Will a forest school prepare my child for modern primary schools?
There’s a definite concern amongst some parents about getting their children ready for school at a younger age but all the evidence says that’s not what they need. The Teachers tell us that the main thing children need when they first start school is resilience and confidence and anything else is a bonus.
But if all they do is just play all day, how will this help them be ready for school?
Almost always if a parent is asking this, then they are referring to literacy and the ability to sit still and listen.
The children at Jack and Gill's have to learn to sit still and listen in the tool area or the fire pit area. We have an opening and closing session each day where the children talk about what they want to do that day and at the end of the day they speak about what they have enjoyed most that the day. This is similar to "circle time" that schools use. The children learn how to speak out in a group and listen to each other, take turns and value what others have to contribute. One of the most talked about skills that Forest School children advance in is communication. We have small ratios to begin with and the communication between children is amazing- they learn how to negotiate, to share, to solve problems together, they have ongoing imaginary scenarios with their group, they talk non stop!
Their physical development is amazingly advanced. They can balance along logs often holding things that they have found in the woods. Their language and communication is well developed and their imaginary play is incredible.They are so creative. Each day they use personal risk management. They self regulate and they regulate each other - "sharing is caring!"
They get up when they fall and will often laugh when they do. They are resilient and determined. They work together in teams, they find solutions to problems - how will I get that water from that puddle to the mud kitchen? We as their Facilitators will suggest that they think of a solution themselves, we guide them, we encourage them to make those decisions for themselves and to solve problems themselves. This philosophy and style of teaching allows them to be well equipped for school and also well equiped for life. It is more than just "playing" that they experience.
If schools or any setting can provide meaningful and engaging learning opportunities then children will sit and listen.
What about writing skills?
Well, we do that. We often scribe on pieces of wood around the forest using chalks or charcoal. And sawing and also using tools is a really good thing to do in order to get your muscles ready for holding pencils and forming lines and circles in readiness for writing.
What about phonics and what about reading?
Being read to sparks a great interest in books. One visitor recently remarked how beautiful it was to see how absorbed our children are in looking at books. They love books.
Phonics - we do every day - we build it in using songs and repetition.
What about self help skills?
All the children are encouraged self help skills from toileting to dressing to having the confidence to ask for help. They are rewarded in our forest school with responsibillty.
Small adult to child ratios
The children benefit enormously from our low adult to child ratios.
The areas of benefit identified by a number of studies reflect the outcomes which time and again are associated with Forest School:
Increased self-esteem and self-confidence
Improved social skills
The development of language and communication skills
Improved physical motor skills
Improved motivation and concentration
Increased knowledge and understanding of the environment
The children at Jack and Gill's are kind and compassionate, incredibly independent, confident, engaging and enthusiastic.
And yes, they are absolutely ready for school when the time comes.