by Justine Browning
I have been randomly reading Sandra Dodd's book. I haven't read it through, like one would read a novel. Rather, I'll find myself in an "unschooling lull" and pick it up for a little "motivation" and some fresh ideas. The other day, I was reading an article that she had written about using the dictionary. This made me think of how Mollie used to love looking words up in the dictionary. So I decided to take the dictionary out of the cabinet in the living room, and put it on the coffee table, just in case she might like to look at it and had just forgotten that it was around.While I was at it, I put out a few of the books I had picked up the last time we went to the library. Instead of just putting the books out, though, I opened them up to pages that I thought Mollie might see and be interested in. A pond book was opened to a few pages having to do with frogs. Sure enough, within only seconds of her plopping down on the couch to watch some TV, I heard her say, "oooo", and she leaned over and picked up the pond book with the frog pages and began to read. She asked a few questions and read it for a few minutes, and flipped through a few pages and set it back down. And, all this made me think of strewing....... (This is starting to sound like an "If you give a mouse a cookie" story:-))
You know, strewing plays a bigger part in our lives than I once realized. It encompasses so much more than placing things around. Even though it was really neat to watch how Mollie noticed the book last night that was on the table. I think that, as unschoolers, we almost have to look at life through "strewing" eyes. I mean, we are constantly on the look out for ways to "add" some new dimension or piece of the puzzle to our children's understanding of the world in which they live. We do this every time we invite them to help us with a project or task. We do this when we take a Sunday drive as a family to a neighboring little town for ice cream or dinner out. We do this when we run our errands, and do our shopping, all the while intentionally involving them in the processes of our lives and asking their input and answering their questions. We do this when we invite friends and relatives to come to our home and we sit around the table and listen to the stories of their lives. We arrange our lives and our world in such a way as to enable our children to be able get all that they need out of every moment.
When we moved into our home here, we were already unschooling, so many of the decisions we made regarding our new home, were made with unschooling in mind. We moved out of an area where it was very expensive to live to a less expensive area. We paid off bills and didn't take on too big a mortgage, so that we would have a little "extra" to do things with the kids. We still aren't rich, but it's not altogether impossible to take a weekend trip or purchase a cool toy. Some things still need to be "saved" for, but all in all, we have a little more flexibility to be able to "strew" a few more opportunities along our children's paths.We also looked at the layout of our home and chose it because it felt good for creating opportunities for unschooling for our family. I think this is different for every family. What works for one, doesn't necessarily work for another. Initially, I dreamed of a large piece of property with farm animals, etc. But Tom, having done the farm thing when he was younger, didn't feel this would be a good match for our family. It turns out, I completely see the wisdom in his thinking and am grateful to him for sometimes being the voice of reason in our household.
Our home is simple with a little space for everyone. Our yard is perfectly suited for bird and squirrel watching because of all the trees. And not so big that every Saturday must be spent mowing lawns instead of doing local sight seeing, which is what our family would prefer to do.And, it's funny how, when you unschool, even decisions for furniture are so much more important. Because furniture now is not for looks. It's not about impressing the neighbor down the street. Your home doesn't have to look like it could be featured on the cover of a home decor magazine.No, furniture in an unschooling household must be so much more.When I choose a piece of furniture now, I find myself asking how this will foster togetherness for my family - which, I know is the foundation for all learning. And the most important thing to living.
I have come to realize that in times of just relating and talking and being together, my child's heart is so open to new ideas. That in times of fun and games, my child is relaxed and absorbs much more from her surroundings and the activities that she is engaged in. Our couches were chosen because they are comfy - that's mostly it. The kind you sit in with a good book or to enjoy a good movie. They are so comfy that they even make you want to hug or cuddle with the person sitting down next to you! Our coffee table is round. Why? Because it makes a great table for doing puzzles or playing games. And, it doesn't have any shelves underneath it because I wanted to be able to sit on the floor around it and have room for folded legs to fit.This works for me.
My other unschooling friends are all different. I am always amazed and delighted to see the creative ways of arranging house that others I know have come up with. Another thing I ask myself when choosing furniture, is if I will be comfortable with that piece of furniture being used in such a way that it may not maintain it's perfect look or be used in the manner for which it was originally designed. Tables filled with puzzles, toys, yarn, and books. Couches with pillows tossed on the floor to make room for a display of favorite stuffed animals. Appliances covered with magnets and the latest display of artistic pursuits. Rooms with floors and tables where messes can be made and left for a while. Shelves that Mollie can reach and access to whip up a creation that only she has dreamed. And of course, cabinets for storing games and toys and other fun stuff right in the living room, so they are easily accessible, yet I can still "tuck" them away if I start feeling a little too "cluttered". And it was inside this little cabinet that I found the dictionary...that I remembered as I read Sandra's book....which made me think of strewing ... and was the prompting for this rambling.