Home education in the great outdoors

One of the things we’re most proud of here at South West Outdoors Group is our commitment to providing no nonsense outdoors learning for absolutely anyone that might stumble into our woods in search of an alternative approach to education.

No such venture encompasses this quite so much as our popular Home Education groups. Demand for these groups has grown so much that we now offer home educated children the opportunity to spend three full days in the forest each week (once at Exmouth and twice at Exeter) learning about nature, playing games and gaining valuable outdoors skills from wood carving to building and lighting their own fires.

Home education in this country
The number of people home educating in England is on the rise. Parents choose to home educate for a variety of reasons, from withdrawing a child who is suffering bullying, to choosing a less structured and more child-led approach to education, to those who want to travel. There are those that disagree with the increased testing we’re seeing in schools, and those that might have additional learning needs that are better supported in an alternative educational setting.

Home education is completely legal, requires no mandatory visits or supervision and can be a wonderful alternative for those children that don’t thrive in school.

Although their children may not be in school, learning is far from solely home-based. Children crave to be outdoors, to be making friends and experiencing new things and the plethora of groups and activities on offer for home educated children is testament to that.

Home education & forest school – the perfect fit
The Forest School Association sums up the philosophy of Forest School as being a process that ‘offers ALL learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland’. This closely aligns with a predominant philosophy of home education, one in which children are given a more free range approach to education and trusted with more responsibility than they might be given in a school setting.

Although we have a certain amount of planned activities, the children help us decide what the group gets up to. Every week a different child takes charge of the afternoon activities. This has been eagerly embraced by children as young as six, as they plan games and things to do for the entire group.

Forest School takes education back to basics. We have no screens to distract, no national curriculum to follow, no tests and performance reviews, no need for children to be sat at a desk when they just want to be moving. We simply have child-led learning in the outdoors where any external pressures are left in our ‘rustic’ car park. Children are free to play, to climb, to cook, to explore and to embrace their childhood and natural inquisitiveness in a setting free of stress and brimming with opportunities.

Group activities 
Last term some of our group worked on achieving their John Muir conservation award. Some children did a bird survey, some planted a new wild flower garden and some created a hedgehog friendly area. We latched onto their enthusiasm with this and this term have been learning about conservation and how to identify trees.

The children take it in turns to spend time each week in the woodworking area, designing and making their own items, which so far have included a bow and quiver and a beautifully carved dagger.

We play a lot of physical games which encourages their cooperation and team building skills and of course, no Forest School would be complete without some campfire cooking!

There is no magic formula to our Home Education groups, we simply respond to the needs and requests of our group to make sure we offer our kids a space where they can explore and learn in the great outdoors at their own pace.

We have a core group of families who book with us term on term, all year round, and as the word is spreading we are seeing our little cohort grow. Without a doubt seeing them grow in confidence and form friendships as they spend time with us in the woods is immensely rewarding and the South West Outdoors Group is proud to be an active and engaging part of the local home education community.

If your interest has been piqued and you’d like to find out a little bit more just head over to our Home Education Group page.

Blog by: Hannah Durdin, SWOG’s Training Administrator and Home Educating Mum to Sophia, Isaac and Eli.

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