Imagine being at a school where you look up and see, not a ceiling, but a canopy of leaves and branches high above you.
Or being told you can shout all you want - just shout out into the forest. Where you can climb trees, use a saw or pocket knife to cut wood, fashion your own seesaw out of a rope and logs, and watch the lifecycle of bugs and birds in real time.
That's what it's like for children at a "forest kindergarten," where I spent a serene morning one day last week when I visited Germany.
The way into the forest was magical, with birds singing everywhere. The trees were high, stately, and utterly humbling. I really felt as though there is practically no better way to spend your days as a child than this.
I was in Europe because I got a book deal (hence the recent silence on this blog - I have been busy!) to write a book about parenting around the world. I went to Germany and also visited Finland, where I met friends, spoke with children of all ages, and was able to speak at length with many teachers. I also enjoyed the food (berries! bread! porridge!) and the beautiful Nordic summer sunlight.
Visiting schools gave me a fresh perspective on how different children live all around the world. For instance, the primary school students I spoke with in Finland told me that they have only four hours of school on Fridays, and that they get a LOT of recess.
I enjoyed seeing the children's artwork as well. Below are a few pictures of primary school art from the schools I visited in both Germany and Finland. I love the birch tree representations below - they bring back memories of the beautiful birches I saw in Finland.
I took my two little girls with me on this trip, and while my schedule was really busy, we had time to take long walks.