Monday 20 October 2014

Learning in the Forest and On The Go

We didn't have any school on Friday as it was a teacher training day so we were able to travel further afield and have a day out that involved a bit of a trek and a very early start, but it was so worth it.

Ironically given that it was a no school day, we went to Forest School. Aaron and I are very outdoorsie so it really appealed to us both.

He made friends quickly :-) (His new friend resembled Wilson in the Tom Hank's film Castaway ha ha)!
Ah I am jesting. He loved playing with the other kids:

Here, they were all in a Den and Aaron decided the teacher wasn't allowed in, and said she would have to blow the house down (like in the 3 little pigs) - although this wasn't the impenetrable brick house in the story, she tried but couldn't manage it ;-)
When we first arrived, we spent quite some time in the car park, and it was tough trying to stop Aaron from running straight into the forest. He wanted to explore immediately. Given that it was Forest School, some sit down time was required, in a circle. Once the fire was lit, adhering to some rules was crucial. I had to ask Aaron to sit down (and not run across the circle) a few times. What made me chuckle when I looked at the photos, was how far back his stick/marshmallow was. The boy who was so brave to run near the fire, was a bit more restrained in his toasting method LOL. As I knew it'd be me eating it, I do remember asking him to go nearer, which he did #Yummy.
So now you know, my Silent Sunday photo was definitely marshmallow not mushroom :-) I won't repeat the photo again, but it is worth clicking "older post" below, as it is a photo I am dead proud of.

The main "task" that the kids had to do, to earn their fireside marshmallow in biscuits, was to forage for things that were listed on a laminate. Here's the teacher talking us through what we had to find:

She gave them a cardboard cup each to pop their treasures into, and they all concentrated really well while they looked around. I helped for a while as I was looking forward to finding these (below) as the teacher had creatively called them "fairy wings" and that was me and my imagination motivated to find them. Alas, after hunting for 15 minutes, I found none on the forest floor, BUT this morning, 3 days later, there were millions of the things on the tarmac surrounding Aaron's classroom at school.
I'd said to someone that they are sycamore leaves, but it turns out, after a little bit of research I now discover they fall from maple trees. Do you remember spinning them in a helicopter way when you were little?

Aaron I think would quite happily spend the whole day in the forest. He was very happy to be there:
The event was billed to be 10:30 11:30 but I think we over- ran which was good, as we were all rather chilled out in there, especially as there was tea/coffee and cookies. The teacher's friendly assistant then showed us the way to Ashton Court so that we could all continue on our day. Us free range Mums and free range kids weren't ready to be tucked up back at home just yet, so we made a day of it!

The kids barely knew we were there they played so so much, we couldn't even get them to join us for lunch. If Aaron had been better behaved it would have been complete bliss, as we were actually able to talk whilst they all played.

We found ourselves in a cafe, that had a complimentary soft play area. At first glance it looked so small (2 metres by 3 metres) you'd think it would entertain them for 5 minutes but it was more like 4 hours.
The main thing they seemed to love doing was climbing up onto that worktop, followed by jumping off it. If they were city kids, who spent all day indoors, there would no doubt have been an accident at some point. The law of averages were against us, with there being so many of them, their ages, and the long amount of time we were there. Thankfully given that, not only are they free range kids, but they are also #CountryKids, they hopped up and down there with ease. I don't think the designers of said play area intended it to be a climbing frame, but us Mums were happy for them to use it in that way #yikes. Actually city kids could probably cope with it too, as long as they are kids who are allowed to climb. I remember my city cousin climbing a book case when she was only 2 or 3. She could literally climb to the top and then perch up there like a bird. She's now, 20 years later, at the gym 5 times a week. I think being active stays with you. The biggest set back to an active kid, is an over protective parent. Play, and climbing, are like physio to growing children as it is what builds their frame, their physique and their stamina. I strongly believe that. Aaron cycles to school nearly every day, and attends football practice every Friday. I do intend on getting him into a martial arts class too. I used to be a Yoga Teacher. His being active and healthy is very important to me. As important as his emotional and academic development. It all goes hand in hand.

It was comforting to be able to actually start and finish lunch whilst it was still warm. A rather delicious Venison Burger, which I didn't spot on the menu but I copied Adele. It was also wonderful to talk with such inspiring intelligent ladies over lunch, whilst Aaron enjoyed the company of their children. Thank you Adele, Carolin, and Laura. I shouldn't complete this post without mentioning Jane - she didn't join us for lunch, but it was lovely to see her in the forest. She took a GORGEOUS photo on her DLSR of Aaron which I can't wait to see again.
Funny, but after years of him not being interested in drawing or writing, he has spent the last fortnight writing every spare moment he gets. He's leapfrogged to where he would be, had he started sooner. Proof that you don't need to cram things into them before they are ready. I can't wait to see where his accelerated academic learning takes him.

We recently went on a really long car journey and he spent the whole car journey writing. He asked me to write each name of a child in his class and he copied every single one. He kept asking me how I knew how to spell their names bless him. I wasn't prepared for this "school" session in the car, so he had to do all of his spontaneous writing on my newspaper:
You just have to love his ringlets - love Aaron's hair!!!

So yes, school, learning, can be wherever it takes you. Climbing the walls, learning in the forest, writing in the car, or within the walls of a regular classroom. Given my many years of teaching yoga, you would think I would be into Home Ed, but I don't think I have enough of a sense of routine or self discipline for it. Anyway, Aaron adores school.

Wild Foresters who hosted our morning in the forest, run Wild Forester birthday parties and are also running Halloween half-term Activities in the Woods:
A bit of background:
Forest Schools originated in Sweden in the 1950s and spread to other countries, particularly Denmark where they have become an important part of the Danish early years programme.

In a typical Danish Forest School, young children from 3 years are taken into the forest for 4 hours each day of the week. They take no toys with them, but instead use only what the forest provides (and their imaginations) to develop their games. Activities are child led and fun, such as finding small animals or stomping in puddles (Mummy fail I forgot to put Aaron's wellies on on Friday but thankfully it remained dry until the evening). Because of high adult to child ratios, children can safely try out activities which are often considered too dangerous such as climbing trees or lighting fires, and by dressing the children in good protective clothing they are able to play freely, sitting and rummaging in mud and undergrowth. By setting children small manageable tasks at which they are unlikely to fail, and giving genuine praise, children's independence and confidence grows (yes, although the big kid I am, I am sure my not finding the fairy wings will not dent my confidence ;-) ).

Being that this post is very much a #CountryKids kind of post I will also tell you:

There's lots of inspiration for outdoor fun and learning over at Coombe Mill's Country Kids.

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 


  1. Was gutted to lose my long comment on this yesterday re the ipad but, suffice to say, I've been seeing if there are any of these local to us, but sadly not. I remember saying also that you already have your fairy wings, my dear! Looks such a fabulous day out on so many levels and your photos, again, wonderful X

  2. It really was a fun and chilled day - all the kiddos got on so well with each other. I think Forest school is such a great concept and so much fun for little ones and a great way to connect with nature. Also how amazing was the mini soft play at Ashton Court :)
    Hope to see you soon
    Laura x

  3. It was lovely to see you. What a fun day we all had! I love your pictures.

  4. this is a great post and makes forest schools really look something special. I must say there is a huge similarity between forest schools and everyday fun at Coombe Mill, I think the wooded setting of coombe Mill is what makes the similar. Aaron looks so happy there and it must be lovely for you knowing how easily he makes friends. Thank you for sharing the forest school magic on Country Kids.

  5. This looks like a great day of fun! Being outdoors is great. :)

  6. An incredible experience. I think Potato would love something like this to too when he's a bit older. I'll definitely be keeping my eye out for them when the time comes.


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