“All good things are wild and free.”
– Henry David Thoreau
The Wild and Free Portland conference was held on on May 29-30, 2015 at the Kennedy School hotel in downtown Portland. Here are my reflections on that event, as well as some thoughts about the Wild and Free homeschooling community, in general.
From the moment I bought my ticket to the Wild and Free conference, I always knew that, for me, it was never going to be about learning homeschooling tips and tricks. I just don’t find that kind of stuff interesting. If I believe in something, I know I can figure out the ins and outs of applying it in daily life. I don’t need to learn HOW to homeschool. What I need is community and support. Homeschooling is a fundamentally lonely endeavor, in both a day-to-day way, and also in a broader ideological sense.
Wild and Free is about inspiring and connecting like-minded people.
While the Wild and Free conference brought together a “beautiful homeschooling community,” it wasn’t really about homeschooling in the strictest sense, but about a broader attitude towards parenting and attachment. The same attitude permeates the Wild and Free instagram feed (the primary place online where this community connects).
The Wild and Free community is a gathering of like-minded people hoping to craft similar kinds of attached and engaging lifestyles for their kids. It’s a about a shift away from popular culture in the ways that we perceive things like human nature, a child’s potential, and the ideal dynamic for a parent/child relationship. In the same way that you can unschool a child while sending them to public school, you can also be a Wild and Free parent without technically homeschooling. It’s all about attitude.
The speakers model this for us.
Some of the speakers at the Wild and Free conference homeschool, while others do not. One speaker works while her husband homeschools. Another send her kids to private school so that she can care for her ailing mother. Yet another sends her kids to public school, because it is the best fit for her kids’ needs. Yet, in their talks, all of the presenters modelled values of connection, self-control, faithfulness and attachment.
If the Wild and Free community is not, at its heart, about homeschooling, then what is it about?
To be “Wild and Free”…what does that even mean?
Life gets crazy and difficult. Parenting is a messy and unpredictable ordeal. Everyone you meet has an opinion about what you should do or how you should live your life. Guilt is a daily struggle. But being Wild and Free is about creating a haven within your heart that is strong and calm and believes in The Good Things. Being Wild and Free isn’t about building a perfect life or an ideal home or finding the “right” curriculum. It’s about surrendering your heart to a hope-filled lifestyle despite all the chaos that surrounds you.
I believe that our passions are good and they can guide us to discover what amazing and unique creatures God intends for us to be. I believe that, when we choose good things, they choose us. And I’m excited to homeschool or unschool or whatever-school my bright little spark of a child because I want to enable her to thrive.
We all choose to hitch our wagons to something. We all hold something near and dear to our hearts. We all choose what defines us and where our identities lie. To me, being Wild and Free is about choosing to accept my crazy life, whatever it might look like. It’s about accepting my faults and my mistakes, striving to be a better person, and not allowing my weaknesses to nullify my strengths. Being Wild and Free is about understanding that, whatever I have and whatever I am, it is enough. We are all enough.
And there’s something kind of beautiful about that.