10 October 2011

unschool monday :: following + strewing


"Oh I could never home educate my daughter. She's so headstrong. She'd never listen to me..." This is one of the most common things people say to me when I tell them I home educate. I always find it amusing... Firstly, because I don't ask them why they don't home educate, but they feel compelled to offer justification. Secondly, because anyone who's ever met my owlets knows they're some of the most headstrong, determined kids you will meet. I could never make them listen to me. I could never teach them. Unless they specifically asked me to. So how do we fit everything in? How do we do it? Do we lead the way? Do we follow their lead?

Well, it's a little bit of both. A balance between following their lead and strewing the path for them. But always responding to a need. Sometimes if we sit back, brilliant stuff happens and they wander freely from one thing to the next. Other times, they need someone to point them in the right direction.

Last week, Big Owlet decided she wanted to camp. On her own. Outside. Reluctantly, we set the tent up, suspecting she may be inside before dark. But no. She took all her bits and pieces, rugged up in layers, and snuggled down for the night. It was a really cold night! We didn't sleep a wink, thinking of our small girl out there all alone. She slept better than ever, emerging to tell me of roosters in the neighbourhood, bandicoots around the tent and bush wees at dawn, under the lemon tree... That's my Big Owlet. Headstrong. Determined. She was afraid, but she needed to do this. And with our trust and support, she did.


We left the tent up for a couple of days and it became a feature of owlet play. It became known as the "Funfair Spectacular... Its Miracula!" (not actual spelling). There was a face painting booth, and inside, a music performance space. A Spiegeltent in my own backyard!


They played there ALL DAY. They wrote signs, devised a ticketing system and currency to pay for the attractions. They role played. Performed music... It was a brilliant exercise in saying yes and following their lead. Beginning with camping. Just going with the flow.


Then yesterday, the owlets were a bit weary. They watched some programs on iView, then proceeded to melt down when we suggested they stop, as they usually do when they've become vegetables early in the day. I asked Little Owlet why she couldn't find something to do. Why all she could think of doing was watching... "Because I don't know what to do, Mama!" She pleaded. Ahhh... this made sense. Strewing hat ON!


We started with the art cupboard. Pulling out the paints. Big Owlet muddled around and didn't know where to start. Then something sparked in my brain about a blog post on Altered Books. An unschooled girl Big Owlet knows and likes has been making some. So I showed her and we checked out some youtube clips for inspiration. We also checked out Lap Books, which are a tool some home schooling families use, but we deemed them to schooly. I showed her an old visual journal of mine which is similar to an altered book in apperance. Big Owlet decided altered books are the go... Then we found an old book each and off we went! An hour of fun, and learning there, at least, to begin with.


Later, I was lying down, feeding Tiny Owlet to sleep, when I stumbled across the next activity in my Twitter feed... LEGO Quest. Fantastic! I loaded up the website, ready to show them if they needed some more direction. Lo and behold, 15 minutes later, "Mama, I'd like to watch now..." So I showed them.


And they loved the idea! They built a garden. Then they went back to the art books.  Then they pulled out boxes and more LEGO and they were unstoppable! In the zone! Thank goodness... Back to following their lead.


At dinner that night, Little Owlet said "you know, Mama. I think art is really wonderful. Making art makes me happy". Me too. She's at it again this morning. Big Owlet has already solved another mystery we set for her and she's wanting to learn about art too. Yesterday's strewing has lead to a whole new path of learning for her today... and so we follow their lead.


  1. Oh I loved backyard camping as a kid! My folks used to set the tent up to air out when we got back from camping trips and I'd always want to play in it.
    I had it in the back of my mind that it would be great to do this when my sproggets are older, but we could set it up & they could play in it during the day now. We don't have to wait until they're old enough to sleep overnight in it.
    Fabulous idea... thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Hello Lauren
    I followed your link from majikfaerie. I had no idea that the letter I wrote her was going to become a blog post, so it was so exciting for me to watch a new altered book come into being, and that I was part of it!
    I first learnt about altered books while living in Hobart, my favourite place in the world. Say hello for me!

  3. Yay for Big Owlet braving the wilderness alone at night! Golly it has been ages since I've camped. Big Owlet has inspired me. But I think I'll wait for it to get a little warmer!

  4. I LOVE reading about the process - how you move from one thing to another. Trust and it will happen! We have had (before the latest horror weather) our play tent out on our porch, and it does make a lovely alternative play spot, with lots of cushions and books...
    And thanks for introducing me to altered books - am so intrigued...

  5. I loved this post so much, Lauren. Because it's all about what feels right in the moment, isn't it? About following yes 'til it naturally comes to an end (or pauses, or flows into something else). About offering up ideas when people are open to hearing them. About being part of the flow, being part of Yes, being part of that gorgeous wondering energy kids have in bucketloads. Yum, to all of this!

    I love that Big Owlet was so amazing and adventurous in her tent. That's really inspiring. And I love where it took your girls—the Miracula Funfair looked wonderful! How magical it must have been for you all. And the pic of littlest owlet in the tent is scrumptious.

    Then the altered books. Gorgeous! I thought, 'Oh, majikfaerie has been writing about that too, how great.' Then I saw your link going straight to that very post. Ah, I love this community, all this connection. Isn't it lovely?

    And LegoQuest we've really enjoyed, and art makes our world go 'round, so all up, Hooray to your days, which would fit our lives to a 't', too! I so love the learning that goes on in your place, Lauren. I so love the joy that comes, so naturally, out and through and all the way to us. Thank you, so much. :)

  6. I love this post for many reasons...I love that you said yes to Big Owlet staying out on her own, I love the fun learning that came from the tent for days afterwards, and I love the theme of this post. The way that you describe balancing following our kids' lead and guiding their way with strewing is just right. I, also, have two very headstrong and determined girls who do not respond well to "teaching".

    Thanks for hosting Unschool Monday!!

  7. Oh that post was link heaven. Thank you so much.

    The stories your children will tell of their childhood when they are older....such gorgeous memory making.


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