So here's to my sweet friends who weren't able to join us for Wild + Free this year. As I am sure you know my recap of the conference is from the lens of my current season and I took notes based on what impacted my heart the most, but I hope this will be helpful and encouraging to you as well.
I am by nature a girl that loves routine and a rule follower who likes a clear plan. I knew from my early homeschool days that I am not naturally drawn towards planning our curriculum on my own and often times don't feel very wild + free. But within my heart, there has been a growing desire to change course. I look at our homeschool days and although they are good, they aren't flourishing and they don’t align with the ideals in my head. We are great at plowing through to get our work done, but have lost the childlike savoring and enjoyment of learning. I have slowly been making changes, but I feel so inspired after this conference to lean fully into a different way of schooling - one that aligns with the vision in my heart. I don't know exactly what that looks like, but I will keep you posted as I travel this journey. After each conference I make little tweaks to our routine and move a little more towards living wild + free. I could write more about my journey, but that is not the purpose of this post so on to the conference recap. If you are interested in this journey I'm on, please email me or leave a comment on IG and let me know. I would love to answer any questions or chat about this further.
Sarah McKenzie opened Friday evening, and as always she was amazing. I appreciate her authenticity and as with all things Sarah, we were encouraged to read aloud. :) We have been reading aloud almost every night we are home for the past year. It has been fabulous and I love it, but after the conference I will be adding more reading into our morning. Right now I am doing that by allowing some deviation from our "plan" to read books that relate to our current activities and interests as well as being intentional with reading an extra 15min. or so. I am also going to be intentional about creating a more inviting environment while we read. Maybe that looks like cuddling on the couch, going outside, or at the table, but I will be increasing the time we spend reading. I want our reading in the morning to more closely resemble our reading at night with us all snuggled on the couch. I want it to feel less like school and more like a sweet time to connect and gather around with each other. Reading out loud is hands down one of my favorite things to do with my kids, so I love the encouragement to continue down that path!
Lynsey Kramer spoke on leading our kids down a path that teaches them to have grit. Grit being passion, courage, resolve, and strength of character. She was honest that grit does not come easily to her and I relate, but I wholeheartedly think it is a worthy endeavor to pursue. I am not quite sure how I am going to start adding grit into our lives, but I appreciate her encouragement in this and trust it will come around in time as we start shifting our routine. She also talked about focusing on the process/progress and not just performance. Such a great reminder to acknowledge our children's hard work and diligence, not just the end product.
Jodi Mockabee's message was perfect timing for my current season on this homeschool journey, so this will be the longest recap. :) The Lord laid the word Bold on her heart this year and as she processed what this meant she felt that boldness for her family is meant to cut out most activities and extra school work from their schedule, ultimately stripping down to the bare minimum. She painted a beautiful picture of how this has impacted their home. (You'll need to head over to wild + free and buy the audio for more details. :) ) During this year she began to fully embrace the idea that children are learning all the time and that we need to trust them for the right timing. This is such a shift in perspective for my task oriented, check-the-boxes personality, but it is the direction I know in my heart we should be going towards. She also talked about the increased impact of learning that takes place when we are studying/learning things we are interested in. We release more dopamine and our brains then store that info in an easier-to-access spot in our brain. That's why some of us feel like we remember nothing from school, yet we have no problem remembering things which we are passionate about. In my heart I have known this to be true and yet it is really hard for me to trust in that process. She talked about honoring our kids' readiness and when we do that, they honor our time. Again, letting go of control and expectations, tuning into the hearts of our children. A beautiful thing she does to implement this is she studies her children and keeps a journal with what they are learning, what they show interest in, what books they are reading, behavior, etc. Becoming a student of our own children. She also talked about how when you give your kids the freedom to learn at their own pace they become aware of their responsibility in learning.
Some tips to help encourage self-led learning include placing books and art supplies around the house. Not just pulling new books/supplies out of an Amazon box and showing them, but placing the items around the house so they can discover it. She talked about the importance of exposing them to the real world; mentors, internships, relationships, and serving. Something that was mentioned by Jodi and several others, was having morning time, usually lasting from 1.5-2hrs and then letting your kids play outside for hours. She observed that it took about a half an hour of being outside to get in their groove and start exploring and building. Before that 1/2 hr mark they didn't quite engage with the outside creatively. This is such a small and imperfect representation of Jodi's session, so I encourage you to buy the audio if this resonates with you.
Teri Woods painted a beautiful picture of laying a feast for our children of truth, beauty, and goodness; placing them in the midst of abundant food; training their affections and igniting a love and passion for truth and beauty. She also broke down their morning time which was very helpful and something I will keep in my back pocket as we aren't quite ready for Shakespeare. ;) Their morning routine includes, hymns, Bible memorization, Shakespeare, living science, arts and composer studies, as well as great history books. She emphasized breaking these all down into small chunks of time. In true Teri style she had us laughing and engaged the whole time, and I appreciate her lighthearted outlook. Another great tip from Teri was to keep a running list of things we want to introduce to our children: books, places, inventors, art, etc. That way we have a clear vision for the direction we want to head.
Greta Eskridge talked about true learning being unforgettable and made up of the things that we want to learn about. She also talked about how much learning takes place through play. There was such a solid theme of children learning through play, having morning time, harnessing what our kids love, and teaching them based on their passions. I love Greta's perspective and since she was homeschooled herself, it adds such a unique dynamic.
I needed to hear Jen Pepito's message. She talked about how her training was different with her older kids than it was with her younger kids. She gave her younger two too much freedom and was starting to see the repercussions of their lack of training and self-control. This was a motivating wake up call for me as I find myself in a similar situation with my younger two. Her tips to get refocused and weed out distractions were right on. One example she mentioned is that they have their morning time and then when her kids move on to independent work she hopped on IG or checked email. This distracted her from self-control and training issues that need to be dealt with. Oh how I could relate, I do the same thing!! She painted a beautiful picture of setting aside time each day to be completely present with your child and removing distractions from our lives. How often we go about our homeschooling days, never fully gazing into our sweet littles one's eyes, never really being present when they are sharing about their creations or things from their heart. As we all know the time is passing quickly and the reminder to be fully present and cherish this season was refreshing.
We love Beautiful Feet Books, so it was a pleasure to hear Rea Berg speak. It was great to be reminded of the power and impact that story and great books can have on our lives as well as our children's. She gave several examples from books of great heroes whom have had an impact on our society and world. This is what we want to be feeding our children, great books that build heroes and encourage virtue and creativity. So lovely.
I gleaned so many wonderful things from the conference. We have already implemented a more structured environment when it comes to behavior, to encourage self-control and minimize distractions. At the same time, I am paring down our activities and schooling and will be changing our schedule quite a bit starting in Jan. That is our next step. I think it is vital to paint the bigger picture of what you want your life to look like, or in this case our learning, but to then look to see what the next step is and just take one step at a time trusting the process. In my heart/gut it feels right to spend this year and maybe next, training my kids toward self-control, having plenty of snuggle time, slowing down, having more play, letting go of so many great things to make space, and letting learning happen more organically. Since I tend to be task driven and like a clear plan to follow, this has been a journey and will continue to be something that I journey towards. This isn't natural per se, but it is the desire of my heart so I am so excited to see how it unfolds. This journey started last year at my first Wild + Free conference in Virginia and it is fun to see the changes since then even though they have seemed achingly slow and not very impactful at the time.
I think our first several years of using a boxed, albeit living books curriculum was essential for me during that season, so I don't regret that decision. But, I am now ready to spread my wings and fly towards something new.
Thanks to all of the amazing people who make this conference such a joy to attend. You inspire me to love my kids well, to embrace this season with grace and beauty and to pursue the longing in my heart! Until next year.
Hey, I'm Julie. I love books, coffee shops, traveling, and exploring. Homeschooling Mama to 4, wife of 15 years. Enjoying the journey and learning to add a bit more of summer into my everyday life.