All posts by Caroline

I am Mum to Ewan James, born June 2010, and Tessa Rose, born at home, March 2013. As my greatest teacher, my children have taught me to view the world through fresh, questioning eyes, as well as to trust my instincts. Ewan and Tessa have inspired me to write about this most beautiful journey of all, parenting, a glimpse into what we value most in life; spending time together as a family in nature, travelling, forest school and life learning. I am proud to share the journey with you... My main occupation is mother and home educator to my two young children. My love of the outdoors and nature has led me down a new and exciting career path, as I am now training to be a Forest School practitioner, with the support of my children's playgroup. My interests include walking, yoga, writing and worldwide adventure travel with my family. On my blog I write about my experiences of natural parenting and learning outside of the classroom. Topics I write about include continuum style parenting, such as long-term breastfeeding, baby-wearing, elimination control and bed-sharing, as well as worldwide travelling, outdoor learning and adventures with children. My children inform all my writing, they are my greatest teachers, continuing to amaze, delight and humble me every day. I find myself writing on a wider range of topics as my children and my parenting philosophy mature. Current growing areas of interest include forest school, nature inspired and outdoor learning and mindfulness. I find the process of writing rewarding and stimulating, a creative outlet where I can express my growing self. Online social networking has helped me develop an online community of like-minded people, who I enjoy sharing my work with. I write for the Green Parent, Juno, The Mother and La Leche's Breastfeeding Matter's magazines. I have also written for 'Mothering', the online parenting magazine. My work has been published in Musings on Mothering, an anthology dedicated to motherhood, published by Mother's Milk Books. I have also won commended in Mother's Milk's most recent writing competition; their latest anthology is due to be published in September 2015 anthology. My long-term aim is to write a book about my parenting journey.

Educating Ewan: our home educating journey so far

Our family on a wild camping adventure to Piel Island, spring 2017

Home education

Our son Ewan has never been to school. He attended a small, nurturing playgroup until he was five years old. When he left playgroup he became ‘officially’ home educated in the eyes of the state. That was two years ago. It certainly was not any easy decision to decide to home educate our son. It has also been a journey with many ups and downs, yet the longer we home educate the more strongly I believe we made the right decision.

Ewan in Colorado, autumn 2016

Parents experience countless challenges and doubts, whatever path they choose to take, as well as many delights and feelings of joy along the way. Looking at our seven year old son today, I can say with conviction that he is thriving and he is happy. He experiences a whole variety of rich learning experiences every week, in many different contexts with a variety of different people. Below I shed a little light and wisdom on our home educating journey so far.

What our week looks like

Spotting dinosaur footprints in Denver, US, autumn 2016

Our typical week involves two days at a home educating Montesorri group, one session at forest school, one to two days at home and a variety of day trips out to local nature reserves, museums and education centres. When we are at home Ewan plays the piano, learns to read and pursues a number of ongoing projects, which have included space and local history. Ewan also attends piano and swimming

Ewan in his Beaver unifo

lessons, goes to Beavers and until recently went to martial arts class. At the weekends Ewan and his younger sister, Tessa, are often actively out and about with their dad doing outdoor pursuits, such as climbing, wild camping, cycle camping, canoeing and attending wildlife groups. We also go on regular holidays to the continent, to Scottish Islands and sometimes further afield to the States or Asia. Continue reading Educating Ewan: our home educating journey so far

Forest School and Us

Ewan at five years old, in his element in the woods
Ewan in his element in the woods

First published in The Mother magazine issue 72, Winter 2016

My son at Forest School

Sitting quietly on a log, I observe my five-year-old son as he carefully places some leaves onto the roof of his fairy house. Ewan then scampers off to find additional roofing material to ensure the fairies are kept dry, totally immersed in play and at one in his environment. My son’s fairy house has taken six Forest School sessions to complete, complete with a washing line in the garden and fairy furniture made of out moss and leaves inside.

Set within a beautiful broadleaved, native woodland owned by the National Trust in the Peak District National Park, this Forest School site is truly magical. All around Ewan children are also engaged in free, exploratory play; a cluster are playing super heroes in one of the dens, another group are leaping in and out of a make believe pirate ship and a couple are fishing with stick rods with shiny leaves proudly attached as their catch. A lone child sits contemplatively on a log by the fire, companionably close to a Forest School assistant, whilst another child stirs a magic potion composed of natural materials collected from the forest floor. Finally, a group of children are peeling bark off hazel sticks with support from the Forest School practitioner, beginning the process of making swords for the upcoming knighting ceremony, which will commemorate the children who are leaving forest school this term.

My family at forest school
My family at forest school

The familiar sing-song voice of the Forest School practitioner gently breaks the children’s activities. They all happily ‘come and join in our small circle‘, sitting on logs at the fire circle to share food and drink together; hot chocolate warming and raisins and jam sandwiches energising. Nourished, the children return to spend the rest of the morning playing or joining in the supervised activity if they wish.

As the session draws to a close, the children gather around the fire circle to reflect on the session. Ewan says in a clear, confident voice ‘I enjoyed making the fairy house’. As the children return to preschool, a fifteen-minute walk through the woodland and across a sheep field, I observe Ewan squelching through mud, climbing over a gate, splashing in streams and hiding behind stone walls with the other children. His exuberance reassures me, confirming that after much deliberating I did choose the right pre-school environment for him.

Finding Forest School

My search for a suitable pre-school for my son appeared futile until I stumbled across an advert for a Forest School Open Day. From that day forward we did not look back. A few days later, on a crisp winter’s morning with temperatures as low as minus six, we headed out into the frozen woods. Captivated, from that day forward we did not look back. We were welcomed into a small, nurturing Pre-school with open arms, run by a committed team of staff who were passionate about re-connecting children with nature. We were delighted when Ewan secured a place at Playgroup the term after his third birthday, knowing it was well worth the thirty minute commute to enable Ewan to experience the many delights of Forest School. Continue reading Forest School and Us

Birth story

First published in The Mother magazine, Issue 72, Winter 2016

My watch stopped at 6.15am on 8th March 2013, at the same moment my body told me it was moving into the first stages of labour; the show felt like a plug suddenly unblocking. I hoped for an active VBAC home-birth with my independent midwife, after a traumatic first labour almost three years earlier, resulting in an emergency caesarian under general anaesthetic. I was emotionally and physically ready for labour, vowing to stay out of hospital at almost all costs.

The morning passed peacefully as my surges gradually intensified. I vividly remember nursing my 33-month-old son Ewan, crying silently as he suckled, treasuring this moment knowing it would be his last feed as a single nursling. When my surges became too much, I gently unlatched him. He cried and cried as if sensing a sudden catastrophic change was about to take place.Ewan in the birthing pool Continue reading Birth story

Our Nepalese adventure

Ewan and Tessa
Ewan and Tessa

First published in ‘The Green Parent’, Feb/March 2016, Issue 69

My family and I stand entranced on the roof of the world, pausing for breath as we gaze at the awe-inspiring view of the Langtang Himal before us. We are on the summit of Kyangjin Ri, thousands of prayer flags fluttering in the wind, awesome snow-capped mountains rising majestically in every direction around us. The silence and almost unearthly stillness of 4,779 metres is suddenly broken by the soft chuckles of my twenty-month-old daughter Tessa, as I pull her round out of the sling to join us for a proud family photo. We stand relieved, exhausted, amazed, as our trekking guide freezes this moment in time. I hold Tessa tightly in my arms as our four-and-a-half year old son, Ewan, stands safely between me and his Daddy. As we continue our fifteen-day trek, I muse on what has brought us to this moment; four faces smiling into a camera, snow mountains projected sharply behind us, dazzling azure sky above, like a family airbrushed into a photo-shoot, yet this is real. So, what led us to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, six weeks in Nepal with two young children? Continue reading Our Nepalese adventure

What shall we do today?

A mother and daughter's microadventure

This article was first published in Juno magazine, edition 43, Spring 2016.

What shall we do today?

A micro-adventure is a fun, easy way to make the most of a free day, Caroline Cole discovered

One Wednesday morning in late February I find my daughter and I home alone without any plans. Amongst the daily list of household chores we could do today, I wonder what we can do which is more challenging, exciting and embracing of the freedom such a day offers. This is a rare opportunity to do something different and memorable, just mother and daughter together. We are car-less, but have countryside right on our doorstep. Continue reading What shall we do today?

A Nepalese Adventure

Mummy and Tessa descending from the summit

First published in The Mother’s Milk Books Writing Prize Anthology 2014: THE STORY OF US, edited by Teika Bellamy, Sept 2015 

Your rhythmical sweet breathing calms my racing heart as I climb steadily at this high altitude. You sleep soundly, strapped firmly to my back in a sling, the safest place on earth, your sanctuary. I feel you stir as I reach Kyangjin Ri, hundreds of prayer flags fluttering in the wind, awesome snow mountains rising majestically in every direction. You are only twenty months old, ‘bis mahinar‘, as I have replied to continuous enquiries from local Nepalis and amazed tourists alike. I force a smile to encourage my husband on, as he labours in this thin air with a far greater weight than I, that of our four-and-a-half year old son, Ewan. Continue reading A Nepalese Adventure

Mothering Through Breastfeeding – the sequel

This article first appeared in Le Leche’s breastfeeding magazine ‘Breastfeeding Matters’, July/August 2015, edition 208. DSCN0679

Caroline tells us about her tandem nursing experience, and how breastfeeding has always felt like the natural choice for her and her babies.

As I write this, my son and daughter’s tandem nursing days are drawing to a close, as Ewan is gradually and naturally weaning from the breast. He is four and a half years old. His younger sister, Tessa, now twenty months, nurses day and night. Words can never do justice to what my life has been like since having children; they have been the most eventful, joyous, challenging, memorable, exhausting and reflective years of my life, filled with laughter and tears. I have learnt to juggle, both physically and emotionally, two growing nurslings. My children have taught me more than I ever imagined, about myself, about breastfeeding and about life. Below I share a little of this enfolding journey, of mothering, of breastfeeding, and how the two converge.

Pregnancy

Nursing remained a place of sanctuary, support and comfort to Ewan throughout his third year. He persisted, even when there was little milk left as my pregnancy developed, seeing this out to the day I went into labour. As Tessa grew inside me, so did the unwelcome feeling of being ‘touched out’. These strong feelings were telling me to push Ewan away. I struggled to come to terms with the first negative feelings around feeding Ewan, which left me guilt-ridden and shocked. This was compounded with the physical challenge of nursing while pregnant, as my nipples became sore and my bump grew bigger. I persisted by placing boundaries on when Ewan could feed and for how long, not feeling ready to completely wean him yet.

I vividly recall Ewan’s last feed as an only child, the day I went into labour. As we lay snuggled up in bed I silently wept, aware the next time he fed would be radically different and that our relationship would alter once the new baby came along. Ewan was oblivious to my tears as he fell asleep dreamily on the breast. A few hours later, my parents came to collect Ewan, leaving me to labour in peace with my husband, and later, my independent midwife. My hope was for a natural home-birth this time, having experienced an emergency caesarean under general anaesthetic with Ewan. Continue reading Mothering Through Breastfeeding – the sequel