My husband is experimenting with letting pigs be free range. It’s a difficult experiment because he doesn’t have a lot of other farms as a model. Most farmers think the pigs need to be confined so they are manageable to the farmer. There are so many pigs and only one farmer, so most of farming is about how to get the pigs grown, and to market, without letting them overrun the farm.

The pigs look mean and stupid in confinement. And depressed. When I first visited my husband’s farm, the pigs were the only part I hated. I didn’t know much about farming, but I knew it looked bad.

Now we have pigs roaming all over the farm and it’s fun to watch the little baby pigs. They run around like dogs, playing with each other and with things they find:  scraps, pieces of wood, other animals. Here they are sneaking into the alpaca barn.

Pigs are curious about everything. They have the IQ of a three-year-old child, and they are just so fun to see exploring and learning on their own. When they want milk, they go back to their moms, who generally stay by the nest they made for the piglets.

I am blown away by how similar this is to my experience with homeschooling. The pleasure I get from leaving my boys to explore on their own is that I get to see who they really are. Here’s my son, after he somehow climbed to the loft in our barn, getting ready to fly into a pile of hay.

I see what they choose to play with, what they are curious about, and what they ignore. I see them come back to me when they need something and then run back over to whatever interests them after they’ve touched base.

The same way the pigs look mean and stupid in confinement is the way the boys look unruly and unfocused in school. My favorite part of my life right now is seeing pigs and boys in ways I’ve never seen them before. We are all lively and engaged if we get to do what is right for us.