|The Impossible Girl the morning of her first day of Preschool at Magnolia Forest School|
When looking for preschools, my options were limited. It was basically the Co-Op preschool (which require volunteer hours which would have gone further into killing my career) or keep doing what we were doing and hoping for the best.
|At the first day of drop off|
Now, when I started telling people about Forest Preschool they largely didn't get the concept. Most of my friends were enrolling their kids in Spanish or French Immersive Preschools, or some academically advanced version.
When they found out The Impossible Girl wasn't focusing on learning to sing her ABCs, they were stunned.
Kids out playing in the woods all day? Even in the rain and the snow? Don't they get cold and sick? Don't they get dirty? Won't they wander off and get lost? Won't they fall from trees and get hurt? Won't they poke someone's eye out with a stick?
I could go into my long winded answers to those, but I'll just drop their FAQ here and just go into detail on a couple of my favorite questions.
My short answers to the ones above are: Yes. Yes. Not really. Yes. No. Maybe, but it's not common. No.
Family and friends were stunned to learn that The Impossible Girl wasn't learning to recite the alphabet or learn a second language or some other academic feat. She was just 'playing'? How would she learn? What do you mean she isn't enrolled in other extra curriculars outside of school?!
Forest Preschool seemed so 'out of the box' and unusual, but let's think about it. Why is that? Why is it odd to think of kids 'wasting their time' playing in nature?
When did we forget that being out in nature and moving is more normal and natural to our bodies (including our brains) than being stuck in a chair behind a desk?
When did we decide that book learning was the only kind that makes a person a valued member of the planet? Some of the greatest geniuses of all time often found their fame through creative thinking. Both are valuable.
I field questions like, "How will she learn to stand in a line or sit still?" These are things life teaches us. She doesn't need a special lesson on it. She experiences it at the grocery store, or in the car while we're driving from place to place. She sits still when she's hungry and wants to eat or someone is telling a story of interest, or her legs are tired, or she wants to scoot her way up a tree, etc.
Another favorite one I heard a lot over our years was, "Does she bounce off the walls at home because she doesn't understand boundaries?" Um.. nope. Not at all. She has found ways to manage her energy and an understanding of her emotions that rivals some adults, thanks to her time in the woods.
Yup, she gets dirty and occasionally gets a scrape or a bruise. It turns out kids are pretty good at risk assessment when they get to make up the game and aren't forced to do things a certain way. When they can explore and find their own way, they grow. I read something in The Last Lecture that has stuck with me. It's something I follow as I help adults build self-esteem and confidence:
"He knew there was really only one way to teach kids how to develop [self-esteem]: You give them something they can’t do, they work hard until they find they can do it, and you just keep repeating the process."
It works the same way with adults when I'm teaching them to do something new. She knows when to ask for help, and these wonderful adults in her life have helped her grow by leaps and bounds. She is confident with what she can do in her body.
The kids learn quickly that boundaries aren't there 'because an adult said so'. They are there for safety. The kids haven't gone all Mogli or Lord of the Flies.
But I don't want to talk about the kids. They kids are amazing, don't get me wrong. The Impossible Girl has made some awesome friends. The adults that make these kids lives amazing are the real rock stars.
Serious rock stars.
When this pandemic slammed things shut - these adults showed up for these kids in big, personal ways. From one of the founders going full digital with online 1/2 hour lessons (which helped organize our day in BIG ways) to PHYSICALLY SHOWING UP when I messaged them 'hey, we are in your area kinda - want to go outside and meet us?' We got to spend some one on one time with four of her teachers. Each one came without a single qualm. The school was open by donations only. THEY COULD HAVE SAID NO. They could have been too busy. Instead, they OFFERED to meet us or do video chats with the kids if they needed it. And let me tell you, pandemic+depolyment+Just us= WE NEEDED IT!
|A socially distanced play date with a favorite teacher on the spur of the moment.|
|Virtual Preschool - art classes, yoga, and this one "find your quiet place"|
|Another socially distance beach meet up with one of the Founders of the school|
If you know me in person, I treat the advice of professionals I respect like a cattle prod. More experienced people know more than me and I want to learn from them.
One of the things her teachers have taught me early on was "Be a Sports Caster, not a Referee" (Here's how it works for me.). Through their actions and the way they treat the kids, they reinforced what it means to actually 'hold space' for someone. I've learned how to let my daughter come to me and discovered this mutual ground of respect. One of the gifts I've found of being adopted is that my parents got to know me as a person, without expecting a 'mini me' from me. It's a gift I want to share, and this team of professionals have reinforced. Getting to know these humans who have chosen to be teachers has not only changed the Impossible Girl's life for the better, but mine as well.
We still have weeks of summer camp before we leave our space in Magnolia for another family. We've watched the school grow from a tiny group of kids in a group camp site, to a fully fleshed-out outdoor home for a diverse group of kids. Now? They have several campuses and a waiting list.
The talents of these special people will change and shape families for years to come.
And I for one am glad we took the chance on this unconventional route.
Any future kids will be sure to learn to breath among the trees as we have.
|Final School Picture - Fall of 2021|