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Lessons in the Wild Barefoot University's Unique Approach to Homeschooling

Lessons in the Wild

Barefoot University's Unique Approach to Homeschooling

Lisa Patrick

Ashland Beacon

 

 



        In 2019, two homeschool moms from Texas realized the ever-growing hold that technology was having their children and that as a society we were becoming so disconnected from the out-doors and all that it has to offer. So, they decided that something had to be done about this and together they started on a journey to reconnect children to nature and from that Barefoot University was born.

Barefoot University is a forest school that is “aimed at connecting kids to nature through child-led experiences, risk taking, and nature-based skills. It was originally started in 2019 by two homeschool moms in Texas but has since made its way across to many other states. Two local women have now started the very first group in Kentucky and it happens to be right here in Ashland Kentucky.

        Co-leaders Megan Kerns and Angie Orsak both see the social, emotional, and spiritual benefits of getting children outdoors and they come very highly qualified pair to lead a group like this. Kerns, who grew up in Kitts Hill and graduated from Coal Grove High School, has a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. Orsak, who has lived her entire life in Greenup County, has a Bachelor of Nursing.



        Both Kerns and Orsak are very passionate about building a community based on friendship, learning, and connecting to nature. Orsak shared, that with so many homeschool families in our area looking for new opportunities that they are both hopeful that word will get around and that they (homeschool families) will jump on board with them and see what Barefoot University all is about. The group invites children from age 5 to age 18 to join them.

        “Parents should always expect their children to get dirty at Barefoot University. Things you will never hear the leaders say is ‘don’t run with sticks’ or ‘stop climbing that tree.’ Instead, we encourage the children and their families to do these “dangerous” things carefully.” Explained Kerns.


        What you will hear them say are things like “tell me how you would solve this problem” or “how do you think we could build on this skill?” Kerns shared, “the children benefit so much from the natural resources that the earth gives us. Foraging, hiking, and plant identification will also play a big role in our week-to-week meetups. As a group we will also take special field trips to participate in outreach opportunities such as volunteering and community cleanups.”

        Barefoot University had a wonderful turnout at their open house event. The parents had an informational meeting while the children had their own activity. “They had 10 minutes to gather sticks and form a shelter that could hold at least three people.” Stated Kerns. Everyone was in awe as they set back and watch as this group of children, most of whom were strangers, banded together to create something amazing together. “Barefoot University encourages working together because it promotes independence through application.” Noted Kerns.

 “I think we can all agree that children and adults of today are not as connected to nature as they used to be. God has created such a beautiful world for us to see, it would be terrible to miss out on it all simply by not getting out there and exploring and trying new things.” Kearns declared. The group hopes to remedy this by encouraging families to get outside more because the opportunities are endless. Kearns shared that, “When the new school year starts in September, we will follow a rhythm each week and build on our skills throughout the year through a series of activities and child-based practices.”

        Anyone who is interested in joining Barefoot University can contact Megan Kerns or Angie Orsak on Facebook. You can also join their group on the Barefoot University website. Meetups will begin in September and go through May, but they encourage you to “keep an eye out on Facebook for another Open House” sometime throughout this summer.

        Kerns also encourages parents to look into attending classes at Uptown Musik and Fine Arts where she has taught art, voice lessons, and Kindermusik classes for the past two years. She claimed that the classes there are “also wonderful for child development.” Uptown Musik and Fine Arts can be found on Facebook.

       

 

       

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