My son was coming home from school, grabbing me by the arms, and growling in 3rd grade. He was getting good grades and was well-behaved, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that something was wrong. When he got out of the car to walk into school, I could see him stiffen up, preparing to go into the stress of the day. It killed me to see it. No eight year old should have to put on defenses to weather their day. He deserved to be relaxed and happy at school. In tears, I went into the woods, dropped on my knees and begged for guidance. I heard two words, “Home School”. I called the only parent I knew who home-schooled her children. When I told her I agreed with Aristotle’s philosophy (children should learn through playing until the age of twelve), she said, “I have the school for you.” It was almost summer, and Fairhaven School would be opening in the Fall. We were blessed enough to be able to help build that first building. The support from the school community was amazing.
What was more amazing to me was the relaxed demeanor of the parents and staff with the children. They were actually allowing their children to jump and play in dirt piles. I didn’t hear them saying, “Be careful, you’ll get dirty” or “be careful you’ll get hurt!” They were just allowing their kids to play. The kids seemed freer somehow. We signed our son up.
For the next 9 years he attended Fairhaven School. The school had no structured classes. If our son wanted to learn something, he had to initiate it. He played a lot of computer games. My husband and I worried. Were we being neglectful parents? Were we being irresponsible? Were we sending our son down a path to failure in the “real” world? What about study skills? Our whole way of thinking was challenged by this new idea of how children learn.
But I’d look at him when he came home from school, and he was genuinely happy. He loved his school; he loved his life. The light in his eyes that had begun to dim when he was in his previous school had come back full on. He LOVED computers. He told us how it was teaching him strategy and lots of other things that I don’t remember because I was too busy worrying. I just knew that when I took a deep breath and trusted my instincts, they said to keep him where he was happy and thriving and we did.
Our son graduated from Fairhaven in 2006. After attending a local community college for 1 year where he maintained a 4.0 both semesters, he was accepted into DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, Washington. It shares a building with Ninetendo of American and shares a neighborhood with Microsoft. He just completed his first year of college with 6 A’s and 3 A-‘s. His major is “Real Time Interactive Simulation”. In layman’s terms, that’s coding computer games. He’s going to play for the rest of this life. Thank God for Fairhaven. There he learned that it was ok to be himself,that is was great for him to follow his dreams and that he was capable of making happen whatever he needed to make happen to realize his goals.
If your kid is struggling and unhappy in the school they are currently attending, you may want to try letting them spend a visiting week at Fairhaven and see that light come back into their eyes.
A Parent of a Fairhaven School Alumnus