We live in a beautiful village where you only have to walk 5 minutes in any direction and you are surrounded by peaceful and picturesque scenes of flowing streams, lush and endless woods and farmland to walk along.
Once a week Buzzbee climbs into the car and we head off on our 35 minute trip to Forest school. Our journey will take us through 3 peaceful villages, past 4 sets of traffic lights, over 8 roundabouts and along two very busy bypasses – In Buzzbee’s words “everyone is always in a hurry and no one is noticing the world around them”.
From the backseat of the car a clean and tidy Buzzbee is busy ‘OOOing and AHHHing’ as he entertains himself by looking out of the car window watching the scenery whizz by. He hardly notices the colourful array of vehicles and their fractious drivers. All he can see is the Buzzard soaring in the sky just ahead of us or the Kestrel sitting on the fence patiently watching its prey to make its move. Buzzbee notices how the surrounding farm land has turned into a green and lush oasis for the cows and their calves. He will spot a ‘lonely bunny’ sat by the hedgerow contemplating whether it should try and cross the road – already Buzzbee is absorbing the euphoria of the ‘great outdoors’ and beginning to relax – anyone who has ever met Buzz would know that he is highly strung, extremely volatile and stressy, and his anxiety/cortisol levels are almost permanently through the roof.
As we reach our destination Buzzbee’s chatter becomes rapid and mindboggling, but not in a negative way. He can no longer contain his excitement for what his day at forest school will bring – “Will the cockerel chase you today mummy?”, “I am not going to swear today and if Boris annoys me I am going to just walk away”, “I’m going to ask Richard if he can help me build a bigger den”, “Last week they taught us how to put out a fire if our clothes caught alight. This week they are going to teach us how to carry someone who is hurt as a team”, “It is a sunny day! I will have to work really hard at showing you I have had a good day” (translation: “I left home clean mummy, if you pick me up and I am not muddy, you may think I had a bad day”) – now I am not naive, some of this is anxiety driven, but in his own funny way this is him telling me that he is unsure about what today will bring, but that he knows whatever it is, he can do it and make the right choices.
So what is different from any other day? What is about his few hours once a week at forest school that has the ability to transform my child from one that had almost completely disconnected with most social situations for fear that he “would hurt somebody” or couldn’t control himself, into a ‘happy go lucky’ chatterbox who will give most things a try?
OK I suppose the fact that Buzzbee and Waxy love the outdoors and they are physically adventurous with their surroundings helps, but there is something truly amazing about how in a few short months, the staff at this wonderful place have not only nurtured and helped begin re-building his self-confidence, self – esteem and self- belief, but they have achieved something that very few adults have ever managed when it comes to Buzz – they have gained his trust enough for him to feel safe enough to admit his mistakes/weaknesses and know that they will still like him (I don’t need to tell the adopters among you, the monumental achievement this is for him).
As this weeks’ #WASO post theme is ‘The Great Outdoors’ and I am getting slightly off track by gushing about Buzz and his rekindled self-belief (even if it is only for one day a week), so, I thought I would leave this post with Buzzbee’s list of what he loves about going to forest school.
- “It is not school. They like me”
- “We are NEVER indoors, no matter how bad the weather is – Ok they have big tents, but I never go in because they smell funny”
- “I am allowed to go every week, even when it is raining and really, really muddy. So muddy that we all have to change our clothes before lunch time”.
- “I get to climb trees! I mean real BIG trees!”
- “We get to play ‘Bulldog’ and ‘Hide and Seek’ as many times as we like. I am really fast and the staff get tired before the kids”
- “Lots of the children like playing games that we need to use our imagination for and the big kids don’t call me names like Waxy does. They like me”
- “I kind of like the kids that go. They are like me, they don’t go to school but have their mummies teach them”
- “I don’t like doing the girlie craft stuff, but I love learning how to make a campfire or build a shelter to protect us from the rain”
- “We go on REALLY long walks to old caves, which have really steep slopes and we are allowed to slide down them when they are wet. It is SOOO cool!”
- Everyone is always smiling and they never shout. Well, unless they are telling us they are coming to find us when we are hiding”
- “Lots of the trees have tyre swings or treehouse bases and there is a big bit that have ropes all around them like an obstacle course”
- “I nearly forgot! There are pigs, bunnies and lots of chickens and ducks. I am allowed to help feed them every week”