Below are questions (and answers) we have been asked at an Open House, family meeting, via email or over the phone.
Tell me about Plumfield Academy.
Plumfield Academy is a private, independent school which operates in a non-traditional environment. Our twenty four students meet in a large farm house built in 1875. Small tables set near windows are available for individual work. Classes, which meet around large tables, enjoy an 8/1 student/teacher ratio. Our students wear comfortable clothing which allows them to sled, build forts, and engage in other types of active outdoor play.
Your school meets in a home setting. How do you use the space?
Our home environment allows for feelings of acceptance, comfort, and security.
All seven rooms on the first floor are used. Each room has a different purpose and environment, e.g. couches, rugs, tables, computer desks, and cooking space. There is a sun room 26” X 22” which allows the entire group of 24 students to gather for community meetings.
The younger and older students are divided into smaller groups and use the appropriate room conducive to their needs.
Is this a Christian or faith based school?
As a learning community, we are inspired by the words, teachings, and actions of Jesus Christ found in the Gospels. His example and his living presence lead us into a way of life which brings love, reconciliation, peace, and justice into this world.
At Plumfield, we read the Gospels and selected Old Testament stories to inspire and challenge us to move deeper into this way of life. The Scriptures are read in community, but the children are left to respond to the text in their own way. Charlotte Mason said we should not “hinder the children,” but should allow each one to develop his/her own relationship with God. We support a naturally evolving spiritual life.
People who see themselves as spiritual, but not religious, experience Plumfield as a place of welcome and respect.
People who have been turned off by or hurt by negative church experiences have also found a home at Plumfield.
Finally, because our Scriptural reflection focuses on Gospel principles (drawn from the Sermon on the Mount), people from various Christian denominations have felt comfortable being at Plumfield. Areas of denominational differences are left to the parents to discuss with their children.
Is your school accredited?
Plumfield Academy is recognized as a private, independent school by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Education. Our curriculum was evaluated, approved and accredited by the Beverly, Lynn, and Danvers School Committees.
How do you teach children to read?
We believe children learn to read at their own pace as they mature and their brain develops, not on a fixed age/grade pre-determined schedule.
Students practice the skill of reading using the Wilson Reading System with a trained specialist, Explode the Code, Literature books, and/or self-selected books.
Comprehension is practiced through the narration (telling back) process in each area of learning, Explode the Code, and/or Wordly Wise 3000 Vocabulary Program.
How do you teach writing?
We believe there is an author in each child.
There are three steps or processes involved in writing (the art of telling a story or idea):
- The process of writing begins by reading well-written books. Over time, the reader naturally absorbs the vocabulary, sentence structure, language patterns, and ideas of great literature.
2. The next step is developing the ability to narrate or “tell the story.” We see this ability to narrate verbally as the foundation of writing.
3. The next step is written narration.
Once this ability to narrate in written form is well established, our 10yrs+ students participate in a weekly Writer’s Workshop. Students and tutor work to become more comfortable and proficient with the written word practicing many writing forms from essays to sonnets.
What do you do for math? How do you teach math?
We believe children have the natural desire and capacity to calculate, understand math concepts, and problem solve. We also believe they learn these skills at their own pace as they mature and their brain develops; not on a fixed age/grade pre-determined schedule.
We use a combination of methods and find the one which best suits each student. Our mathematicians use Saxon Math – Home School edition, Right Start Math, Singapore Math, Math-U-See and/or on-line programs. Integrated into the math time are unit studies, math games, hands-on manipulatives, partner circuit activities, and concept discussion groups.
What about science and technology?
We believe each child naturally enjoys discovering the relationship between themselves and their world.
We use hands-on units in Nature Study, Earth and Space Science, Life Science, Physical Science, and Engineering/Technology to engage our students in developing a relationship with the world around them. Our young scientists enjoy nature study field trips and trips to places, such as: MIT, the Science Museum, Blue Hill Reservation, and The Boston Aquarium.
How do you deal with the different levels (age mixing)?
We believe age mixing is real life and provides an opportunity for children to grow and mature by learning from each other.
For certain skills and subjects, students may be with younger or older peers according to their individual needs.
At various times, older students will have an opportunity to mentor younger children and accept the responsibility to guide them in the right direction. Younger students enjoy being brought into a relationship with an older student and live up to the expectations (maturity) of being with the older students.
What are your expectations for your students?
We expect our students (1) to work to the best of their ability, (2) to struggle through difficulties, (3) to develop their powers of attention, (4) to engage with the ideas presented and (5) to make this knowledge their own.
Plumfield embraces the educational conceptions of Howard Gardner, as expressed in his work Multiple Intelligences. Each year, through self reflection and discussion, our students engage with Gardner and come to understand his premise that: “There are different ways of being smart;” not everyone is equally gifted in every subject area.
Applying Howard Gardner’s framework provides our students with the self knowledge to honestly assess their strengths and weaknesses, and to develop strategies for subject areas in which they struggle, all the while maintaining the joy of learning.
What are your expectations for parents and families?
We encourage parents to raise their children in a gentle and balanced lifestyle, free from the many cultural pressures of our fast paced society. We ask parents to be in communication with us and to regularly review progress toward academic and relational goals.
What do you do for homework? How much homework do you give?
Our students are actively engaged in reading, thinking, and writing/illustrating all day long. Because of our methodology, there is no need for additional work to be done at night when children are already tired. We believe the evening hours should be a time when the family gently unwinds from the events of the day.
Consequently, following Charlotte Mason’s lead, we do not assign traditional homework to students in grades 1-7. If there is a genuine need for a child to do additional work at home, we believe (1) The work should be tailored to the academic need of the child, and (2) It should be carried out according to the discretion of the parent. Only the parent knows what can be peacefully accomplished on a given night.
Why do you have an hour of lunch and free time?
We believe play is a child’s work and old fashion play time builds serious life skills.
Engaging in play that is not “adult initiated” allows children (and teenagers) to accomplish the following important life tasks: develop their own creativity; work through conflicts that naturally arise; mimic and practice “grown-up life;” build confidence and leadership skills; practice the art of negotiation and compromise; balance hard work with sheer delight; learn new skills and try new things; wonder and wander about God’s creation; mull over complex and complicated ideas in the literature they are reading; enjoy the freedom of making their own choices. In the absence of free play, growth in executive function is diminished.
Do you go on field trips?
We have field trips on average twice a month. We visit local nature areas (Endicott Park, Lynn Woods, Glen Magna Farm, Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, etc.), museums (Museum of Science, Aquarium, Peabody Essex, Fine Arts, etc.), Educational Non-profits (MIT, Northeast ARC, Salem Animal Shelter, LifeBridge in Salem, etc.)
Do you have structured classes? A schedule?
We believe people and groups need structure and organization to be effective and live well.
Each week has its own schedule with language arts, math, skills, and literature daily. History, science, art, music, Latin, leadership, scripture and nature study are once or twice a week.
How long is the school day? Do you have before and after school care?
8:30am to 2:30pm.
We do not have before and after school care, although some families work together to plan play dates.
What celebrations do you share as a community?
We celebrate each child’s birthday with cake and candles. At Literary Luncheons, students make pizza and discuss the literature book just completed. During Writer’s Tea, students share blueberry pie while they read their literature papers to each other. Valentine’s Day begins with a breakfast and “things we love” poems. St. Patrick’s Day ushers in corned beef and cabbage, homemade breads, and Irish music. Students take charge by decorating the tables and preparing the food for all celebrations including the Seder Meal at Passover.
We have family get-togethers throughout the year and our Parent Advisory TeamBoard of Trustees hosts alumni and benefactor gatherings.
What schools do your students attend after they graduate?
Plumfield graduates have enrolled in these high schools: Andover High School, Beverly High, Bishop Fenwick, Covenant Christian, Essex Technical, Granite State Arts Academy, Malden Catholic, Manchester Essex Regional, Nazareth Academy, New Hope Tutorials, Pingree School, St. John’s Prep, St. Joseph Prep, and Salem High.
Our graduates, after high school, have gone on to study at these colleges: Assumption College, Boston College, Bridgewater State University, Dean College, Florida State University, Harvard University, Holy Cross, Loyola University, Northeastern University, North Shore Community College, St. Anselm’s College, Salem State University, and University of New Hampshire.
Some of our graduates have advanced degrees and are: Actors, Development Staff, Educators, Lawyers, Health Care Specialists, Nurses, Park Rangers, Program Managers, and Theater Directors.
How do you deal with relational conflicts?
We believe children want to get along and are willing to find ways to work things out.
We facilitate an attitude and atmosphere of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control, mercy, forgiveness, compassion.
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 their 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.
Do you enroll children on the autism spectrum?
We are sorry to say, we do not have the qualified staff required to meet the needs of these students.
Do you take children who have an academic IEP?
Yes, depending on our staff ability to meet the needs of each child. We find that our methodology, individual attention, and small size meets the accommodation needs of many students from other larger settings.
What is the tuition?
$13,340.00 per year. This includes all costs; there are no additional book, materials, clothing, or participation fees.
Do you follow the public school calendar?
We follow the Danvers Public School calendar for holidays and the February and April vacations. Our winter break (over Christmas and New Year) is two weeks.
We begin the Tuesday after Labor Day and end the second Friday in June.
Snow days – we are closed on days Danvers cancels school due to weather. Parents always use their discretion for school attendance.