Amelia’s Magazine | Mighty Oaks Foxes Woodland School in Norfolk

Mighty Oaks Foxes circletime
Red K Sanderson and her husband Tim Sanderson have set up an inspiring group for parents and children in the Norfolk woods and now they plan to take their idea one step rather with the creation of the Mighty Oaks Foxes mobile woodland school. It’s an inspiring and visionary plan which will benefit some very lucky children, so when I heard about it I just had to share the idea more widely… who knows, maybe their dream of an interconnected Modular Microschooling System will become a reality.

Mighty Oaks Foxes nature mandalas
What first inspired you to start up the Mighty Oaks Foxes group and where did the name come from?
RED: I started running our parent and child group Mighty Oaks in September 2009 when my first daughter was 9 months old. It arose out of a group of new mamas who’d met doing a pregnancy yoga class. We’d been meeting regularly but as our babes were growing, the meetings were becoming more chaotic. I’d been attending the Steiner school parent and child group in Norwich, and loved the calm relaxed and creative atmosphere. But a two hour round trip – to the city – was no good, so I started my own version where we live – in our local village hall in rural north Norfolk. We were immediately hugely successful, running three mornings per week and always at maximum capacity. After a break when I had my second daughter, we re-opened in 2013 – in our true home – all outside in the beautiful woodland of north Norfolk where we live.

Mighty Oaks Foxes the den
We currently run two mornings per week, always completely fully subscribed, with 30 families and 37 children attending. The average age of the group has increased, and we’re also including homeschooling families like our own, though it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the six year olds really need something more. We were intending to homeschool, but realised that expanding a branch of Mighty Oaks into a school class for 6 year olds would give our eldest daughter the valuable experience of being in a peer group, and would offer an opportunity for other children to experience and benefit from the gorgeous woodland we’re so privileged to be living in. The name FOXES arose from the animals that regularly visit The Clearing – the woodland location of the classroom. The qualities of the fox seemed to be reflected in our eldest daughter – sharp, shrewd, beautiful, elegant – and with red hair! The second class, opening in September 2018, for our second daughter will be called BADGERS – like her, strong, earthy, tenacious, nocturnal – ha!

How does the group exist at this point in time?
RED: Right now we’ve got a small group of families committed to starting FOXES in September, and many others on the periphery.
We’ve got a great teacher Jess Carey, and a lovely assistant Madeleine Heley. We’ve got a fabulous location in the woods called The Clearing, and we’re currently in the middle of a huge fundraising campaign to build a beautiful mobile wooden classroom which will be the class base in the woods from September.

Mighty Oaks Foxes the clearing
What are your backgrounds, as founders of this project?
RED: I’m a full-time mama, artist and organiser of other events such as the North Norfolk Arts & Crafts Fair. Previously I ran my own successful graphic design business in London.
TIM: I am an artist and a woodsman and a father of two girls.

Mighty Oaks Foxes rainbow bridge
Why the woodland? Why do you think humans are happiest in woodland settings?
TIM: The woods are a part of who we are and where we came from as humans. The woods have provided us with food, fuel and shelter since earliest times. Woodland is wildness returning, any area of suitable land will return to woodland is left uncultivated. Woodland has a healing and regenerative affect on humans it helps us to re-member who we are and reconnects us with the web of life and spirit.

Mighty Oaks Foxes storytelling
Where is your woodland and how did you secure it as a space for your vision?
TIM: The Clearing is in north Norfolk. I became the tenant of it 11 years ago with the generous support of the local landowner Lord Hastings. It has provided the family with fuel, building materials and a place to live, as an artist in symbiosis with it, it has become my life’s work, a place of contemplation and inspiration.

Mighty Oaks Foxes mother earth
Why do you want to build a mobile classroom – where will it be moved to and how will it move?
TIM: A mobile class can be moved which means there is no long term impact on the woodland, our footprint is intentionally light, in reverence and respect for the place and its beauty.

Mighty Oaks Foxes classroom
Who has designed the mobile classroom and who will be building it?
TIM: I have designed it, and will be building it with the help of volunteers.

Mighty Oaks Foxes massey ferguson
How many children will be attending the inaugural sessions, and when do you hope to have your vision in place?
RED: We’ll have six children starting this September 8th. Ideally we’ll attract our maximum number of twelve by the end of the first year. I want Mighty Oaks Foxes to be a strong little community of children – and families – working and playing and growing together.

Mighty Oaks Foxes dan and jasper
How often will the school run and do you imagine it will exist alongside other forms of education? (ie – as part of a flexischooling approach)
RED: Mighty Oaks Foxes will run two days per week, so the children will also be free to explore other options for the rest of the week. I am personally attracted to unschooling ideas, having watched my eldest daughter teach herself so many things (riding a bike, reading, writing), and seeing the growing confidence that comes from her own self-reliance. Other families may choose to continue with their own homeschooling structure, and it is also possible that others could be flexi-schooling in regular state education.

Mighty Oaks Foxes fen and heidi
What kind of things will the children be learning, and how do you anticipate they will progress in their education as they get older?
RED: In these first years, they’ll be getting an introduction to letters and numbers, but in a very whole-form way. Instead of sitting at desks copying by rote, they’ll be outside, making shapes with their whole bodies, finding letters and numbers in the woodland. They’ll be learning about the qualities of numbers and the poetry of words… There’ll be copious nature study, as they’ll be so immersed in it – and also hand crafts such as knitting, painting, modelling and they’ll be learning to play the recorder. The teacher herself uses movement, rhythm and rhyme as a key instructional tool.
I imagine we’ll add in extra-curricular activities on additional days. We’ll bring in experts in various disciplines or have field trips to be present to exquisite workmanship, so the children can absorb true mastery in many fields.
As they get older, their curriculum will expand to cover a myriad of exciting and wonderful things the world has to offer – astronomy, philosophy, geometry, languages, ecology, physiology – and subjects that perhaps aren’t taught in schools such as good nutrition, powerful communication, yoga and meditation, relationship skills.

Mighty Oaks Foxes lila on the bridge
Can you explain more about your idea for an open source modular micro-schooling system and how this will work in practice?
TIM: I imagine, groups of parents getting together in their local communities and designing classes to suit their specific needs, regarding time tables, curriculums, beliefs, intentions etc. And through the power of global connection finding like minded others throughout the world to share ideas, funds and resources. The network also brings up the possibility of dialogue and connection with parents doing a very different way of educating to each other, cross-pollinating ideas, funds and resources as much or as little as is required in any given moment. This openness and adaptability is the real power of the system. The internet is the biggest library and global resource the world has ever seen. It is there to be integrated as much or as little as is necessary into any given approach to learning. Bypassing politics and bureaucracy means schools can be more flexible, adaptable and able to meet the needs of the children directly, changing as required in any way that is appropriate.

Mighty Oaks Foxes grace
Why do you think so many people are attracted to different ideas about education at the moment?
TIM: The old world is in crisis and decline, the existing institutions can no longer provide what is needed. Many new green shoots are appearing through the wreckage: There is a movement towards doing things for ourselves, locally, putting people and the environment we all depend on first. Our children need a whole form education to face the challenges that our legacy has left them. The system cannot provide it and so we must build it ourselves. A single vision for education is the old industrial way. A multifaceted web of independent, localised schools, globally interconnected, sharing ideas, funding and resources is the future, tailored to the needs of each individual child and each community where ever it is in the world.

Mighty Oaks Foxes lunchtime
What would you say to others who may be inspired by your story and want to do something similar and possibly connected in their area?
TIM: Start Now, talk to others, dream big, organise and take action, the internet is there to help us all connect and share, be generous with ideas and energy, together we can pool all our strengths and skills to make anything possible.
RED: And follow our story and let it continue to inspire you. My intention is for our project to be ‘open-source’ and I’ll shortly begin documenting everything in a blog so that anyone can read about our model and replicate it – in their own way.

Mighty Oaks Foxes friday group
How can people support you?
RED: CONTRIBUTE TO OUR FUNDRAISING TO BUILD OUR FIRST CLASSROOM! We’re raising funds to build our first classroom on Indiegogo, and then we’ll be building another one after that. If you can add even just £5 or spread the word or contribute in any way, it will be a great help. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date and spread the word. THANK YOU!

Categories ,Crowdfunding, ,Homeschooling, ,Indiegogo, ,Jess Carey, ,Lord Hastings, ,Madeleine Heley, ,Mighty Oaks, ,Mighty Oaks Foxes, ,Modular Microschooling System, ,North Norfolk Arts & Crafts Fair, ,Norwich, ,Red K Sanderson, ,rural, ,Steiner school, ,The Clearing, ,Tim Sanderson, ,Unschooling, ,Whole-form education, ,Woodland School

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