I had a teacher in college who was opposed to entertaining her students in any way. She had a more serious disposition, if you will. Now, in all fairness, she was a great teacher and I don’t want to complain about her too much. So let’s just say that she had some quite strong opinions.
This seems to be part of my background as a homeschooler as well. It is common for me to assume that if something is fun, that if the children are learning as well as enjoying themselves thoroughly, then they are probably not learning at all.
That nagging voice in the back of my mind shows up every time watching, waiting it seems for them to laugh and it goes, “Aha! See, this isn’t school!” What a relief to know the voice is a liar, that they can indeed learn while playing.
In fact research seems to suggest that it is in play that children learn best. And if you know me, you know that I don’t think play is just for children.
I have learned so much without trying that I am realizing that just like the kids I learn best when I am focused engaged and enjoying myself. Forcing myself to learn and study is necessary in certain situations but what gets me there is not external motivation but internal desire.
The enthusiasm to learn something new in which I am interested is an amazing powerful force. This force can be harnessed especially in classical unschooling using the method of strewing.
So you might ask what is strewing? The dictionary definition of strewing is to leave things about untidily. Ha!
But the unschooling definition of strewing is to leave things out for children to discover to learn and then to put them away and change them out continually. Another way of looking at strewing is to suggest to children to notice things when you are out and about doing things together. Many parents do this unconsciously while out on the field trip.
As an unschooler strewing comes in very handy when you are trying to either gauge the interest of the child or get the child interested either as an introduction to a new subject or to go deeper into a subject that he is already working. Strewing can easily be used as a strategy and classical education.
Now it might seem as if classical education with its focus on systems and specific ways of teaching can be completely opposed to the idea of strewing which seems haphazard and random. But it is not. Strewing can easily be incorporated into classical education and incorporated quite effectively and efficiently.
Here are some ways in which you can include strewing into your school day. You might already be doing some of these unconsciously.
I love our local library we go there every week and the children take out whatever they’re interested in. It is a great way not just to get your child’s interest but to let him get deeper into whatever he might be interested in. Our current haul included some books on the natural world around us, some graphic novels and some picture books. This fits the age group and the interest level of my children.
However, this is where the classical aspect of my teaching comes in. While I do not limit their choices in books and I will let them read whatever they’re interested in to a degree, I do consciously also order books from the library and put them on hold. These are books based on what they have been speaking about or playing or studying that I think they will like.
Use the local library to learn the interests of their children as well as to give them more than just what you want them to learn. Picture books are fantastic for this. Encyclopedia are also a good choice. My children can spend hours looking at pictures of animals. They have picked up information about climates in different areas and names of places and habitats I have not taught them. All through strewing. Who knows where these bits of information will land them?
In addition to the books I mentioned above, we also listen to quite a few audiobooks. You can find them at the library or you can buy them on Amazon or you can have friends loan you some.
The best thing about these is that there is no dedicated time that you need to listen to them. We listen to them in our most natural surroundings – the car. (Okay, I’m kidding about the natural surroundings, but we do like to listen to them every time we are in the car.)
We have listened to audio books about historical stories of real men and women, inspiring events, people, business books, Greek myths, Egyptian myths, animal stories, Arabian Nights, The Odyssey, you name it there’s a book about it. Even I listen to a book in the car when I’m alone.
Audio books are great for introducing children to new language, or getting the templates of specific sentences into their minds which is one way they learn to think clearly and get their point across better. Audiobooks carry all the benefits of a read-aloud without actually having to make time to sit down and read to them (which we also do) but audiobooks continue to do this when we do not or cannot find the time ourselves.
If you think songs aren’t effective, think again. Some children tend to be more audiocentric in the sense that they learn better by hearing. These children learn by repeating by repetition by hearing themselves say the same things repeatedly.
As annoying as it is to me my daughter seems to learn in this way. So in addition to audiobooks I make sure that we have enough good things to listen to. While I don’t mind exposing them to different kinds of music (the radio in the car is not banned) I also find that I can use this time to teach her math facts set to music or good hymns or historical or geographical facts which also are part of our curriculum.
Music is my favorite “Oh by the way” learning tool.
Close captioning isn’t used as effectively as it could be. Most parents don’t even think about this when they turn on the television. Leaving it on can help children read as they stare open mouthed at their favorite characters. I like to leave it on especially when we are watching a movie that is not animated and perhaps something that is above their age range. Today, for instance, we watched The Lord of the Rings which I’m quite certain had words they had not come across in their readers. (And no, I’m not talking about Elvish.)
Here’s another way to use subtitles. Older children learning a new language can watch a movie in English and turn on the captions in the language they’re working on. I’m sure it’s all gibberish at first, but soon patterns emerge and things get learned.
What other “by the way” learning strategies do you incorporate into your homeschool?