Why I’m saying no to baby classes

Yesterday I dragged Lars to another football class where he lay on the grass screaming. He then wanted to go home, then he didn’t, then he just cried for the rest of the lesson. Another 40 bucks well spent…

I’m learning as I go along that I actually have no control over Lars, not in the baby class department. He doesn’t follow detailed instructions, particularly at soccer practice, swim lessons or anything that we have spent good money on. He’s two. He doesn’t like being told what to do, he wont kick the ball no matter how much your beg him to. He’ll do the opposite and be so joyful about it, it will boil your blood. He’s random, wild, curious, very silly and all over the place. He’s a toddler.

Sorry to all those who live by baby classes but I’ve come to the conclusion that until your child is three-years-old it’s best not to waste your money on overly structured classes. There I said it. Much better to invest in activities where your child feels free, and is allowed to explore and learn at their own pace. Trust me, you will be rewarded with a happier kid.IMG_5228

I came across “Forest School” a while ago because I live in San Francisco the capital of all things hippy but there are branches of it in Britain too. The movement – and it is a movement – teaches the children to learn and explore within nature. No classroom just lots of layers and wellies. So un me.

Forest school uses the woods and forests as a means to build independence and self-esteem in children and young adults.

The Forest School was started in Wisconsin in 1927 and gained a cult following in Scandinavia and the UK during the Nineties. The basic idea is that you and your child or just your child (Lars goes on his own now) gets to spend a few hours in nature, playing with mud, sticks and stones.

At Lar’s first lesson I was a little freaked out to be honest. The teachers seemed a little dippy. No one was helping me figure out where I should park the car next time. They basically ignored me and focused in on mud mixing and singing a quiet creepy little forest song.

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They don’t even speak to the children. Instead they just watch them and hand out little buckets of water for them to pour over mud, a stick with a ribbon on it…to do as you will. They walk around the trees and gather leaves…its quiet. As the children get older they might build a fort, but they’re never pushed to. What’s amazing is the children follow the teachers out of choice, because they want to.

Then they have a homemade snack, sitting in the forest, or in a little hut.

Lars loves all this outdoors stuff. Watching him thrive at Forest School over the past few months has made me realize that this is such a great concept: natural, quiet and quite frankly quite beautiful to be part of.

It has made me nostalgic about my own upbringing in Florence, Italy. We had a large rather unkept garden full of olive trees and ants nests. Huge great big ants that I used to drown in the pond like the horrid little girl that I was. My brothers, sisters and I had free run in those gardens. It was special and quiet. I think that time has been imbedded into our souls. I want this for my boys.

Daily Schedule

9:00 AM    Drop-off at Forest Gate

Students enjoy exploring and socializing

9:10 AM    Opening Circle

Inquiry-based safety discussion

Children vote on adventure location for the day

9:15 AM    Nature Hike

Mini-lessons along the way when children show interest.

9:25 AM  

Free play time

Mini-lessons when students show interest.

Students have access to musical instruments, artist tools, and science tools in our “tool wagon.”

11:00 AM   Snack time and nature journal time

Children share the themes of their play and recall “nature finds” and observations that we discuss and record our nature journal.

11:20 AM   Free play time

Mini-lessons when students show interest.

Students have access to musical instruments, artist tools, and science tools in our “tool wagon.”

11:45 AM   Nature hike back to Forest Gate

12:00 PM   Pick-up at Forest Gate

  • Forest Schools run across Britain. For more information click here 

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