In many countries, Forest Schools are largely for children in their early years. Very rarely do children continue in weekly consistent FS experience after K2. This usually happens only in countries where the great outdoors is part of their lifestyle and culture. City- based FS usually stops at K2.
Business-wise, it also makes more sense because that’s what our society is able to more readily accept: “Early- years children going into nature, to explore, play and discover”. Hence, there is a greater financial sustainability for the practitioner in the early years.
The general public feel that older children should be “learning” skills, and the sessions should be a bit more structural in the delivery. In Singapore, this is even more prevalant due to our compulsory Primary School education. At that age (7-12 years), children in urban Singapore undergo many programs, enrichment, skills learning and CCA, in addition to their academic schooling. Not to mention tuition and more tuition.
Now, there is nothing wrong with that, it is one way of living and growing. But in recent years, the pressure and stress has shown up in our children, and even the adults who undego this system are feeling it together with their children. Can we find a balance, or have the option to deviate from the norm a little?
The answer to me, is yes. And to me, the Forest School movement that we advocate and practise provides one of these avenues. Most of our Senior FS children attend Public schools, gets regular academic drilling, and are shaped to fit the school model. For the experienced FS children, they are aware of the drilling and shaping. Some of them thrive, some of them falter, but they are mostly aware, and know that they have a choice. This is what we and our parents believe in – having choice and space.
But for most children, they are unaware, and they continue this journey of structural fixation that is seemingly choiceless until their adulthood, reaching states of loss, depressions and clueless anxiety.
(This excludes our Homeschool families, who took the brave step with the alternative and deviate a little from the norm, hence having the space and balance for their children. But of course, everyone still have their ups and downs in life.)
Now, what we are saying here is, if at some point, we as parents through reflection, we feel incapable of giving the empowerment, space and choice to our children, it is ok.
Involve your child and family in a “village” community. It takes a village to raise a child. We may sometimes be helicopter parents or teachers, for we are imperfect, but we could also let our children interact and learn from other “villagers” because we know that this would raise their awareness of others, differences and perspective that might be different from our own. And all of it is ok.
Imagine a world where we need our government or corporations to tell us what is real and what is fake. Are we seriously going to live in that world? When our children are aware of differences, given empowerment, and are trusted to make their own decisions since young, they will show the same reflective process in what comes their way in knowledge and information.
If you have read until here, thank you for following the narrative. We want Senior (7-12 years) children who need a balance from their structured life to come for FSS regularly, and raise them together in awareness. Once they have built that awareness, empowered choice and connection, their time is done in FSS, as we have planted something magical and powerful for them to progress on in their life, to come what may.
(Forest School Sinapore, Principal)