Today is my son’s last day at Little Forest Folk. He will be returning for holiday camps but today is his last official day as a daily member of the nursery community. It’s an incredibly emotional day as it’s the end of an era and the end of a precious and extremely special part of his childhood.
It’s an interesting day as I’m quite teary but he’s not. Our experience of our son spending his childhood in the forest has transformed his life and his character in a profound way. He joined the forest as a shy and linear 2 year old boy, who liked organising things into lines and didn’t show many signs of creativity. He was hesitant sharing his views and was dependent on having familiar adults nearby at all times. He liked to quietly observe and follow in activities, never leading and rarely offering suggestions in play. He rarely initiated conversations, preferring to explore the forest in his own time, alone or with a familiar adult.
I imagine that his friends and educators in the forest reading this now may be laughing at the very idea of Jack being the child described above. He’s now a supremely confident, ridiculously talkative little boy, who leads great escapades in the forest. His imagination and creativity knows no limits and is the spark for wonderful activities with his friends.
We are so happy we decided to let him stay in the forest for his reception year instead of going into conventional schooling. He is like an intensely, fizzing ball of curiosity, the likes of which we’ve rarely seen in a 5 year old before. Allowing him to lead his own learning has, contrary to many people’s concerns that left to their own devices children will reject learning and ‘just play’, ignited deep passions in history and science. Our beautifully geeky little boy loves nothing more than talking through the history of the world, always pausing for a deep discussion on Australopithecus which are his favourite part of evolution. He also loves to play with history of the modern world, from writing books on World War 2, to drawing out his favourite eras in history. He quite likes the Victorian era as he feels he has a secret knowledge of the Victorians as they think they invented most of the great inventions within history but actually he knows that fire was discovered centuries before then and without fire the Victorians wouldn’t have existed!
He loves nothing more to conduct scientific experiments as he wants to know why and how everything works. From figuring out how planes take off to trying to create fireworks displays, his thirst for knowledge and his desire to figure things out knows no bounds.
His favourite toy in the whole world is a stick. In an era of children sometimes needing to be prised away from iPads and computer games, it gladdened my heart to be told quite sternly recently that this particular stick was his favourite stick as it looks like an axe from the stone age and that if I broke it I’d need to find at least a thousand pounds to replace it.
I knew he would miss his friends, both big and small, especially his best friend & favourite educator Emma. Luckily one his closest small friends is coming along to home education with him so they can share adventures in the future together. What I hadn’t predicted, what I hadn’t anticipated until I collected him today was the deep connection that Jack has to ‘his’ forest. To the nature he’s been surrounded by for the past 3 years. To his favourite trees. Jack’s only distress at leaving today was the thought that he will never see the forest again. We reassured him that we will visit his forest regularly and that of course he will be back for holiday camps. What a lucky boy to have made so many memories in such a beautiful environment.
My baby has developed from a clinging, nervous, ordered little boy into a creative 5 year old brimming with excitement, ideas and wanting to burst forth and into the world. We’ve had an incredible few years in the forest. He will take great memories, wonderful friendships with children and adults alike and fantastic learning from his time there. But whilst I slightly tearily lament the end of an era, Jack with his confident, independent, resilient and wonderfully positive outlook on life is ready. He’s had an amazing time and his wonderful educators have helped him develop into someone ready and excited to start the next stage of his life.
Thanks to the fabulous team at Wimbledon for the memories and watch out world, here comes another graduate of Little Forest Folk!
Leanna Barrett - Little Forest Folk Founder