A few years ago, on the back of the success of our Friday Home Education group, a parent suggested that there would be interest in another full day of provision.
With that, we set up the Thursday Home Education group.
The group began with only one child! Of course our ratio policies dictate that there must always be two staff on site, and so we needed to find a way of 1. entertaining said child and 2. finding useful things to do to counter the huge loss we were making!
For those first couple of terms the lucky child helped us develop new forest school sites around Exeter, build new shelters and facilities at the Exeter Forest School site, and generally just be one of the lads.
Not a bad experience at all.
Slowly and surely the group began to grow. First to 3 children, then to 5. It was about this time that I was very fortunate to find a volunteer, also called Chris, who spent many terms with us as the group continued to form.
To distinguish between the two of us, and on account of his vibrant choice of waterproofs, the children refer to him as ‘Yellow Coated Chris’!
As I write this, Yellow Coated Chris is now employed by us for the Thursday Home Ed group, and the group has reached 9 children in total.
What has been fascinating is that many of the children have been here for a very long time now, and we are watching them slowly become teenagers.
Having the same children at the same group provides some interesting challenges and opportunities. As the group moulds, any changes such as new additions can cause great disruption. Indeed we have been through some very trying times.
Many Forest School groups last for 6 or 12 weeks, so it has taken a lot of inspiration, dedication and ingenuity to continue the progression of the group as a whole as they enter their second and third years together.
Children change, they learn new things, see new things. They are constantly finding their place in the world. This means that the group must also change, and myself and Chris are constantly learning as we go through the seasons with the children.
After the initial Forest School staples such as den building and fire lighting had been done to death, we asked the children how they would like their group to evolve. We now have termly topics which the children choose, and most excitingly we have begun having end of term field trips!
So far we have been fossil hunting in Lyme Regis, patted the armadillo at Shaldon Zoo, fought off invaders at Okehampton Castle and held the Hedgehogs at Prickly Ball Farm.
In many ways the group does follow the seasons. Things can get tough in winter and we all have to dig deep to get through. Spring arrives with all it’s energy and it’s like the group has been formed anew. We coast through summer playing football and having water fights…. and then we go again.
Each group is totally unique, and it’s wonderful to see this Thursday group now thriving and bonding as they begin to grow into young women and men.
Find out more about our Home Education Sessions
Author; Chris White, Exeter Forest School Manager
Date: 24 April 2019