Ainsley Arment is the founder of Wild + Free, an online community of parents focused on providing a quality education at home. This philosophy will be like a breath of fresh air if you’re struggling in your homeschool! Listen in on this conversation with Ainsley or read the transcript below.
Plus – scroll down to enter our Preschool + Early Learning Bundle Giveaway.
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. I will receive a commission if you purchase from these links. Thank you.
Welcome to the show notes for Episode #86 of the Homeschool with Moxie podcast!
As a former classroom teacher, now homeschooling mom of five, I love to equip and encourage other homeschooling families.
On the Homeschool with Moxie Podcast our goal is to inspire and encourage you with actionable strategies to take you from overwhelmed to confident in your homeschool adventure. Listen to interviews with amazing influencers in the homeschool world and beyond.
About Ainsley Arment
In 2014, Ainsley Arment founded Wild + Free on Instagram which has since developed into a very active online community of parents focused on providing a quality education at home while also preserving the adventure, freedom, and wonder of childhood.
A mother of 5 and homeschooler for the past 11 years, Ainsley says that while most parents feel unprepared and overwhelmed by the idea of homeschooling their children, it can be done! And it can be a rewarding experience for children and parents alike.
If this podcast is an encouragement to you, become a supporter of the Homeschool with Moxie podcast with a small monthly donation! This will help sustain future episodes. Learn more HERE.
The Wild + Free Philosophy
The five values of this philosophy are discussed in the book and this episode. They are:
- The School of Nature
- The Power of Story
- The Pedagogy of Play
- The Curriculum of Curiosity
- The Magic of Wonder
The Call of the Wild + Free
Intro to Ainsley Arment
Abby: Today I was able to chat with Ainsley Arment, who is the founder of the wild and free homeschooling community, really her big pushes that you can give your kids a quality education without giving up on childhood. I was able to read her book and it was a breath of fresh air. This is the book that if you’re just starting out and you want a vision for what your home school could be, this will give you that vision.
You do not need to replicate school at home. You don’t need the stress of that kind of you know, really artificial structure the way the way traditional school is set up, that is not what you can do with homeschooling, homeschooling gives you the whole world.
And I love how Ainsley just talks about the different values of the wild and free philosophy, which we’ll get into even if you kind of say I’m kind of a classical home school or I’m eclectic or we do use some textbooks, you can still take away some of these values in this philosophy and use it in your own home schooling.
I think number one, it’s great for new moms. So if you’re just starting out, you really don’t know what to do with your home school. You need a vision then definitely listen in and get a copy of Ainsley’s book. The second group of moms who I think would really benefit from this conversation and from Ainsley’s book is also the frustrated mom who is trying to you know, replicate public school in her home and it’s just not working, and you just need a better solution.
I think you’re going to have a lot to learn from this podcast. It was really great talking with Ainsley and the best thing is I have three of her books.
One is her The Call of the Wild and Free, which is her main book that talks about this philosophy. You can win a copy of that. Plus, I have two other books that are Handcrafts for the Wild and Free lifestyle and also Wild and Free holidays. So there are three total books. That one lucky winner will be able to win. And if you have a U. S. Mailing address, I encourage you to go ahead and enter that giveaway.
Okay, it was a really great conversation. There’s a lot to learn and so I think you’re going to enjoy it here is my conversation with Ainsley Arment, the founder of Wild and Free. Ainsley, thanks for joining us today on the podcast.
Ainsley: Thanks so much for having me, I’m really excited to be here.
Abby: So if we could start out, maybe you could just introduce your family and kind of give us a little background as to what drew you into home schooling in the first place.
Ainsley: Yeah, that’s such a great question I would say. and what I usually say is that I was an unlikely home schooler. I did not set out to home school when I started having kids. And I didn’t know anything about homeschooling. I was really loved being with my kids.
I had three boys and then two little girls but at the time of homeschooling I just had my three boys and my oldest went off to preschool and then kindergarten and then he went to first grade and it was during his first grade year that I just saw a shift in how he was coming at life and he was doing grading school, it wasn’t that he was suffering academically or being bullied or anything traumatic.
but it was just something that my mother’s intuition just said something’s not right, you know, I’ve often described it as the light went out in his eyes and whereas he used to be very just happy go lucky and very excited about going to school and learning. we had just kind of gotten into this season where it wasn’t that way, and I just missed my boy.
He was gone all day and I decided that we were going to be making a move, I thought I’m going to bring him home, it just kept coming to me home, home home, he needed to come home. So, I got my husband on board for a year, we said we’ll give it a year and if all else fails, we’ll just put him back in school, pretend like it never happened.
And, we decided to give it a year and it was when I had him home that I saw him come back to life, he started getting excited about not just learning, but just about living, you know, exploring the world and his curiosities came back and that childlike wonder started to return and I feel like it’s important to distinguish between being childish and childlike because I’m not trying to keep my kids when I talk about childhood, it’s not that I’m trying to keep them childish or to keep them from growing up, it’s just that I want them to be able to keep that childlike wonder as they grow each stage as they grow, that they can live in it and not have to think about what’s coming next, but knowing that that stage is preparing them for the next one, just by living through it.
Mother’s Instincts in Homeschooling
Abby: I love what you said just now about realizing in your gut, like your instincts and that was one chapter in your book that really stood out to me about reclaiming motherhood because I can look back and think of the things that I regret is when I didn’t trust my gut as a mom and I did what the experts said, I did what everyone said I should do about something. But you said we have to trust that we have what it takes to teach our Children at home because we do know the best. Can you speak to that reclaiming motherhood and what that looks like?
Ainsley: Yeah, that is one of the most powerful concepts for me. through this journey was realizing, like you said, looking back and seeing that maybe you don’t have huge regrets, but any regret that you have, it was when you didn’t trust those instincts and it’s not that you knew everything, it’s just you knew you needed to explore that more or find help in that particular area or simply to just trust what you knew.
So I I liken it to when your child is a newborn and all the experts are telling you a million things, you know, it’s is it attachment parenting, is it letting your babies cry themselves to sleep? Is it feeding on demand? You know, there’s all these things and we just have all these voices coming at us and really it’s when we learn our baby, we learn their cries, we know them so well, and when we start diverging from what we know is best for them that we start going down a path where we’re outsourcing our expertise, you know?
And it’s reclaiming that in ourselves, because it’s saying when you say we need to trust ourselves, it’s not saying we have all the answers. but it’s trusting ourselves to understand our kids and to be and then to figure out what they need and to get the help if needed, if it is outsourced, but it is taking that responsibility and really that privilege and roll that we were given when we were entrusted with these little souls to care for.
What is the Wild + Free Philosophy?
Abby: Now, when I read your book, I thought it was a breath of fresh air because sometimes as homeschoolers, we get, well, number one, if we’re starting out for the first time, we don’t have a vision. So I felt like your book is a great starting point for people who need a vision of what it could look like.
And the number two, I thought it’s a great book for people who have been struggling and they’re frustrated because they’re just trying to replicate school at home. And so the Wild and free Philosophy have found was it’s gonna resonate with a lot of different families because you’re not coming down and saying you have to do charlotte mason, you have to do classical, like it’s not anything one method, but maybe you could explain briefly, what do you mean by wild and free, what is that? Philosophy?
Ainsley: Sure. Yeah. Well you know the idea of being wild and free came about probably about, I had never really described my style of home schooling, you know when I started, I think I mentioned when I started out homeschooling, I didn’t know a lot about homeschooling.
I did a lot of research that year when thinking about it, but I didn’t, I hadn’t delved into what the different philosophies were, what the different styles are. You know now you can google home schooling and you know, there’s a few websites that talk about or a million websites that will tell you these are the different styles, just pick what you are and then go in that direction. But I feel like it’s so much more than that because you can do this not knowing anything about pedagogy and philosophy.
you just have to observe your child and you have to get them what they need or provide what they need and oftentimes that isn’t a curriculum but it’s an environment and its connection and it’s figuring things out as you go because kids are always learning, but as I started to learn more about the different philosophies or I would nature journal and a friend would say, oh you’re just charlotte mason, aren’t you? And I would say, well who’s that?
And then I delve in and read all the charlotte mason, and then I learned about these different things about handcrafts and connecting the head with the heart and, and somebody said, oh you would really like the Waldorf pedagogy.
So I researched that and I thought, you know, now when people started asking me, I’m about five years into homeschooling, what style I was, I said all of them and none of them, I don’t know, I’m a little bit of everything and none that I feel like they all really at the core believe that childhood is a time that should be nurtured that kids should have a special time of growing and learning at their own pace and that you can connect the, the heart to the head, to the hands through nature and play and books and all the good things that kids naturally learn when engaging in.
So when I started the community, wild and free, it was kind of accidental on instagram where a community just started coming around and people that were really drawn to these values that I was sharing in my own home schooling and somebody suggested that I started different instagram account for those ideas and when we first hosted a gathering where people would come together for the first time and I, somebody said, what do you think you would call it?
And I said wild and free, and it was based on Henry David Thoreau. All good things are wild and free. And I just thought that it was so just whimsical, but also descriptive without getting too deep just about how childhood should be and how we as mothers should be in raising our kids.
School of Nature
Abby: So let’s kind of briefly chat then about those five values of your, of the wild and free philosophy that you lay out in your book. So I’ll mention one of them and at a time and we can kind of talk through them because I think it would be helpful for parents to see. It’s, it is actually practically how it could look in their homes. So the first thing you mentioned is the School of Nature. And I think a lot of people me included, we don’t get out enough. So what do you mean by the School of Nature? And is this just for people who live in the country on a farm?
Ainsley: That’s a good question. And no, I don’t live on a farm and I don’t live in the country or the mountains. I just live in a little neighborhood, in the suburbs and we do have a tiny backyard, but, you know, we have access to parks and there’s so much that we can even find in our own backyard.
But the school of Nature is the idea that nature really is the best classroom you can learn so much just from observing the nature that the birds in your backyard listening to the different songs listening to the leaves in the tree branches sway. It’s very grounding for us physically and emotionally. But more than that it’s a time where kids can explore if we want our kids to for their minds to develop and learn they have to move their bodies outdoors.
There’s a wonderful book called balanced and barefoot and I’m not gonna remember the author’s name off the top of my head but it’s a great But to delve down that road of just how much our brains need our bodies to move and they need to do that outdoors. And there are there are crucial ways that they need. Kids need to develop. Being outside. Studies show that kids always are less stressed the outdoors they get along better outside whether it’s siblings or friends. Kids with more learning challenges or special needs A. D. H. D. Autism, they all do better outdoors.
Well when I brought my son home and we homeschooled that first year it went really smoothly and we spent a lot of times outside. I had three little boys so we would go to parks and they would play or we would go on little hikes around the lake nearby.
And then the second year we added a new baby to the mix. So I now had a baby that did not want me to put her down ever So sitting down in the morning and all my visions of candlelight, poetry readings and conversation and morning journals, that wasn’t able to happen in the same way that it happened in the year before. And now I had a toddler running around and a baby on my hip.
So instead of sitting down at the table, we went outside first thing and we spent the first half of the day playing outside and it didn’t matter. We don’t even have to drive anywhere. It could have just been in our pajamas on the sidewalk, picking dandelions or in the backyard, building a fort out of fallen branches and blankets. And sometimes we lay a blanket and read books and have snacks and sometimes that was school for the day and the eye, we just, I just saw my kids thriving.
We weren’t able to do the full day that I had planned table work and books and all of those things indoors, but my kids were thriving more than ever being outdoors. And we did that because as the baby was happy outside. And, I moved, I didn’t have to sit still and try to keep a baby calm. You know, I could put her on my back or hold her or later on a blanket. So, the outdoors became a refuge and it became a place that we could all learn and explore and thrive and play together. So that’s just a personal story of how nature became important in our in our culture.
How to Create a Culture of Reading
Abby: That makes a lot of sense. That that is a help when you’ve got a lot of little kids take them outside, That’s gonna make the frustration level a whole lot lower than trying to stay indoors and have them sit at the table and do work. That just makes so much sense. It’s natural and I love that. What about the power of story? Most of us know the benefit of you know, engaging our kids with reading and audio books and stuff. But what do we do when we have these reluctant readers in our home or you know, how can we even create that culture of reading?
Ainsley: That’s a great question. You know, I think reading aloud as a family is one of the ways that we’ve really cultivated a love of story in our family culture. I don’t have five avid readers. In fact, I have two kids with dyslexia and I have one my second son, my earliest reader, but he’s my least likely to sit down and read. Even though he was the easiest one to teach to read and the first one to be able to read signs driving down the street in the car. he picked up language very easily, but he didn’t have the desire to read until he was much older.
So I just would have him read in small spurts, you know, I’d recommend a book, I try all the different genres. I think when you have a reluctant reader there, trying to figure out the different types of books, you know, I think we always homeschool moms especially we want our kids to read the classics, we want them to read all the good things.
but giving them the opportunity to figure out like maybe they like nonfiction, then maybe they like science fiction or maybe they, you need to start out reading more comic type books that are maybe more wholesome or however you want to wade through those waters there.
But what I found is that he needed to just experiment with different types of books and finding those books and I can read aloud or we can put on an audio book of a classic book. It’s not that he isn’t getting that good rich literature and he does read that now, but he’s 14 now and he did early on, but being okay with that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t still encourage that.
So I think there’s like a piece that you can have that they’re learning and they’re finding the books that appeal to them, but also knowing that you’ll continue to find ways to encourage them to get in the kind of books that you would want them to, to read, either audibly or leaving them around in places they might want to pick up. and, and just, or suggesting it, and hey, I think you would really enjoy this book now, maybe not a few years ago, but now I might really enjoy it, would you give it a try if I read it with you? are all great ways to help a reluctant reader.
And then we have a couple of kids with dyslexia and I have a son who didn’t read before he was 10 years old and it was definitely a struggle for me to feel like I was doing everything that I could for him, but he is one of the most in tuned when I’m reading aloud than any of my other kids.
So even though he wasn’t able to read the words himself, he was able to tell him back parts of the story that even my teenagers weren’t able to tell back because he was so in tuned and so I think that story is going to be a huge part of his personal story, even though he wasn’t actually reading the words himself, he loves audiobooks. , and he, I tried to encourage him to write as well, even though he wasn’t able to write very well early on, so he would , speak stories to me and I would type them out as he spoke them to me or write them out. Word for word so that he would have his own stories in print as well to give him a voice was really powerful. I think during those years when he wasn’t able to do that for himself,
Kids Need to Play
Abby: that’s helpful. Now. I know the next one you talk about the pedagogy of play and you mentioned in your book and I when I read this I thought, yeah, I’ve seen this too. Where the moms of two-year-olds, three year olds, four year olds are worried about the academics. They want to get started really early. Why do you say that? It’s actually better late than early? What does that mean?
Ainsley: Yeah. You know there is a book by Dr. Raymond Moore from a couple of decades ago and I believe the title was Better Late than Early, but the idea of late than early is simply that when kids are ready they learn. And usually even if even if you missed it, even if you were like, oh no, it should have been earlier, it should have been six months earlier. Like we could really know.
But even if the later kids learn the faster they learn. And so that has been proven time and time again with studies, Peter Gray has some studies cited in his book free to learn and there’s other research that you can find on all across educational journals and books that are out. , but when kids are, are their brains are mature and all the connections are formed that haven’t been formed early on. they learn exponentially faster.
So the idea of giving kids a childhood and helping them learn slowly at their own pace is not that we’re keeping them back, but we’re just letting them kind of lead the way with their readiness and we’re not, we’re not holding them back. , we’re just allowing those connections in their brain to form a little tighter and it makes it all the more easier for them to learn.
There’s even statistics on, there’s one study that I think this is the one that Peter Gray cited in his book about two groups of kids where they didn’t do any formal learning math grammar, anything in this one group until middle school and the other group just got taught normally through the traditional sense of each year repeating the Grammar because kids forget it. They don’t retain it.
So they have to keep keeping teaching it every year. And by the time both groups were in 6th grade, the the group that hadn’t been taught formally. we’re about on par in the grammar, as the other kids, but they were behind in the math, but within three months the kids were ahead of the kids that had gone through the traditional schooling of math and classes and the repetition. So they not only caught up but they were now ahead of the other kids simply by having those connections for him and learning so quickly.
Engaging Our Child’s Curiosity + Wonder
Abby: Mm hmm. Now I know I need to let you go really soon. But as we wrap up, maybe you can talk briefly about the last two values you mentioned in the wild and free philosophy and that is curiosity and wonder. And maybe you can kind of tell us what that means and what that looks like.
Ainsley: Sure. Well, I think curiosity and wonder. I don’t think they need real descriptors but at the same time, they’re so essential to kids learning when kids are curious about something they learn. I know in my own schooling when I didn’t want to learn something, it was like drudgery and it was so hard to retain the information but similar to play when kids are engaged when they want to learn when it’s their idea, they get excited about learning.
And so it’s really about helping kids explore their interests and providing opportunities for them to chase curiosity and wonder. I say in the book is really the birthright of all of us of Children. And it’s not that we have to give it to our Children or create ways for them to experience wonder. It’s really a natural inborn sense of coming at the world. So our job is simply not to take it away.
And we see that when we gaze at the stars at night or when they see a little bird falling from a tree or a perfect little dandelion and they think it’s the most beautiful flower in the world. This sense of all and wonder, is what drives excitement about living and learning. So, they really are, I say the magic of wonder because I really do think that’s the secret sauce to all learning.
Final Encouragement for the Struggling Homeschool Mom
Abby: So as we wrap up, can you just leave the homeschool moms listening today with just a last bit of encouragement? What would you like to say to the mom who’s struggling or frustrated or just burnt out? What, what encouragement can you give her?
Ainsley: Sure. I would just want to tell that mom just to breathe just to take some deep breaths and to exhale all of it out. You know, there’s so much, especially in this year and this season that we’re living for, even for homeschoolers, I feel like just so much is different and it’s just being able to give grace to ourselves straight grace to our kids and if you’re in the need of a giant reboot, it’s okay, take time off, take time to rediscover your kids rediscover relationships.
Rediscover what lights you up as a mom and rediscover what lights your kids up and you can find your way again. but just know that you’re not alone. I think that’s my most important messages that we’re all in this together and everybody is walking this journey and there are hard, hard times and really great times. but you’re not alone.
Abby: I love that. Thank you, Ainsley, for joining us today and sharing your wisdom.
Ainsley: I appreciate it was a pleasure.
Preschool & Early Learning GiveawayDo you have a preschooler or early learner eager to start their own homeschool journey? Maybe they are showing some interest and you want to encourage their love of learning now? Then this giveaway is for you!
Check out this AMAZING Prize package!
|An Early Learners Introduction to the 50 States from In All You Do Early Learners Introduction to the 50 States is a fun and simple way to introduce your little ones to the United States. In these simple pages, they will color the state name, state shape, state bird, state flower and state flag. They will also be able to trace and copy facts and do a simple word search puzzle about each state. This is perfect for preschool and kindergartners, possibly even first grade.|
|10 Songs All Preschoolers Should Know online course from Music in Our Homeschool The “10 Songs All Preschoolers Should Know” online course provides you with weeks, or even months, of ideas to do musical activities with your early childhood students. The course includes song videos with lyric sheets, 26 alphabet sheets with musical instruments or topics to learn about, and 28 pages to color music notes and symbols and practice cutting them out.|
|Follow Your Child’s Lead: Preschool at Home from Inside Our Normal This 30 minute workshop will help you develop your own preschool teaching style and set yourself up for success for future homeschool years. Learn how simple daily habits add up to learning and fun when you homeschool the preschool years. Includes video workshop, handout and bonus preschool planning kit.|
|Wonder-Filled Days in Nature- April (Physical Copy) from Wonder-Filled Days Receive the April edition of Wonder-Filled Days in Nature delivered to your mailbox. Includes a physical copy of the nature calendar, tracker, stickers, fine art, poetry, and journal pages. Find out how much fun you can have exploring nature with your children!|