Plumfield Academy fosters a simple, Unhurried Childhood which protects the curiosity and joy in children while at the same time carefully guiding them onto the path of self-knowledge, wisdom, and maturity.
Our approach to life nurtures a simple, Unhurried Childhood in which children are not pressured into a premature adolescence but are free to be who they truly are. Unfortunately, our fast-paced society can exert tremendous pressure and rob our children of elements essential for growth and joy in life, such as:
- building personal relationships
- enjoying intellectual stimulation
- having time for reflection and uncluttered thinking
- sharing ideas in conversation
- exploring in nature
- doing meaningful work alongside adults
- discovering opportunities for service
- simply playing with other children
Plumfield’s commitment to an Unhurried Childhood is based not on some nostalgic desire to return to a bygone era but on what is truly beneficial for the well-being of growing children today.
BUILDING PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
Fostering an Unhurried Childhood involves working together to develop healthy relationships by:
- growing in self knowledge,
- learning to clearly communicate one’s personal needs and desires, and
- cultivating respect towards one’s peers and those older and younger.
Together, these three form the primary relational task of the early years of life. Such a work requires much energy and attention on the part of our Plumfield children and adults.
“Plumfield is where I found my voice to express my thoughts freely and confidently.” – – Micaela, sophomore at Dean College.
Fostering an Unhurried Childhood means seeking to create, each day, a person honoring learning environment. This is best expressed by Susan Shaeffer Macaulay.
“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)
Our students reflect on their experience of the atmosphere at Plumfield:
“When I walked through the door the first time, everyone was happy. It was a joyful moment.” – – Myles, 9
“The teachers don’t rush you to finish; they just want you to do your best.” – – Mark, 10
“Everyone has points to make, facts to tell, and questions to ask. If you are having a hard time, someone will help you.” – – Gunnar, 13
“You are actually experimenting yourself to test whether or not your theory is correct.” – – Aria, 12
“Because I work for the satisfaction of learning, I do as much as I can.” – – Abbie, 12
“Plumfield is a hard-working place. We build simple machines as a challenge to learn about physics.” – – Alec, 14
“Being out in nature gives so much room for your brain to think.” – – Francesco, 7
THE PATHS OF WISDOM AND MATURITY
WISDOM IN BOOKS
Plumfield students discover the Path of Wisdom through reading “living books” appropriate for their age, and by being invited to carefully consider each character’s words, actions, motivations, and values. Through this process, student readers encounter both behaviors and their consequences, which is marvelous fodder for discussion. By grappling together with the characters’ traits – and with their own varying points of view – students grow in awareness, knowledge, understanding, and, ultimately, wisdom for life.
A brief anecdote demonstrates well the value of such discussions at Plumfield. As we began reading Anne of Green Gables, one student took exception to Anne’s chatty and seemingly self-absorbed nature and decided he didn’t want to continue reading the book. This led to a group conversation about the value of seeing things from another’s point of view. The teacher said, “I’m wondering why Anne was so self-absorbed and chatty.” After a brief pause, one student responded, “Maybe she was nervous about meeting new people.” Another added, “Perhaps she wanted to make a good first impression.” Another echoed that viewpoint, “Yes, that happens to me sometimes. I get nervous and just blurt things out.” Through their candid sharing of thoughts and feelings, the students arrived at a deeper level of understanding. Thus, Anne’s character was humanized; and the boy, who originally had been reluctant to keep reading the book, decided to “give it more time.” Anne eventually became a new friend to him through her quirky antics and winsome personality.
Noticing how relationships work for the characters in “living books” provides our students with insights to navigate their own encounters with others.
WISDOM IN CONFLICT RESOLUTION
Plumfield students also discover the Path of Wisdom by working through their relational difficulties.
Interaction with others sometimes brings distress e.g. frustration, hurt, fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, alienation, loneliness, etc. Feelings are often buried within, only to be expressed later through words or actions, sometimes aggressively.
At Plumfield, we take the necessary time to meet individually with involved students to help them recognize, understand, and express their feelings and perspective of the situation. This is a valuable time where each child feels listened to and knows his or her point of view is important and respected.
Individual sessions are followed by a joint meeting, with the goal of enabling each student to express his or her point of view to the other. The skill of using “I statements” (I feel . . . when . . . because . . .) helps each person express himself or herself and enables each to “hear” the other.
The adult facilitates the learning of the skill and “hearing” of the other. It is the students who facilitate the mending of the relationship. Students usually want to get along, provided their own needs are met and they feel respected. When they have the opportunity to see things from the other person’s point of view, they often quickly apologize and forgive.
Occasionally, students are unable to reconcile a situation and an adult must step in to minister an equitable solution. This frees the students to be in a relationship and play within acceptable bounds.
As students become adept using relational skills, they are slower to react, quicker to see things from the other person’s point of view and use their skill naturally in a moment of conflict.
ONE STUDENT’S EXPERIENCE
“This year I have really come out of my shell. You helped me to develop new skills and values that have helped me to prevent and solve problems, get along better with my friends and family, and to be an all around better person.
My life at home has been so much easier since I started going to Plumfield. I have learned skills that will help me all of my life.
If I had not come to Plumfield, I would be a very different person: quick tempered and insecure. Plumfield has given me the opportunity to open up and feel safe about doing so.” – – Matt, 14
MATURITY IN COMMUNITY SERVICE
Children become mature and happy when they learn to think of the needs of other people and extend themselves in service.
Here are a few of Plumfield’s community service projects:
- setting up the Christmas tree at a local nursing home
- cooking and serving a meal at LifeBridge, Salem
- offering the “End the Cycle of Violence” mime presentation
- organizing clothes at “Cradles to Crayons”
- participating in the “Build a Bed” project
MATURITY OF A GOOD WORK ETHIC
Plumfield students work together to create community celebrations: cooking food, setting the tables, decorating, and cleaning up.
At the end of the day, each student completes an assigned clean up task for the school building and grounds.
Plumfield also offers after-school supervised, work opportunities for industrious students, 11 years old and older. Skills learned in this process have included:
- mowing a lawn and weed whacking
- pruning a tree
- caring for a flower garden
- setting down tiles for a floor
- sanding and polyurethaning tables
- planting trees
Children grow in maturity as they are given opportunities to work alongside adults in meaningful work.
“Thank you for walking alongside our son this year and for loving all the Plumfield boys as they navigate challenges. You allow them to linger in the boyhood stage and still prepare them to be leaders.” – – Marcia Kercher
Plumfield Academy fosters a simple, Unhurried Childhood while carefully guiding students onto the path to wisdom and maturity.