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What is Forest School? Worldschooling in London

We attended Forest School in London for 2 or 3 terms during our second year of full-time travel. We encorporated this fun, outdoor get together into our worldschooling, homeschooling or unschooling and it brought us together with other kids and families in our 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 was a glimpse into another way of life all be it 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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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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Cyn

Tuesday 5th of May 2015

Are there any forest schools in Central London

Amy

Saturday 6th of September 2014

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!

Suzanne Fluhr

Thursday 4th of September 2014

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.

Lucia

Friday 20th of June 2014

This sounds absolutely amazing, you're doing great job as parents!

Sheralyn

Sunday 15th of June 2014

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

nomadic family life

Alyson is the creator of World Travel Family travel blog and is a full-time traveller, blogger and travel writer. A lifetime of wanderlust and now over 7 years on the road, 50+ countries allowed the creation of this website, for you. She has a BSc and worked in pathology before entering the travel arena and creating this website. World Travel Family Travel Blog has been helping you travel more, better and further since 2012, when Alyson and James first had this life changing idea. On this site you can find endless travel information, tips and guides plus how to travel, how to fund travel and how to start your own travel blog.

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