Strewing vs. Self-Discovery

Strewing, or finding interesting things to leave in your child’s path in hopes of sparking an interest, is a fabulous thing. But there’s no denying that it is also sometimes a superfluous thing. There are kids out there who know what they want and go for it, no matter if it is “strewn” into their path or not.

My husband and I love music, and we have always encouraged our children to be musical as well. Our iPod has around 4,500 songs on it. My husband plays guitar, and I know how to play piano and saxophone (though I haven’t played in years). My two daughters take piano and voice lessons, and my elder son has tried both guitar and bass guitar.

But I never thought about or encouraged rhythm or percussion, much less strewed it in my children’s path the way I strewed musical variety and the idea of various instruments they might want to learn.

Drumming Up Enthusiasm

When my younger son, then about age eight, began asking for drum lessons, I have to admit I was temporarily deaf. Drums? Really? So often kids have a passing interest and ask for something, only to never mention it again.

But he did ask again.

And then he asked again. And again.

Resigned to the fact that he really was interested, and it wasn’t just a passing fancy, I found a reference for a good drum teacher. My son was thrilled with his trial lesson, and we signed up for lessons, at least until he lost interest. His older brother had abandoned his guitar lessons, after all.

Instead, he practiced daily, without even a reminder from me. His practice pads were the tiny kit from our Rock Band video game, and he nearly wore them out.

After four months of dedicated practice and (according to his instructor) extremely rapid progress, I finally admitted that this was not a passing fancy. We purchased a good starter drum kit for him so that he could practice at home. (Bonus: his teacher now comes to our house instead of me having to drive him to lessons.)

First drum recital, after one year of lessons:

Strewing vs. Self Discovery

Strewing is great, but it isn’t everything. While exposing children to a variety of things is good and might spark a previously unknown interest, children very often already know what they are interested in, or discover it completely on their own … and doggedly pursue it on their own!

I recently discovered Roger Schank’s fabulous blog, Education Outrage, where he points out:

Some very intelligent people have asked the question about how one would know if one wanted to be a chemist without being exposed to high school chemistry. I find it an odd question. Prior to the age of 16, a child does a lot of living and has plenty of time to express his or her interests to parents, friends, and teachers (or the web). Someone who might be interested in chemistry would be asking questions about how the world worked long before being forced to balance chemical equations.

Strewing vs. Spotting

It really started me thinking. Strewing was our blog topic here at CU last month, and this blog’s contributors (including me) have written wonderful things about it. And strewing is wonderful, and I won’t stop strewing for my kids … I couldn’t! Life is too interesting, and I love sharing my interests (fortunately my kids seem to enjoy my sharing, too).

But often and often, all we parents have to do is pay attention, spot what they’re interested in, give them access, and then get out of the way.

If you had asked me to list the instruments my children might be interested in, I likely wouldn’t have even thought to include drums. If the lack were brought to my attention, I might have said, “Let’s not mention that one and hope they don’t notice!” (I mean, really, who wants a drummer practicing in their home?)

And yet, my son (at quite an early age) discovered an interest (all on his own) that I had never strewn (and I resisted indulging) and he pursued his interest diligently (and of his own volition) until I gave him what he needed. (And I’m so glad I did!)

What have your kids discovered all on their own that has blossomed into a beautiful interest – something that you never thought they would (and maybe at the time you wished they hadn’t discovered)?

~ Carma

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One Reply to “Strewing vs. Self-Discovery”

  1. I find the question posed to Roger Schank odd, too. How many professions do we have that didn’t even EXIST…until they did? How does one discover that he wants to be something that has never even BEEN before? And particularly if we’re talking about “high school ____,” that’s a strange expectation. Rarely does a school have “high school astronomy” or “high school meteorology,” or “high school oceanography,” but we still have astronomers and meteorologists and oceanographers.

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