Children are not made to learn sitting at desks. Their tiny bodies are not designed for staying in chairs and listening quietly. They are made to move, wiggle, dance, and explore. Their brains are designed to seek out knowledge through touch and play. And taking that away from them is blasphemous!
That is why I started homeschooling. I wanted to let my children run and be wild. My daughter says they were feral. That might explain how messy our home was in those days.
In those early years, I let them climb trees and dig holes. I believed that by letting them do dangerous things like tree climbing, they would learn to trust themselves and their judgment. I let them climb far higher than I was ever allowed to go as a child. I let them dig a hole in the yard, and keep digging it deeper and deeper for several seasons, maybe even years. They found roots and rocks and turned the hole into a pit trap that only ever caught unsuspecting guests.
I let them play in the woods and splash in the creek behind our home. I helped them hunt for tadpoles and we caught lightning bugs. I let them light their own fires in a fire bowl in the yard. The youngest was a pro fire starter by age 5. And my favorite homeschool memory of all time is of laying in a hammock with all 3 of my children and reading them a story before they bound off to play some more.
Chaos and Discovery
But don’t let me paint this time of our lives as if it were a beautiful dream. There was chaos and messes and times I wondered what I was doing. Because feral children are messy!
There was the day they ran through the sprinkler until the yard turned into a mud puddle and then they had a mud fight. I had to clean mud off of 3 children, 2 dogs, (one of which was a bulldog we were just babysitting), and a giant pile of clothes and towels, and other things.
They painted the walls of the house with Kool Whip. It added an amazing texture to our deep blue walls. And they wrapped the furniture in duct tape and stretched it down the stairs to make small ramps. I’m not sure what taping the dining room furniture together accomplished.
You may be wondering where I was when the chaos happened. You see, sometimes I did this crazy thing called “Taking a shower” and that was when the real insanity happened. They never did the same thing twice, so I never could guess what would happen next. But it has been 10 years, and I have never bought Kool-Whip again. Some things I just can’t risk.
Eventually, they got older, and those wild days faded away. Our homeschooling turned more sedate with books and pencils. We don’t all fit in a single hammock anymore. They dig holes in the garden for planting. Though they do still love a good Nerf war with friends.
Recently, my youngest daughter has been working on inferences. She reads stories that have clues and you have to figure out what is happening in them without being told. These stories about “normal” people have shone a light on how most children don’t get a chance to be feral homeschoolers. She felt sad and confused for those poor kids. The ones who were kept inside and didn’t get to play in the mud or light fires.
Whatever your homeschool journey is, I hope you take the time to let your children be feral homeschoolers. No, it isn’t easy, but it is a gift few children today get to experience.
PS. If you would like a shirt to identify yourself or your child as a feral homeschooler, check out our new Bonfire store.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.