If I had a choice I would send my children to a Montessori Forest School. It feels like the best of both worlds! Although my children attend a Montessori school with teachers who endeavour to create a deep connection to nature, they don't have the daily outdoors exposure and contact with nature that I would like or that I feel is needed.
Most Montessori schools have outdoor classrooms, in which the children can come and go as they like. Some 'outdoor classrooms' are fabulous and are awe-inspiring, however, others are lacking. Some Montessori schools have amazing natural outdoor play areas, which the children can use at playtime, before or after school or when working on specific projects.
But we've also encountered weather policies which restrict outdoor work and play. Both of the Montessori schools we've attended have policies which parents have questioned as excessive in relation to outside play or more accurately indoor play during hot weather or in wet weather (more so than what is required by State Education Departments). In some locations, this means that for weeks the children have no outdoor play during school hours. Sure, parents can make up for it at home and provide lots of outdoor learning or free time outdoors, however, there is a better system.
What I admire about Montessori Forest Schools is that it's not just about more outside play or more time outdoors. It's integrating the Forest School curriculum into the Montessori School curriculum. For some Montessori Schools this means Forest School one day a week, or one afternoon a week. Some schools travel for Forest School and some use adjacent woodland.
Forest Schools offer hands-on, child-led and often project-based learning, from what I can see it is completely compatible with and complements Montessori based learning. There are barriers to integrating a Forest School into a Montessori School including finding suitable woodland and qualified (Forest School) practitioners.
The Montessori Forest School concept is increasingly popular in the UK and perhaps will become a trend we will see one day in Australia!
Does the Montessori Forest School concept appeal to you? Would you consider this as an option for your children? If someone opens one in Australia - please let me know, I'd love to come visit!