Wee Question: So What’s the Deal With a “Quaker Education?”

We talked to one of the city’s beloved Quaker schools — Germantown Friends School — to get the scoop on the meaning and benefits of the Friends tradition in education. Read more

germantown friends school

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When Germantown Friends School opened its NEW, Center City-based early education center last fall, people (including us!) were psyched: First, there’s no saturation point for preschools and Pre-Ks in this city; second, GFS has a really great reputation as one of the area’s premiere Quaker schools–one of the region’s premier schools in general, actually.

Nevertheless, we’ll admit that we’re not as well-versed in what a Quaker education entails as we could be, considering Philly’s deep Quaker roots. So we asked Hannah Caldwell Henderson, GFS’s Chief Advancement Officer (and a GFS graduate), to clue us into the GFS mission and how its Quaker philosophy lives within the educational experience, beginning in its early childhood program and continuing through high school.

Wee: So can you give us a little overview as to what we mean when we talk about Quaker education?
Hannah: Quaker education is a philosophy that’s built on the spiritual practice of the Religious Society of Friends. There is one fundamental belief that drives everything that Quakers do, and that is this: Each person has a measure of what we call the “inner light,” meaning that every single person has the divine within. That’s really the most important principle from which everything we do radiates. For instance, our educational philosophy is built on a high degree of trust in the fundamental goodness of people. This, of course, doesn’t mean that we are all able to act in that spirit all the time — but it is a powerful premise, and one that guides us. So, we are always working to build on that trust with one another.

It also translates into a testimony of equality, which is emphasized all over our campus and curriculum. You’ll find a remarkable sense of equality in the classroom; the teacher is a co-learner, learning catalyst, and guide, rather acting in the more conventional role of being simply a disseminator of knowledge. We also interpret the testimony to mean that each individual is special and important in their own way. Students are encouraged to listen to and consider all voices – those of their peers, staff, neighbors, and those they may not agree with.

Community is important — it’s another “testimony” of Quaker education. At both our Center City and main campus, our kids learn to interact with different people from different backgrounds, and we do a lot of projects around being part of the community around them. We emphasize that the process of education is this search for truth, and that truth isn’t necessarily a finite thing, but a moving target that the community comes together to try to uncover — and so learning is a communal effort, as is decision-making. This collaborative approach also helps our students think critically about how their decisions and actions impact others. There are other “testimonies” we focus on as well: simplicity, peace, integrity, the equality aspect that I mentioned, and stewardship.

I will also add that in keeping with honoring the light in every person, there’s an individual element that works to foster agency and voice. Quakers have a history of questioning and inquiry, and so we focus a lot on learning to ask wonderful, thoughtful, deep questions that challenge norms. And of course that’s a process that starts with our youngest students. Quakers also have a long history of social action, pacifism, and nonviolence, which continues to be an important part of our school culture.

What about the religious aspect? I assume not every student at GFS is a Quaker?
Our school is open to all students — In fact, the population of students who are actually Quaker is typically less than 10 percent. We have students of all faiths, as well as students who are agnostic or atheists. We believe that diversity in all aspects — race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status — is fundamental to education. Again, it gets back to the idea of learning being the act of collectively “seeking truth”– something that requires varied experiences and perspectives, and can’t be done in isolation.

Do the kids attend a traditional Quaker Meeting?
Yes, all of our students attend Meeting for Worship by division once a week. There they sit in silence for an age-appropriate amount of time, open to the messages of any participant who is moved to share. For early childhood, we allot 30 minutes — and once we have arrived and introduced a theme or focus, we settle into about 15 minutes of silent reflection, often punctuated by messages from the smallest members of our community and the faculty in the room. It’s very impressive: The children really do sit in silence, and they practice focusing and settling their thoughts.

The practice has a lot in common with mindfulness, but the fact that it is, by design, done in community is one important part of that makes it unique. In addition to learning to listen inwardly, students learn from a very early age to listen for the messages of others, and that the voices of every member of our community–even the youngest ones–have great value.

It’s tradition, I know, but this practice also feels very modern … and timely.
It does! And silence is underrated in this noisy world. Our students of all faiths and experiences draw on their experience throughout their lives, well beyond their time at GFS. It is also used frequently as a tool in classrooms. So, for instance, there might be a serious head-scratcher in the classroom and a teacher can say, “Let’s sit for a moment in silence and give ourselves space to think about this” — and that can come in handy in all sorts of situations. It’s an invaluable tool.

Interested in learning more about Germantown Friends School? You can read more about the main campus and school here, or the NEW early education program located in the Curtis building on Washington Square here.

Wee Guide: The Annotated Baby Registry List

Wee’s totally subjective, overly opinionated guide to all the baby crap you need (and don’t need) Read more

baby registry guide

One of the most useful things I ever did as a pregnant person was to sit down with a mama friend (Ashley!) who walked me though one of those huge registry checklists from the big-box baby store. Those lists are completely overwhelming, mostly because they cover everything anyone would ever possibly need. (And also because they’re trying to sell you stuff.) I needed help navigating not just because I was clueless, but because like a lot of Philly families, we didn’t have unlimited space for storing stuff that a) we wouldn’t really use or b) wouldn’t need for another two years. The goal was to find out — like, for real — what we really needed, what we maybe needed, what we didn’t need at all, and what we would definitely want to return if we received as a gift.

Anyway. It was so helpful to get a (somewhat) educated, b.s.-free advice session that we decided to offer up our totally unsolicited, overly opinionated take on one of those giant overwhelming baby registry lists. Here, the stuff we hate, the stuff we think you can just borrow, and the stuff you need to own because it will save your sanity. Read more →

Wee Bits: The Rising Costs of Motherhood, A New Legoland, Dutch Sex Ed, and New Fall Classes Everywhere

Reads, happenings, news and other tidbits for Philly parents this week Read more

wee bits spring

Really liked this (helpful!) list from Philly Mag of some of the city’s greatest architectural salvage stores.

Here’s a fascinating if depressing look at a new study about about why the work-family juggle seems to be getting harder, and costs of motherhood, increasing. Via the NYT.

Evidently, New York is getting a massive Legoland. (Roadtrip? Maybe?) Via Parents.com.

Also from Parents.com: If you bought Babyganics products, you could be eligible for a settlement, thanks to a lawsuit against the company alleging that the products aren’t quite as organic as consumers have maybe been led to believe.

Funny Inky story about a student-authored handbook for teachers that works like a dictionary for popular Philly-kid lingo. (E.g. “Jawn”; “Ocky”.)

A reminder for Star Wars fans: This weekend is the Please Touch Museum’s Space Odyssey weekend — with a Star Wars brass band called Wookiedelphia, a meet-and-greet with Franklin Institute’s Chief Astronomer Derrick Pitts, a Jedi training academy, story time, various characters .. and more.

And another weekend event (although this one in September): It’s a Thomas the Tank Engine cameo at the awesome Morris Arboretum Garden Railway on September 8 and 9!

Interesting, from The Cut: What Sex Ed Is Like In the Netherlands. 

A note to y’all, our readers: Guys, we get more emails from some of our favorite spots for classes than we can possibly list here. Suffice it to say: ALMOST EVERYWHERE, IT’S FALL REGISTRATION TIME. Be sure to check all your favorites spots NOW … classes fill up fast. (Seriously — class schedules are up everywhere! Phield House! InMovement! Mister John’s! Philly Art Center! PlayArts! Music Theater Philly! And more!)

Always in favor of anything suggesting chores for kids — and this NYT piece is a good one!

And finally: Diggerland has a few things coming up y’all might be interested in — firstly, a promo code for Labor Day weekend; secondly, a FREE touch-a-truck event outside the gates on September 8 from 9 a.m. to noon; finally, the October launch of Diggerfest, which combines the usual truck-and-ride fun with a fall festival.

Wee Idea: Pimp My (Kid’s) Ride

A surprising hit: homemade bike- and scooter tassels Read more

tassels for bikes and scooters

I will begin this by saying that I am nobody’s Pinterest inspiration — crafty isn’t really my thing. But recently, I went on Amazon in search of a couple dozen cheap-o bike tassels — you know, the kind that were de rigueur on handlebars when we were kids. (Backstory: We had a sort of “birthday ride” in honor of my son’s birthday with the kids on the street, and since this activity is pretty much something that happens every week, I thought I could make it feel a bit more special and festive if the kids decorated their scooters and bikes. Said children are all still under the age of 6, so I thought there might be a chance they would like this idea and not just roll their eyes.)

Anyway: I was shocked (SHOCKED!) to find out that I’d have to spend about $4 a pair for everyone to get tassels, which just felt excessive. (And they weren’t even that cute.) Pinterest, too, let me down: Every “homemade bike tassel” I looked for involved either sewing (no) or hot glue and golf tees to spear the tassels through the hole in the handlebars, which, again, felt a bit extra. So I improvised. I bought small elastic hair bands from CVS (about $1.50) and a whole bunch of multi-colored Grosgrain ribbons from Amazon ($6). I trimmed the ribbon, grouped them up in colorful trios and tied the three ribbons en masse in knots around the hairband. And voila:

Official scooter tassels!

More tassels!

 

To my great surprise and delight, the kids were all really into them — they tasseled up their bikes (and some even indulged in the crepe paper I bought for extra decoration). The bikes/scooters looked so cute … and it occurred to me that this is an easy craft project to do on a slow weekend afternoon, as well as a super-inexpensive, fun party activity/favor. Cheapo homemade bike tassels! Who knew!?

Wee Bits: The Best Kids’ Sneakers, Re-Branding Motherhood, Baby Rothy’s, Boob Rage and Making Children Participate in Family Chores

News, happenings, reads and other tidbits for parents this week Read more

wee bits, new and news, wee wander

I cannot overstate how much I like and agree with this op-ed from NYT about “re-branding motherhood.” I say a lot– and have written here — how much I wish we could emphasize the fun of it (hard to express as it is) over the sacrifices (which, yes, are considerable, but also, maybe not always as bad as everyone makes them out to be?). Anyway. I liked the piece.

Hey, guys, Rothy’s (aka, my obsession) is making little shoes for little feet now and they look realllllllly cute. Sizes 10 to 4.

Have to say, I liked this write-up from Jezebel: Don’t Tell Me Where I Can Pull Out My Tiddy.

Um, don’t swim in Devil’s Pool this summer. Via Plan Philly.

But DO be on the lookout for Idris Elba in North Philly, squeeeeee. Eventually. (Via Philly Mag.)

Here’s a pretty brilliant post from Dorothy at Tankini Files about forcing your kids to help you clean up every night before bed. And why shouldn’t they?

You’ll certainly notice all the editorials — more than 200 in newspapers across the country — decrying the attack on America’s free press lately. Pretty powerful stuff, this one from the NYT, and this one from the Inky. 

I mean, was there anyone who didn’t weep over the mama whale carrying her dead baby whale around the ocean for 1,000 miles? I could cry again now just reading this Cut piece.

Meantime, the Strategist gives us the best sneakers for kids, a topic in which I think we’re all highly invested.

Hey, all — Zoom Dance still has a few spots left for the remaining weeks of summer camp and ALSO is registering people for the new fall sessions. Check it out!

Another thing to know about: Labor Day weekend (that’s Sat, Sept. 1 through Monday, Sept. 3), kids 12 and under get into the Museum of the American Revolution for FREE. (They’ll also get a fun back-to-school goody pack, AND on Sunday from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m., Lauren Tarshis, author of the New York Times best-selling children’s fiction series I Survived, will make a special appearance to talk about her book I Survived the American Revolution, 1776 and what life was like for real children on and off the battlefield during the Revolutionary War.

Also happening Labor Day weekend? Philly is the official Labor Day port of the largest operating Norwegian Viking ship Draken Harald Hårfagre (Draken) — and you can catch it at the Independence Seaport Museum from Friday, August 31 to Thursday, September 6. (Check out the website, above — it looks rad!)

And this weekend — you can hit a FREE Y2BFit class at Center City’s Athleta! Sunday, August 19 — 9:45 a.m. 

 

So Many Awesome Fall Dance Classes For Littles

Hip-Hop! Ballet! Gymnastics! Read more

rock school dance classes

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So as y’all may remember, we’ve written before about the wonderful array of dance classes The Rock School offers for little ones. And now, with a new school year starting and a fresh round of fall classes open for registration, it felt like a good time to remind everyone that even the very tiniest dancers have a place at the Rock School’s wildly popular Pre-K Dance Class: Kids as young as two can learn the fundamentals of movement in a cheerful, fun, nurturing session. There’s also Pre-K Hip-Hop and Pre-K Gymnastics and Dance, which are both NEW and aimed at 3- and 4-year-olds, as well as the tried-and-true Early Ballet, Children’s Ballet and Kids’ Hip-Hop (aimed at slightly older kiddos). And here’s a huge bonus: They also offer NEW adult classes (Pilates/Barre, Absolute Beginner Ballet Foundations, and Stretch and Tone Ballet), which are held at the same time as the Pre-K dance classes on Saturday mornings, so that the whole family can get in on the fun. (Brilliant, no?)

And for the uninitiated: The Rock School is great not just because the variety of classes offered and the professional, encouraging dance instructors, but also because the studio is gorgeous — all sunlit and open — and there’s tons of parking in the private, off-street lot. (Stroller parking, too!) There’s also a convenient on-site cafe, complete with free WiFi, a kids’ play area and snacks. Interested? Visit the site to learn more and/or register for fall classes!!