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Unschooling, Forest Schools and appearing on TV

In the summer I was contacted via Twitter by a production company to ask if I’d be interested in taking part in a TV show about parenting. After an email exchange and a chat via Skype they asked if I’d be willing to take part (much to my surprise!). Filming started almost immediately, firstly with them coming to spend some time with us, then I went with the baby to London and spent some time with another family to see how they parent. Following this the mum from the other family came to spend some time with us.

I loved the experience, I was a bit nervous about doing it, but decided that it would be an adventure. It was an adventure and it made me think about how we parent, I enjoyed spending time with the other mum and it has led to some changes in our house.

The programme, if you haven’t seen it yet, is called Anne Robinson’s Britain and is on iPlayer (if you’re not in the UK I’m pretty sure you can see it on YouTube). The episode we took part in was about parenting, my part more specifically was about how we chose to educate our children and not surprisingly they paired me up with someone who does things very differently.

All through the process I was promised that it would be a positive look at parenting, but I still worried, I was glad when I saw it as it really was positive. It’s amazing how a week’s worth of filming is condensed down to half an hour’s TV, it would have been lovely to see more of the children, but ultimately I think it showed a good taster of how we do things.

When asked to describe my parenting style I said I was relaxed and laid back, which I am (most of the time). When asked about how we approach education I said we play in the woods most days, they asked if we would describe ourselves as an “unschooling” family, I had to look the term up, then I agreed that we probably do count as an unschooling family, that is to say we are child led and allow the children to follow the subjects that interest them.

More than unschooling, I kept pointing out the importance of play and being outdoors. Forest Schools has been a big influence on our approach, Gareth and I met on a Forest School training course and as part of our training we had to learn more about early years education in other countries. In places such as Denmark and Sweden children spend their early years (usually up until the age of 7) outdoors and playing, they are working on building self-esteem, self-confidence and social skills before they even think about sitting down to learn to read and write. We are following a similar idea, we spend as much time as possible outdoors in the woods, none of our home educated children (ages 6, 5, 3 and 1) can read or write yet. My 6 year old will soon be 7 so we are going to be starting to do more reading and writing with him.

The family who we spent time with are very different in their approach, their children go to school, have home tutors, get lots of extra homework (set by their parents and tutors) and spend lots of time doing Jujitsu. The kids were lovely and I was impressed by how hard they work and I liked that the sports they take part in give them the self-esteem we are trying to install via Forest Schools. It made us think more about sports for our kids, we are making more of an effort to regularly go climbing and swimming with our kids.

I loved watching my boys on the programme, I think it showed their confidence and how interested they are in the world around them. I feel proud of what we are doing and do feel we are doing the right thing for us. Home education works for us, as does being outdoors as much as possible. It’s also confirmed our desire to move to the countryside, we’re desperately trying to find a bit of land in Derbyshire that we can live on as a small holding, we’ve had no luck yet, but we’re going to keep searching (if you know of anyone who might help please get in touch!).

I think parenting is hard, but it’s also a joy. We are simply muddling through as best we can. If we can raise our children to be happy, self-confident adults, that do a job they love and live a life full of passion and adventure I will be happy. Surely that’s possible?

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