In the book, The Call of the Wild and Free, Ainsley Arment offers advice, information, and positive encouragement for parents considering homeschooling, those currently in the trenches looking for inspiration, and parents, educators, and caregivers who want extra resources to enhance their kids’ traditional educations.
Table of contents
Considering a different path
For Arment, sending her child to school for the first time was tough, just like for any parent. Knowing the value of education, she didn’t question sending her child away to school if it was for his good. But she started to notice over time that he was changing. He was playing less and began to care about his peers’ opinions – she described it as watching the light in his eyes get snuffed out.
She’d never considered homeschooling but watching the traditional school environment change her son opened her up to the possibility. After chatting with a friend who was homeschooling their children and researching different resources, she took the plunge. In just a few short weeks, she’d picked out the curriculum and pulled her son from the first grade to go the homeschooling route.
Arment definitely has a valuable perspective. I think it shows that it’s ok not just to take the presumed education path for your kid. She just assumed traditional education would be the best fit, but it has its limitations. Through this experience, she could tackle some of the tough questions about the environment she wanted for her son and how he learned. And to top it off, she was able to write this book to help other parents in the same boat and possibly feeling overwhelmed.
The limitations of traditional education
Everyone knows it’s children’s nature to move around and explore. But in the classroom, they’re glued to a chair as if preparing them for office life. They do paperwork, stick to schedules, and sit quietly listening to presentations, which may sound familiar.
We treat kids like adults, and it’s causing them stress. A study from the American Psychological Association reported children feel higher levels of stress on average during the school year than adults. A stressful environment isn’t conducive to active and engaged learning.
And that’s why Arment is offering parents insight into how they can help their children actually enjoy childhood the way they’re meant to. There’s a way for them to learn without losing the wonder, curiosity, and simple joy of being a kid. The title of her book comes from the Henry David Thoreau quote, “all good things are wild and free.” That’s the spirit of childhood she wants to help people capture for their children while still providing quality education.
The benefits of the homeschool method
Homeschooling, while it’s thought of as unconventional, has a lot of benefits. There are a lot of great teachers out there, but they can’t give the same love and personalized attention to your child that you would. Homeschooling provides the unique benefit of tailoring the education experience to your child’s individual needs and interests.
Armant writes about true learning as being more like cultivating a garden than filing a filing cabinet. Essentially, that means the homeschool model operates on the assumption that children thrive when they’re motivated to explore, examine, and question for the fun of it.
Traditional schooling differs by filling kids with as many facts as possible. This fails to instill critical soft skills like initiative, creativity, and inventiveness. Those skills can’t be taught but are developed by children pursuing what they love. Armant writes that the objection kids will have gaps in knowledge when they’re allowed to prioritize cultivating their gifts misunderstands the function of true education – to impart a genuine love of learning. Homeschooling allows the educational flexibility to do that.
Another benefit is having the opportunity to reinvigorate the family experience. In one U.S. study, it was estimated that families spend only 36 minutes together each day. Homeschooling opens up a pathway for parents to reclaim and enrich parenthood, reclaiming their time with their children and reviving their role as mentors and educators. Homeschooling done right means you get to spend time with your family that you savor and cherish, not just as the addition of extra responsibilities.
The five core principles of the Wild + Free philosophy
While there’s no one formula for homeschooling success, there are five principles identified by the Wild and Free community as a philosophy that can help guide the way.
The first principle is the school of nature. Natural environments help children develop their moral and emotional disposition. It’s also beneficial to children’s mental and physical well-being. Time outside provides formative experiences for children to learn, reconnect with nature, and experience a host of benefits to their health and happiness.
The second principle is to utilize the power of story. Research shows children are more likely to remember information when it’s presented to them in story form. Armant writes that one of the benefits of homeschooling is having the freedom to center a child’s education around living books rather than exclusively in textbooks. Living books are great works of literature that have left their mark on society. They’re works that continue to impact people. Textbooks are more suited to the moments memorization of facts is key. One of the wonderful things about living books is the opportunity to inspire a love of reading in children. Reading introduces children to a wide range of ideas and concepts that provide ample opportunity for reflection.
The third principle is the teaching of play. It’s often assumed that children are resistant to hard work, and education is one of those things. But it’s not true that children aren’t willing to work hard, they’re just resistant to meaningless rotework. Children are usually willing to put in work when it comes to something purposeful, playful, and fun. Interestingly, one study in Germany compared 50 play-oriented preschools to 50 early learning preschools and found that play-oriented preschool attendees excelled in academic skills like literacy and math, and were thought to be better adjusted emotionally and socially than their early learning peers. The play principle can help children excel in their learning.
The last two principles highlight the natural qualities inherent in children that we often snuff out in the traditional education model. And those principles are the curriculum of curiosity and the magic of wonder. Children are naturally much more curious and willing to experiment, question, and inspect than adults. As parents and educators, we should take this sense of curiosity seriously and cultivate it. It’s crucial to provide plenty of resources for them to play and experiment to fully realize their abilities and passions.
There’s more than one way to provide a well-rounded and beneficial education for children. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be a daunting task or riddled with negative stigmas but can be viewed as an opportunity to tailor learning to your child’s needs and interests. Even if you don’t homeschool, you can apply the Wild + Free teaching philosophies to help your child reclaim the joy of their childhood and cultivate a love of learning.