Archive for October, 2012

Clearwater Hosts Weekly Play Days

The Clearwater School's Play Days program provides an opportunity for toddlers, preschoolers and their families to experience our ground breaking model of education. Join us for open-ended play and parent education every Friday, from 9:30am to 12noon. No reservations are required and the program is free. At The Clearwater School learning happens through active exploration. Play Days allow young

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Greetings From an Alumna in Japan

(We received this post and photo from alumna Alice Yoe after the school invited her to join the upcoming alumni panel.)

Photograph by alumna Alice Yoe taken in her neighborhood.

Were it possible, I would love to drop in and be on the panel, but that might be a little bit tricky, considering that I’m a little… in Japan. I’m living in Fuji, Shizuoka–3 guesses what the view from my front door is–and teaching at an English conversation school while I study for my Japanese Language Proficiency Test! I’ve been here for about 7 months now (why else would I ever miss Flag Day?), and while I’m considering finding a new job and moving to Kobe or Osaka for largely-girlfriend-related reasons at the end of my current contract in Spring, I plan to stick around for a little while yet.

It’s great to hear from you. I remember when I was at Fairhaven, my parents were happy that I’d found somewhere so healthy for me, but my father in particular was worried about my future, had trouble understanding why it was so much better for me than a conventional school, and so on… An alumni panel sounds like a great way to help families with those concerns! I’d be more than happy to get up a little early on Saturday if we wanted to set something up with Skype and a projector or something, but an in-the-flesh appearance is sadly out of the question at the moment.

I think back on Fairhaven with the greatest of fondness; the freedom, the empowerment, and the loving community I found there still amaze me to this day. Without them–without everyone–I don’t know how I would ever have grown into myself the way I did in those years. Please send my love to everybody.!

Be well,
Alice Yoe

(Class of 2007)

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Learning all the time

Rising Tide School’s fourth year has begun wonderfully.  Everyone in the school is reaping the benefits of a school culture that has greatly matured over the life of the school.  The container for learning is stronger than every, as the students become blazingly confident in their own freedom, responsibility, and self-knowledge.  It is truly a privilege to learn amongst these young people!

This year I’ve been struck with how intense and full the days are.  Each person is truly learning all the time.  With zero time diverted to a required curriculum, each moment is fully, completely devoted to whatever is most interesting, challenging, and absorbing to each person.  The days are a continual flow of curiosity, exploration, and mastery as students seek out physical, mental, intellectual, and social challenges.

Margaret Wheatley, whose work is to explore how and why people can go on doing good work in difficult times, says that “Determination, energy, and courage appear spontaneously when we care deeply about something. We take risks that are unimaginable in any other context.”  That’s why she finds that people are at their most heroic in a crisis, and also, I think, why Rising Tide School students have the energy and resolve to keep learning all day, every day.  They have time and space to find out what they care deeply about.  That deep caring propels them through all kinds of difficulties, bringing them ever closer to the selves they imagine being.  And they become so very strong, powerful, and impressive as they move through obstacles, absorb new information, and integrate new skills.  They are truly people who will be able to thrive in whatever world awaits them when they leave the school as young adults.

This year, there will be many, many opportunities to support Rising Tide School, to help us grow, to provide financial sustenance, to aid in our site search (more info to come!) and to help people find out about this extraordinary learning space.  The ideas behind the school, which were once simply the dearest hopes of the the founders, have firmly taken root in a wonderful community of families.  The three teens who seek graduation this spring (our largest group of potential graduates yet!) are a wonderful testimony to the value of the Sudbury experience, and we want to the school to grow many more empowered, capable, compassionate, and completely unique young people.  We think this world needs all they have to offer!  We hope that you will stay in touch with the school, and join us in sustaining this place for many, many more young people.  If you’d like to make a first connection with the school, please come to an Open House this Sunday, from 1:30-3:30 at the school.  Find information and directions here.  We’d love to meet you!

posted by Abbe


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Unsolicited Evaluation Is the Enemy of Creativity

In schools today—and increasingly out of schools too—children are more or less continuously directed and evaluated by adults. These are precisely the conditions that have been shown, in many research studies, to suppress creativity. It is no wonder that children's creativity has declined in recent decades.

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Another Way to Understand Fairhaven School

“Education is a process of expansion—expanding strategies as writers, expanding knowledge as scholars, expanding concerns as citizens. Every class should be a community in which students safely and certainly expand their worlds.”

-Cole Swenson, poet and scholar

Although this quotation speaks to education in the narrower frame of traditional schooling and writing, if one substitutes “school” for “class” in the second sentence, Sewnson has succinctly captured the essence of Fairhaven School, hasn’t she?  Ours is indeed a “community in which students safely and certainly expand their worlds.”

Furthermore, her opening statement- “education is a process of expansion” – could not ring with more truth. One of the gifts of experiencing Fairhaven School is the opportunity to revisit its ideas and realities anew, always looking for fresh ways to name what happens here. For today, then, we try on the lovely, complex concept of expansion.

In many ways the founders of Sudbury Valley School and the founders of Fairhaven School did what we did because we think schools should more closely align with the way the world actually operates. Thus, we prioritize curiosity over compulsion. We establish student freedom and responsibility instead of control and restriction. The school environment we create, then, fosters the process of expansion that the poet Cole Swenson describes above. Here, young people grow in many ways. They grow stronger, as they are physically active. They grow emotionally, since they are working on their relationships (and thereby themselves) in an honest, egalitarian community. They grow intellectually, since they are enmeshed in the constant give and take of ideas and conversation at school, and because they are pursuing their interests because they want to do so.  All of these exemplify expansion.

Expand- verb

1. to increase in extent, size, volume, scope, etc.: Heat expands most metals. He hopes to expand his company.
2. to spread or stretch out; unfold: A bird expands its wings.
3. to express in fuller form or greater detail; develop: to expand a short story into a novel.

In our young people, this is what we seek, is it not? However, this post cannot end with mere expansion. My healer friends and my naturalist friends would not have it so.  In Chinese medical theory, every action has its opposite. Picture the ubiquitous yin-yang symbol. In nature, the same is true. High tide must follow low tide. Flowering leads to seeds falling to ground. Each expansion must have its contraction.
In terms of Fairhaven School, let’s assume that the expansion is aligned with the freedom here at school. Its partner then, its complementary counterbalance of contraction, aligns with  responsibility, best exemplified by the democratic processes at school. I f someone’s actions are too “expansive” and violate the school’s rules, the Judicial Committee will intervene. If someone has an outside-the-box idea, the weekly School Meeting must approve it, perhaps amending the idea (contracting it, if you will.) In addition to the democratic process, students themselves impose contraction as they grow and develop here. They discover their limits, shaping themselves into suitability for the world beyond our twelve acre oasis.
By the time he or she leaves Fairhaven School, a student here has practiced the delicate art of being a person, and has embarked upon the lifelong dance of expansion and contraction that is the ultimate metaphor for a life lived with meaning and awareness. (We will be hosting an Alumni Perpectives Night on October 26th which will be another opportunity to deepen your understanding of the ongoing educational process of a Fairhaven education.)
Mark McCaig
Fairhaven staff

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In Memoriam

On Friday, September 21st,  Fairhaven School lost a cherished member of its community. Tim Craighead, 24, was a student at Fairhaven from 2000-2004. When I heard the news on Sunday I immediately knew that I wanted to return to the school grounds with those I call my “Fairhaven family”.  Many others felt the same, so on Wednesday we gathered together for a bonfire in Tim’s memory. As we gathered around the fire we began to reminisce about the times we spent with Tim and of the kindness and compassion we received from him. Sometimes we sat in silence, and that was okay. It was so powerful to simply be in each other’s presence, back at the school where we had grown up together . It honestly felt like a family coming back home.

When talking about Fairhaven School, we often focus on how the philosophy works or how students learn about things such as personal responsibility or assertiveness from our self-directed curriculum, but we don’t talk as much about the things that mean the most to a lot of us.  To many of us, Fairhaven is more than a place where we can shape our minds. It is a place where we can shape our hearts.  We are not defined by the grades we earn, but by the bonds we create, and these bonds last a lifetime.

I was incredibly touched by what was said of Tim. Two other alumni, Ben Umstead and Kat Steigerwald, put some of their words in writing.

-Richard Morris (Fairhaven School Class of 2007)


One Gesture, Many Moments: In Memory of Tim Craighead

Tim Craighead was a philosopher.  He was a student of human behavior and a comedian of the utmost subtlety and finesse. Tim was a bass player (he was my sister Erin’s first bandmate). He was a gamer, a creator, and a voracious reader. He was a sharp, astute conversationalist. Sometimes he didn’t even need words to practice this art. After all, Tim was a philosopher, and aren’t the greatest lessons one can learn from such a soul the often wordless, often repeated ones? These are the lessons that can come in the form of a kind smile, a supportive gesture, or a quiet, caring gaze. Tim gave many a class on the art and discourse of caring; of just showing up, being present; of being a friend, without reservation, without judgment. One never had to hide one’s true self in the presence of such a teacher.

In the years following his time at Fairhaven School, Tim discovered a new passion — acting. When I heard about this, inklings of a collaboration between us began to form in my mind. He seemed to posses just the right kind of vulnerability, intelligence and nuanced naturalism that would be needed to help bring my sensitive artist alter-ego to the silver screen.  Earlier this year when he came down for Erin’s final show in Maryland,
I mentioned this to him. He smiled and nodded. He was taking a break from acting but had always wanted to do something on film as opposed to the stage, especially since many of his roles had been kind of garish and goofy in nature. He smiled again. In that moment I was reminded how Tim was a true ally on the front lines of the soul, that self, the world, the noise, that fear. He was a kindred spirit. That which I saw in him I saw in myself. I smiled and nodded, hoping to continue our conversation at a later date.

Tim was a son to Carolyn and James, and a brother to Geoff. Tim was a friend to Erin, Gabriel, Zach, Kat, Walter, Michael, Max, Richard, Caity, Gabi, Brianna, Andrew, Joe, Brett, Jared, Heidi, Melissa, Anderson Shannon, John, his fellow co-creators at the Fells Point Corner Theatre, and, of course, many, many others.

In sharing with you the many wonderful things that Tim was, I have yet to tell you one thing. This is perhaps the most important thing.
It was because he chose to share his brilliant gifts with others across life’s journey that Tim still IS…for that which we see in ourselves we see in Tim.

-Ben Umstead (Class of 2001)


Loving Memories

At Fairhaven School students are given the freedom to spend their days as they see fit. When I remember Tim, my wonderful friend and partner in crime, what comes immediately to mind are all the ways we used that time, wiling away our teenage years in the old building, in cars, on couches and online. One of my favorite memories is the day we decided it would be incredibly funny to have a contest to see who could stand at the sign-in sheet –without talking– the longest. We spent upwards of four hours trying to make each other laugh or somehow get the other person to cave in and leave their post. I’m not sure I’ve ever had so much fun not talking to someone! Looking back, I have no clue which of us won the contest, because we were really in it together.

Tim was someone who I never felt I had to compete with, or filter myself around, or explain myself to. We could be silly or serious, pontificate for hours about some wild idea one day or hang out without needing to say much at all the next. It’s impossible not to love someone who you feel that safe around, and Tim Craighead holds a lot of real estate in my heart. I would not be who I am today without his quiet, precious presence in my formative years. I love him dearly, and he is dearly missed.

-Kat Steigerwald (Class of 2004)

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