Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Whatcha Strewin'?

Strewing: Leaving interesting things around to be discovered and then changing them out for newer, different things. Sandra Dodd once wrote about unschooling, "I just strew their paths with interesting things," and she and others have written much more about it since -- some of it is on her site here and here.

I thought that from time to time I'll start posting some of the things I've put around the house to be discovered or re-discovered.

Lately, most of our expendable money has gone to our Chicago trip and to everyone's specific interests: gardening stuff for me, skateboards and related things for Matt, UB Funkey's and Iron Man figures for Seth, Rock Band song packs and a couple foot pedals for the electric guitar for Riley, stuffed animals and Littlest Pet Shop figures for Maya. So these things that I've put around the house recently are not new -- just things pulled off a shelf or rearranged in some way to be looked at, touched, played with, used in whatever way -- or not at all.

These pattern magnets aren't really something I pulled out recently -- they're almost always out on my dishwasher. They do get rearranged pretty regularly by most anyone that comes into our kitchen, though.

I stuck magnets to our tangrams and put them on the refrigerator. We make our own designs with them or try to make what's on the picture cards.

I set these up on the kitchen table this morning -- picture puzzles with 3, 4, and 5-letter words. I'm not much of a puzzle person, and this always looks overwhelming to me when we get it out, especially now that we have a dog and can't set the pieces out all over the floor; but Maya and Seth love it. Maya picked it out at the store last winter, which makes sense -- she's not fully independently reading yet but has so much fun playing around with it and making a game of piecing together this complex and sometimes bizarre language of ours.

My favorite series of field guides, the ones from National Audubon Society -- they have beautiful photography, and we enjoy looking up specific things in them or just browsing through them. Our nature basket -- right now with some rocks and shells and other items bought or found at various places. The magnifying glasses I had put in there are missing -- someone must have found something somewhere else that they needed a closer, bigger look at.

A cleaned off desk, freshly sharpened pencils and colored pencils, plain paper, colored paper, lined paper, scissors, and a find-the-hidden picture page printed from the Highlights website.

On our living room "coffee table" (actually a trunk full of costumes and accessories): Perfection game, a couple library books and a small Spiderwick book that came out of a cereal box, and the latest (I think) issue of Ranger Rick magazine. Oh, and the TV remote -- we're definitely not ones to discount all that we learn from TV.


Laurie said...

Holly, I'm so glad you posted this - I love to see how others strew while trying to maintain a house that isn't totally cluttered. I'm not a clean freak, nor am I an organizational genius (in fact, FAR from that) but I don't like a lot of clutter and I find that homeschooling lends itself to lots of extra clutter that I don't see in traditionally schooled kids homes. I find that I want to put everything 'away' for when company comes but the old addage rings true and out of sight, out of mind. I do have an art cabinet in the dining room that houses all sorts of papers, workbooks, playdough, stamps, and art supplies of any kind. And books are crawling out of every room in this house. lol But I mostly have trouble finding places where I can leave things out and, at the same time, keep them away from the baby. I came up with a so-so arrangement on library books - I have a large clear bin with lid that's labeled "library books" so the baby stays out but we still see it. That 'kinda' works but usually we're still doing that mad hunt each week for library books we can't find. I'd love to give my 5yr old DD more access to markers and more art stuff but my 3yrDD wants to do everything she does and well...let's just say the upstairs carpet is now a lovely shade of spots...and there are little balls of playdough in every corner of my main floor, I'm sure, for the baby to eat on her next forage. I like your idea of a nature basket. My 5yr old DD is always bringing something in from outside but I'm never sure what to do with it. How long do you keep items there? Do you return them to nature when you're done? Who decides when you're done? How do you keep it from overflowing onto the surrounding table? And what's the name of the picture puzzle? Looks just up my DD's alley!

Laurie said...

Also wanted to tell you that I liked your post so much that I linked to you today. ;)

Holly Simpson said...

You mean my house isn't supposed to be totally cluttered?!? ;-)

We do have a lot of clutter and messes here, too. I'm not the best housekeeper, though, and there are always a *lot* of different things going on all over the place, it seems. Messy but also fun and interesting and lively! Setting out new or forgotten things usually happens here alongside clearing off an overly cluttered table or shelf top.

The nature box has some things that have stayed in it a long time (probably everything that's in it right now): the shells they've collected at various beaches, some rocks they've collected and others were store bought. There's a big starfish that a friend brought them from his vacation one year, and the *really* big shell was left behind in one of our previous houses by it's previous owner. Other things don't last very long or get taken out if someone wants to use them for something else. I haven't had it overflow yet. There have been pine cones at different times that usually end up being used for crafts or as "trees" for little playhouse towns. Leaves tend to crumble after a while, so I throw them out. We had a broken robin's egg someone had found on the sidewalk one time. I threw it out after it got too broken to tell it was an egg shell anymore.

I know what you mean about feeling pressured to clean it all for company, though. I haven't done it yet but keep thinking I'll make a sign for my entry way with the quote from the Mom in the movie Yours, Mine, and Ours: "Homes are for free expression, not good impressions."

Holly Simpson said...

Oh, I forgot to answer about the word puzzle. It's by Inftantino and is called "20 word picture puzzle" (creative name, huh). We got ours at Learning Express.

Anonymous said...

Ooooh, I love the idea of putting a magnifying glass on the nature table/display. I'm going to have to remember that one. I'll have to look for our glasses, though--they get carried all over the place.

Anonymous said...

Ooooh, I love the idea of putting a magnifying glass on the nature table/display. I'm going to have to remember that one. I'll have to look for our glasses, though--they get carried all over the place.

Shelley said...

That's a really good idea Holly. Maddie has several toys that she's forgotten about because they are in the bottom of the containers. I'll have to put them out and see if she notices them. I guess if she doesn't like them anymore, we could donate them!

Heather said...

I do this all the time and it didn't really occur to me as being unschooling until recently (though we do) just rearranging things so they stay interesting.:) I LOVE the Tangram magnet idea (ours are always getting lost). Now that my oldest two read all the time I have taken to strewing books I know they will love in places they frequent, and we always have cycled the toys in and out of the attic to keep things interesting. :)

Sandra Dodd said...

I love that you had photos! I'll link back to this from the strewing page. When I first started having webpages, photos were an impossibiity, and some of my pages are still old. I don't mind having old pages, but I LOVE having new things like this to add to them!