I’ve loved the principles of alternative education since I first came across them, the innovative schools around the world approaching education and students in a completely different way resonated deeply. I’ve always been a little (recently more than a little) on the banks of the mainstream current, and it makes me happy. I’ve played with the idea of starting an alternative school, a forest school and would whisper it to close friends who encourage me, pushed me to turn that whisper into more.
It’s happening now, and it’s because of all the support, encouragement and love I’ve received from the community around me. Thank you so much to each and every one of you that are walking this way with me. It wouldn’t be happening without you.
So, I’d like to share with you our favourite nature journal. It’s the first book we reach for when we plan to spend some time outside.
And the first one Amina excitedly grabs to record her animal, bird or flower drawings. It’s filled with beautiful illustrations and helpful guides as well as plenty of pages to record your own. Continue Reading…
We’re finally settling in after an adventurous few weeks (posts about that coming later!) spent camping at some of our favourite places. We’ve had time to explore together, push personal boundaries and discover beautiful new locations.
Best of all, our girls had the opportunity to make connections with kids of all ages and the freedom to explore away from our watchful gaze. By now I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “free range kids” and you’ve come to some conclusions about what that entails.
For me, it means allowing our girls to have the space and freedom to discover just how much they’re capable of, just how competent they really are and to practice self-reliance and problem solving on their own. But it’s also so much more than that. It’s challenging my own belief systems, the ones that urge me to keep them close, keep them safe. The ones that flash worst case scenarios in my mind until I feel my chest tighten.
Examining our belief systems and where they come from is a necessary step in allowing our children some much needed freedoms. What contributes to our beliefs that kids are in danger when they’re not with us, and that by keeping them close we’re protecting them. News, media, amber alerts, warnings from our own parents? When did we come to the conclusion that the world is so inherently unsafe that a 9 year old can’t play at the park alone, or that siblings walking home alone from the park warrants police intervention?
We have bi-weekley scheduled hikes with Certified Ontario Hike Leader Jeff Campbell. We were fortunate enough to hike the Webster’s Falls trail just recently as it has now been closed to the public. It was a challenging hike with huge parts of the trail completely eroded away. The kids all loved it of course and we stopped a few times to let them explore some steep hills and rocky areas. We ended our hike at the bottom of the falls where Heidi in typical fashion demanded to get naked so she could swim “in my pool”.
I’m registered and will be attending Forest School Canada’s Practitioner’s Course . This will allow me to eventually have a certified Forest School, it’s the very first step. A type of first step that I haven’t taken since my eldest was born. I’m so excited and so ready for this! Ottawa here I come! (In a few months that is lol).
This course will give educators the pedagogical and practical tools they need to safely and effectively establish and run their own quality Forest and Nature School programs. Themes to be covered include Pedagogy and Theory, Practical Skills, and Establishment and Delivery. There is a strong emphasis in this course on self-directed learning, experiential learning, inquiry-based learning, and place-based education. These are the underpinnings of Forest and Nature School, and through this course you will have an opportunity to experience first hand this kind of learning, in order to then shift into being this kind of educator.
The course consists of a five-day intensive, residential program where all educators stay on site to facilitate the formation of a ‘community of practice’. These five days are physically and mentally engaging, and are meant to be a transformative and immersive nature-based experience for those involved. Following these five days, educators return home to launch into course work, which includes developing a portfolio, various assignments, delivering six practice Forest School sessions to a student group, and video documentation of your practice. During this time you will be assessed to ensure you are meeting all course assessment criteria, and best practices in the Forest and Nature School field.
There’s just something so satisfying about starting from scratch that appeals to my gemini nature. A brand new website, a brand new logo, it’s why I’ve designed and re-designed my photography business site and logo more times than I can count (please don’t look at the last time I blogged there, it’s not pretty).
But this feels different, I haven’t been this excited about a new venture in a while. I’ve tried to run with a few ideas but they’ve somehow piled up, collecting dust in the corners of my mind and some sad un-updated FB fan page. While I understand and fully support the value of STEM education (engineering specifically), it’s not a field that I know intimately or a field that I’m comfortable in. It’s why I haven’t been able to dedicate the time and energy to create something meaningful. It’s just too far outside my comfort zone. I’ve come to realize that from starting Steam With The Kids and not being able to take it where I imagined it could go. There are so many amazing educators and innovators out there who are excelling at bringing STEM education to kids in their area. I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Cameron of Tinker Truck multiple times facilitating various workshops for the Cambridge Homeschool Co-Op. His enthusiasm and passion for all things tinkering/making/engineering is infections.
That’s the type of energy and excitement I feel for this new venture. Although new on the internet this is not something that’s new to me or new to my heart. I’ve been passionate about alternative education since before my eldest was born. I knew we would choose a different path for our kids than the one we walked.
A Forest School encompasses all my hopes and dreams for a rich environment, experiential learning, deep connection with nature and a safe place to discover all that lies within. Children need these types of experiences to combat the effects of our fast paced, over scheduled hectic lives.
This website will be a place for me to share our family’s adventures, our struggles, and the journey of bringing this magical place that currently only exits when I close my eyes, into existence.