I’m currently sitting in my car in Memorial Park in Meaford, Ontario watching the beautiful waves of Georgian Bay crash on the shore. I’ve been sitting here for about an hour and I’ve got two more to go. It’s just below freezing but I don’t mind. I promised my youngest that I would wait for him here while he participates in his first half day of forest school. I’m feeling quite blissful.

Forest school is a significant step for my little guy. He was in Montessori preschool and then an amazing outdoor preschool when he was around 1-2 years old but had terrible separation anxiety (as many kids that age do). When I used to ask him what his favourite part of the day was, he always said when I came to pick him up. I suspect this was additional motivation to home educate. Forest school is the first voluntary activity away from family for him, so it’s a pretty big deal.

Home educating during a pandemic has been hard. Add in the fact that we moved from a tight knit community to a rural conservative area and we’ve really been living in relative isolation for the past year and a half. While that isolation comes with a lot of perks that my family enjoys, it also means that finding friends and building community has been almost impossible.

Almost, but not completely.

There is a local homeschool co-op that has introduced us to a few families that we try and connect with regularly. I sometimes bemoan that there’s not enough people or that I feel like I have to pester parents into play dates, but the reality is that I am endlessly grateful for the pocket of community that we have found. In these challenging times, the few friends that we’ve been able to connect with have made all the difference in keeping our reclusive way of life stable and keeping my family sane.

Today, as we embark on a new journey of institutional community (aka forest school), I can’t help but acknowledge that this small group of friends has made such a huge difference, especially for my youngest. By interacting with other kids and adults that share our child-centred approach to living, he has experienced how to live peacefully in the wider community and knows that other people are safe, he has control over his actions, and not all people will force him into situations where he’s uncomfortable.

Our little community has become a safe space for him, where adults afford him the same respect he gets at home and he can play with kids who still respect his boundaries.

What a fucking magical environment to grow up in.