This is part three of a five-part series about my daughter’s school (read Part One and Part Two). It was after we finished homeschooling first grade that I realized my daughter needed a peer group and we investigated ways to provide that for her. Upon returning to the North Shore area (from rural New Hampshire) I discovered that Plumfield Academy was partnering with homeschooling families (currently there is a wait list for the part time slots, but homechooling families should check out the workshops for both students and parents). In the fall Catherine went two days per week and at Christmas made the decision to enroll her full-time. After most of a school year at Plumfield, here is reason three why we think it’s amazing.
3. The atmosphere of gentle learning is specifically fostered. Here is one quote from their website (where they quote from an author describing this “gentle atmosphere”:
When teachers value and trust the individual, a special atmosphere is created. Here it is possible to have structure and yet suitable freedom. The atmosphere can be friendly, purposeful, relaxed.
The atmosphere is serene and contented when children are not learning out of competition or fear. They are pleased with their own level of skill. They are interested in the good books read to them or by them. They enjoy communicating: speaking (narrating) and writing about what they have read.
Some people today . . . have perhaps never witnessed the concentration and pleasure of children who are listening to a good book being read aloud. They do not know the unique atmosphere that exists when children are absorbed in creative activities, including self motivated play; they do not know about the atmosphere present when there are good human relationships: where there is respect, trust, order, and time for individuality and work. (Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children’s Sake 73)
If it seems too good to be true, that’s what I thought. Then I visited; that visit changed everything. Here was a place where students were calmly and orderly going about their daily business with minimal adult direction. I didn’t know exactly how they achieved this seemingly miraculous state of affairs, but I knew almost immediately that I wanted my daughter there.
Charlotte Mason believed that the child is a person, not an empty container into which you pour information. She also believed that “ideas are to the mind what food is to the stomach.” It’s awesome to see a place where this philosophy is lived out. Plumfield provides a nurturing environment where students interact with living books and great ideas, with nature and with one another at the level which they are capable. Plumfield knows that a student’s intellect is often far above their skills (of reading and writing particularly). They therefore present ideas and engage with students at their intellectual level while teaching the necessary skills of reading, writing and math. As a result, my daughter who is learning how to print and practice handwriting has a portfolio where here thoughts have been collected and typed. Far beyond her ability to write, she is developing her own voice and is able to communicate about art and literature, nature and friendship. And this is all done in an atmosphere that honors her as a person and allows her natural curiosity and gifts to flourish.
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, 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!