Here is my final post on my daughter’s amazing school. (Read part one, part two, part three, and part four). Homeschooling for first grade was a pretty sweet experience (helped by the fact that we were living in a cabin in the woods in New Hampshire) and I would not trade it for anything. I did however, come to the realization that it was time for my daughter to find a peer group that did not include me. We found Plumfield and began there initially as a homeschooling family, but at Christmastime made the switch and enrolled her full-time. Here is the final piece on why Plumfield is amazing.
5. Plumfield has high expectations of the students, in an atmosphere of grace. This evidenced by the first four reasons and blog posts, but it is worthy of its own category. The students are held to high standards of behavior, they are encouraged to develop classical virtues of character, they are expected to put forth their best efforts in their academic work and inspired to enjoy and create. When students behave incorrectly, adults are there to correct them into better behavior; when students fall short of virtue, staff are there guide them; when students don’t put forth their best efforts (or make mistakes), the teachers are there to remind and encourage them and when students lack inspiration parents are there to spur them on in creativity. In short, the students see the adults modeling the positive aspects of learning and teaching the skills to overcome the barriers to education.
Each student works at his or her skill level, and expected to put forth their best effort. That effort is recognized not by effusive praise (I’m sure you have heard variations of “Ooooo, little Jonny, great job! You’re the best child ever because you just colored that whole page dark black”) but by affirming the qualities that Plumfield is cultivating in their students: effort, care, persistence. I’ve heard many variations of “I can see that was hard for you to finish the whole page. But you did it,” and “You must be so proud of your work,” or “Keep going. I know you can solve that last math problem.” If a student doesn’t put forth their best effort, it’s rarely left at that. There may be some conversation about it, there may be some explanation about re-doing that work. But truthfully that is rare, because the students have relationships with all of the adults and that relationship is what encourages the students to want to do their best work.
When there are conflicts, or when human laziness rears it’s nasty head, when someone goofs up, or when a situation warrants correction, the adults in this community gracefully (as in full of grace) are there to model the kind of change that is needed. I have heard the teachers admit mistakes, acknowledge that they don’t know something, admire a student’s insight and allow laughing at their own foibles. What great role models they are! It’s so freeing – to both students and parents – when teachers aren’t the ultimate authority on everything, when others contribute, when making a mistake is not the ultimate form of failure, when students are allowed to fall down and taught how to rise back up. After all, a person who can do that can succeed most anywhere in life. That’s the goal of education and parenting, isn’t it? To raise whole, healthy persons who are skilled at life – falling down and getting back up again.
If you have kids and live on the North Shore, get yourself to the next open house (May 13 2013, or check their website). If you know anyone who has kids grades 1-8, and they are not blooming 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. If you are not in the area, find us on facebook and give us a like and a shout out. If you are so inclined, send some love in the form of a financial donation. I’m sure they’d appreciate it!