Dan, Maddie, and a team of children between the ages of 9 and 4 have revamped the tree-house at a family holiday home, Les Cirettes, in France. It is already in use not just by children playing and swinging but also for more serious activities such as maths classes and evening drinks.
We are looking for woodland, water and ruins to site our school for self-reliance. We are currently pursuing two properties in France: a house in Provence (with 40 acres of chestnut woods, a stream and two derelict cabins) and a farmstead in the Montagnes Noires (with 130 acres of woodland and pasture and two streams).
We 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.
On Wednesday 22nd May 2013, we organised an event in Housman’s bookshop about Leila Berg (1917-2012): writer, rebel, radical educator. Berg was an important figure in the UK de-schooling movement and argued that:
We celebrated the official opening of the woodland shelter (and Emily’s unmentionable birthday) with a party for friends, family and volunteers who had helped with the project. Emily made a speech about the ‘building of the building’ and then local musicians led a barn-dance. And we ate huge quantities of cake and paella. It was a very happy end to a happy project. Now it’s over to Kirsteen, her team and the children at the kindergarten to enjoy the building.
Emily involved her son’s class at Wimborne St Giles primary school in her work to collect stories of the lives of children in the 1930s. They invited in a couple who had both attended the school in the late 1930s and 40s. The children interviewed the couple. We found out about how the children used to walk to and from school and how they used to grow all the vegetables for their school lunches – and have a surplus for families to take home. One child asked what colour the animals were which showed a good appreciation that things were different in the past!