Written by Colleen Kessler of Raising Lifelong Learners
Springtime is finally here in Ohio, and I’m so grateful. Winter seems to have lasted approximately 472 days.
Okay. Not really.
It just feels like forever since we’ve been able to consistently get outside and enjoy the warm sun beating down on us. We are so ready for a bit of summer fun.
But since my kids go a little stir crazy if their minds are not engaged in new things regularly, I still like to keep them learning all year round.
We follow a very eclectic, self-directed approach to homeschool, so I’m always on alert for things my kids are talking about more than normal or for topics that might pique their interest so I can strew things for them to discover and check out.
Strewing is the secret sauce to my homeschool success.
It’s a term coined by the unschooling movement to mean, quite simply, that you put things out where kids can find them, hoping to spark their interests in new things.
There is a very important thing to keep in mind when strewing though:
Have no expectations.
The most crucial key to successful strewing is that you — the homeschool parent — do not get tied to the things you strew out. When we’re trusting our kids to figure out what they might be interested in, we need to trust them, too, to know what they’re not interested in.
And we need to respect that.
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of giving your kiddo all the things at once and, in a sense, creating a mini-unit study to find out on the bookshelf or school table.
With strewing, though, less is more.
The idea isn’t to give your child all they’ll need in order to learn about something you think they should. The idea behind strewing is to “spread a feast” that they can pick and choose from — or ignore altogether.
Put a few books out, queue up a documentary, leave out some art supplies, or set up some science materials to explore. It doesn’t need to be fancy; it just needs to be left up to them.
Strewing is a way to spark your kiddo’s curiosity.
You can find more information about the practice on my site, along with the opportunity to sign up for an email series to help you get started or to download a printable with over 100 ideas for things to strew.
Because we all need a little inspiration, though, here are five easy (and fun!) ideas to strew out for your kids and sneak in some summer learning.
1. Live Insects
Every spring and summer since my oldest (now 17!) was four, I’ve bought a variety of insect kits from Insectlore and other online suppliers. We’ve raised butterflies, praying mantises, moths, ladybugs, millipedes, and more.
When they come in, I leave them out on a table or low shelf with books, magnifying glasses, their habitat needs, and life cycle models.
Some years the kids jump in and do all the work, pulling out their nature journals and drawing what they see every day, and caring fully for them. Some years, though, they mostly ignore them and I do all the work. (I actually love watching them, so I’m okay with that.)
2. A Throwback Toy Collection
Tap into the fun of times gone by and leave out some jump ropes, hula hoops, a Chinese jump rope, or jacks. See what the kids do with them, and wait… maybe they’ll ask you to teach them what the toys are all about and how they work.
Who knows? You just might have a retro summer full of simple fun.
3. Gardening Supplies
This could end up being a fun family project if the kids get into it! Set out mini pots, seeds, tools (real work best), soil, and identification guides. If the kids get excited about the planting, consider letting them have their own garden space in the yard to plant whatever they want to.
One year we did this and the kids created a garden bed next to the Little Tikes log cabin playhouse they had in the yard. They planted so many zucchini seeds that the vines and leaves took over and stretched over top of the cabin. It was such fun!
4. Sun Prints
Have you ever tried sun print paper (afflink)? It is loads of fun and can inspire some great creative thinking.
Set out a few packages of sun print paper and some cut flowers. You can also set out jars of loose parts and other interestingly shaped objects.
5. New Art Supplies
Summer is a fun time to try new projects, so consider stocking up on some art supplies you’ve never tried with your kids. Chalk pastels, acrylic paints, easels, watercolor pencils.
If they pick up some of the supplies and run with them, consider helping them find tutorials on YouTube or even signing them up for online lessons.
One of the things my daughter loves to do in the warm summer months is bring her watercolor pencils with her when we hike along with a pad, brush and small cup. She’s not a fan of immersing herself in nature or getting dirty, so she’ll use the supplies as an excuse to let us explore a creek bed or other area while she sits and draws.
She’ll fill her small cup from the creek and use a brush to spread the watercolors. I love how she uses and interprets the simple supplies I once left out for her and her siblings.
As you can see, it’s not difficult to add in summer fun, strewing-style, to your homeschool.
I hope you’ll use these ideas to set yourself up and be open to new ideas as they come to you!
Do you have any successful strewing stories?
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