When did we stop doing this?

That’s what I find myself thinking the moment I enter Forest School.

I watch as children bubble over rocks, squish in mud, slide down riverbanks, shimmer in the water.

When did we stop going outside, stop letting our children experience the miracle of this: untamed wilderness, ripe with play and discovery and joy.

When did we sanitise our outside play so much?

My daughters find rope and a sturdy branch and drag each other down the mud bank, faces splattered with gladness and soil.

I watch as boys tumble, wrest that holy, radiating energy of theirs into adventure and feats of physicality. In a world where they don’t fit, here they are home.

When did we stop doing this?

Surely it wasn’t that long ago.

My childhood was full of this. Those boys, brimming with muscle and sinew, remind me of my brothers. My sisters and I followed them barefoot through snake-infested long grass down the hill to the river with eels and that rope swing. When we were bored, we would hide out in the sugar cane and gnaw on their stems. One rainy summer, I spent months crawling on all fours in the paddock with wild horses, hoping they would accept me as one of their own.

My husband’s childhood was full of this too. He, an army brat with hundreds of acres to explore. He would follow the resident, ever-changing crew of army kids over rivers frozen with ice, up mountains mostly bouldered. He only returned home at sunset or the bleeding was too much to stem.

Why did we stop doing this?

I don’t know. All I know is it didn’t fit right. And I wanted my children to grow up wild, for them to know that this divine earth is home, that knowing and loving Mother Earth will sustain them for the rest of their lives. And I wrestled and I angsted and tried to give up that dream, but I couldn’t give it up. And so we decided to leap again to a place that felt like it would nurture and support that connection for them. Some people don’t have to leave, but we did.

And now we are here. In this place with beauty so verdant and bright, so brimming with colour and nature and light that it hits my eyes and fills me up and wants to come out of me as art. And now we are here, this place filled with homeschooling co-ops and classes like Forest School, and everything is falling into place like a puzzle aligned.

“We are stardust. We are golden. And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

– Joni Mitchell

Have a look around for a Forest School or a bush kindergarten. I highly, highly recommend it. Or you know, just go wild. Let our kids be wild too. Go bush, as we Australians would say. I don’t know why we stopped, but it’s something we deeply missed without even knowing.

With a big leafy heart,