How we found a school that spends most of their time outside
When my oldest daughter was almost three we found out we were expecting a sister to join her.
Joy, nervousness, and reality collided. Life changes immensely when you have your first baby, but have you heard that saying "one is like one, two is like twenty"? It played over and over in my mind.
We live 300 miles from our closest family members, my husband works rotating shiftwork, and I can sometimes admit I'm only one person, so I knew I was going to need more hands and brains and hearts in the fold to help care for my girls.
So the preschool search began.
In our area there were so many to choose from: from in-home daycares to pricey private pre-k's that feed into prep schools. As I researched and toured schools I dialed in on what aligned with our values: I wanted her outside as much as possible and for her to be treated as competent and given challenging responsibilities.
Living in southeastern Pennsylvania, we are surrounded by many deep rooted traditions, including Quakerism, and it turns out when it comes to educating children, there is something they really get right.
Quaker schools are usually marked by the use of "Friends" in the name. (I was piecing all this together very slowly... it would have been nice to have an Idiot's Guide to Pre-K in the Delaware Valley)
One day, driving home from one of our favorite spots to go for a walk, I noticed a small sign for a Friends School I hadn't noticed before. And as soon as I got home I googled them. Their homepage had a picture of the sheep that lived at school. SOLD! If they have sheep, kids are playing outside a lot and getting dirty (outdoors ✅), and caring for animals (challenging responsibilities ✅), right? I booked a tour and put in her registration paperwork that week. Turns out they also had a "no bad weather" policy and the most loving teachers I had ever encountered.
It is now five years later, and my third daughter started at that school a few weeks ago. My girls have learned to put on their own mittens and snow pants to go sledding at school. They say yes to holding insects in their hands. They love to paint with mud. I serve on the board alongside incredibly wise and kind people. And when we need to get out of the house, we go visit the two goats, Daisy and Clover, that live there now.
Nature and forest schools have begun to spring up in our area, previously only a "wow, I wish we had that here" article shared from the Pacific Northwest. I see the desire of parents to balance the rapidly evolving world our kids are born into with a foundation of dirt, bird songs, and moving your body in the sun.
All this to say, my daughters are only young once. They only have a few years to explore wildly before they start navigating the routines of life. Nature is a foundation that brings peace to our lives every day. The more I can immerse them in it, the more I foresee them able to carry the knowledge of the wonder and restoration it provides. And that is a device they can return to when seeking to ground their own seasons of life.