Sunday, December 4, 2016

Looking for a Primary School by Annie Musselman

Maggie outside gathering and collecting.
When we began looking for Maggie’s primary school, I was overwhelmed by the choices, but also found it hard to find a place I felt would nurture her soul and allow her to grow peacefully, without loading academics on her at such a young age. More than anything, I wanted her exposed to all kinds of learning.
My husband’s aunt Pat introduced us to Camille, who we met at a family party in Port Townsend a couple years ago.  I loved her relaxed way and the kindness she exuded, and even remember wanting to be her best friend that evening! But beyond the besties day dream, I imagined her being an amazing teacher. And I was right.

When we visited Lake and Park in the spring for a tour, I couldn’t hold back my tears. Children were learning while classical music played softly in their classes; some were reading quietly on the stairs, while others were working together to make the most amazing block fort ever created. The whole school felt very special, as if it had been curated with all the finest possible tools for learning. To me it all glittered and sparkled (though, I suppose I was wiping away the tears.)
Maggie and classmates exploring a tree stump.
In our home, we try hard to expose Maggie and her little brother Jude to nature in as many forms as possible. We have allowed countless hours and space for nature in our lives, this has allowed Maggie to create that space in her life for nature. If I could count how many flowers, herbs, and objects of nature my daughter has given me as gifts over the years, our house would be overflowing with dried flora and fauna. I've had pockets full of beautiful things. In my life, I'm a conservation photographer, I focus on endangered species living in sanctuaries, particularly species which if saved would save countless other species as well. Maggie has always been right there with me, a true lover of the earth, the dirt, the flower and the beauty surrounding us. I very much hoped her school could continue to nurture this idea, and I believe Lake and Park does.
Maggie mastering the monkey bars. 
 There was barely any transition for Maggie at Lake and Park, she has been smiling nearly every day at pick up since she started, I couldn’t be happier.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Inclusion, Attention, and Social Growth: A Guest Blog by Erica Tiedemann

My husband, Bill, and I have made the Lake & Park School a priority in our charitable contributions for several years. As parents, we have had to develop new giving priorities with respect to our role in the community of families. Two basic principles guide us in our response to many of the appeals that we receive:
  1. We support the people and the programs that are important to our children.
  2. We are lucky to have access to excellent schooling and extracurricular activities. We give with the desire to make those programs stronger and available to more children.
After reminding ourselves of these principles, we find it easy to identify programs that deserve our support because we benefit by our own involvement with them year after year.

These principles alone do not explain why Lake & Park is a priority to us. Certainly, the children spend more time there than in other activities and that is a consideration. Lake & Park has become a priority because the school stands out in our experience for the personalized attention that each child receives.

Children in the multi-age classrooms have individual strengths in markedly different areas. Lake & Park teachers work deliberately to create a culture of social inclusion. They respond to all of their students and draw them to a common purpose.

The process is not always easy. Our graduate, Delphine once said, “You better try to get along because you have to go back and see those people every day.” Although you may read some frustration in these words, they also show Delphine’s growing understanding of the practice of getting along. It isn’t a gift, or magic, or luck -- getting along requires some trying every day in anticipation of the next day. She and her entire class spent good years at Lake & Park learning how to cultivate long-term relationships.   

Our current Lake & Park student, Ted, can be found at school running with the roiling swarm of 8-10 year old boys. Unlike Delphine, he had the good fortune to belong to a Lake & Park family when it came time for kindergarten. From day one, he adored Camille. To his great satisfaction, he logged hundreds of hours with the wooden blocks.

Halfway through that year, Ted had a medical setback that put him in intensive care for a week. He came back to school with new medication and a cloud of uncertainty hanging over him. We had no idea whether we were managing the problem well or if we might expect his body to continue to fail him.

Camille welcomed Ted back to school without fuss. She put his new emergency medication in a wallet on a string and wore it around her neck. Some weeks later she confided to me, “I don’t make anything of it, but I keep him close. That way I know how he is.”  

Camille’s actions helped to turn my attention from worry to my responsibilities as a caregiver. I built a small kit with instructions and medications that I could carry in my purse and hand off to supervising adults. A clear envelope containing Ted’s Emergency Care Instructions and seven days’ medication is the second generation of Camille’s neck wallet.

Today, Ted has gone more than four years without incident. We are still monitoring. We still keep him close. We are grateful every day that Ted is known so well at school.

The long-term relationships that were such a benefit for Delphine’s social growth give us a feeling of security with Ted. His teachers know and attend to him as they do all their students. We don’t have to worry that he might go quiet and get lost in a corner one busy day. Everyone at Lake & Park is working, or trying to work, together toward a common cause.

Lake & Park has become a priority for us among all the organizations where we are involved because we have benefitted so much from the culture of the place. With our continued support for the Annual Fund, want to help ensure the stability of the organization and we want other families to benefit as we have.