It’s official, I am setting up a Forest School! I know it has been far too long since I last wrote a blog post and for that I am truly sorry. You will know by now that I never seem to make things simple on myself and there are constant twists and turns of new adventures always coming my way. How I manage this as well as being an Adoptive mum is, at times, even surprising to me!
The past few months have been yet another rollercoaster. I started my Forest School training in January and it has been SO full on. The amount of paperwork that comes with it is unreal – all very valid and useful, but still very challenging. It has left little time for much else, aside from being a Mum. I’ve sadly had to take a back step at Adoption UK Scotland because I need ever ounce of energy and every spare minute I have to get on top of these essays – It is literally like being back at Uni again but with some major differences. Gone are the days of sitting in the library, headphones on, a steady supply of chocolate and fizzy drinks from the vending machine – with peace to work! Today it’s more of a ‘set up the laptop, give the kids their snacks, do half an hour of work, go and play a game with the kids, come back to work, spend 10 minutes working out what I was trying to write about before, get 15 minutes work done before it’s time to make everyone’s lunch! Yeah, it’s not easy! However, I am learning lots. I find I learn most actually being out and about in my local forest. I took a whole day there during school hours and it felt like I’d been on a mini holiday – that combined with the gym – I walked 20,000 steps! I just walked around, learned to better identify tree and plant species, took photographs, watched for wildlife – I saw 3 deer, a heron, a rabbit and plenty of birds. I spent ages watching birds and have become quite the twitcher. I treated myself to a really good pair of binoculars and have been loving getting the chance to see some birds up close. I’ve even found new ones I didn’t even knew about – a wood warbler and a tree creeper! I’ve been trying to learn about woodland management and how trees and plants relate to one another. Whilst you get the basic concepts from reading online, nothing beats actually being out in the field (or forest) and seeing it for yourself.
Being outside and just hearing the birds singing and observing the wonder of nature brings a huge sense of calm to me, and I have definitely seen the same with my boys on a Friday morning when I flexi-school them there. They have started to take a real interest in what is around them and can now identify a variety of trees and even recognise the call of a Great Tit without even seeing it! Just imagine what a year of this could be like…..
Well, I am about to hopefully do just that. I have decided to set up my very own Forest School – Rowan Tree Forest School (although I can’t officially call it a Forest School until I am qualified!). Why Rowan Tree? Well, the Rowan is one tree that can survive in even the harshest of conditions. I felt this was the perfect representation of our children who have had such a traumatic start to life, but despite the odds stacked against them, still manage to survive and thrive. I have years worth of plans ahead but it needs to be taken one step at a time. It’s great to dream though, right?
So, as part of my training, I have to plan and run a 6 week block of Forest School sessions with a group of at least 3 children. I have a group of around 6 lined up, all of whom are adopted children and are finding education a huge challenge. This pilot 6 weeks will of course be done free of charge and it is a baseline assessment where I spend time allowing a lot of free play, team building activities and getting to know the space type activities. All this time, and in fact for all future Forest School sessions, my role will be to act as observer, assessing the needs and wants of the children and providing experiences to encourage, engage, challenge and develop each one of them in a holistic way. For the first 6 weeks, no tool work is allowed – I am going to break ranks a little though (shhhhh) and use the kelly kettle each week to prepare some hot chocolate that we can share together as a group. After the 6 weeks, that is meant to be the pilot finished…..but I don’t want it to be. I want to continue with that group for at least a year. I want these children to get the full Forest School experience that includes learning about the wildlife, managing the land, learning how to light fires and build dens, learning how to use tools such as bowsaws, knifes and loppers and creating artwork. I want them to be able to build a sense of community and space by creating their own camp and adding to it each week. I want these children to gain that sense of wonder across the seasons that so many of them don’t get the opportunity to experience in the confines of school. They will learn a whole host of social skills too that hopefully they can transfer to their every day life. Forest School allows for transformational change and I just can’t wait to be the one facilitating this.
So, the plan is thus – to set up my own Forest School (Outdoor School until I’m officially qualified) and provide a year of free sessions to this group of children. I will of course be giving my time for nothing, but to provide the array of experiences, this is going to require the purchase of equipment. I am therefore taking on the challenge to raise £700 through Crowdfunder in order to purchase the equipment. In just a couple of days, £150 has already been raised, which is amazing. There is still a way to go though and every single penny does count so I’m looking to my wonderful readers for a little support…..you can read more and donate at the crowdfunding page here – http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/rowantreeFS
Over the next few months, I need to really get my head down and finish my course to gain my official level 3 Forest School Leader qualification. Thereafter, the plan is to officially set up the Forest School as a community interest company. I really hope I can then be accepted to receive a ‘start-up’ grant from the government of £5000 that will allow for more resources to be purchased, to pay a fee to use the land and get a company website, logo etc arranged. It will then be a case of setting up some mid-week fee paying Forest School sessions for the likes of pre-schoolers and perhaps some home/flexi-school groups and the profit from these will then be used to provide more free sessions for extra groups of adoptive and fostered children accessed through schools. It will build up in this way over the course of a few years – basically the fee paying group profits will pay for the access to free sessions for adopted, fostered and vulnerable groups. The benefit of running as a Community Interest Company is that I can apply for funding and it also assures people that I’m not in it for the money. I’m going to be honest, in a few years time a little extra pocket money would be nice, but this will be capped and it’s likely I’ll not even be taking this properly for a few years.
I also want to recruit some volunteers and eventually, hopefully be able to pay some of these people to do their level 2 Forest School training to become official Forest School assistants – and hopefully pay them a little pocket money too. This is very much in the longer term, but it is great to have a vision to aim towards. I am very keen that these volunteers/eventual assistants are also adoptive parents – they are the ones who understand best, the children we are trying to support, but also I know what life can be like as an adoptive parent. It can be a very lonely place. I’ve had to leave a job I loved, I’ve lost touch will a lot of friends and I guess from a bit of the ‘real world’ too. I had, until now, lost a lot of sense of what it meant just to be ‘me.’ I want to help give some adoptive parents a sense of purpose and self-worth, outside of their family bubble – whilst hopefully allowing their children to have an amazing time too.
There is still a power of work to be done on my part before all of this can be a true reality though and so I best head off for now and get writing policy document and risks assessments! I hope you will support me on this journey, by following my new FB page http://www.facebook.com/rowantreeFS or twitter @rowantreeFS where I will try to keep you updated on progress. If you wish to help set all of this in motion, then do read more or donate at the crowdfunding page.
I promise to be back soon with a new blog post that I’m afraid contains details of a lot of poo! Delightful, I know!
Thanks for reading and for your continued support,