English parents Gemma and Lewis Rawnsley have seven children: Skye is 13, Finlay is 12, Phoenix is 9, Pearl is 8, Hunter is 5, Zephyr is 3, and Woolf is 1. None of the Rawnsley children, so-called “feral” kids, attend school nor are they homeschooled. Gemma and Lewis don’t believe their kids should have to follow the rules created by grownups.
Life in the Rawnsley household is unpredictable because Gemma and Lewis Rawnsley don’t have rules for their children. All of the kids get to make their own decisions about food, clothing, and how they spend their time. Gemma, 35, believes her kids shouldn’t have to grow up too quickly. The mom wants her seven children to really enjoy being kids, so she doesn’t set any boundaries for them.
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The children choose how to dress, what to eat, what they want to do with their time each day, and when they want to go to bed. Gemma allows her kids to swear, cut and dye their hair, get tattoos and piercings, and engage in other “adult” activities.
One child could be swinging an axe outside, another might be cutting her own hair, and a third might be eating ice cream straight out of the container. The children in the Rawnsley house often do things other parents would disapprove of but they want their kids to be fre to be kids.
Gemma knows some people describe her family as “feral,” but she has a different view. “It’s about letting them make decisions, it’s not a feckless attitude where we sit back and let it all happen,” she says. “ It looks like we’re feral, but that’s just one side of us. Feral is left to your own devices, but these kids are brought up to the nth degree.”
Though the kids are allowed to do almost anything they want what they do with their day to getting piercings and tattoos, they have few boundaries. “I make calculated decisions so if something seems dangerous I know it has risk attached, but the benefits are that they learn responsibility,” Gemma explains.
“I didn’t have a stable upbringing,” Gemma says. “My mission has been about helping my kids have the most interesting, fun, and happy lives in a house filled with the love I never had.”
Gemma and Lewis raise their kids with the philosophy of helping them lead interesting, happy, fun, and fulfilling lives.
Because none of the Rawnsley kids go to school. Instead, they spend their days at home or at the park doing whatever they enjoy doing.
Gemma says that it’s not that she doesn’t parent her children, it’s that she gives them the freedom to live. She explains she weighs the pros and cons of everything her kids ask to do. If she thinks the kids would learn something from the experience, she’ll let them do it.
For instance, some people might think that letting a kid swing a pickaxe is too dangerous, but Gemma sees it as a calculated decision to help her children learn responsibility. The Rawnsley parents don’t think school is always needed for kids, and that they can learn a lot from experiencing life. The kids may not have a formal education, but they have a lot of life experience that other kids don’t have.
When Pearl, 8, said she wanted to shave her head, her hairdresser mom simply gave her the clippers and told her how to do it.
The two oldest, Skye and Finlay, went to school for a while, but then Gemma and Lewis decided the schooling system wasn’t right for their children. The rest of the kids have learned everything at home. Gemma and Lewis happily teach their kids anything they want to know, but the parents don’t force their kids to follow a specific curriculum.
Phoenix, 9, never went to school, and wasn’t interested in learning to read until six months ago. Once he showed interest (he needed to know how to read and write so he could message his friends on Xbox), Gemma and Lewis began teaching him. If the kids are interested, their parents teach them how to read and write, but they don’t give them any tests or follow an official curriculum.
The only rules the “feral” kids have to follow? No lying, no offensive comments, and no hurting anyone.
While people may think it’s strange, Gemma says they get a lot of compliments on how well-behaved their children are.
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