In most places in Europe, September first is widely known as “la rentree” – it’s a universal day for closing up the summer shop and heading back to school. It doesn’t quite work that way here for us. First, since forest school is year-round, there isn’t as much of the dramatic “back to school” feel that is otherwise all over my Facebook feed. And second, for those grades that do go back to school, in Denmark that happens much earlier, about the second week of August so these little worker bees have been at the new school year thing for a bit now.
Nonetheless, September’s coming definitely has a bit of a “new year” feel to it – we’ll need to stock up on some new gear, and new cold weather kit, and plans are already being made to enjoy fall here in Denmark. And for us, now that summer is wrapping up, we’ll dive headfirst into our daughter’s last year of forest school.
She’s four this year, turning five later, so this is actually the last year that she could feasibly attend before entering into the more Danish official kindergarten system (“skole”). But it is technically also the first year that she could have done a pre-K type class in one of the international schools, where we had the option to put her. It would have meant more structure, more formal English, and probably, more of what we would traditionally expect out of an education for her. That option was nothing to sniff at; those spots are hard to come by. And there was a time, much closer to when we arrived, when I couldn’t wait to have one for her.
But when I looked at the year ahead – our last in Denmark – and really thought about what was best for her, it turns out, I didn’t have to think that long. Sticking to the forest school was unquestionably the way to go. Although again, if you had asked me that same question the first year we were here, I would have had to think on that much longer. But now, after just short of two years there, my daughter is thriving in her forest environment – she loves the outdoors, she speaks Danish like a native, and she is truly, truly learning. Given how informal the system is, I’m not sure where it all comes from. I’d like to think it’s a combination of good schooling and hopefully some good parenting (although maybe I’m over-estimating our own contribution). She can identify any letter, do some basic math, talk my ear off with facts about creatures, and can steer me away from poisonous plants just outside our walkway. She seems to be doing just fine in terms of life skills if you ask me, and as a good friend of ours likes to say, “Why change a winning team?”.
We’ve got a little less than one year to go here in Denmark – this time next year, our adventures will not only be a more formal kindergarten, but also discovering a whole other part to the globe. It will be exciting, no doubt – after all, that’s the whole point of this lifestyle. But I’m starting to get sentimental about our time here too. It’s been a wonderful experience and forest school is a big part of that. So here is to one more year, may it be the best one yet!