Free range kids

Ever since we moved to the mountain three years ago, there’s been much talk about the schooling of our children. Most of the time we’re convinced they’ll be homeschooled, or rather, unschooled. Every now and then we weigh the possibility of Montessori or Waldorf School in Sarajevo. The question remains open.

They’re not yet school age (school begins in Bosnia at 6 years of age) and they don’t attend to kindergarten. And for the most part our kids are actually really free ranging. We don’t put up strict structures for them, they don’t have scheduled hobbies, they get to do pretty much whatever they like.

What they do depends on their mood, the season and weather, and what else is happening at home or our inn. It can be puddle jumping, playing in the mud, hobbyhorse riding, reading books (no, they don’t actually know how to read yet, but they’re ‘reading’ none the less), making up stories, and playing various games indoors or outside. And given our way of life, a lot of their time is spent in the nature.

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This spring we opened a nature club for children called The Wolf Cubs. Once a month on a Saturday we pick a theme and go exploring with children 4–10 years of age. Every exploration starts with us declaring we’re wolf cubs and going over ‘the rules’ – and I feel so happy for being able to make it more about allowing than forbidding.

“We are allowed to smell and touch new things we find in the woods. We are allowed to jump on and off of tree stumps and rocks we find. We are allowed to get dirty and wet. Everyone is included, nobody stays behind” and so on. (We do take care of safety, and have a rule of stopping for a moment when we encounter anything possibly risky.)

Having Wolf Cubs has become very important to our older one. She keeps asking when is the next time, and on those Saturdays she never sleeps in.

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What’s in it for us grown ups? Letting children go (and grow!) without schedules and in nature? Well, I’ll gladly admit: I’m a lazy mother. And therefor it’s about my kids being less demanding and more independent and content.

They’re more focused and into their own pottering around (than asking for entertainment). They have a natural way of starting a project, and finishing it. They learn more! When they watch a caterpillar move, they squat still for minutes, paying full attention only to the caterpillar. I don’t need to teach them about the wildlife, because they’re already in it, living it, learning it.

We talk about things, so in essence I suppose I teach, but mostly I’d say we learn together. By letting go of the idea of teaching, I can sit back and watch them find their interests. I assist them, I facilitate to their needs, but I also step aside and I hide any trace of schedules, plans, and goals.

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Time for school and decisions about it comes soon enough. I keep reading about homeschooling / unschooling and finding more resources. I’m excited about that lifestyle as a whole. But we’ll see. For the moment, free ranging is the best possible option for us.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Lois says:

    It sounds to me as if you are already unschooling/home schooling. Just because formal education begins at a specified age by the state we prepare them at home long before they enter a school. For what it’s worth, I raised my children similar to how you are raising yours, although I didn’t think about starting a wolf club, my children were so far ahead when they began school their teachers were still coming to me a few years in to tell me that my children were the first to know a particular science question in all the years that teacher had been teaching. As a result we decided to leave public school and return to learning at home. It was the best decision we ever made.

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