And the Children Played

written by Patricia Joudry

reviewed by Retta Fontana

This book, published in 1975, is the true, heartwarming story of the freedom that one couple allowed their children, purely for the sake of freedom itself.  The book is a slice of their life, during the period that they were able to home school their children.  Truly they were ahead of their time.

Joudry was a successful playwright, so it follows that the book is well written.  It’s also warm, funny and real.  After reading it, I felt as if I had been in their home and they had become my friends.

The story begins when the couple became restless and dissatisfied with the status quo and took their child to the high country of England to start a new way of life.  They bought a dinosaur of a home, a rambling ancient monstrosity built of local stone at the top of hill on a very large, somewhat wild property.  As they continued to have daughters, Joudry continued her writing.  Unable to sell a play, her husband sought out work in a nearby town.  He shaved his beard to procure the employment, and one young daughter screamed in horror when she saw his hairless face.  “Is that what you really look like?”  Joudry convinced him that buying a fake beard to wear at home was unnecessary, that they’d all get used to his face after a while.

They were loathe to send the children to a stifling school environment, so they advertised for an unconventional “teacher,” in hopes of fending off the local school authorities who did inevitably stick their noses where they didn’t belong.  They managed to dodge bureaucratic educational bullets long enough to get their children into young adulthood, at which time the children became interested in pursuing life outside of home. 

The “teacher” turned out to be an open-minded freedom lover as well.  When they informed her that they couldn’t really pay her, she said she didn’t need money, she had saved plenty from her previous position.  She worked for her keep, and actually contributed financially, because of her strong belief in the inherent trustworthiness of the children and their need for freedom. 

Joudry, her husband and their teacher provided various materials for the children, but refused to resort to the use of force to try to educate them.  Instead they relied on the children’s curiosity, which is of course in ample supply in healthy children.  They even had a few neighboring children join their home school at various times.  They had wonderful adventures together.

And the children played….

 published at Endervidualism on August 11, 2006

Retta Fontana is an atheist, anarchist, baker, potter, parenting teacher and a student of Forex. Children are her favorite people. She lives in Metro Detroit.