At the end of last school year when I finished first grade with my daughter (which was mostly done in New Hampshire when we lived in a family cabin in the woods), I realized something: my daughter needed friends her own age. Not that she didn’t like hanging with her younger brother and mom, but she very clearly needed a peer group that did not include us. As we made the transition back to the North Shore area, I discovered that Plumfield Academy (a school that I had heard of but not seriously considered) was actively partnering with homeschooling families. Plumfield also follows the Charlotte Mason method of education, which our family is falling in love with. So we decided to give it a try. Last fall, Catherine started at 2 days a week; at Christmas we made the decision to enroll her full-time. After the better part of a year with Plumfield, I can’t say too many good things about it! Here is the first of five posts (and reasons) why we think Plumfield Academy is absolutely amazing.
1. The goal of education at Plumfield is a magnanimous person. Magnanimity is not a popular word these days (especially because it contrasts with the sarcastic, snarky, self-indulgent stars of most TV shows). It certainly wasn’t a word generally on my lips (though the basic idea has been present in our parenting and educational philosophy). It’s just so nicely explained and lived at Plumfield. Magnanimous people are “free from petty vindictiveness; forgive freely and are high-minded.” The character of the person matters at Plumfield; kindness, gentleness, thoughtfulness are specifically cultivated. The teachers and staff will interrupt academic lessons to impart life lessons. They view a major part of their job as habit and skill formation. Therefore, they take the time to work through social interactions and provide children with the skills necessary to work through the next conflict. I have heard many times over during the school day (not in a trip after school to the principals’s office): Tell me what happened here. How did that make you feel? How do you think the other person felt? What is the conflict? How can we solve this problem? What do you need to do about this situation? Having heard this so frequently, I find my own parenting enhanced. I am able to talk to my children, ask them questions and hear their answers in a clearer way than I was able to do on my own. In listening to friends struggles with their own children, I am able to offer bits of insights such as, I wonder what’s going on within this child, to cause such a behavior? (Before I was quick to think I knew what the problem was and therefore what the “right” solution was).
I have had the awkward experience of being involved in an institution, reading the mission and/or vision statement and thinking, the president/my boss/our coworker really hasn’t read the mission because they aren’t living up to it. At Plumfield, they are living up to it. Case in point: in the fall I ran into another mom in the driveway and she stopped me. “Yesterday I asked my son who was the kindest person at Plumfield. He mentioned your daughter, and I thought you’d like to know.” I was stunned: what kind of place had I stumbled into, where teachers and the headmaster actively promote kindness, where parents ask their kids who is kind at school, and then take the time to tell another parent about it? Another case in point: I recently heard a story of one of the older boys, who at 12 wanted “to do good for others and start a non-profit.” His mom suggested that he start with the homeless shelter in their town; he proceeded to organize and publicize a canned goods drive for them. This pre-teen was surprised when he received compliments – he was just doing what kids at Plumfield do. “See a need, fill a need,” to quote Rodney from the movie Robots. Final case in point: the older kids naturally interact positively with the younger ones. I’ve seen my daughter snuggled on the lap of a middle schooler during prayer time. And more than once, a certain middle school boy has come up to my five year old son (who isn’t even a student at Plumfield!!) in the driveway during drop off or pick up time, looked him right in the eye, and said “Hello David.” The look on my son’s face was priceless as these bigger kids affirm him, genuinely glad to see him. My heart sung as I saw my precious son’s spirit lifted from that act of kindness. And I can’t think of a better place to have my eight year old, surrounded by adults and older kids who show such kindness to one another and the world at large.
If you have kids and live on the North Shore, get yourself to the next open house (April 8, 2013, or check their website). If you know anyone who has kids grades 1-8, and they are not blissfully happy in their current school, tell them about Plumfield. If you are homeschooling, there is currently a wait list for part time slots during the school year, but come visit because Plumfield offers workshops for homeschooled kids and workshops for parents as well. And if you are not in the area, find us on facebook and give us a like and a shout out. Or if you are so inclined, send some love in the form of a financial donation.