A Peregrine Elementary
School Parent, 2017
By the time my daughter had arrived at Peregrine, she had been through more than any young child should have to endure. She started school the usual way, beginning with preschool at the age of 3. But right from the start I knew this was not going to be an easy transition, not going to be the way I had it planned in my head, or the way it seemed for every other child who waved goodbye to their parent at the door and played happily for hours on end with the other children. No, our mornings always started with tears, confusion and despair. It was heartbreaking. And exhausting. I questioned myself constantly. What are we doing wrong? We kept pushing. Every day was trying to come up with new ways of bribing her to school. Since she was a summer baby, we chose to wait to enroll her in kindergarten until she turned 6, instead of just turning 5. To all of our surprise, Kindergarten went great. She loved it. But then first grade came, and by the middle of second grade, we knew beyond a doubt that this was beyond the normal dislike of school. And it was taking a toll on everyone. After meeting with her pediatrician, and several other medical professionals, it was discovered that she was suffering from 3 types of anxiety. Separation, social, and something called Selective Mutism. This is where the anxiety is so severe, that the child is unable to speak, answer, or look at pretty much anyone other than her family. All of these components, not being able to cope in a social setting, or being able to ask for help from a teacher was basically the main essentials needed for a child to succeed in school, and she was struggling. Needless to say, while I did everything in my power to help my child, I knew that the source of her anguish was school. The number of children, the noise, the chaos, all took a toll on her. It took everything she had to keep it together at school, and she would fall apart each afternoon at home. There was no way I could continue making my child live this way every day. In a constant state of fight or flight.
A Peregrine Elementary
School Graduate, 2016
Before joining Peregrine in its first year as an elementary school, I had no experience with project based learning or the concept of a school that would be able to cater to every student that attended. I had learned to associate my time at school with feelings of social anxiety and insecurity by the time that I enrolled in fifth grade and was beyond nervous to be starting over somewhere I knew nothing about, but within my first couple months there I came to the realization that I was more comfortable there then I ever had been at my previous school. There was an interesting sense of community between the kids in my class knowing that we were embarking on this kind of “journey” together, and even switching classrooms and buildings throughout the year, including a brief stint of holding class in my own house, didn’t deter us from becoming fast friends. Encouraged mingling between the different grades also allowed us to make friends with and give advice to younger kids who we’d see every day at lunch or recess. We interacted with everybody at school, not just people in our grade or the teachers that taught us regularly - everyone knew everyone else by name, and we operated on a system of respect that allowed the teachers to talk to us like we were real people and not just little kids.
Beyond the unlimited social freedom, the project-based learning we did was a fascinating transition into actually wanting to participate in class. We trampled huge sheets of butcher paper into pools of coffee and made our own cave drawings to study pre-civilization art; we learned how to speak publicly and how to read books critically instead of simply absorbing them; we gave presentations at the public library to people that extended outside of our families and teachers; we learned how to solve conflicts by talking about them instead of letting them simmer and learned the power of meditation; we even hung out in the classrooms after school, writing stories together, exploring the campus and talking about our upcoming projects.
I’ve now been in project-based schools for almost five years. My passion and involvement in school today is totally correlated to the sense of healthy stress and excitement related to being involved in group projects, and I believe Peregrine provided an easy segway into this kind of learning and the idea of taking agency over your own education.