Despite being the middle of October it wasn’t too cold. It did rain, lightly but constantly, every day though. Purchasing a couple of quality tarpaulins proved to be a worthy investment as these provided a space to store equipment and bags and a dry area sheltered from the wind for lunch breaks.
The poor weather highlighted the general importance of quality kit. For both children and staff a pair of good quality boots and decent waterproofs makes a huge difference to your comfort level when you are spending significant amounts of time outside.
The wet weather meant the impact on the more well trodden areas of the woodland was noticeable at the end of the sessions and highlighted the importance of rotating between sites to limit long term damage.
We weren’t allowed to light open fires in the woodland so used a small butane camping stove to boil a kettle. Whilst a fire would have been welcomed the hot drinks still lifted spirits and made the poor weather far more tolerable.
I have worked in the past with a number of children in local authority care (LAC). Initially I was planning on delivering my portfolio sessions to LAC children and the sessions were planned with a focus on developing self confidence and emotional intelligence. Time-scales prevented me working with this client group on this occasion so my portfolio sessions were delivered to a group of electively home educated (EHE) children.
Elective home education can and does look different in every case. A number of educational philosophies are followed and the experience can range from school at home, complete with uniform and timetable, at one end of the spectrum to radical unschooling, where children are the key decision makers in every aspect of their life, at the other.
The group was made up exclusively of children far closer to the unschooling end of the spectrum. They were equally as interesting a client group but with a vastly different set of needs to those I was initially planning to work with. These children already had self confidence in abundance and all were comfortable and keen to challenge themselves so sessions had to be adapted to suit, generally on the fly as each session unfolded. The activities in the sessions generally stayed the same but the children were keen not only to take part but also lead and direct them often in a different direction, figuratively and literally, than I had expected them to go.
I’ve always found I learn at least as much from children I work with than I manage to impart. One example, that I will be shamelessly stealing from them, was their adaptation of the classic ‘1,2,3 Where are you?’ to use animal noises instead of calling out. They spent the best part of an hour playing this game using different animal noises for each round and discuss the merits of each noise at the end of each game.
My background is secondary school teaching. Generally, in both classroom teaching and more informal educational projects, I try to plan as loosely as possible and have more activities planned than will be needed so I can mix and match those that best suit on the day. I was still caught out though by how much off track some of the sessions went. It really reinforced the importance of building flexibility into your planning and being able to adapt what your are doing to your client group. Often you don’t know the children you are going to work with them beforehand so it can be difficult to guess what needs there might be in the group. With this group of children activities were changed to focus on leadership skills and practical skills development and to involve children in the planning and delivery of the sessions. Who know what will be next.