Monday, April 17, 2006

Strewing

I have been thinking of "strewing" a whole different way recently.
I always thought of it as an indirect, even manipulative way to introduce things on my educational agenda. OK -- I don't have nerve or energy to actually TEACH this or direct it, so I'll put it on a coffee table hoping you'll do it on your own.

Please be aware I'm not saying that I thought strewing PEOPLE were manipulative or sneaky. Some of the greatest people I know are strewers.It was more to do with how I thought I'D feel if I was relying on this as a way to educate.

Actually, it was an article about something other than strewing that made me understand the concept better. Strewing is about opportunities to share. To start something that might lead anywhere. Charlotte Mason wrote memorably about "one child's bread and butter being Plato, and another's Peter Pan." One way we can strew is with books. I can read aloud a Narnia book, say, to several children. I get one thing out of it (reading it for the 20th time with a new child), the teenager sewing nearby gets something else, and the 3yo phasing in and out of the room gets something else). It plants seeds that can grow in many ways. Plus, aside from that, it's just a great, great way to spend time together.

When we strew, perhaps it's almost better, according to the article above, to strew something that could lead to anything. What I mean -- rather than strew some activity that is very directed towards a certain kind of learning experience, strew something general that gets people using their hands and minds and interest -- even better if it's done together.

If I planned to talk specifically about castles during castle block days, I might have missed the discussion of why one little girl is jealous of other friends and how she might best be encouraged to play in groups. We might not have discussed compost piles while playing with magnets had I said that what animals eat has nothing to do with magnetism.
Sometimes my 10 year old brings me a book to read, though he reads well himself. We sit together, and after a few sentences of the book he is talking about something all together different. I realize then that the book is a way of getting me to "be there" focusing on one thing, so he can bring up his thoughts and concerns about something all together different.

And strewing is about putting yourself there, being available to relate with the thing strewed and with the child who picks it up. So I would not want to strew something that made me feel bored or trapped, myself. But maybe the "bored" or "trapped" part is in myself, and if I think about it differently, I can redeem something now that was spoiled for me "sometime back then."

Strewing is reciprocal. In fact, you can learn from your kids how to do it naturally and well. If I go outside with my toddler, he will "strew" all kinds of things in my path -- he'll bring me an acorn, draw my attention to an ant, find a new way to play with sticks and stones. He will strew more things than my tired adult mind can handle. But he is a natural Socratic teacher -- he asks questions, he shares his enthusiasm, he comes to everything without any preconceptions about how to use it or think about it.

I have learned more from my kids "strewing" things and opportunities and playing ideas than I have taught them, probably. And this gives me a good insight into how strewing contributes to an active, exploring, enriched life.

3 comments:

Ladybugs said...

Willa, this is beautiful.

What a great way to express it!

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Amy said...

I never thought about my kids doing the strewing! What an interesting thought...they DO strew, especially my 6yo who is much less likely to just come out and say something to me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!