What is Forest School? Worldschooling in London

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We attended Forest School in London for 2 or 3 terms during our second year of full-time travel. We incorporated this fun, outdoor get-together into our world schooling, homeschooling or unschooling. It brought us together with other kids and families in the area while giving us a half-day in the woods once a week. It was a great social opportunity, brought us new best friends and a glimpse into another way of life, all in our “home” city. It was part of our learning about the world and we’d highly recommend forest school (not just in London, it’s global) to anyone educating differently. So, what is Forest School and what did we get out of it?

Kids going to forest school in London
The children on their way to Forest School on the outskirts of London.

Forest School in London

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.


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 me 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 organised outdoor play 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.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

13 thoughts on “What is Forest School? Worldschooling in London”

  1. Sounds great; my friend’s son down in Devon does this every other Friday with his school so it’s great that they incorporate it into the school system too; I know they do it in Bristol too. I’d quite like a go!

  2. We grew up tramping around the forest in Philadelphia. Yes. Philadelphia has a city park with hiking trails in the woods where you can forget you’re in a major metropolitan area. Forest and children—perfect together. Nice article.

  3. I’ve read about these before, and they fascinate me! Was excited to read about your experience checking one out!

  4. Brilliant post Alyson.
    I have in fact, heard of forest schools as a few years ago, I did a bit of research on Steiner schools in Germany where I live. I’ve heard only good things. I don’t know if Forest Schools exist in Germany, what I do know is that Germany is miles ahead in putting the child first.
    Private independent schools are frowned upon, but parent-initiative schools are all the rage and are highly encouraged and financed.

  5. Thanks for posting this. I had never heard of forest schools before, and I’m surprised about that, since they began in the US in 1926! Although it does sound a lot like the nature walks and outdoor adventures I would do for kids (and adults) as a park ranger. Maybe I was a forest school teacher and didn’t even know it!

  6. No worries April, we’re always happy to promote great service, products and ideas. Sometimes we’re paid to do it ( which we disclose) sometimes not. A lot of my followers are homeschoolers, unschoolers and travelling families, this is the sort of thing they’d love, 1 family, visiting London next month, has already been on to me for more details.

  7. Thank you for writing such a wonderful blog. The Tree House Learning team and I really appreciate your comments and we hope more people come along to see what a wonderful experience Forest School can be. Thanks again, April :0)

    • Hi April! My family is coming to London in December and January. How can we participate in Forest School. It sounds amazing! Thank you!


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