A Fond Farewell to Forest School

Ewan at Forest School for the first time
Ewan at Forest School for the first time

Finding Forest School

On a wet, uninspiring late November day back in 2012, I sat sipping tea in the Outside Café in Hathersage with my husband and two and a half year old son Ewan, when my attention was suddenly taken by an advert for a Forest School Open Day in a couple of weeks time in Grindleford. I had an uncanny feeling that this might be the answer to our preschool search, which I had embarked on months before but was beginning to despair in.

Setting up Forest School, New Year 2013
Setting up Forest School, New Year 2013

We went along to the open morning, meeting staff and children at the Pavilion and walking into the National Trust owned Hay Wood, a short walk from the Pavilion. The friendly staff informed me that their Forest School

Ewan at two and a half
Ewan at two and a half

was opening in the new year and that I could apply for Ewan. The walk inspired me; I had stumbled across an alternative way of educating preschool children which really appealed to me. Learning more about the ethos of Forest School only confirmed that this was where I wanted my son to be. On a bright day in the new year we helped the staff and other parent volunteers create the forest school site and applied for Ewan to attend from September. Living at a distance from the playgroup I was unsure whether he would get in. To my immense relief he did. Continue reading A Fond Farewell to Forest School

Wild summer days

Welcome to the July 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Summer Fun

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 talked about how to get out and enjoy the warmer season as a family.

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IMG_4671aA blog post about what we get up to in the summer months could be pages long, as we are a very active family regardless of the weather, but in the warmer summer months we are out and about even more than ever. To keep it concise I have broken up our activities into mini themes to help you navigate;

The Buzzards, a tiny campsite
The Buzzards, a tiny campsite

Camping; as a family we love going camping, using our trusty 3 person tunnel tent as our home from home, with a good size porch giving space to eat if the weather is bad and space for our Labrador to sleep. The Tiny Camp-sites book has really inspired us; all the

Our tent
Our tent

camp-sites are an acre or less, many rustic with rather basic facilities, which is just what we like. We prefer the feel of almost camping in someone’s back garden, as opposed to camping on a large camp-site with all mod-cons.

Tessa and Ewan by the camp-fire
Tessa and Ewan by the camp-fire

For instance, at the end of June this year, we returned to The Buzzards camp-site in Hereforshire, where we were again the only campers. This is a friendly, small camp-site with a compost-able toilet (and another toilet attached to the owner’s home with a shower too) and place to light a fire. Continue reading Wild summer days

Woodland Adventurers’ on the hottest day of the year

heat-waveWe’re going on a bear hunt!

HO9001 - Helen Oxenbury - Going on a Bear Hunt - Collectors Edition PrintA level 3 “heatwave action” heat-health alert was declared for all parts of England on 1st July, with temperatures rising to 36.7C at Heathrow  (source; BBC website). 

However, the Woodland Adventurers’ were not deterred! They managed to walk all the way up to the Forest School site on a bear hunt, even in such blistering heat, protected by the canopy of the trees and thereby shaded from the worse of the heat. Using the well-known, lyrical words from Michael Rosen’s much-loved story, Julia drew the children into an exciting hunt for a cute teddy bear.

We're going on a bear hunt; through the swishy grass
We’re going on a bear hunt; through the swishy grass

Before long, the children were swishing through long, wavy grass ‘swishy swashy’, walking through a deep cold river, ‘splash splosh’, through thick oozy mud ‘squelsh squerch‘ and into the big dark forest ‘stumble trip’, all the way up to Forest School where the teddy bear was hiding! Continue reading Woodland Adventurers’ on the hottest day of the year

The Thirty Days Wild Challenge

In support of the Thirty Days Wild campaign launched by the Wildlife Trust, below is a log of what the wild things my family and I have done every day in June. We tend to do a lot of wild activities, but ensuring we do something everyday is more of a challenge and recording it is a great incentive. Thank you Wildlife Trust for launching this challenge.

Day One; June 1st 

Fire-lighting: I’ve set myself the challenge of lighting a fire every week from now until I complete my Forest School Level Three training. Here I am having lit a small fire in the wind and rain in the evening. I used excellent tinder to ignite the fire, dry birch bark collected at the weekend with my son, Ewan. The kindling I used were sticks collected with both of my children, Ewan and Tessa, in local woodland. I dried it out as it was raining all day today!

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Day Two, June 2nd;

Here I am identifying a wild flower, this one Herb robert, in my local woodland. I am hoping to identify a lot more wild flowers this year. I already know a lot more than I used to and am enjoying learning to identify them. IMG_1461

Day Three: June 3rd

I spent the morning volunteering at Woodland Adventure, mini Forest school for two to three year olds, with my daughter Tessa and 7 other youngsters. Later I walked in the Peak District, carrying Tessa in the sling. The weather was gorgeous weather, making it a fabulous day out.

 

Playing with a toy swing in the woods
Playing with a toy swing in the woods
Mummy and Tessa enjoying a walk in the Peak District
Mummy and Tessa enjoying a walk in the Peak District

Continue reading The Thirty Days Wild Challenge

Wild magic in the woods

Growing in mind and bodyIMG_4730

The Woodland Adventurers spent an enchanting, rather magical morning in the woods this week. Julia, the forest school practitioner, led the children to a cool, far-off Gruffalo Pool, nicely sheltered from the warm sun, deep and cosy in Froggatt Wood.

The children did fantastically well, walking further than they’ve ever walked before with ease, even on tricky ground with large stone boulders for little feet to negotiate along the path.

This is testament to their growing, more confident little bodies, both physically and emotionally. The clement weather also helped, enabling the children to stay outdoors with few clothes to encumber them, for longer than in cold or wet weather. Most of the children are progressing to Forest School in September. Again, this session indicates how ready they will be for this move and how smooth a transition it is likely to prove, after so many sessions in the woods in preparation.

The Gruffalo Pool Continue reading Wild magic in the woods

Talking to Myself; Dear pre-parenthood me

Welcome to the June 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Talking to Yourself

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written letters to themselves. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Dear Pre-Parenthood me,

Below is some helpful advice about what is in store for you in the first five years of parenthood. It will serve you well as you enter the most exciting, rewarding, challenging and beautiful journey you are ever likely to make in this lifetime;

believe in the power of yourself as a strong woman and mother. You are doing the most amazing job anyone could ever do, raising the next generation. You know being a stay at home mum when your children are young is right for you, regardless of its status in our society. Be proud and stand tall.

trust your intuition when you are birthing your first-born son. Demand the right to be both active and left alone in labour, to be monitored safely from a distance. Be strong and proud even when this birth goes terribly wrong, far from how you envisaged it. Write and talk as a form of therapy to help you mourn the loss of a natural birth. Believe that next time around you are capable of birthing naturally, because you are. You achieve this almost three years later, your daughter born naturally at home. By becoming in-tune with all mothers, spanning the millennia, you trust in your body’s ability to birth, blocking all non-constructive chatter from reaching your ears. This will only contaminate you. Congratulate yourself in this second birth, for you have proved that you could do it, your inner strength won. You know you are capable of doing so again, if you so wish.

mother through breastfeeding. Nothing could be simpler, but more challenging at first in our culture. Be a confident, open, proud nurser who has the strength to develop her own nursing style, feed in public with your head held high, whilst gathering experienced, full-term nursers around you. Join and attend La Leche mother-to-mother breastfeeding support. Rise above your cultures bottle-feeding culture. Advocate and normalise breastfeeding. You will have nursed every single day by the time your first-born is five years old, with no end in sight. Nursing is a way of life for you and your children. Let it remain that way as long as this feels right for you all.

give time to your children. This may sound simple, but it can be difficult in our busy lives. Cultivate mindfulness in your actions, slowing down, stopping, getting on their level, empathising, listening, living in the moment, feeling the joy in that moment for what it is: yes I am smelling my daughter’s skin, I am walking with her in the sling in the woods, I am basking in my son’s smile, I am hearing him give me another long account about a building. It is true that our children grow so fast, too fast, so do not rush it, savour it. Life with your young children is fleeting and precious.

turn off or leave your phone and the internet behind once in awhile. Be vigilant about this. Stay connected to your children, not to the net. It is virtual, whilst your children are real.

give elimination communication a go, it will amaze, surprise and delight you. It will help put you further in tune with your daughter. Trust you are able to read her signs and that she is able to communicate to you. By the time she is eighteen months old, she is dry day and night. Continue reading Talking to Myself; Dear pre-parenthood me