As a visitor to Freerange Education and an observer of the ALC method, in view of starting our own ALC back in West Rand, Johannesburg, I felt excited to share my first (and lasting) impressions that I got from this wonderful space.
My name is Deirdre’ Fanner and I brought my two young sons with me to experience ALC in action. We have noticed a need in our homeschool / unschool community for an unevaluative, non-competitive, safe and fulfilling environment for our children to play thereby building important life skills and form long-lasting friendships.
My first impression of Freerange was that I felt very much at home. The community is built on strong values of kindness and trust which not only makes anyone feel welcome, but already part of the furniture! The sense of tribe or family – a place where I can feel belonging – is very prominent. No masquerades, no judgments – just unconditional love and acceptance.
Being a parent myself, I can definitely empathize with the apprehension one feels when embarking on this journey where we give the reigns of control back to our children, after all, they are a spirit throbbing with their own signature. It is this very realization that allows us to hand over those reigns that, at the same time, strangle us with worry about how they will cope in life if we don’t check up on them or light a fire under their butts.
What I have observed this week at Freerange, is that a space created with optimal learning conditions creates unlimited learning possibilities and truly drives the children to follow their natural urges to learn and explore. The combination of a safe environment, rich with accessible resources, filled with beautiful people that each brings such a unique throbbing signature of expression and energy to each other is priceless.
“It is, in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.” –Albert Einstein
Parents of children at Freerange: this alternative path of partnering with your children that you have chosen is certainly not the easier one, but as you trust your child and love them with unconditional love and acceptance, your connection will deepen, your fevers will heal, and you will be well enough out of your kids way so they can get on with their learning.
Watching my kids (and yours) this week at Freerange, was a testament to the validity of giving children the opportunity to raise themselves, to grow independent in their thinking, learning and integrating of information and emotions. Freerange is a safe-haven where our young people can learn emotional skills, conflict resolution skills, how to live peacefully in community with others as well as have the resources to learn any creative, academic or practical skills they need to live a meaningful life. Having the freedom to use their time precisely how they want to gives them the space to listen to their bodies and nap if they need to; sit in quietude to integrate some deep life questions and answers; listen to their music while they create art or dance or play air drums and guitar; get fully absorbed in imaginative games of scary slime monsters hiding in cupboards and storerooms; or run around like crazy banshees allowing them to release any built-up tension in bouts of belly laughter.
Living without the top-down, adult-child hierarchy that society prescribes, our children have the opportunities to not only participate in learning opportunities or offerings but are able to lead an offering or a game; it allows them to have a say in the agreements and gives them space to make their own suggestions and be heard. This takes great courage and establishes a greater relationship of trust and friendship within the adult-child dynamic and facilitates their leadership skills.
When we as parents realize that our goal for our children is happiness then all we need to do is love and accept them unconditionally and that will allow them to lead more fulfilling lives without us holding them back with all our fears.