The Ann Arbor Forest School is one of Ann Arbor’s best kept secrets. Under Tara’s steady hand, our son has grown there in ways that were unimaginable to us prior to his arrival. He’s become more social, respectful, happy, outgoing, and self-confident. Our son loves the Forest School and we love it too.

You might think that the Forest School is only about introducing children to the outdoors and nature, but it is so much more than that. From the healthy organic food, to the monthly musical offerings, to cultivating a sense of curiosity about the world, to the deep interpersonal relationship that develop between the children, this much is clear: Tara views children holistically. She cares deeply about each child, seeking to nurture their hearts, minds, and bodies. In the end, then, the Forest School is all about the children.

Tara, the Forest School’s director, is a pleasure to work with and extremely knowledgeable. She has access to national experts in early childhood, which strengthen her program, and has created a community where many people can help the children to reach their full potential. Here is an example. Our son was afraid of dogs when he began at the Forest School. But after Tara worked with him and Mr. Cohen’s dogs, he now eagerly approaches people in our neighborhood on our evening walks and asks: “May I pet your dog?” From cats to dogs, and marigolds to mulberry trees, then, it is all about children’s growth. Let me offer another example. Today I took a two-hour tour of a local museum with our son—quite the task for any four-year-old! Yet at the end of the tour the guide came up to me and, ignoring everyone else said “what an amazing boy you have there, he listens so well and asks great questions,” precisely the sort of things that Tara works on with all of the children.

In short, Tara has the experience to make her a sought-after expert in early childhood and outdoor education. She is also a University of Michigan graduate.  But this misses the point: she cares about the children and works with parents to bring out the best in them.” – Dan F.

“We were thrilled with the program. Mack developed tremendous independence and problem-solving skills that will serve him well in Ann Arbor Public Schools. Also, I can’t say enough about the food. Not only was I thrilled to relinquish lunch-making responsibilities, Mack was exposed to preparing and eating new and healthful foods. Every parent needs allies in that battle.” – Jeff I.

“Ann Arbor Forest School helped my child to learn empathy, self-control, and focus, and taught her to complete complex projects over the course of many days or weeks.  Now that we are homesteading, my child is able to work around tools safely, listen to instructions, and work outside in all types of weather, because Tara made all those tasks feel like a natural part of life. She has also become a better caregiver for her younger sibling after learning to respect and help other children at the Ann Arbor Forest School.” – Elizabeth P.

 “The Forest School has had an unbelievable and unimaginable impact on my son. He has become strong (mentally and physically), willing to take risks, aware of himself and others, capable of taking on complicated projects, familiar with nature (i.e., naming birds, trees, plants), kind and thoughtful, super helpful in the kitchen and interested in new foods, and a much more adventurous person all-around. Tara’s endless energy, patience, and kindness have been the epitome of a blessing for our family. I love most of all that my son has gained awareness and confidence as an individual. That is not to say that he is infallible, because the strength of his awareness and confidence has come from experiencing failure and trial-and-error. He now knows that there are solutions to every kind of problem, and that persistence will reveal the correct solution.” – Shannon M.

 “My children know how to play better, imaginative games. They observe the world better and understand their place in the world, both as part of the natural world and as people with great power to shape that world.” – Leslie L.

 “From her very first week, Hazel seemed more grounded and aware of her natural surroundings, like the world had opened up to her. It is so rare today to find a place where children can learn simplicity and self-reliance. How to just be content, without stimulation, prompting, or direction. I really appreciate the respect and quality of attention you gave each of the children, and how you give them the space to be themselves and just explore.” – Joanna M.