What is Forest School? This is an excellent question, and one we have been trying to answer for the good folks over at Regular School for some time now. No one ever seems quite satisfied with the answer, because Forest School is a mysterious labyrinth of adventurous puzzlement. It is a place of fairies and time travel and bears with wings. Or so I have been told by my children, who spent their first day there yesterday.
How can I put this simply? Once a week (on Wednesdays), my children will not be attending the 1st and 4th grades of their respective schools, but will instead be driven out into the woods and left there with a large tribe of bearded hippies who will teach them the ways of the land. I think that about sums it up. They are going to learn to identify plants and trees. They are going to learn to make fire. They are going to learn knife and carving skills. They are going to explore and build forts and roast their lunches. And now, if you are Regular School, you are asking, “but when is math?”
Oh dear. I knew there was something we forgot. There is no math at Forest School. There are no time outs or take-a-breaks either. Basically it is all Lord of Flies out there, except if Lord of the Flies had adult supervision. In other words, it is awesome! It is exactly the kind of thing I want my kids to be doing and learning. Ruby wants to be a farmer when she grows up. Edward is never more settled and calm than when he is out in nature. This is going to be perfect for them.
We got called into the principal’s office. Regular School did not want to approve Forest School. Edward is too young, they say. He needs stability, they say. But for us, being able to re-center out in the woods once a week in the middle of the week is stability. We think this will help him. We are open to being wrong. We are going to continually evaluate how he is doing with the help of his teachers. He is temporarily approved. As for Ruby, her school never got back to us. Either they are hoping that we will go away if they ignore us long enough, or they don’t care. So we sent her without permission. Oh well. The truant officers will never find Forest School. It is too well hidden.
“That wasn’t Forest School,” Ruby told me when I picked them up. “That was decoy Forest School.” Take that truant officers. Apparently there is a fake Forest School set up at the edge of the forest, with a fire pit, a lean-to, and some stick forts, and this is to throw people off the scent. The real Forest School has a tepee and a tree house, and is much deeper into the forest. Or so I am told. “And we get to have bare feet!” she exclaimed in delight. Yes, this was Ruby’s kind of place.
It rained on them all day, and when we got home both kids had to take showers to get the layers of mud and muck off of them. I don’t think they have ever loved anything more. They didn’t even fight with each other all afternoon. They were too excited. And they got to do this program together, which is perhaps the best thing to happen to the family dynamic in a while. We’ll see how they deal with Regular School again today. I hope they can keep it together. Because as long as they can still excel at 1st and 4th grades, they will get to spend every Wednesday in the forest, learning in an entirely different kind of way.