Mixed-age Learning

Nature’s Little Wonders Forest Kindergarten will care for children aged 3 – 7. I’ve had a few people ask me about this recently and understandably so because by 5, children start school, don’t they? Usually, yes. However, from starting the Forest Playgroups during lockdown when families were home-schooling (often not out of choice!) and with places such as museums, soft play centres and even playgrounds closed, more and more people were turning to nature. Re-turning to nature! I mean nature is where we’re from isn’t it? And as a result, the benefits of this increased time in nature, for both children and adults alike, were abundant. The calmness and liberation that being out in nature provides, has caused a shift in our perspective. For a lot of people, being forced to lock ourselves up has meant we no longer take our freedom for granted. Freedom to explore, run, jump, play, all the things kids are renowned for, have now become something that we want to advocate for our children, treasure, and treat with the importance and significance it deserves. Suddenly, the idea of confining children to a classroom for 5 days a week has lost its appeal.

We are lucky in Scotland that we do have options when it comes to our children’s education, especially when they reach that “starting age”. From flexi-schooling, to deferring school, to completely home-educating. And it is these options that forms the reasoning behind Nature’s Little Wonders providing a service for children aged 3 – 7. Some of the children currently enrolled with us are either already flexi-schooled or will be. And this is what I personally believe to be the most important aspect – that there are options for parents. After all, they are our children, and we want what’s best for them and it should be up to us, as parents, alongside our children, to decide how we approach their education. All children are unique, and it is starting to reflect across the policies and guidance documents that each child be treated as an individual, and not necessarily dependent on their age.

Play is the Way!

There is a fantastic campaign in Scotland right now called Upstart Scotland. It is Upstart Scotland’s goal to raise the formal school starting age to 7. The research around this subject is almost black and white. Countries where the formal school starting age is higher (6 or 7) consistently perform better academically than countries where the starting age is lower.

In terms of health and wellbeing, the results are mirrored. The UK ranked bottom in the first UNICEF study, which was conducted in 2007, into children’s well-being. The second study showed we had made a little progress but countries which prioritised play in the early years, like Finland, outranked us. I won’t attempt to summarise all of Upstart’s extensive work and research they present, but please, if you are interested, have a look on their website. I highly recommend reading their book ‘Play is the Way’. I hope that it is ‘when’ and not ‘if’ Upstart Scotland are successful, Nature’s Little Wonders will be ready and at the forefront of this important change we need in Scotland’s education.

Finally, I personally LOVE mixed-age learning. It is a beautiful sight when you witness young children learning from older children and older children learning to nurture and mentor the younger ones. When my son was 2, he got a balance bike for his birthday. I had tried numerous times to demonstrate how to ride it, tried to help him by holding it for him but to no avail. Along comes his 7-year-old cousin who got on the bike and showed him how it was done and he was off! In no time at all, just one glimpse at what his older cousin was doing was all he needed. Needless to say, she felt pretty proud too, to have imparted this skill.

I hope that gives a bit of an insight into the reasoning behind a Forest Kindergarten provision for children aged 3 – 7. And I hope, like me, you are excited about the direction education in Scotland is heading.

Thanks for reading!