A self-build art studio in Stoke Newington garden

A lovely long garden next to the church on Stoke Newington Church Street.  An artist.  A bank turned builder for the month.  Dan as master builder.  And an assortment of other people.  So far a very big hole has been dug….but the opening party is July 19th so it’s time to start building up….IMG_1921 IMG_1925IMG_1924

Building for Families has landed in Wilderness Wood

After 4 years of looking at over 100 sites from Northern Spain to Yorkshire to Wales to South of France, Emily, Dan, Frank, NIna and Alexandra have finally landed at Wilderness Wood in Hadlow Down, East Sussex.  They completed on the purchase of the 62 acre woodland, house, cafe and workshop on the 22nd April and celebrated on the 10th May with the local village and people who have worked at the woodland over the years.   They are looking forward to working with the materials and people to hand to create beautiful spaces to sleep, eat, work and learn.  Watch this new space. reopeningparty

Celebrating an education and building experiment from 100 years ago

DSCF0042 DSCF0066We attended a conference to celebrate 100 years since the founding of Homer Lane’s Little Commonwealth in West Dorset – a self-governing colony for teenagers in trouble with the law. The conference was based in the original ‘school-room’ – built and used by the delinquent teenagers who were sent for rehabilitation. The buildings now form part of a Franciscan friary.

Emily gave a talk on the relationship of radical education and building in the twentieth century: starting with how the children helped build the houses, library, washing room and dining room at the Little Commonwealth and ending with the proposal that not only should the school be a kind of ‘building site’ but also that a ‘building site’ should be a kind of school.

Back on the road

2013-10-05 16.37.24 2013-09-28 16.01.00BuildingforFamilies is back on the road after two years creating a round-wood timber building for a woodland school in Dorset.  We are looking for a new home and a place to create a school of self-reliance and are currently in negotiations to buy a place called Wilderness Wood in East Sussex. While we are looking, we are open to offers for exchanging building work for lodgings – we are starting with a house in Camberwell, London which needs some carpentry and gardening work.

‘I grew up with anarchist ideas’ Joy Evans, born in Whiteway colony in 1924.

Emily has just submitted a Masters in Research Methods Dissertation to the Institute of Education, London based on research about children’s experiences in Whiteway Colony near Stroud in the 1930s.  The colony was founded in 1898 as an experimental community, inspired by the anarchist ideas of Tolstoy about freedom, co-operation and self-reliance. In a symbolic act, the ‘deeds were laid on a bonfire and sizzled in the flames’ (Shaw, 1935, p.5). The colony now consists of 68 dwellings and there are still no deeds. This dissertation uses accounts of the children’s lives in the colony in the past to challenge debates in the present about education,  It argues that we need to focus less on schools and more on creating communities in which adults and children can learn and flourish along-side each other.


Instead of School discussion evening

Woodland ShelterWe held a conversation in the recently completed woodland shelter about alternatives to school.  Fifteen people attended between the ages of 4 and 75 – and including the leader of the woodland kindergarten and an ex-public school teacher – so different perspectives were included.  Emily introduced the event with a talk about her views on the problems in education, how schools are not the answer and offering our approach to involving children in the building of the woodland shelter as an example of an alternative way for children to learn.  In response, there was no shortage of ideas and debate.  And since the talk, at least one of the participants has ordered a copy of Illich’s De-schooling Society and developed some ideas on how he could pass on his wood-work skills to his sons and their friends.