Holiday Faire 2014

It is almost time for our annual Holiday Faire!

This is a wonderful, free family event with crafts for all ages, music, children’s activities, gently used toys and books, and a stunning array of handcrafted and natural gifts for purchase. Please bring your family and friends to enjoy a beautiful day welcoming the holiday season.

Friday, November 21,  6 – 9 pm for adults

Friday evening gives an opportunity to shop out of sight of ‘little eyes’ for a wide range of unique gifts including high quality children’s items.

Saturday November 22, 10 am – 4 pm for families.

Saturday is a festive family celebration with music and marionette shows, lots of craft activities too.  The hugely popular Crystal Cave, filled with tiny gnomes and twinkling lights will open for young visitors and outside will be pony rides on our beautiful woodland campus.

Holiday Faire Location
300 Kingstown Road
West Kingston, RI

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What Makes Our School Unique

Jennifer Farrelly, the Meadowbrook Waldorf School Administrator has been a part of this community for many years in various capacities.  She has two children currently enrolled and is the mother of three alumni. 

cover (476x640) We are proud of our school and the quality of the education we offer here and it’s a pleasure to be able to share it with those who visit us to attend an Open House, Visitor Day and other community events.  Meadowbrook was recently granted accreditation by both AWSNA (Association of Waldorf Schools in North America) and NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges).  AWSNA is the national affiliate of the worldwide Waldorf Education movement and NEASC is the oldest accrediting institution in this country.  We’ve always known by the quality and character of our graduates that we are doing a worthy job of educating children however it is very satisfying to have an independent group of educators and administrators validate our work.  In celebration of our school’s 35th birthday  I would like to share with you four things that I believe make us unique.

First of all, from the time I was a new parent in the school with a 3 year old in tow the school has been an incredible resource for me as a parent.   The teachers here consciously take up helping parents navigate the trials and tribulations of raising children.  Because the class teacher journeys with the children from grade to grade they get to know the child and the family quite well!  In a sense each one of my children gained a 3rd parent, luckily for them a parent who has been formally educated in child development.  This partnership between the families and the school creates a stable environment in which children can learn and make mistakes.  This partnership has meant that my children have

  • another adult in their lives who knows their strengths and weaknesses intimately,
  • another adult dedicated to helping them to overcome their daily challenges so they can reach their full potential as individuals,
  • someone actively setting an example that learning is a lifelong process,
  • someone who understands how important it is to be worthy of imitation because children need adults they can look up to and emulate.

Imagine the impact on society if all children had adults consciously holding them in this way.

SSim (640x506)The second thing I would like you to know is that the children are held in the center of every decision we make at Meadowbrook.  We work with a different management model from the typical top-down institutional hierarchy.  All work begins by considering “How will this benefit the children?”  “Is this what is best for the children?”  This practice encourages us to think creatively rather than defensively while identifying priorities.  Parents participate in shaping the life of the school through our active parents association that works with faculty and staff .  Our shared child-centered approach in all areas allows us to make extraordinary educational experiences available to the students.

The third thing you should be aware of is that Waldorf education is not meant to be a private education only available to the well to do.  Our mission statement says that we strive to offer this education to those who seek it here and invite a community which reflects the breadth and diversity of humanity.  We honor that portion of our mission statement by keeping our tuition as affordable as possible, currently at 50% of other RI independent schools.  We also have a tuition adjustment program that honors each family’s individual circumstances and ability to pay.  This can make annual budgeting challenging but we manage every year through the generous support of our community.

The last thing I would like you to know about us is that we are a learning community preparing to meet the future.  All of the adults that serve the mission of the Meadowbrook Waldorf School are committed to a path of self development and thoughtful engagement with the world.  With life becoming ever more complex we recognize that today’s children require more than intellectual training if they are to be successful.  We are a community that consciously strives to live the values that prepare children to meet the future as hopeful resilient individuals.

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The Freedom of a Waldorf Education

As the archivist for the MWS Parents Association, my role at the monthly meetings is to record the conversation then organize the notes into an accurate report for distribution to the parent body.  Somewhat like a news reporter, I try to not color what is said with my own ideas and opinions so that parents not present can simply read what was discussed without my commentary.   

This school year we invited faculty representatives to present an educational topic at each meeting for group study.  At the last meeting of this year, 6th grade class teacher Andrew Gilligan brought his incredible energy to discuss with us what it means to be a Waldorf School.  He presented with such passion and reverence I found it stifling to dilute it for the regular meeting minutes so I am sharing here what I took away from the discussion, not the least of which is an incredible gratitude that people such as Andrew Gilligan exist and take deeply into their own souls the responsibility for educating children in a way that goes much deeper than the practical curriculum of reading, writing, and math.  

Educational Freedom

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Andrew Gilligan began his discussion about the importance of Waldorf Education in the world and what it means by asking us to think about the word freedom.  As parents, we exercise our freedom to choose the type of education that best fits the needs of our child.  Waldorf Education exercises its freedom as an independent school system, free from the full weight of government regulation.  Waldorf philosophy (or pedagogy) views children as free beings who come with unique gifts to bestow upon the world.  The children are granted the freedom to enjoy childhood.  The education itself is intended for children to grow into adults who are confident in exercising their own freedom to be who they are meant to be.

Educating for an Unknown Future

Children are the lifeblood of human society.  Children are, quite literally, our future.  While this is a popular media catchphrase, the gravity of this is taken quite seriously by teachers.  Our children will become the adults that make the decisions in our world.  The root of the word education means to draw out.  Waldorf educators abide by the philosophy that their primary role is to remove hindrances so that children are able to bring their own ideas out into the world.  This stands as a stark counterpoint to the general idea that a proper education ‘fills up’ the child with information, information that may or may not be relevant when the child is grown.  As a teacher Mr. Gilligan asks: “How is the gesture of education able to draw out the capacities that lie within the child?”  “How can we educate this child for freedom?”

We prepare a child of today for an unknown world of tomorrow by allowing them to know their own self, to rely on their inner strength, and by allowing them their own freedom within the moral compass of knowing that they must take responsibility for that freedom.  We do this by holding a quiet knowing of what childhood ought to be, by allowing them the freedom to fully experience childhood.

Education Begins with Healthy Relationships

Waldorf educator and author, Gary Lamb describes a Holy Trinity of Education made up of parents, teachers, and children.  The basic foundation of a healthy school is healthy relationships, where no one is given authority to make a decision about a child unless that individual knows the child in question and bears some responsibility for the education of that child.  No outside agency, (government, academic or industrial) should be involved in making policy decisions about education unless directly involved in providing that education to the children concerned.  If children are to be free to develop to meet the future they must be free of the demands of present economic and political considerations.  Waldorf Education is child-centered meaning all decisions regarding that education are driven by the needs of the individual child and the class in question.  Using the Holy Trinity of Education those decisions are made by the child’s parents and teachers.

pedagogical artistIndividuality in Education

In a Waldorf School, the teacher is a pedagogical artist with the freedom to bring his or her own particular interests, experiences, and skills to the students, enriching the curriculum with deeper meaning.  Public school colleagues are limited in this capacity, not because they lack the understanding or do not feel the gravity of their responsibility, but because their freedom is restricted by school systems regulated by the need to provide quantifiable results and that evaluate success according to metrics based on standards unconnected to the child’s individual capacities.  Within the Waldorf curriculum teachers are free to make choices that meet the needs of the class, assessing progress and evaluating the process as it relates to the children concerned.

Freedom to Invest in an Education

As parents we know our children, their needs and gifts, better than anyone.  As parents we have the freedom to choose the educational system we feel is the best fit for our children.  However, the cost of attending an independent school may mean some parents are unable to act on their choices.  Parents in Waldorf Schools are partners in their children’s education not only by working with the teacher in support of the work done in the classroom, but by sustaining community life and helping alleviate financial pressures through volunteerism.

Mr. Gilligan offered that it is a brave choice to become a part of a  Waldorf School. It is a free choice, not something foisted upon you and it requires a personal investment.  What it calls on us to do is to rise up and hold ourselves accountable, to sharpen our responsibility of soul.

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Freedom to Pursue Their Life’s Work.

As a parent listening to this talk, I was repeatedly moved by the depth of commitment expressed by Mr. Gilligan.  Most parents if asked, I imagine would say that what they want is for their children grow into happy, well adjusted adults.  To me this means that they will pursue what they are passionate about, something that is soul satisfying and that they can fully immerse themselves in.   What became clear to me while listening to Mr. Gilligan is that in choosing a Waldorf School, I have surrounded my children with adults doing exactly that.  Adults who felt a calling and pursued it, a calling they are free to fully inhabit to the benefit of the children.  With adults they respect, doing their life’s work with integrity and passion, the children are being shown daily that they are free to do the same.  I can’t think of a better place for my children.

Building the Future Together

Celebrating the Past, Weaving the Present, Lighting the Future

In January the Meadowbrook Waldorf School community came together for a day of long range planning. The turning of the year is traditionally the time when those working at Meadowbrook set their intentions for, and make commitments to, the future of the school. Nearly 50 parents, teachers, staff, alumni and board members put aside their day to day tasks to focus on the overall well being and direction of our organization. As the MWS Mission states; This school endeavors to nurture living organizational structures which cultivate respect, trust and love for the developing human being. In this spirit of endeavor, the Board of Trustees invited the breadth of the Meadowbrook community to help generate ideas and momentum to guide us through the next three to five years of growing together.

LRP SuRu (640x409)This summer MWS will celebrate its 35th birthday. We have a rich history to consider as we contemplate moving forward. What is it about Meadowbrook that makes it so special? Several community members were invited to share personal experiences that illustrate the essence of our school and what they value about it. We laughed and cried as founding teachers, current and alumni parents, as well as Trustees past and present shared their impressions.

They spoke of how the beauty of an early childhood classroom drew them into a world of different possibilities for their child’s education. With space to play and time to develop skills naturally, children surprised their parents with their confidence in their own capacities and ability to learn.  We heard how the wisdom of the Waldorf curriculum in its academic aspect is receiving increasing validation from mainstream research. We also heard about the importance of the moral education our students benefit from as they prepare to take their places in an increasingly complex society.

honoring AmyAlumni parents told how a shared sense of being ‘comfortable within one’s own skin’ had helped form class communities that continue to support each other long after graduation. There is an almost indefinable quality to Meadowbrook graduates. As they continue their education teachers remark on their competence, resilience and initiative. They are citizens of the world who exhibit multiple intelligences and show leadership in their abilities to influence group dynamics around them. As one alumni parent put it, this ‘return on investment’ was more than he could ever have expected when he enrolled his child in the kindergarten that used only one color of paint at a time.

LRP Doug P (493x640) Parents also become enrolled when they join the MWS community. We recognize that volunteerism is at the heart of Meadowbrook and a common theme in this opening segment was the transformation and personal development each speaker had experienced through involvement with the school. As children blossomed in their new school environment, new parenting styles developed and family lives changed accordingly. Career tracks altered course as parents became teachers and administrators. Three treasurers, past and present shared what volunteering their service to the school had meant to them personally but also how MWS methods of working had impacted their corporate lives.

After years of makeshift accommodations Meadowbrook moved into its permanent home seven years ago. Our community had to overcome many challenges to reach this point. We have always had to work thoughtfully to build strong relationships, and to think creatively to balance our budget. The financial considerations of paying tuition or being employed at MWS continue to be challenging. However, as we worked with facilitator Walt Galloway, it became clear that we deeply value our community. We value our relationships with one another and recognize that they are consciously held and cared for. Anthroposophy provides a foundation that fosters our understanding of all human beings and of each other. We hold expectations of respect, kindness and grace. We have faith in the power of the curriculum and in the ability of our faculty and staff to deliver it.

Moving into the planning stage of the event, we distilled four areas of interest for future focus.

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The Relationship of MWS to the Wider Community: Outreach 

This group discussed ways of raising the profile of MWS and its activities, and to educate the wider community about Waldorf education. It is hoped that a renewed focus on who we are and what we bring to our students and the community would increase enrollment and contributions of material benefit to the school. We are seeking opportunities to showcase what we do well and tell our story with an authentic human voice that others can understand. We must also listen and learn what individuals and society are looking for that we may be able to provide. Imagine what the world would be like if all schools were Waldorf schools! This group asked: How do we bring people in so they can personally experience our school and this education? What enrolls people in the spirit of the school and the tasks we undertake?

The group came up with several ideas to support outreach including:

  • Create a team of volunteers and educate them to be ‘Ambassadors’ able to go out into the world and represent us
  • Create a campaign each year with a theme that Ambassadors would use to represent MWS at various public events
  • Indentify topics that will bring people in and engage them in aspects that are essential to Waldorf Education
  • Network within existing relationships, local small businesses and other like minded organizations
  • Find ways to have articles about our school printed in Renewal and local publications
  • Expand our relationships with area colleges (we currently host visitors/ interns from CCRI and Brown).  This could include sending our faculty and staff to area colleges as guest lecturers.

gr 2 girlsIn-reach: Fostering Our Culture of Care and Concern for Others  

As we transition from our pioneering origins to being an established community, it becomes more important to create opportunities to bring together parents, friends and extended family, alumni and alumni parents. It is also important that the community schedule includes play and allows time to breathe. Our relationships are strengthened when we have good communication and a common understanding of the organization supported by continuing education for parents and staff..

  • How effective are the means of communication we use now, and what improvements could we make?
  • How do we forge strong connections with new employees and parents joining the school?
  • How can we support faculty and staff so they feel supported?
  • Which resources do we have within our community to support each other? E.g. volunteer skills, material resources, new ideas such as sharing community grown produce.

Michaelmas 363Preserving and Protecting What is Here 

This group chose to identify what we value most about MWS and generate ideas to assure that these things are preserved, protected and passed on. Important features of our school included:

  • The teachers’ freedom in carrying out the curriculum in accordance with their deep knowledge of the class
  • That an appropriate level of childhood is preserved throughout  the student’s entire MWS experience
  • That children develop their own individualities and the community allows and encourages this
  • That we support children with special needs

We hold anthroposophy as the foundation of our curriculum and our community life, with its core values of simplicity, truth, beauty and goodness. The study of anthroposophy within the bodies of the school, including the MPA, strengthens the integrity of the Waldorf curriculum and enhances the students’ experience of childhood. Adult education, such as the MWS Orientation to Service and opportunities shared with the wider community, preserves our sense of community and develops both our relationships and the institution.

The group suggests that all bodies of the school participate in capturing our core themes and values, and finding opportunities to communicate them. They also recommended creating community wide events such as a Shepherd’s Play to enliven our relationships through play as well as work.

Space to Breathe, Move, Play & Interact  

The simple act of bringing people into our space is one of the most important ways we have of educating new-comers about the essence and values of our school.  As we consider how to develop the school there is a spirit of place that we need to be conscious of in our work. We value the connection to nature our campus allows and the physical activity that this education makes possible here. We have identified that surrounding our community with beauty is a priority.

Ideas to address program and community needs, and to increase enrollment included creating the following:

  • Community gathering space
  • Additional space for Early Childhood
  • Separation of handwork & woodwork space
  • Space for after school activities
  • Space for faculty work
  • Tutoring rooms
  • Outdoor classrooms

The group suggested that space needs identified during the accreditation process should be prioritized by faculty and staff, and that the master plan for the campus is reviewed.  A building committee should be formed to oversee the structural needs of the school.  Long range needs such as additional buildings need to be explored and short term changes in the use of existing space should start this summer.

This Long Range Planning event was only a beginning. A full report was written and circulated amongst all who had taken part in the discussions and a copy will kept on file and be made available to the community. From it, task lists and timelines will be constructed. From each of the four groups, an initial list was compiled of those interested in continuing the work. Meadowbrook’s history and the spirit in which this day of planning took place show us to be a thoughtful and resourceful community, concerned for each other and for the healthy development of our school. As the focus groups reconvene to consider the next steps needed, you might consider what you could bring to the effort; ideas, skills, goods and services are all of great value as we move into building the future together.

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To learn more about the work of the focus groups contact the facilitators:

Outreach: Beth Riungu

In-reach: Walt Galloway

Preserve & Protect: Tabitha Jorgensen

Space: Jennifer Farrelly