Our team

Maria Arefieva

Founder & Owner
Forest School Instructor

Adriana Carlson

Forest School Instructor
Waldorf Block Teacher
Curriculum Designer

Valentina Arefieva

Crafts and Gardening Instructor

Milana Schaffer

Forest School and Arts Instructor

“What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.”

Our team consists of 4 regular instructors as well as parents occasionally volunteering as assistants. While we come from different backgrounds, we all share the belief that education should be a creative way of reaching each child’s inner potential and igniting that child’s desire to discover more about himself or herself and the world as a whole. That teaching and learning are best done in the natural setting, not in windowless rooms. That children ought to be in motion as much as possible for their optimum physical and mental development. And that nature’s touch is essential for a child’s well-being.

Please scroll down to meet us up close! And if you have any questions for any of us – please do not hesitate to reach out.

Maria Arefieva

Founder/Owner
Forest School Instructor

First Aid / CPR , Colorado State Background Checks

“We wanted children to learn about the world surrounding them while having first-hand experience interacting with it, not simply through books or screens.

“Thus came about Real Red Riding Hoods forest school.”

Hello, my name is Maria. I’m the owner of Real Red Riding Hoods forest school and I want to welcome you to our website.

Starting from the age of 3, I grew up spending my summers hiking and camping. Fast forward 30+ years and I became a mother to a little boy, and then shortly afterwards to another one. It’s important to me to raise our children with the same love for nature and joy from being a part of it that my parents instilled in me while growing up.

And so my husband and I decided to create a school that would be a place where children could learn, create and make friends while spending all or most of their time outdoors in the beautiful Colorado landscape. A place where they could run in any direction, climb, throw rocks and pine cones, or lay on the ground watching clouds move across the sky and listen to sounds of birds. We wanted children to learn about the world surrounding them while having first-hand experience interacting with it, not simply through books or screens.

Thus came about Real Red Riding Hoods forest school.

By trade my husband and I are programmers. Prior to motherhood I owned my own web and graphic design business, and also worked and volunteered in non-profit organizations, including a disaster relief in Philippines after 2013 tsunami. I have a Bachelor’s Degree from Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, one of Russia’s top Universities. Yes, my degree is in physics and math, as I dreamed of becoming an astronaut after graduation 🙂

While I do not have a degree in childhood education, I have come to know many homeschooling parents who have shown that providing the highest level of education for children outside of an educational institution is not only possible, but also offers children many unique opportunities otherwise inaccessible in a conventional preschool/daycare setting.

“… providing the highest level of education for children outside of an educational institution is not only possible, but also offers children many unique opportunities otherwise inaccessible in a conventional preschool/daycare setting”

I invite you to browse our Blog and Program & Activities page to learn about our many beautiful activities in more detail. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or to schedule a tour to see our program in person. I look forward to meeting you and your little wildling one day.

Adriana Carlson

Forest School Instructor
Waldorf Block Teacher
Curriculum Designer

Hello! I’m Adriana Carlson, an instructor and the curriculum designer at Real Red Riding Hoods Forest School.

I am excited to be a part of your child’s journey by teaming up with Maria and the rest of the team! My children – Leila (9) Annika (6) and Oliver (4) love attending the forest school. Since we are a multi-age classroom environment there is plenty to learn from everyone. The younger children enjoy being in a community with older children to encourage them and play with them while the older children learn more deeply the concepts of compassion, sharing, and even teaching their younger friends.

I was homeschooled growing up and my parents cultivated a deep love of nature as part of my education. We would spend the mornings covering academic subjects, but in the afternoons and evenings my siblings and I were outside for hours each day. I am excited to bring that love of nature to your children as well.

“I design the curriculum at Real Red Riding Hoods to reflect the values of Waldorf education with a nod towards Charlotte Mason’s appreciation for living books and nature journals.”

I earned degrees in photojournalism and international studies from Metro State University in Denver. For the past five years I operated a portrait business specializing in women’s portraiture and senior portraits. I’ve always loved education and have done extensive research on the different educational methods that are available for homeschoolers. I design the curriculum at Real Red Riding Hoods to reflect the values of Waldorf education with a nod towards Charlotte Mason’s appreciation for living books and nature journals.

It is an honor and a privilege for me to come alongside your child as a guide, resource finder, and friend. As well as assist you as a parent in fanning the flames of their interests and helping them grow into the best versions of themselves.

Come and talk with me anytime! I would love to get to know you better!

Adriana

Valentina Arefieva

Crafts and Gardening Instructor

Maria here again. I wanted to introduce you to my mom, Valentina, without whom our forest school wouldn’t be the same. Together we have remodeled the school cabin, cleaned the premises, and built various obstacle courses. Valentina is the one who always makes sure there is hot cocoa for the children to take with us on the forest hikes in the winter, and that there is a fire crackling in the wood stove at the cabin when we came back from playing in the snow.

She also is the one who creates all the beautiful hand-made objects throughout the school — from cozy nap time bedding to hand-made dolls used for storytelling by Adriana.

Most of our arts and crafts projects for Tuesdays and Thursdays are prepared by Valentina as well, and she works with the children in one-on-one sessions to help them develop and perfect their skills.

All our beautiful playdough sculpting projects were taught by her and you can see many of them in this post. Other one-on-one classes we are planning to introduce this summer are sewing, wood-working and gardening.

Milana Schaffer

forest school and arts instructor

All children have worth and a deep purpose in this world. I see my role as a gentle guide helping them find their passion and discover their uniqueness and beauty. Nature makes the best classroom. In the woods we learn teamwork and resiliency. Surrounded by fresh mountain air we feel inspired and most creative. The trees ground us and we feel free to be ourselves. It’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of this community.

I also teach Waldorf watercoloring classes and nature-inspired craft projects on Wednesday afternoons.

Real Red Riding Hoods forest school & daycare
279 Walnut Ave • Palmer Lake, CO

(719) 960-0612