What We Have Gained (and You Might, Too)
From the Cloverleaf Experience
My son is getting ready to move on from Cloverleaf to a new school. We are excited about the coming year, but leaving Cloverleaf (at least as a student family) will be bittersweet. We have all come so far since Joy, Greg, Julie, Mark, and I sat down at a table in a Decatur coffee shop and asked each other, “Can we really start a school?” and were joined by a group of extraordinary people with the vision to make that happen.So our family has been reflecting a lot on what we have learned from our experience here and how it might affect our future.
Mom and Dad Have Learned, Too
My husband and I have found out that getting out of the way and letting (good) teachers teach is a good idea. A great teacher is open to parental communication and input, but informed about innovative, research-based curricula that will best serve any student. We have found that returning to basic concepts like handwriting and phonics gives students a foundation on which to scaffold more sophisticated language skills later. We have found that it is important to learn both basic math facts and to find the individual math strategies that work for our kid. One size does not fit all in learning.
We have seen student-based inquiry (where kids pick some of the things they would like to learn about) improve research skills, help students integrate subjects across disciplines, and bolster their enthusiasm for learning. Our son’s current Apollo rocket project is challenging his math, science, social studies, English, and library skills all at once. And he is loving it!
We have learned that movement is an integral part of learning: at Cloverleaf it is worked into and between every class in some way or another. In this way, my son has discovered strategies to work with his body’s impulse to move – to “regulate his engine,” as he has learned. Sometimes small movements help him to prevent large blowups. Having acquired a greater understanding of the use of his body, my child can sometimes actually use his ADHD as a learning asset to power creative thinking, interdisciplinary synthesis, and hyperfocus for sustained work.
We have learned that good teachers can teach the whole child. To be successful, a child needs to learn more than just math and language arts. He (or she) needs to be aware the impression he makes on others. He needs to learn how to be a good colleague, friend, and citizen, displaying empathy for others and an awareness of people’s occasional need for privacy and space. Social skills are also part of the job of any truly integrated curriculum.
What We Are Thankful For and What We Will Miss
Focused, differentiated instruction from caring teachers and support from dedicated staff – Ms. Jessie’s sweetness, Ms. Emily’s solidity, Ms. Jen’s enthusiasm, Mr. Jason’s positivity, Ms. Morgan’s groundedness, Ms. Katherine’s perseverance, and Ms. Cristina’s energy. And don’t forget our absent but beloved Ms. Sarah and the facilitators, Erin and Christine, who work for individual boys, but who feel like the team.
An amazing afterschool program that has kept our son physically and mentally active and made him feel as if he truly has friends.
Awesome field trips – too many to name, but highlights have included:
Crash pads and jumping contests.
Going to school barefoot.
Ari the Wonderdog.
Regular hiking outings at school with friends.
The generosity, hard work, and good wishes of so many people in this community and beyond – once again, too many to thank, but who hopefully have been thanked in our blog and on Facebook, who made this educational experience possible for our son and for those to come after him.
And of course, our awesome Cloverleaf kids and their awesome families – we love you!
What We Will NOT Miss
(Because We’ll Take ’Em with Us!)
A more confident, healthy kid.
A kid who has legible handwriting.
A kid who can write a brief, detailed essay.
A kid who recently snuck a book under his covers so he could stay up all night reading it (incidentally, we used to have to force him to read, and now he reads at a high school level).
A kid who loves math and who loves to build things.
A kid who still faces challenges but now has tools to meet them.
The friends who started this thing with us and their families who put up with us, our Cloverleaf Family (in no particular order): Joy, Greg, and Oscar; Julie, Ken, Edmund, and Gareth; Katherine, Eric, Ansley, Henry, and Zoe; Emily and Philip; Jen and Dave; Jessie and Tim; Sarah and John; Matt, Cristina, and Lorelei; Jason, Rose, Boston, and Aero; and Toral, Chirag, Tenzin, and Tara. Words are not enough. Really.
We can’t wait to see what’s next!
By Susan Anderson