Since we arrived in London and started reaching out to the homeschooling community here, I’ve been hearing forest school popping up in conversations.
“My kids go to forest school.”
“Oh, you should try forest school!”
But what is forest school?
I really didn’t have a clue, I’d never heard of it and didn’t have time to do much internet research, I just shot off an email and asked if we could turn up for a trial session.
We could, so we did. Clueless, we turned up at the meeting spot in Ham Woods, the covered gate of the local church, and looked at old gravestones, slugs and snails while we waited for the forest schooling crew to turn up.
So, What is Forest School?
Surprisingly, for something I’ve never heard of, forest schools have been around a long time, since 1927 when the first school was started in the US. Those forward thinking Swedes picked the idea up in the 1950s and it spread around Europe for pre-school kids before the Brits ran with it in the 90s. There are around 200 Forest Schools in the UK now.
From what I can see, the initiative has started to creep into Australia, the first forest school preschool program opened in 2011, near Melbourne.
Forest schools offer an opportunity for people of all ages to develop confidence and self-esteem through hands on activities in a woodland setting, so Wikepedia tells me.
This quote is from the Forest Schools Wales website:
Participants develop and nurture respect and responsibility for themselves, other people and the environment in a truly empowering experience, which is also exciting, healthy and fun!
What Forest School Means to Us
We’re here to suck every possible drop of education and enrichment out of London. Forest school is new and exciting, completely different to our normal lives. There is no way we can pass up something like this.
It’s a lovely opportunity for the kids and I to get out there and meet new people, locals, as travellers normally call them. Boo immediately made friends with another little boy this morning. Mums are welcome, a few of us tagged along, participated and got muddy along with the kids.
My boys know little about British woodlands, it’s a wonderful way for them to learn about their country and its environment. We could just go for a walk by ourselves, but this was way more fun.
It was great for them to be lead, gently, by another adult, a qualified forest school instructor. Our leader suggested a craft project, participation wasn’t required. Boo dived in, D decided to build a den in the trees. That boy has never liked being told what to do. It was great for him to be given choices like that and to be supported in them.
Forest school is very much what our normal learning looks like, but with some other guys for company and a tiny bit of structure. We loved the freedom and choices, my eldest was turned off classrooms and their rigidity at the age of 4, this was nothing like that, it was the antidote we’ve been looking for.
We’re hugely impressed.