By Jennifer Drummond, That Got Me Thinking
This is part four of my five part series (read Part One, Part Two and Part Three), and after having my daughter there for the better part of a year, I am thrilled to tell you why our whole family thinks Plumfield Academy is an amazing place.
4. Plumfield helps many families under stress detox and begin to thrive. There is a lot of pressure on young families today and most schools (unwittingly or not) simply add to it. With strict and/or complicated tardy and absence policies, homework, extracurricular activities (some of which are required) and meetings, the effect on children is not helpful – or even healthful! Add to this mix financial pressures, family dysfunction and a host of other pressures, it’s little wonder that children are beginning to suffer more and more from conditions that were once considered “adult illnesses” (obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and migraines among others). It is common for new families to call in the mornings and hastily explain “We are running late” only to be told, “Relax. Drive safely. We’ll be here when you get here.” And it’s true. Plumfield realizes that students who arrive late but relaxed are in a far better state to learn than a student who might arrive on time but arrives with harsh angry words ringing in his ears or with an elevated heart rate from the stress of the morning. Fortunately, because of the Charlotte Mason methodology (reading primary sources and “living books,” as well as requiring narrations) students have the opportunity to take the books home, read on their own, have a discussion with their family and bring a written narration back to Plumfield. Thus, academic work is not missed; rather a student has the opportunity to engage with the material in a relaxed manner with his or her family.
This ties directly into #3, where the atmosphere of gentle learning is fostered. This gentle atmosphere seeps into the students, and spills over to the families, who can then begin to detox from the negative experiences they may have had. They can begin to positively interact with their child and with the material being studied. Once a student and family regain a level of sanity, they find that they begin to thrive. Plumfield understands that sometimes, sleeping in is the best medicine. Visiting grandma (for the afternoon or for a week out of town) delivers as much value for the student than an afternoon or a week at school. An extra half an hour outside on a warm spring day is the perfect antidote to bored and restless children’s growing bodies. It’s the Charlotte Mason methodology that allows both students and families that ability to fully engage with the academic work and fully participate in the rest of their lives.
If you are lucky (like we are) and your child isn’t suffering/recovering from a negative school experience, Plumfield is a place where your child can go from “fine” to “sparkling.” It’s been our experience (and confirmed by several other current families) that Plumfield has allowed a child the space to shine. Each student is honored as an individual – really! Students here are not afraid to talk about what interests them, be it American Girl dolls, antique coin collecting, playing the violin, dinosaurs, Harry Potter, soccer…the list is endless as each student feels free to explore and share his/her gifts and interests with the community at large. Because students feel valued and loved, they are much more free to show that same value and love with others and the beautiful cycle of respect and love continues.
On Valentine’s Day, the students prepare and serve breakfast to one another as a sign of love. They also share original love poems (can you imagine the safe space that must be fostered for the majority of students to feel comfortable doing so?) while Mr. and Mrs. Pension read Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning poems to one another. I didn’t realize it, but my daughter had written a poem about her teacher. It went along the lines of “I love Mrs. Yetts. Mrs. Yetts is so beautiful…” I know that Mrs. Yetts felt loved, but I also realized that my daughter felt so loved by her teacher, so loved to be able to compose a poem about it. My daughter was experiencing love – love toward and love from – another adult and it was beautiful to watch. I might have missed it if I had insisted that my daughter remain at home with me and not be allowed the chance to sparkle and shine at Plumfield.
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 shining or sparkling 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!