The time of year has come during which we have to say a sad goodbye to some of our children who are moving on to big school. We try rather than focusing on how much we will miss them to instead reflect upon how much we have helped them to be ready for this next stage in life.
I can't help but mention here that I feel the fact that so much attention is directed towards the topic of 'school readiness' in children is a bit backwards. In my opinion the schools should be getting ready for the children, not the other way around. But that's another topic and until I find the energy to build my school then I owe a duty to our children to ensure when they leave us that they are indeed 'school ready'. We aren't going to train children to follow directions but we are going to endure they become critical thinkers as much as we can to encourage lifelong learning.
What does this mean to us? It doesn't really mean doing anything different to our every day focus of helping the children become the best they can be. It doesn't mean ensuring they can accurately trace around dotted letters on worksheets to work on their phonics. If they enjoy writing and want to play with literacy then of course we enable and encourage this but phonics to us don't ensure school readiness.
What we want from our children when they leave us is that they are confident, independent & curious little learners. We want to have fed their sense of wonder about the world to give them an insatiable thirst for knowledge. We want the children who ask 'why?' every day.
We want our children to be sociable and empathetic characters who understand to a deep level the importance of kindness in life and who demonstrate their emotional intelligence on a daily basis.
We want our children to have learned the value of collaboration. Both physically 'we can carry this big log if we do it together' and in creating games & solving problems in a team 'why don't we try building it like this?!'. Sugata Mitra's theory of Self Organised Learning Environments may generally be mentioned discussing how well older children learn but I believe his 'hive' theories are particularly apt for children in the early years. Time and time again I have witnessed our children solving problems well above the capability of an average 2-5 year old, all because we step back, observe and watch the magic happen. Being able to work collaboratively and understand the value of team work is not only a crucial social skill for our children to possess but is an incredible skill to enhance learning.
We want our children to be resilient. Starting by falling over and helping themselves up then from negotiating risky play, our children build up a resilience that overcomes any fear of failure.
A big question that is asked of us is how will my child adjust from the freedom of learning and movement they enjoy in the forest to sitting down indoors all day. Firstly we would hope that your child isn't sitting down indoors all day as that would be so counter productive for their wellbeing and learning. The majority of schools understand this. After watching two cohorts move on to school but still stay in touch with us we are lucky enough to be able to see what happens to children as they leave us. Do they long for the forest and wish they could still be free in life? Sometimes yes they do and they certainly wish they could be outdoors more. But they are strong, they are resilient and they are adaptable enough to cope with the change. Let's not sacrifice our children's 'present' in the early years for the sake of their 'future' at school. Let them be children. Let them enjoy the childhood they deserve in the early years. Let's encourage them to be strong little characters to cope with the change when they go to school. And let's secretly hope for a revolution in the school system to mean they are allowed to continue LFF styles of learning as they grow.
From little acorns mighty oaks grow. We wish our mighty oaks a future full of joy and hope they continue to astound their new teachers with their creativity and zest for learning and for life.
We will miss them.