Last September I had the opportunity to go with good friends to the Wild + Free Conference. It was a refreshing and inspiring time. I wrote about my experience here. I met the founder of Wild + Free, Ainsley Arment while we were there and started following her on Instagram. It's been amazing to watch the Wild + Free community grow through Instagram. It is a community largely made up of homeschoolers, although that is not a necessity and not every participant homeschools. Ainsley came to mind when thinking about Women Who Create because she is cultivating a community through Instagram, conferences, and digital media that is quite inspiring to me. I hope you will find her inspiring too!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and introduce us to your family?
I was born on the campus of West Point in New York and graduated from college in Greensboro, NC followed by a few years outside of D.C. and Atlanta. Other than that, I’ve lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia for all my life. I don’t feel like I’m home unless I’ve got sand between my toes and saltwater on my lips. I live here with my husband Ben, our four children Wyatt (10), Dylan (8), Cody (5) and Annie (2), along with a Pomeranian named Clementine we rescued from the highway. We’re expecting our fifth child, another little girl, this August.
What influenced you to begin your homeschooling journey?
I put my oldest two boys in the public school system when they were in kindergarten and first grade and they did great. But after having them gone for most of the day, I realized I was missing out on the most formative moments of their lives. I wanted to be a bigger part of it. Plus, I started seeing their dispositions change, and it wasn't always good. I didn't feel the need to protect them from other people per se. I wanted to preserve their sense of wonder, their innocence and their uninhibited view of themselves.
How did you become inspired to create a conference for homeschool moms? How does the Wild + Free Conference differ from most of the other conferences out there for homeschoolers?
Wild + Free has been an unexpected journey. I started posting my own homeschool photos on Instagram and quickly saw there was huge resonance among other mothers out there. The conference was our first attempt to gather this community, and it was a great time. I’ve never attended another homeschool conference, so I’m not sure how it differs. I suspect our community is more focused on what we call intentional parenting and raising free-range children. Plus, we just have some really great women in this community. =)
You’ve mentioned that Instagram was influential in igniting the idea of the Wild + Free conference; can you tell us some more about that?
Everything we do comes out of the community we’re building on Instagram. It’s a place where homeschool mothers from all over the world can connect and encourage each other. The conference is an important but very, very small part of what we’re all about.
How did the quote, “All good things are wild and free” become the quote to inspire the Wild + Free community?
I’ve always loved this quote from Henry David Thoreau. He said it many times in a lecture called “Walking,” which contends that our experience in the civilized world needs to be balanced with the wild. We believe this to be true of our children. So much is lost in their character and experience when they’re confined to sterile classroom environments.
What do you hope women who attend the conference walk away with when they leave?
We certainly want them to walk away with practical homeschool insights and favorite practices. But most of all, we went them to come away with deep friendships. Homeschooling is often a lonely endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. There is a flourishing community of women who are eager to support and encourage each other.
Putting together a conference seems like a big task! Did you have experience in organizing events prior to Wild + Free? What have been the biggest challenges and joys in putting together this conference?
No way! I’m just a mother of four, soon to be five, who is trying to figure it out as I go along. On top of that, I’m an extreme introvert who gets worn out quickly by social interaction. But now that we’ve organized one conference, I know what NOT to do. =) I couldn’t pull this off without the help of so many wonderful friends and supporters, and that’s the best part of it – the friendships I’ve made. We’re not experts, but we’re in this together. The experiences are going to get better and better the more we do.
You also put out Wild + Free monthly bundles. I’ve bought two and they are beautifully photographed with great interviews, recipes, ideas for book clubs, and nature journal inspiration. Why did you decide to create bundles on top of putting together an annual conference?
I’m not good at a lot of things, but one thing I love to do is collect, research and curate things. The Content Bundles are a wonderful way for me to serve the homeschool community with my own gifts. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t write or photograph many of the pieces at all. I leave that to the women out there who are so gifted with words and images. But I love bringing it all together into a beautiful collection each month.
What hopes do you have for the future of the Wild + Free conference?
We’re taking this one step at a time. It’s all I can do to homeschool, curate the Content Bundles and care for my own family. But we do have some big plans for the conference. You’ll find out more on the Wild + Free Instagram feed soon.
When you’re not busy homeschooling or working on Wild + Free, what do you like to do in your free time? What inspires you personally right now?
I don’t have much time outside of homeschooling and Wild + Free, but when it comes to love languages, I’m a quality timer, so I love spending time with my husband and kids. We go to the beach a lot in the summertime and play lots of games by the fireplace in the winter. I’m a voracious reader, so I read novels every chance I get. But I also keep a garden in the backyard where I’m learning to grow our own food.
Thank you Ainsley for sharing with us today!
Ainsley would like to offer any of my readers your own FREE Wild + Free content bundle to check out! You can download it here.
For more information, you can follow Ainsley and discover more about the Wild + Free Community online in the following places: