Reuben started proper school a few months back and it’s been such an exciting chapter in our lives He is absolutely loving it! I realised that I had written about his start on the Muddy Puddles blog (which you can read here) but I hadn’t shared it with my own readers, and I wanted to talk about the type of school he is attending because I think it’s absolutely amazing and needs to be shared as much as possible!
Reuben’s school is what is known as a Forest School which has been developed from the Scandinavian education system. In Scandinavia they are totally focused on allowing and encouraging children and young people to build their self esteem and independence through exploring and experiencing the world around them, specifically the great outdoors. Forest schooling via Toby & Roo :: daily inspiration for stylish parents and their kids.Each child within a group is treated as an individual, with choices over how they learn – not unlike montessori systems – while focusing on their development using the natural environment (so not always a forest per se – though in Reuben’s case it is literally a forest!) The whole idea of Forest Schooling is to allow children the chance to show an interest in what they really like, to help them develop skills and an understanding of their own abilities, without being pushed in one direction. So in Roo’s case, he loves numbers, building and being creative, and is therefore actively encouraged to build dens, count bugs, and create artwork using the things he finds in the forest. Children are given the chance to get hands on experiences, outdoors with their peers. The other great thing is that it allows teachers to step back and really watch their students – the amount you can learn from watching a child, especially about the way they learn and develop, is huge. So to have the chance to do this, and act as a guide while a child develops naturally is fabulous.
For Roo, he has a Forest school ‘session’ every friday afternoon, though this isn’t the only time the philosophy is utilised – in fact, everything about the school follows the same principal and they use what they have learnt in their friday sessions throughout the week in the rest of their more ‘traditional’ curriculum focused learning. During Friday sessions, Roo gets the chance to visit the woods near his school, and experiences a wide variety of multi sensory activities all within the natural environment. What I really do love is that the sessions run in all weather conditions (unless weather conditions are dangerous) so he get’s to experience rain and snow, in the way that a child should – exploring with friends. Roo thinks it is amazing to be able to go outdoors in the pouring rain – provided he is wearing his weather proof trousers and his coat – he even came home one day explaining to me how rain clouds work! At 4 years old!
Once he is at the Forest school ‘site’ he gets to choose what to participate in, and has already come home and told me he’s been hunting for bugs, digging and building dens with his friends. Other things that take place are artworks and crafting using natural mediums, mud painting (eww – not looking forward to washing that up!), learning to tie knots, fire building and even camp fire cooking!
There is such a vast amount of evidence to support the increased emotional wellbeing of children who are learning and spending more time outdoors, and it’s especially beneficial to helping keep kids fit and healthy. On top of the health benefits, I also think that it is vitally important for children to learn to communicate with peers and adults to solve problems and share experiences, in a real life setting. Reuben always comes home full of enthusiasm (last week they climbed a big hill in the area on a long walk and he did nothing but talk about how him and a friend had climbed this huuuuge hill like adventurers – it was even called Devil’s Hill… though I suspect the teachers made that up for fun). I genuinely feel that this type of learning helps him to develop a relationship with other’s through simple interaction without the distraction of toys or technology. It also allows for children to have a more one to one experience with their teachers, like I mentioned before, being given the opportunity to step back and observe children and the way they learn will tell you a lot about how to help get the best out of that child. Since starting school Reuben seems to have grown in confidence and enthusiasm for his learning (though that may have been diminished by his poor experience at preschool).
If you want to find out if there is a Forest School near you then you can do so by visiting Forest Schools. I can’t wait to find out more and more about what Roo does at school – from the weekly newsletter mind you, he only shares snippets and it’s usually food based haha! – and as I find out, I will share it with you.