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Fertile Soil: Homestead in 2022

Child with moss

“Not in the service of any political or social creed should the teacher work, but in the service of the complete human being, able to exercise in freedom a self-disciplined will and judgement, unperverted by prejudice and undistorted by fear.” 

– Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential 

Amidst the chaos and uncertainty of the past couple years, Homestead has forged ahead into the future we know is possible. Homestead expanded from a core staff of 38 to 49, hiring teachers for Wellness, Inclusivity, Mindfulness, and Outdoor Education instruction.  The student body grew from 213 to 246 as Homestead opened a new high school campus  in Hurleyville, adding 9th grade. This is evidence of our resounding trust in the inherent potential, beauty, and intelligence of humanity. The mutual commitment of Homestead staff  and our community of families is clear. Together we are devoted to creating a nurturing place of exploration and learning for our children.  

Hope, possibility, and connection define the approach to education at each program level. Our youngest learn through the immediate experience of their world, sensorially exploring the rocks, moss, and gurgling water of a forest stream. Children practice dressing themselves in the coldest of months before a winter hike to identify animal tracks. Through these experiences, their sense of wonder, self-confidence, knowledge, and vocabulary expand.

Ann's class at Pete's Park

The elementary child begins to learn a story that provides context to these experiences in their world. Now the child begins to grasp that time extends back in an astoundingly vast scale, that there was a time when the land was just barren rock. The child can connect the soft moss along the stream bank to the initial colonization of the land by early plants.  Through biochemical processes, the hard crust became alive. The living soil gave forth an abundance of expressions as animals ventured out of the seas to take part in the dance of life that was taking place.  

By Junior High School, as the process of emerging into adulthood quickens, the teen’s moral sense grows. The story of human evolution and the journey of human civilization are better understood. Now the questions become more challenging. They begin to spark a desire to make a difference, to do things in a way that feels intuitively right. What are we to become if we do not care for the soil that has been built up over millions of years of geological and biological time? What will our quality of existence be, if we live in a world where the abundant flourishing of ecological diversity has been plundered by the conversion of Earth’s wealth and beauty into digits in a bank’s server? 

Homestead students are given the permission, the opportunity, and the support to question  the story that humans have built up over the past few thousand years of civilization, a story  that places humanity outside of the natural world. 

On one hand, humanity’s understanding of the interdependence of all things grows. On the  other hand, the extractive economy is bumping up against the limits of the carrying capacity  of our planet. The failures and unkept promises of this old story leave holes in the fabric we  have woven. As an outmoded way of living and experiencing is coming apart at the seams,  the light of a new reality is beginning to shine through.  

Homestead School is focused on the light. That light is inside each child ready to burst forth in a blaze of creativity and contribution to the human story. That light is already here in thousands upon thousands of examples of individuals and organizations that are struggling against a system that feels insurmountable, carrying on because they are driven by a knowledge that it is the right thing to do, because they are called to tend the garden of what is possible. These efforts that have already taken root will blossom into the fullness of the new structures that will replace those which are no longer consistent with the world we wish to live in. 

Pickle making in Ms Adriennes class

For the older students at Homestead, the skills learned begin to expand to those that can serve the immediate needs of their communities and the Earth. As we look forward to the remainder of the school year, the Homestead Junior High students are working on a master plan for their campus. They are in the process of taking their fall study of local foodshed issues into the next phase of development. Through meetings with local farmers and organizations focused on access to local food and food security, they will be working to address these needs through design considerations of the school’s agricultural space and through the development of service programs and input to the Homestead’s P-12 environmental curriculum scope and sequence. 

Homestead chooses the Montessori approach to education because it aligns with the  mission and vision of the school. Our mission is to nurture self-motivated students  whose love of learning will carry through into a lifetime of responsible and  constructive contributions to the well-being of their fellow humans and the Earth. 

The child should love everything that he learns, for his mental and emotional growths are linked. Whatever is presented to him must be made beautiful and clear, striking his imagination. Once this love has been kindled, all problems confronting the educationalist will disappear….It is hoped that when this sentiment of love for all subjects can be aroused in children, people in general will become more human, and brutal wars will come to an end.” 

– Maria Montessori, To Educate The Human Potential 

Homestead School strives to nurture the Renaissance child. Our teachers observe and  interact with each child individually with the aim to allow that which lights up within each  child to guide their learning. Beyond offering stellar academic preparation, the social nature  of the school day at Homestead School offers each child the opportunity to develop their  moral compass, and to be a positive force in the classroom, at home, at school, in their local  communities, as a citizen of their country, and as a citizen of the world. Homestead is a  place where children can recognize their own talents, the talents of their peers, and the  talents of their teachers. Each day at Homestead presents opportunities for celebration of  individuality, honing of personal skills, and collaboration. Here at the Homestead School,  play matters and joy is recognized as a precious gift.  

There is much work for our community to do in restoring the connections we have lost over  these past years. We consciously support social and emotional connections between the  children and their peers at school, and we hope that this Spring the Homestead will have  the opportunity to further support the larger community in making these same connections.  Our greatest desire is to be together again, celebrating the joys of our children learning,  playing, and growing.  

We thank you for the opportunity to work with your child this year and hope to continue this  partnership for years to come.  

All the best,  

Jack Comstock and Nisha Gupta

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