Woodland Adventure

Tessa’s first Woodland Adventurers

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Ewan well into his fifth term at Forest school, whilst this is Tessa’s first day. Ewan is the oldest child at Forest School, Tessa the youngest

My daughter runs delightedly down the path towards the river, following a group of seven other two year olds, her fellow Woodland Adventurers. She pauses once or twice to glance back at me, then carries on, her small legs carrying her surprisingly quickly over the uneven ground, muddy ground. We have walked this same path many times together, with Tessa mainly in the sling and Hector by our side, at the start of a dog walk in the Peak District. However, this is the first time that Tessa has explored this area with her peers, a novel experience for us both. And she loved every minute of it.

Joining a woodland group

There were moments of uncertainty when I saw her brow furrow as she puzzled in the new experience, as if shocked to find herself with other children in the woods. At other times her eyes shined with amazed delight and wonder that she was now sharing this experience with others. All day she kept repeating ‘Mummy, children‘, as if entranced to be out here with someone other than her big brother and parents. I assured her that yes there were other children with her, and asked her if she liked it. Her vigorous nod and empathic ‘liked it‘ assured me of how positively she found the whole experience.

Last child in the woods?

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Ewan and Tessa at home in the woodland environment

The woods is familiar territory to Tessa, a place she feels secure and settled in after two years of exploring them with her family. She therefore accepted the morning as simply a natural extension of her everyday life. But for us both being in the woods with a small group of children and adults was a thoroughly enjoyable and eye-opening experience. This first session wet our appetite for many more happy woodland explorer mornings to come. I was also aware that for many children being in the woods was quite a rare and indeed unusual state of affairs very different from their everyday lives. This is brought home to be on our many lone jaunts into the woods, barren of any other children. It is then I wondered where are all the children and start to believe in nature deficit disorder. Are my children indeed some of the last children in the woods, to quote Richard Louv? This realisation further fuels my desire to work in this field, in order to offer a little of the wonder of nature back to the younger generation, many of whom are more likely to experience walking through a woodland in a virtual reality game than in the flesh.

Out of the conventional classroom environment

The morning also confirmed my desire to work with children in an outdoor environment, allowing me to prepare myself mentally for the road ahead, that of training to be a forest school practitioner. As a teacher, I have worked with children in a conventional classroom setting, a role which I have found both challenging and rewarding in a myriad of ways. Yet working with children in the woods is a completely different experience.

Like my daughter, I feel at home in the outdoor environment, unlike the classroom where I have at times felt stressed and under pressure. The woods offer space, calm and wonder for both student and teacher in equal doses. Tasks are far more open-ended, exploratory and child-led. The woods is also nurturing and therefore confidence building in a way the conventional classroom cannot me. Indeed, the many qualities of forest school are why we as a family have gone very much out of my way to send Ewan to forest school and why I am now about to embark on training in this area myself. I shall explore more about forest school philosophy and my training journey in subsequent posts.

Bug hunting

The humble wriggly worm
The humble wriggly worm

Part-way through the bug hunt activity set up by our forest school practitioner, I found five children huddled around me, spellbound by a wriggling worm and a shiny black beetle held temporarily captive in a magnifying pot. For a moment I was transformed to my two-year-old self, also staring at these two wonders of nature before me, no longer simply the common garden worm and beetle who I’d seen countless times before and offered nothing exciting to me, but two fascinating animals.

A shiny black beetle
A shiny black beetle

Nothing else existed for the six of us at that moment but the worm and the beetle. We talked about the animals and examined them and eventually let them go, back into our woodland home. Tessa spent hours afterwards talking about the worm she had seen, obviously intrigued by it as much as her peers. Bug-hunting was a very simple, yet very rich activity, for the children. I was able to empathise with the children’s sense of wonder and start learning myself, by asking myself many open-ended questions about the lives of these bugs.

The end of the session and the start of many more

 

Tessa enjoying her first day
Tessa enjoying her first day

As we made our way slowly back to the Pavilion at the end of the session, I smiled as I watched the children squelch through mud, run up and down grassy mounds and slide down a large sloped stone, a perfect natural slide for little bodies. I knew I was in the right place, as was my daughter, the seven other littlies and the three other adults. I also smiled with gratitude that I was fortunate enough to be here spending time my daughter in such a beautiful natural environment, which has so much to offer each one of us. So here’s to a summer of woodland adventurers, where more of the hidden depths of the woods can be unearthed together.

Watch this space for related blog posts about Woodland Adventurers and Forest School training. 

On the eve of my daughter starting Playgroup

A new series of blog posts starts here

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This is my first blog post to be shared with the parents at Grindleford and Eyam Playgroup. My intention is to share with you Tessa’s experiences of Woodland Adventure at playgroup. I also plan to blog about my experiences of training to be a forest school practitioner.

Mummy and Tessa
Mummy and Tessa

 

 

I start volunteering at Woodland Adventure in the summer term, where I will have the opportunity to develop my experiences in a forest setting and create a portfolio towards my qualification. I am very grateful for the opportunities both Tessa and I are being offered through playgroup, walking down exciting new paths. I am glad you can join me along the way.

Tessa is two
Tessa turns two

Tessa has just turned two. Tomorrow she starts Grindleford and Eyam playgroup, beginning with one session a week on Wednesday mornings, the Woodland Adventure session. This is basically forest school for the younger children at playgroup, those aged two to three years old. Tessa and I will head out into the woods for the morning with seven other littlies, plus staff and parent volunteers. Whilst we are with our fellow woodland adventurers, my four year old son, Ewan, shall also be in the woods at Forest School. As he is almost five, he is the oldest child in playgroup, whilst Tessa is currently the youngest!

Continue reading On the eve of my daughter starting Playgroup

Day in the Life of our Family

Welcome to the March 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Day in the Life

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have given us a special glimpse into their everyday.

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1st March 2015

In this blog post you’ll find twelve photos taken every hour from 8am to 7pm on Sunday 1st March 2015. I include a blurb underneath to further illustrate the photos. It is a ‘typical’ day in the life of our family, as far as any day is typical!

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8am  Morning bath time

Every morning, Ewan and Tessa have a shower, which becomes a bath as we keep the plug in. They’ll happily play for long periods in the bath, fascinated with the very simple pleasures of splashing and water play. I’m usually dashing around getting ready for the day ahead whilst they’re happily occupied, or if I can, I’m doing my morning yoga stretches. Ewan is looking a bit peeky in this photo, as he was up with a fever in the night and was not himself today. That is why there are fewer photos of him than usual in this blog post and why it appears we only have a daughter!

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9am Tessa writing a sick note

Tessa saw Ewan writing a ‘sick note’ in his medical vet toy kit and insisted on doing the same. Whatever Ewan is doing, she wants to emulate him, so here she is mark making with daddy’s help.

Continue reading Day in the Life of our Family

The need to name part II

The second of two blog posts about naming ceremonies, the first is about Ewan’s naming ceremony ‘The need to name’.

The need to name part II

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Tessa on the day of her naming ceremony, six months old

 

The second time around

On the birth of our second child, Tessa, I was very keen to hold another naming ceremony, to celebrate her arrival into the world. It was far easier the second time around as we were already familiar with naming ceremonies, having held a very successful one for Ewan three years previously. Life felt a lot busier with a three year old and a new-born, so I was grateful the planning didn’t take quite as long! Still, the week before the ceremony was dominated with preparations for the big day, with my mum helping look after Ewan as much as possible. I spent a lot of time carrying Tessa in the sling, as she fed or slept or watched what I was doing, which made the preparations more special and worthwhile. I was excited that we had enough time, resources and help to be able to welcome Tessa into the world in a similar way to how we had once welcomed her big brother. Continue reading The need to name part II

Donation giving to Tibetan Refugee Camps

This blog post to about travelling in Nepal with my children and the donation giving we were involved in when we were there. 

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Tessa and Dolma

My one-year-old daughter squeals with happiness as she is thrown high up into the air by an equally delighted Tibetan woman, who bounces her ceaselessly into the bright blue sky and down into her open arms. Overwhelmed and humbled, I fight back tears as I observe this beautiful interaction between Tessa and Dolma. I have returned to Tashi Palkheil Tibetan Refugee Camp, sixteen years after I lived here as a gap year student, this time with a different purpose and with my young family. Continue reading Donation giving to Tibetan Refugee Camps

The need to name

This article was first published in JUNO magazine, edition 31, Spring 2013 

The need to name: holding a baby naming ceremony 

The need to name

On the birth of our son we were keen to celebrate his arrival in a formal but non-religious ceremony, shared amongst family and friends. My husband and I are spiritual people, who believe our son should be provided DSCF8378the opportunity to develop his own spiritual or secular ideas about life as he grows. A naming ceremony was therefore ideal. It enabled us to welcome Ewan into his community in a unique way whilst including all our guests, regardless of their own belief system. Having made this decision, we began planning the practicalities of the day and exploring its deeper meaning.

Communities seek to name and announce their newest members in a huge variety of ways. A child’s name is significant in many societies. The image of a parent holding its newborn to the sky, sun or moon and repeating his name transcends time, place and culture. It can be that simple, or it can be an elaborate affair, involving the whole community. In the UK it is traditional to hold a Christening, but as we become a more secular society naming ceremonies are growing in popularity. For our family it was a deep spiritual need to present Ewan to the earth, for the world to recognise him. Continue reading The need to name

The Sea

Acton Beach, Irleand

Waves breaking

Salt water and wind buffering our faces

We embrace the howling sea,

As I carry you along this unspoilt shore

I suddenly hear your voice, unbounded, speaking to me:

All this I have seen before, mummy,

The froth, the ebb, the flow of the ocean,

Its elemental beauty.

For I have come from another life,

To dwell for a time here with you.

You know me mummy

You knew me before time began and shall carry on knowing me in eons of time, Continue reading The Sea