The only rule the Rawnsley family follows is: There Are No Rules. Mom Gemma and Dad Lewis have 7 children: Skye, Finlay, Phoenix, Pearl, Hunter, Zephyr and Woolf. They do not go to school. They are not homeschooled.
They choose their own clothes, eat what and when they want, do whichever activities appeal to them each day and go to bed whenever it suits them. The Rawnsley family has been the subject of a Channel 4 documentary based out of Yorkshire, England, examining the phenomenon of “unschooling.” It has grown in popularity in recent years and is basically the philosophy of allowing children to drive their direction of learning, completely. The show is called Feral Families.
Some people might consider the children “feral” but Gemma believes that her kids should grow up with interesting, happy, fun and fulfilling lives, unburdened by the boundaries and expectations of others. To Gemma, life is school, and handling axes and getting piercings and shaving heads are the best way to learn personal responsibility.
But Gemma explains that their family is not a free-for-all. “It’s not true that there are no rules — I mean, I wouldn’t let them bungee jump out of the window. It’s more that there are no unnecessary rules,” says Gemma. “We feel that, as a society, we’ve become too hung up on just saying ‘no’ to kids, without thinking of why we are doing it.”
When the kids get interested in learning things, say, how to read and write, Gemma and Lewis teach them.
Rather than not have any rules at all, there are actually a few that are hard and fast for the Rawnsley family. There are 3 in particular that mom and dad enforce: Don’t lie, don’t be offensive, and don’t hurt anyone.
Gemma works from home as a hair dresser, and Lewis is a chef, and both are in agreement of their parenting method. Recently, her two oldest kids have decided to do a three-day school trial. Because Gemma’s left it up to them whether or not they go to public school, she’s had to venture into the world of school uniforms and the idea of her kids being away for the day. Despite her reservations about the school system, Gemma is proud of her kids’ choices and believes they’ll enter the world confident and capable.