The Wild + Free Philosophy of Learning
I have to be honest, when I first encountered Wild + Free on social media, with its lush photos of beautiful children in garden houses with fairy lights, I thought it was some sort of aspirational homeschool cult. A scan of their website didn’t give me much reason to change my mind. I could see they sold curriculum bundles, had local chapters you could join, and held yearly conferences, but I still couldn’t grasp what this group was all about. However, it was obvious their influence was rapidly growing, and I was curious to know more.
Reading a little further I discovered that last year the founder of Wild + Free crystallized her ideas in to a book. I am happy to report that after reading the book and catching up on her podcasts from the last few years, what I discovered was not a cult at all, but a group of mothers sharing heartfelt and practical wisdom on preserving the natural learning elements of childhood, and using them to give their children a richer education than they had thought possible.
The book is a more practical guide to homeschooling than I expected. She gives solid answers to typical questions posed by homeschool skeptics and helps parents reframe their idea of school as different from a traditional classroom. You feel the zeal of the convert in Armant’s enthusiasm over discovering a new way of looking at education. It reminded me a bit of reading books by Ina May Gaskin as a first-time mom. The way Ina May and a few of her contemporaries had an innate feeling that there was more to birth than the medically invasive practices of their time, the mothers who call themselves a part of the wild + free community seem freed and thrilled to have found the other parents out there who feel there is another way to navigate childhood and education.
What started as a simple hashtag grew into an entire community. In finding each other, parents have found confidence and clarity in their choices. Wild + Free has helped them feel less alone in their feelings of wanting something different.
Although Armant says she was reluctant to define Wild + Free too rigidly, she does eventually gives five values that help explain the philosophy, which are Nature, Story, Play, Curiosity and Wonder.
In the book, the values of nature as a classroom are repeatedly touted, with cited research backing up the idea that time spent outdoors is beneficial for both children and adults. Armant offers a plethora of built-in lessons that are difficult to teach indoors. She encourages the reader that there is no need to live near a national park or on a picture-perfect homestead to get the value out of time spent outside; instead, suggesting a simple neighborhood walk can be all you need to reap the benefits of nature for your family.
A point made in the book that resonated with me is the importance of preserving a sense of wonder and curiosity in our children. I have learned through my years of teaching that leaning in to moments of excitement are much more effective than the painful ones that feel hopeless. I felt inspired by the reminders in the book of just how much humans are naturally designed to desire learning. She encourages trusting children to lead the way towards learning. I think this point is a valuable one to ponder, especially for moms new to homeschooling. Whether it leads you to full-on unschooling or just helps take away the fear that your child will fail to thrive unless you do every single thing and do not miss a single subject. It can be scary to let go of that way of thinking, but when you do, you may find that you and your children are wilder, freer and happier than ever before.