Alone and Together, Just The Thing You Need

She pointed down to her furry, mud-scuffed boots and said, exasperated, "I'm a princess. I can't climb on those rocks! Look!" Then she scrambled down the creek bank, jumped over a puddle with what was surely a princess-y flourish, and stopping just short of the creek's edge to look into the fast-running water. She inhabited the story line of the not-climbing-fancy-shoe-wearing princess completely as she turned on her heel, climbed up the bank and back down again this time with a stick, which could only be a wand. She waved it around just so, tapping it on the surface of the creek. One, two, three, tap, tap, tap, and now it is ice, you can walk across it, just look!

"I am a princess. Can't you see my shoes?"

There has to be space and time for children to build their own worlds. Little pockets to tuck themselves into, alone or together to keep themselves cosy and yet part of something bigger. We are drawn to each other, but must also be separate. Alone, but not lonely.

The outdoors provides these kinds of cosy pockets. Our playground certainly does its job well and our forest trips have brought me a new appreciation of what is "out there" waiting. Inside the four walls of school, we are all together and groupings and pairings are thrown into stark relief. We think, oh let's work together, let's meet together, let's talk to each other, have you picked a friend, who are you without another? Removing the walls and the accoutrements of school really does change the individual and group dynamics.

The challenges you set for yourself are your own and the successes will be also. You will know them, no need for an outside observer to remark upon them, calling everyone's attention to them. No need to have someone gather you up with other children to play, the world around you is for you to play with -- the sticks are wands, the running water is ice, the rocks at the edge of the creek the walls surrounding a castle.

Children seek solitude, some children NEED solitude. Imagine the joy that an introverted child finds in the open context of the outdoors. And those who need to connect with others, they will find each other. The "come on, let's run together" left unspoken because the trail has said it for them.

You can be alone and you can be completely who you are, at that moment. Including a princess wearing unreasonable footwear living in a great castle at the edge of a fast running, now frozen river.

Testing the surface beneath her feet. Her successes will be her own.

The trail criss crosses away and then back home.