Today we’d like to share with you a conversation between Christianbook.com homeschool editor, Kalila, and Ainsley Arment, founder of the Wild + Free homeschool community. Ainsley is the author of the newly released book, The Call of the Wild + Free: Reclaiming Wonder in Your Child’s Education. We hope you enjoy learning from Ainsley as she invites us to embrace the Wild + Free way. (Please note that this interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. To listen to the full interview you can click here.)
Welcome, Ainsley! So for our listeners who aren’t as familiar, would you mind giving us a quick introduction to you, your family and Wild + Free?
Sure! I’d love to.
I am Ainsley Arment, and I have a wonderful husband, Ben. We have five kids, ages 15, 13, 10, 6 & 4, and we homeschool them. We started Wild & Free about 5 years ago.
Wild + Free actually started as an Instagram account, and I often say that I didn’t create Wild + Free as much just discover a community that was just waiting for a voice and a name to be put to their desire. We are a community that desires to give our children a childhood, to reclaim the wonder in their education, and we’re knit together by certain values. It’s not based on philosophy or anything like that, but just common values that we believe every child is born with, and we just want to raise them up according their way and who they are meant to be…
We don’t homeschool in order to replicate the classroom at home, but in order to make the world our classroom. And to do more than what a classroom can provide! If we were just trying to replicate the classroom, we would never succeed because there’s all sorts of interruptions in normal family life. Homeschooling is so much a lifestyle that we have to make it a part of our learning journey. Life is learning, and learning is life. They are so interconnected….
Wild + Free is not just about one person. It’s not just about a certain methodology. It’s about the community. It’s about the moms, not the experts, but the moms and dads who are in the trenches doing the work everyday, who are experiencing this lifestyle. That’s who we’re sharing. The photos from those moms, the words of those moms. The contributors from our monthly bundles and resources that we put together are just moms in the community that are sharing the beautiful things that they’re doing because everybody is on this journey, and we can learn from each other. That’s sort of the philosophy behind the community and what brings everybody together.
Now jumping to your book, what factors led to you writing your book, The Call of the Wild + Free? Did you consider yourself a writer type person beforehand or what led to that?
Well, I’ve always loved writing, and as I became a mother I did less and less of it, so it was just every now and again, I would jot things down in my journal. I definitely have a natural propensity to collect information and resources and quotes so as the Wild + Free philosophy started to develop naturally, I also personally just had notebook after notebook, collecting tid-bits of information, and quotes, and facts, and things I would find, and research.
I never intended to write a book about homeschooling in my life, but it seemed like a natural outflow. As Wild + Free grew so quickly, there were thousands of questions and emails and messages. People wanting to know more about how to live this out. What is Wild + Free really?
It is so much more, it goes so much broader than just the traditional homeschool community. It’s opening the door to so many mothers and families of young children to think about it for the first time and just expanding their thinking about what homeschooling could be as opposed to what maybe their preconceptions are about it.
At some point, it just really felt like ‘Gosh, I need to put together a guide or something.’ I didn’t want to create a prescription for anyone, but I wanted to be able to help people to have a resource that they could turn to to get started, to understand that you are not alone if you are feeling that stirring inside of you to try something different with your kids.
So I was definitely thinking of that for a couple of years, and there just came a time where my husband said, “I really think you need to write a book” and I said, “Well, maybe one day when my kids are older, I’ll do that.” So he let it go for a little bit, but he was like, ‘I really think you need to do it, and I think now is the time,’ so it just eventually came to a point where it felt right, something I really felt passionate about.
And as I wrote out the outline and I wrote out the first draft and the first couple chapters, I just felt like, ‘Ok this is something that I want to do.’ So I just kind of made the decision to do it and to see how it would all unfold.
That’s awesome. There’s so much about the book that I love…You explain some of the particulars that make the Wild + Free lifestyle stand out. And I was really interested by your acknowledgement that while of course you’re not giving out formula, you’re not telling people how to do things, there is a sort of Wild + Free way of living that people have coalesced around. There is a philosophy as well as a community, even though obviously the approach varies from family to family. It can exist alongside the standard methods. But that’s a huge realization. And so I wondering if you could just elaborate on how you came to that thought.
Yes! I guess that’s maybe what made me hesitant to actually write a book versus just creating a resource that would help people get started. But as I started to write, and as I started to think more about my journey and how I began, I started out thinking, ‘Ok, I’m going to homeschool. I should definitely make this legitimate and get a curriculum and teach my children’, even though I knew my reasons for doing it, but I also knew the practicalities of it. Wanting to make sure my child was still learning, that I was doing right by him in those beginning years.
But as I was homeschooling, and I share this in the book, I just saw that as I was doing these things, sure we could check the little boxes off and sure he was learning things. That was wonderful. We learned how to structure a sentence. Or we’d learn how to comprehend a passage that we read. Or we’d read a great story together and be inspired. And we’d do the next unit in math. It was great, and we could check those things off.
But what I saw, the really important things that I saw happening weren’t the things I was giving him. They weren’t the applications of curriculum or anything I was administering to him. It was natural phenomenon that were actually at work in my child that I saw bringing his education to life. Bringing back that light in his eyes that I saw dimmed. Cultivating his imagination and curiosity.
That’s where what I talk about as those values, those five values, began to emerge. The School of Nature, The Power of Story, The Pedagogy of Play, The Curriculum of Curiosity, and the Magic of Wonder. So those are the five values that I talk about in the book. It was those things that I realized are really the magic sauce behind it all. No matter what learning styles your child has, no matter what philosophy you adhere to, be it Charlotte Mason or Waldorf or Montessori, all of these natural phenomena are at work. We have to let them do their magic…
That’s sort of the Wild + Free way, allowing us to tap into those magic phenomena, to nurture them. And whenever the method isn’t matching up with our children, it’s to just strip back a little bit, to pull back and to let the principles be our guide. We aren’t all going to do it the same way, but we can all pursue those things to reclaim and to give our children.
For homeschoolers who are just hearing about Wild + Free and are saying, ‘This sounds awesome! How can I join this community’ what should they do?
Well, Wild + Free is on Instagram, and they can definitely check that out for inspiration, but it is so much more than that. We have conferences throughout the year. We just bought land and have a retreat center that we’re growing in the Blue Ridge mountains where we’re going to be hosting retreats at and we’re really excited about that. The heartbeat of our community are our monthly bundles that we put together… If you are interested, you can check out a free bundle to get more information about the community. The book is now a wonderful place to just get introduced to what is this thing, Wild + Free, and what does it mean to be Wild + Free? And there is also a podcast on iTunes. Those are all great places to start.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this excerpt of our interview with Ainsley Arment. To listen to the full audio interview please click here.