This is part two of my five-part series on my daughter’s school. (Read Part One). After homeschooling last year, it was clear that my daughter was ready for a peer group that did not include me! We discovered that Plumfield Academy was partnering with homeschoolers (there is currently a waitlist for part time spots, but they offer workshops for kids and parents, which are tremendous). In the fall we enrolled Catherine for two days a week and at Christmas enrolled her full-time. Here is reason 2 why we think Plumfield is amazing.
2. Plumfield provides meaningful work (in the form of chores) and not busywork (in the form of homework) for their students. Chores are something that most schools don’t offer, but they are ways in which young people learn basic skills and make a meaningful contribution to their community (Check out this article about children and chores that appeared in the Boston Globe magazine). Because Plumfield meets in an old farmhouse and the Pensions, who run the school, live there as well, the students share learning space; daily chores are expected. These jobs – sweeping, cleaning the windows, wiping the tables, emptying the trash – are not taught only for the sake of developing the skill, but because the school house needs to be swept, wiped and the trash taken out. The contribution is a meaningful one. The older the student, the more responsibility he/she has, but even the littlest ones have a job to do. The feeling of pride and satisfaction of a job well done helps to shape a child’s sense of self and worth far more than a gold star on a worksheet. Each child there knows that if his job isn’t done then someone else will have to do it, and the beautiful cycle of responsibility and care for another continues.
In addition, the academic work that is undertaken during the day by students is significant. Students are expected to, and have very little trouble focusing on their academic work. This is because the students are presented with great literature, art, Scripture, nature (they go outside for science to observe the natural world in the younger grades) and their natural curiosity is treated as a gift. Because they don’t spend their time with mindless busywork, there is a policy of NO HOMEWORK. This will rock your world, fellow parents. There is no homework because students work hard during the day and the school wants your child to spend time with you at home. Imagine! They actually live into this policy; in the time I have spent there, not once has my daughter come home with work to do for the next day. Occasionally, a particular student will set a goal (with input from teacher and parent) to do independent work at home, but this is rare, and is student directed. One parent remarked to her child who was working on some math one evening, “I thought you didn’t have homework?” to which the child replied, “I’m taking charge of my learning. It’s what we do at Plumfield.” I’m still a little awed that this system actually works, but I can assure you that it does, to the benefit of child and family.
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. I’m sure they’d appreciate it!