Free Range Surrey Ride at the Beach

Before I was an unschooler…
Before I was on the Free-Range bandwagon…
Before I was such an advocate for more free play in everyone’s life

I was…

a helicopter parent.

It’s true! I was! The second I birthed Naturalist all by myself (OK, so, I was in a hospital, but the doctor was taking his sweet time getting his hospital gear on and the nurses told me not to push and I was all, ‘hell yes I’m going to push’ but I didn’t say that out loud I just waited for them to turn around to help the doctor and then I pushed and then I thought later ‘why didn’t I save myself thousands of dollars and just do this at home”…not where I was going with this blog post so lets just move along…) I went into hyper mom mode. Like a big, angry elephant ready to stomp over anything that got in the way of my precious little baby.

The older she got, the more things there were to get in her way. And the more things she was able to do, the greater the chances that she’d do it wrong. Not that the doing it wrong was a problem, but what if by doing it wrong she put herself in danger?! And when it comes right down to it, the world is a dangerous place. Everything can be hazardous if you are on the lookout for things that can hurt, maim, or kill.

I was nutso! In a fun, sassy way, but still. I was there every step of her way, constantly “helping” her to do things the “right” way. Of course, eventually I realized that my right isn’t hers, and yadda yadda yadda we’re unschooling!

Unschooling is the opposite of helicoptering, at least for me. I play more of a passive role in their lives…always involved, but in the way they specifically ask. I watch them tackle life head on, and stay quiet until they ask for help or for my opinion. It’s much less stressful this way.

Except, in some instances. Like when we went on a surrey ride in Huntington Beach a few days ago.


You can pedal the cart up and down the strand, which is where everyone is walking/biking/running/walking.

Golfer really wanted to drive it.


“Hey mom, why don’t you let me drive this thing nice and slow!”

So we start going down the Strand, and it feels like we’re on the Space Mountain ride at Disneyland, complete with screaming and holding up the hands:


I look over and Golfer has turned in to this:


He has the only control of the cart, he’s running us in to walls and narrowly avoiding people. It was a wild ride. I was ready to launch myself at the brake if it looked like he was imminently going to run someone over that had the power to sue us. But! Whereas before I would have been quick to take over, this time I just went along for the ride.


He was so proud of himself, and I was proud I could just stay calm and let him work it out himself. Because that’s what it’s all about…letting our kids work the little things out when their young so that they have the ability to work the big stuff out when they get older.

would you like a small glimpse into our ride, courtesy of the magical iphone video?

And, some of my favorite books all about the value of play:

Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul

The Power of Play: Learning What Comes Naturally

A Child’s Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play

Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less


13 Responses

  1. So true! My mom used to say that it was better for us kids to have some bumps early on in life while they could help us learn how to navigate around them, through them and beyond them. As a mom, I now can begin to understand how difficult it must have been at times to sit by and let us struggle and learn on our own without jumping in and saving us.
    Hey, now that golfer has the kinks worked out, he’ll shine on the road in a few years :-).

  2. Hahahaha! You guys are so fun. I wanted to title this video, “How Many Unschoolers Does It Take To…?”

  3. SO awesome. i loved seeing the video. you guys are just adorable, and it was really fun watching, made me feel like i was right there with you.
    so true – i think one of the hardest things about being a parent is *not* to protect our children too much. if it’s in the interest of exploration & fun, let them fall, let them crash, let them jump & run wild, and rather than projecting our fears onto them, or even being afraid inside without saying it out loud, we must repeat to ourselves like a mantra, ‘they are safe, they’ll be fine, they are happy, they are living!’ it takes self control for sure. it’s hard to see our babies ‘fail’ or fall, but it’s all part of learning in life. thanks for sharing. ❤

    • Other than the sheer exhaustion of parenthood, I think that backing off and chilling out is the next hardest thing, for sure!

      Sent from my iPhone

  4. you are such an inspiration to me!

  5. […] 26, 2010 by Sheri Child’s Play wrote an excellent post about how unschooling has helped her be less of a helicopter parent. I highly recommend you check […]

  6. LOVE it! That is a hilarious video along with equally hilarious photos of Golfer’s face!!

    You better stop tempting us with your leisurely beach life. We’re going to Florida for vacation tomorrow and I fear we might not come back!! lol!!

  7. As I start this homeschooling journey officially on Monday, I am trying to figure out how in the stinkin’ heck I’m gonna do this. You are for sure a real inspiration to me. I love seeing videos of how you intereact with your kids and hearing about how you came to where you are now.
    I’m already suggesting the hubs gets a relo to somewhere sunny in a couple of years, as I would be in heaven on a beach in a swimsuit all day. You’ve got quite a life lady!

  8. […] Free Range Surrey Ride at the Beach « Child’s Play!Except, in some instances. Like when we went on a surrey ride in Huntington Beach a few days ago. … It was a wild ride. I was ready to launch myself at the brake if it looked like he was imminently going to run someone over that had the power to sue us. But! Whereas before I would have been quick to take over, […]

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