leave them on their desks. I surprise them with new shower curtains that I think will pique their interest. I toss interesting books into the book rack by their toilet. I say, “Hey, I’m going to watch this movie that I think you’ll like. Do you want to watch with me?” I leave a puzzle or game on the table and wait to see who goes for it first. ~Mariellen

 For absolute newbies, recovering from school or school at home, or just controlling parenting, my suggestion would be to start with strewing things in line with what they are already interested in. Expanding and enhancing that. It’s too easy early on for us to strew things we “think they should learn” or stuff that is too schooly, and it is easy for the kids to then get a bit suspicious of our strewing after that. Once they start to trust that we have their best interests at heart, and really do want to support them in what THEY’RE interested in, I think strewing new and different stuff works better. I guess it depends how much recovery, detoxing and deschooling there is to be done. ~Karen

It really does change and adjust as you learn to trust each other. I remember Pam commenting at one point about how she wouldn’t strew Life of Fred language arts because she knew her kids would not appreciate it- they would assume the wrong intent if she did and they wouldn’t like it so why would she strew it. Same goes here. There are certain things I will not strew even if I would like them to read or watch or whatever-  that is stuff THEY need to discover on their own, with no sense that I put it in their way because it will make them feel I am manipulating them, or attempting to, regardless of my intent. And it depends on the person. If I message my oldest certain things she would be upset instead of take it the way I intended, partly due to our history and partly due to who she is. I could send same to middle daughter and she would be all over it. So know your kids, put relationship first, start out with their interests and gradually, slowly start putting things they may not be interested in but which they may decide is interesting but still, know your kids, relationship first. ~Heather

As we were evolving into unschoolers, my early attempts to strew always felt forced. It’s funny that now I strew so much more, but it’s effortless. I think the difference has to do with expectation (pretty sure that’s been mentioned). In the early days, I took it personally when they didn’t like something I put out or linked for them. Now I see something and send the link (my dd is 16), then don’t give it another thought until I’m asked about it. LOL… of course, my youngest and I are carbon copies, so half the time I send her something now she’s already seen it.

Don’t be afraid to strew or suggest things that are outside their interests, too. I asked dd if she’d be interested in robotics camp last summer (she’s looking for an outlet for her art), thinking she wouldn’t be interested. She decided to go for the week and ended up on an FTC team for the year. Her specialty? Programming. I thought she’d like the design aspect, but she really loved programming. Never saw that coming. ~Elizabeth

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