Strewing

Today I got the first Life of Fred math book, “Apples”, back from a friend who’d borrowed it, because five-year-old L had asked to start reading them together. I haven’t read them at all since November when I finally noticed I was killing the joy of math in E by pushing it. I think the reason L thought of it was happenstance–we have all our information type books for kids on the three lowest shelves of the living room book shelf, and I think one of the Life of Fred books wound up on the floor. L saw it, and I suppose the rest is history (in the making…).

I think I will call that “unintentional strewing”. Strewing is an interesting concept that floats around the unschooling world as a tactic to direct children’s curiosity. I just took a moment to look it up for you. Sandra Dodd offers this as a definition: “leaving material of interest around for our children to discover.” 

I would guess that most parents do this sort of thing naturally–you set the blocks in the middle of the floor for your toddler to discover; you find an old game in your closet and leave it on the table for your kid to find; stuff like that. Some unschoolers, I am sure, are much more intentional about it, but I suspect mostly unschoolers simply have more time and opportunity for that sort of thing to come up.

I unintentionally strewed a couple weeks ago, too, when I thought it had been too long since we’d had a real “table time”. Table Time, for those of you who don’t recall, is my own invention, and it involves gathering the children round the table and setting out various games and workbooks that relate to the three R’s (reading writing rithmetic) for them to select and delve into as they please, for a half hour or more. It helps me feel organized. Even unschoolers need a sense of accomplishment sometimes.

Anyway, so one morning after I’d had my breakfast, I cleaned up the table and set the table time basket out. I told the children to turn off their screens (because they play on electronics in the am, after they’ve completed their morning tasks, and before I’m up and ready for the day), and had meant to call them to the table, but became preoccupied with something else. Not to fear, as soon as they emerged from the den they spotted the basket and with great interest and excitement they piled over to it, rummaging through and finding their own special workbooks. We spent a good hour hanging about with those supplies.

I just remembered that was the morning that E had a miraculous breakthrough with math that eased all my concerns about ruining her forever with my stupidity. Last year, out of anxiety, I bought her a book from the dollar store that focuses on multiplication. At the front of the book is this winding path, segmented into as many spaces as there are pages in the book. There are stickers provided, so that each time you complete a page you can put a sticker on a section of the path, until you reach the end, at which point you have earned the BIG sticker! I told E once she finished the book I’d take her out for ice cream. Whatever, so shoot me. I told you I’ve suffered anxiety over the math thing. I’m working past it. Anyway, at the time she wasn’t able to see the patterns. So the work was difficult and tedious. She quit after like four pages. I thought, “Maybe my child won’t need to know how to multiply by threes?”

But then the unintentional strewing morning happened, and the book E picked out was the multiplication book. She opened it up and just started breezing through the pages. She was making connections and manipulating numbers the book wasn’t even suggesting in order to achieve the answers. She kept saying she was “cheating”, and I had to explain to her that the point of math is to manipulate it any way you can to get what you want out of it. There is no cheating. Folks, my daughter learned how to multiply through literally osmosis. She has been avoiding anything even remotely smelling of “mathiness”, and yet here we are. OF COURSE that makes sense to me now–if all math is, is logic, then you just have to wait for a person’s logic centres to develop enough to catch on.

So yeah, strewing is cool. It’s resulted in some pretty cool things for us. I don’t “strew” as a method–my days are far too full of babies and toddlers for that kind of organizational prowess–but it seems to come about naturally with the lifestyle.

Actually, this is reminding me of one more example from just a couple days ago—a homeschooler was giving away these science experiment booklets and since G is basically obsessed with that sort of thing I took them! I just sort of dumped them on the couch and didn’t mention them, and sure enough he found them! He’s been concocting various potions ever since!

Anyway, I look forward to restarting Apples with L.

2 thoughts on “Strewing

  1. Oh I love this post. I just ordered life of Fred apples because I have math anxiety too. But I was feeling guilty about it since it feels like a very un unschooling thing to do and literally found this blog by searching life of Fred and unschooling. I guess I’ll just throw it on the floor when it arrives and see what happens haha.

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    1. I hope you like it! A lot of people unschooling and otherwise really love LoF! If you take anything from my experience, just don’t push it if your kid is finding something difficult or tedious or confusing—I think that’s where math anxiety starts, and if you wait long enough they’ll figure things out! No tears required!

      But definitely there is nothing un-unschooling in itself with having curricula around. It’s when you start pushing on them against their will that you might be losing sight of things lol

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