What is Strewing?
Someone recently asked me, “What is strewing?” Although I knew she was familiar with the process, she had never heard the term before.
Strewing (also referred to as setting out invitations, or provocations) is not a new thing, or a hard thing, but it’s becoming sort of a buzz word in the homeschooling community, especially amongst unschoolers or lifeschoolers.
Side note: Since the original meaning of the word strew is “to spread things in an untidy way,” and intentional strewing is not untidy or haphazard, I personally prefer to use “invitations,” but sometimes “strewing” is a better fit for the sentence.
So . . . what is it?
It’s pretty much just what it sounds like. Strewing is setting out items that we believe will delight or intrigue our children and not mentioning it to them, leaving them to discover the invitation on their own time and engage with it in their own way. Intentional, but nonchalant, with no expectations.
There are two parts of the previous paragraph that seem to trip people up the most. First up: “items that we believe will delight or intrigue our children.” It’s important to note here that strewing is a child-focused, delight-directed undertaking, not curriculum- or agenda-focused. Setting out a list of spelling words and a rainbow pencil because your daughter needs help with spelling misses the spirit of strewing. However, if your daughter enjoys words, whether she needs help or not, putting out Upwords, Scrabble, Bananagrams, or a Stellar Speller, could be something she finds delightful and inviting.
The second part that people frequently struggle with is this: “engage with it in their own way. . . with no expectations.” Put another way, “without your input.” That means if you set out beads and pipe cleaners with pictures of snowflakes (assuming they’ll use the supplies to make snowflakes), and you see your kids twisting the pipe cleaners into the longest line they can make, you don’t say anything. They’re getting something out of their chosen project, even if it wasn’t what you had planned.
Do virtual invitations count?
Absolutely! For young children, most items you strew will be hands-on activities. Older kids, and especially teens, may often benefit from virtual invitations. This could be as simple as leaving a tab open on the computer when you discover a program, article, etc. that you think they would appreciate, or adding a new movie to their watchlist on a streaming app.
I just strew and back off? Am I allowed to make suggestions?
Strewing is just a small piece of your child’s life and education. You’re still your child’s parent and have a relationship with them, which means you’ll have many other opportunities to suggest and provide additional learning opportunities. To be true to the meaning of strewing, you should just leave the invitation, then step back. But no one is policing you. Do what works for your family!
Have you ever recommended a book to a friend? Or sent them a link to an online video you thought they would like? You’re recognizing what delights that friend and passing along information you feel is related to those interests.
The only difference between doing that for a friend and doing it for our kids is that we’re more intentional with our children. It’s our job to find resources that will aid our children on their learning journeys. Instead of merely passing along things you stumble across (which is good, too), you will be actively looking for the things that draw your kids in and bring them joy.
Strewing is all about a) helping our children to discover their talents and passions, and b) supporting those talents and passions.
If you need suggestions for what to strew, check back soon – I’m working on a post filled with ideas!