“Just take your time…it’s okay to take some time…”
That’s what the school had told me. This December, we had grandparents in…cousins in…seemingly a rotating cast of house guests that allowed us to really show off Copenhagen (and the forest school!) to those we care about most. And even more exciting, we got word that we’d be a family of four again much earlier than expected for a few weeks too, with my husband’s return for a bit of a break.In short, there’s been lots of excitement over here, and also lots other than school that’s been going on. And while she’s been at school very regularly and we’ve kept her in routine most of the time, I can’t tell you how reassuring it is as a parent to have the school to be the one to initiate this conversation. To have them approach you and say that they understand that family is important, that the know people have been traveling from far way to see us, that they get that sometimes a trip is well worth taking when it means time together as a family in a place we can explore and learn about together.
In anticipation of our move, I’ve started to research schools in Washington, DC and one of the things that nearly hits you over the head on all these websites are “tardy policies” and “absence policies”. In DC, more than 5 “unexcused absences” lands you in front of a truancy board for a conference…more than 10 lands you with the Child and Family Protective Services for suspected neglect. Yikes.
I get that school is for learning, and that in order for that to happen, you should be there regularly. And honestly, growing up I loved school enough that I loved to be there most of the time. But I also grew up traveling extensively with my family and knowing that a lot of what I learned comes from those experiences – we were extremely lucky to have them and I have always appreciated that. If I ever took out my daughter for even half the travel that we did when I was growing up, I would definitely be in front of that truancy board before the first half of the year was over! And probably on a regular basis after that…
But the school here pulled us aside and proactively suggested that they knew we had a lot going on and that being together as a family and really having the time to enjoy that and form connections and make that part of her time was important. They asked us to keep them in the loop but to feel free to take the time if we needed it. As a parent, I can’t tell you how reassuring it is when you hear “Do what you think is best for your child”. I’m not saying that I think this will work everywhere. I’m just saying, what a luxury that it works here.
So we’re taking some of that time now as a family – our daughter has grown to love her time outside so much that while we incorporate a mix of activities into any trip, we always try to give her the natural elements that she would be getting at school as well. Like the palm trees in the palmeraie in Morocco (pictured here)…or the hikes in the Troll Forests in Norway (promise to get those up soon)…there is a real notion throughout the school, and now throughout our family, that when you attend a forest school, it is the outdoor world that is your classroom, regardless of whether that takes places during school hours or not. It seems to me that this is more likely to create a passion for life long learning in the long run.