I want my kids to become independent and brave, willing to do what the herd may not consider. This means allowing (and even modeling) a tendency to question. Oh, the questions. If someone came up with a tax policy to compensate those who stay home with small children, a per-question rate needs to be involved. But this is how children learn, by asking how things work, why something would react in such a way and wondering what would happen if...
I even want my children to (respectfully) question authority and systems of power in place. However, this means allowing them to question my own authority and even my intentions when I set parameters for behavior in our home. On more than one occasion, I’ve chatted with my friend Katie about these challenges, lamenting, “it’s so hard to live your values!”
So when I see someone living their values, even when it’s hard, I’m inspired. I believe, again, it’s actually possible to live your ideals. I think to myself, “See! I can do it!”
Enter: The Overfield School. This is not a place where I drop my children off for a few hours and outsource my educational and parenting responsibilities. They won’t send my kids through an assembly line that magically transforms them to match an ideal prototype. That’s not what they do and that’s not what I need. Instead, the people of the Overfield community walk alongside our family in helping to develop our children into thoughtful, strong, brave and kind little humans.
Last year, and many years prior, Overfield had one of the best Fall Festival events around. Hay rides, pumpkins, face painting, games, pony rides and bounce houses. It was an all-out extravaganza which provided a fun afternoon and the lucrative raffle served as a primary source of funds for the school.
Yet the work required to host such an event required parents to burn candles at all ends. We had a few key families that put hours equivalent to a part-time (or full time!) job into the event and this year they simply could not take it on again. So, guess what Overfield leadership decided to do?
They decided to live their values.
How we spend our time and the way we marshall our energies are Reggio concepts central to the philosophy. As an organization, we believe in the power of play, the opportunity for exploration and that simple things make elaborate teachers. Our fall festival, while buckets of fun for many, contained an element of busyness and entertainment which simply isn’t a part of the Overfield DNA.
So they changed it.
This Saturday, Overfield families past and present are inviting the community to join us on the hill for an evening of what we do best: art in the meadow, songs around the campfire and hikes around the woods. It’s simple, it’s scaled-back and it’s Overfield. It’s an act of making space to savor the simple joys of childhood – as a family and as a group of families. Families will come to enjoy the evening together, sharing small shifts of work rather than being pulled into long commitments to make the festival happen. The sense of excitement around the campus for the event is electric, not exhausted. It feeds us rather than draining us.
Yes, Overfiled will have to make up the fundraising portion of the night in another way. From my view, leadership taking these steps of faith gives me courage to do the same. Most families that spend money on preschool have to rearrange the budget to do so, but we do it because we believe it’s worth it. We value it, so we’re trying to live like we do. No one promised it’s easy to live our values, only that it’s good. And when leadership puts its money where its mouth is, I’ll fall in line, wave a flag and become a cheerleader for the cause. These are the places that make me a better mom because they’re the places that teach my kids to be brave and make hard, but good, decisions, based on what we believe and not just what works or is easiest.
Often people wonder why we put our limited funds into something like preschool. But in the past few years, Overfield is much more than where my kids learn their letters. It’s a community of people who value certain things – like critical thinking, cooperative engagement and a lifelong love of learning – and we’re trying to instill them into our children the best we can. The communal aspect can’t be understated: when we do it together, and when we live our values as an organization, our families return home empowered to do the same.
In many ways, these preschool years have probably taught me the most of any of my educational experiences.