What on earth are they doing?! Is the look we have been given from onlookers many times so far this term. As we battle our way through the wind and the rain or sit having a picnic in a squall. We were even offered shelter in someone’s house on the day of the hail, which of course we declined. Because the answer is that we are having a lot of fun, learning and embedding some incredible memories. Just think of how many children, some of our own included, were in a stuffy classroom missing these life-affirming moments of wild weather. We have done a lot of reflecting recently as in January we reached the milestone of being open for a whole year. There is still not a day that goes by when we don’t remark to one another how utterly wonderful it has been and how lucky we are.
We have children who have been with us for a year and a half this term, and some new children who have just joined us. We would like to welcome our new families and we are very happy with how well the children have settled. As ever we have been really proud of the children as they help one another and happily show new children the ropes.
At Venture we like to take a long time observing, listening and taking notes on what the children talk about and what they are interested in. The adults discuss the children before they arrive, whilst they are with us and when they have gone home. We think about them at home and often lie awake wondering how we can improve their environment. Every child’s wellbeing and happiness is carefully discussed and we tweak things accordingly. We sit with the children for extraordinarily long periods of time chatting and listening to each other. Everyone’s thoughts and who they are as individuals is valued. They are always engaged and interested and this means that we very quickly get to know new children and, in turn, they also learn about each other.
One of the challenges we have talked about recently is not getting caught up in the pressure parents increasingly feel under for their child to achieve things by a certain age. We find that all of us happily discuss with other parents the differences in reaching milestones such as walking, talking or weaning. But when it comes to literacy, for example, we can feel panic and competition if they are not at the same level as their peers. At Venture we never force the children to move from one planned activity to the next, ticking off on a sheet when all of the children have completed it. We feel this presents the danger of eventually dulling their desire to learn. We have seen first hand how quickly this approach can turn a child off learning and how it squashes their imagination, fascination and curiosity. How wrong it would feel to force a child to do a counting activity when they may have woken up that morning with a yearning to create. Instead we allow the children to take the reins. In fact, our aim is that for the majority of the day the adult presence is hardly noticed.
“When you teach a child something you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself”
Each child is treated individually and we try to create an environment whereby it is the children who are eager to learn, they are hungry for it and inspired. They are experiencing real things in a real and dynamic environment which is changing from day to day, season to season and year to year. Therefore it makes sense, it applies to them, it is relevant. Last week one child asked where the hail had gone, I answered that I wasn’t sure, allowing him to think. After a while he said, “I think actually it has gone back into the sky”. Another child remarked, “No it has melted” and someone else said, “Yes in the rain”.
For the children who have been with us for over a year, we have worked predominantly on their social skills, empathy, confidence and self-esteem. Some of these children are now beginning naturally to want to take things a step further and that is because they feel ready, confident and inspired to take on a new challenge.
We have had the pleasure this term of inviting other practitioners to the setting for interviews and we have had some really lovely feedback. One lady said how she had read the website and looked at our Facebook page over and over, and thought that she had a good idea of what we were all about. However, having spent a day with us realised that in fact there were no words to describe the magic she had witnessed and it would be impossible for anyone to properly understand what is happening and how unique it is!
Read the rest of the Spring 1 2019 newsletter here