Roo is back to preschool again and is now going several days a week. It’s hard to believe that next year she will be going to school full-time and the switch to pre-school has brought it home to me that our time with just the two of us is ticking away. Given her autumn birthday, another month or so earlier and Roo would be going to school this year instead. It makes me shudder! In reality though she is ready for it in a lot of ways. She’s always been a bookworm and is trying to decipher the words in her bedtime stories more than ever now. She also often asks to do some ‘writing’ and her relentless questioning about the world around her shows no sign of letting up anytime soon.
This year, as prep for school, back-up for pre-school and as a way of really enjoying our last year of freedom to spend plenty of time learning and playing outdoors, I’m trying to do a bit of my own improvised ‘forest school’. If you’re not quite sure what forest school is then do look it up – it’s a Scandinavian concept which very basically involves getting kids outdoors no matter what the weather and providing and education in a natural environment. It deals with teaching children to assess and manage their own risks, to engage with nature and learn in a stimulating environment suited to the energy levels and inquisitive nature of young learners. It’s just a shame not many places do it properly where we live.
This week Roo’s pre-school letter of the week was ‘S’, so after she had finished for the day we set off on a nature walk, armed with empty yoghurt pots. Roo’s mission was to collect everything she could find beginning with ‘s’ . The obvious things like stones, sticks and straw quickly found a place in her pot. I was impressed that she remembered the sloe berries from a previous walk without any prompting. It’s amazing what little people actually take in even when you don’t think that they’re paying any attention! We decided against putting a slug in the pot, especially given how much it was being shaken about.
Under the towering avenue of oak trees Roo soon came back proudly holding out an acorn. ‘What does ‘acorn’ begin with?’ I asked her dubiously. ‘Can it go in our ‘S’ pot?’
‘Yes,’ Roo replied swiftly. ‘It’s a seed’.
I couldn’t really argue with her logic. After that the ‘S’ treasure pot quickly filled up with all manner of different types of seed and berries and a new idea sprung into my mind for back home.
Before we headed back to the house, Roo traced round the letter ‘S’ with a stick in the mud on the footpath and then had a go at drawing some all by herself. It wasn’t quite muddy enough to make a good trail but she had a fair stab at it. Then we decorated the mud ‘s’s with some of the treasures from her ‘s’ pot. The sticks turned out to be her favourite decorating material.
Back home we tipped out all the seeds Roo had gathered onto a tray. We talked about the seeds and berries, about what they needed to make them grow into plants and how the fruit of the berries contained little seeds inside. Roo then set about getting everything they needed, filling up an old take-away container with some damp compost. She sprinkled her seeds on top and poked the berries into the soil. They were popped into our greenhouse to see if anything grows.
I also gave Roo some cress seeds to grow (we got them free when we bought her a kiddy lunchbox at a National Trust property recently). Having talked about seeds so much I wanted her to be able to see how they grew and there is no guarantee that field seeds are going to do anything exciting anytime soon. Cress on the other hand usually gets going in a few days!
Roo sprinkled the cress on some more damp compost and tucked it away on a shelf. Finally back inside Roo surprised me by asking to have a go at writing her new letter ‘S’ with a proper pencil. I drew some lines and a few template ones to get her started and left her happily practicing her new writing skills. I only managed to persuade her to stop when her supper was ready! She’s never persevered quite like that before.
Later in the week we went to inspect our seeds. Nothing had happened yet with the field seeds but the cress was already bursting out tiny little roots and shoots. Roo was thrilled!
All in all, it was a pretty successful first week of our outdoor education explorations. I hope I can keep it up. If you’ve got any good ideas for ‘A’ then please send them my way…that’s this week’s letter of the week!