Children are inherently competent, intelligent, creative, and loving beings. But they are not little adults. They should not know drudgery. They deserve a place to play, to pretend, to make things with their hands, to move their bodies and to belong. They need support and guidance, but also the freedom to enjoy their little life.
Joy and Wonder
We believe in smiling faces leaning in for a closer look. We do things to turn their little lights on and keep them on. There is plenty of time for worksheets later. Let's frolic and grow in a magical place with laughter, movement and love. The living world around us provides all the wonder a child needs.
We harness the natural curiosity of young children and try to keep them in a curious state as long as possible, because curiosity drives learning. This means we monitor and adjust what we teach as new things spark curiosity. Our teachers guide students to forever be self-directed learners. In this way, we help each individual find what they prefer to learn more about. It is a good teacher who listens, observes and changes plans based on the needs of the students. We must stay in the moment.
Young children love to be truly helpful and we build on this desire on the farm by including them in real chores and by introducing the concept of community service. They have real tools, do real jobs and learn to be safe and independent. We also teach them how to help themselves to create a great set of adaptive skills. This kind of confidence builds an emotionally stable child.
Kindness and Respect
We must all try harder to treat ourselves, each other, and the Earth with kindness and respect- regardless of creed, skin color, disability, sexual orientation or cultural practices. We teach gentleness with one another and the Earth. All Are Welcome Here! We use a lot of respected children's literature and visitor storytellers to illustrate these points.
We strive to create a place where children can learn what it takes to keep their bodies healthy for life. The foundation they set as children can lead to a healthy future. Children begin their quest to reach 1,000 hours outside each year, testing their limits by climbing, balancing, running, hopping and sliding each day. They cannot sit still most of the day and become strong, confident physical beings. They are primates in the forest! Gross motor, fine motor and sensory experiences are the work of young children. Plus the farm has all the healthy germs, pollen and microbes a child needs to build their immune system. Risky play is at the heart of this program. Children know their own limits much better than we do- and we stand by to guide them in a way that shows we trust them. When others say, "Be careful!!!" we try to teach mindfulness and self-awareness. We also teach limits and help children sense danger on their own. Of course, at the heart of health is making sure children are able to keep themselves safe around fire, cold, animals, sharp objects, chemicals, heights and cars. Also at the heart of this program is the growing, tasting and eating of fruits and vegetables grown organically that are only minutes old and taste the way mother nature intended. We build food tolerance with tastings. The more flavors and textures a child is exposed to, the more likely they are to try more.
We create and maintain a culture where peace is honored, and when conflict arises we address it using the concepts of empathy, inner peace, listening and using words to describe our emotions. All emotions are ok here. There are no "bad" ones. Children say what they feel, express their anger, talk it out and then it melts away. Most adults cannot do this. Peace between children and their peers and caregivers is one subject, but inner peace is important here too. We strive to create emotionally literate and peaceful children who can self-regulate and use positive coping skills when they feel stress inside. We used meditation, yoga and nature to help us stay calm.
Young children are often taught important life lessons through storytelling. We do the same here with social stories, literature and by bringing in our elders. We teach respect for past generations by sharing the histories of our people all around the world and what we can learn from them. We welcome our students' elders to come and read to us and tell us a story. As a corollary, we teach respect for future generations and what we can leave them. What stories do we want our children's children telling about our time here on this ONE beautiful Earth? Tell Grandma we need her to come bring us her wisdom.
Deep Nature Connection
This is the beautiful gift of feeling truly “at home” in nature, with a deep sense of loving and understanding the natural world of which you are a part. It leads both to an ethic of caring for the Earth and a sense of wholeness. We do not step into the forest world as visitors-we belong there. This is our home. It is not US versus nature. We don't take a trip to the forest. We are IN the forest always. The world is what we make it. Nature is always with us and it is free. In our hardest of days, a connection with Nature could be our best medicine.
Taking care of the earth, growing food, learning how to gently care for animals, making friends, making beautiful things, staying safe and warm in the forest, feeding our family and community... all of these things build confidence and make us proud.
We only have a short time on this Earth. We are social creatures. We live in communities because the work to survive is too great on our own. Our souls need to touch to feel fulfilled. We show children the value and the worth of being a part of a local community through donations to our Food Pantry, hosting work parties, pot-luck meals, bonfires and by helping to draw others in, not keep them apart. Our circle is ever widening.