“Who?” I asked, trying to nudge my daughter along to dinner. We were running late to meet friends, and since our move back home to DC, distances are often much less in my mind then they are in real life so I parked way too far from the actual restaurant.
“This little bug…” she replied, in a voice that could pass for a bit sad or a bit pensive depending on how you read these types of things. And she bent over a craggy bug, which I would have immediately dismissed as some kind of roach…or maybe a cicada, if I was feeling generous. In either case, not exactly the kind of bug that you bend down and fawn over.
Except for her, she fawns over them…I would have walked past this kind of bug a million times, probably even stepping on it most of those times, but as this little roach cicada made its way across the pavement in the DC heat, my daughter had to give it just a bit of her attention. So I asked her why she felt he might be alone, realizing that this wasn’t just about the bug. “Well…he’s so small, and this place is so big, and he’s probably just trying to find the forest”, she explained.
I bet he was…I hope he finds his little piece of forest out there somewhere.
Well…we made it back… Back in America, and while it seems all a blur, it’s been a couple of weeks now…
We took our time saying good-bye, and took our time to get here…Instead of the plane, we took the slow boat, literally…across the ocean.
Everything seems new right now and between the daily scramble to set up life anew, school anew and friends anew for our tot. We miss our old life in Denmark but are working through it and excited for what’s to come. But there have been good laughs and good times and good adventures.
Here is to the next step – good morning, America!
PS – Here we are a the ship pulls into the port of Brooklyn. Our tot is clutching a little Rasmus Klump doll, her last souvenir from Denmark. Our last few months she really got into Rasmus Klump, a Danish animated news strip and then cartoon from years ago that all children seem to know, and one of the things that is not really translated or exported into English, so I couldn’t be much part of it. But I was part of it enough to know she loved it and to know that he was a sailor. We didn’t have nearly enough time to get through all the little souvenirs I wanted to get her before leaving, but I did go out of my way one day after work to find this doll that she mentioned she wanted. He was her trusting boat companion, and in some ways, a bridge between the old and the new.
One of the best parts about writing this blog – in addition to trying to capture the memories of this experience for my daughter to read about one day – is the wonderful like minded parents, educators and other interested parties that you meet along the way. I originally started this blog because well, I didn’t know much about forest school and so many people were asking questions off of our personal media, that I thought it would be helpful to share some of the experience. It’s been so rewarding to find other individuals who feel the same way and who value keeping childhood as childhood for children.
In addition to individuals, I also came across schools and networks as well. And I’m proud to say that I’ve joined the board of the American Forest Kindergarten Association (AFKA) some months back. Not only is it a group committed to making sure that others have access to the pedagogy and creative spirit of the forest kindergarten system, the mission, put forth by Erin Kenny (from the famous CedarSong Nature School, quite possibly THE original forest school/forest kindergarten in the US), also specifies that we share how to do it in a correct and safe way. Part of my worry is that there is so much appetite for this wonderful way of learning, that it’s easy to overlook that unstructured learning time for children doesn’t mean that educators come in with an unstructured background. In order to do this safely and with trust, there is a fair amount of preparation that goes into the making and training (and rewarding) of forest school educators.
I’ve been working with this group since the spring and excited for the many goals that we have on our plate. The fellow members are inspiring, and also funny, and we all share a commitment to children’s learning in whatever format it happens. But most of all, I’m exited to take back some of what I’ve learned, even if it’s just a little bit, to share at home. There have been many great things about our time in Denmark, but as our time comes to a close, I realize more and more that it is the wonderful early education that we were able to give our daughter that rises to the top as what we will treasure the most. So many people who have followed along on the blog or social media have wished they could do the same for their children and with the good work alongside AFKA, I hope that dream becomes more of a reality for parents going forward.
I hinted at this a bit a little while ago, but we’re in the full swing of good-byes here. And it hasn’t been easy. This move is so different compared to the one we made when we first came here. As parents, we couldn’t have been more excited for the adventure. But for our tot, at her age a move didn’t mean much. Except a very long plane ride, and a new house… but the emotions related to change and ends and separation weren’t quite there yet.
This time, there are plenty of them. At five, our tot has plenty of her own feelings about the upcoming move which involves a new house, a new school, a new nanny, a new just about everything…and it also involves a lot of questions people have for her about how she feels about going “home”. Except for in her mind, her home is here. Her house is here…Her life is here.
It’s been difficult, compounded by the fact that with this particular move we’ve signed up for the slow, regional train through the changes. On one hand, it’s given us much more time to exit slowly, to enjoy all of our favorite things a while longer. But as her forest school class has moved out to their summer school location (we go year round), and as friends tick off for vacation one by one, most not returning until after our departure, and as her favorite teachers do the same, it brings a lot of feelings regarding the change to the surface on almost a daily basis. For her, and honestly, for me too.
We’ll get our adventures here on the page when we can…I think I might have underestimated how hard the good-byes might be for everyone. But while there are a few tears, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of laughs and adventures and trips and friends and beach days…and perhaps one too many nights of “let’s have ice cream for dinner”… But we wouldn’t have it any other way.