My partner and I have to fast approaching decisions to make. We left the Bristol, VT area almost two years ago for personal and practical reasons. Our plan was to return before our eldest, now 3.5, began school. However, as life happens, we're growing more and more embedded in RI. So, I feel this crossroads is approaching where we must choose to head back to VT and settle our family down. Here's our dilemma:
Our family is in RI but many close friends are in VT. We LOVE the small, self contained community in Bristol. There are things going on, things to do and there is a small walkable area. There is a very active community. We had hoped to Unschool but we're just not sure how that will be possible or if it's a real fit for our family. Next best thing would be a Waldorf or Montessori style program but I'm not really in favour of private schools for many reasons (though I'll send my kids there if the only other alternative is a harsh, impersonal public school like the ones I attended in RI). In Bristol, the schools are small and allow for a lot if creativity and self direction (especially the high school). The elementary school has all mixed age classrooms and they adhere to principles of mutual respect and open play.
So...is there anyway we can recreate these experiences in the RI/Southeastern MA area? Are there any towns that sound like this? What about good schooling options? Do you love your school and town? Will you tell me why and what you love?
Thanks for your time!
I taught at Ocean State Montessori (in East Providence) and think it's a fabulous, nurturing school. Keep in mind that was many years ago. Not sure how it is now but I would recommend taking a tour. It's a private school, but down to earth.
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Waldorf School of Cape Cod
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We are too far since we moved, but it was a lovely community when my children were little (we did parent & child, one day a week programs). Worth a look if the location works for you!
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As far as public schools, I don't know that RI is known for good schools, I hope someone has a lead for you. We are planning to home school, in part because the schools here seem so bad. Have you looked into any of the charter schools? The Compass school (in South Kingston) sounds like it could be promising, and that is a nice area of RI. http://www.compassschool.org/
My friends really love Montessori Children's House in Providence. I believe it goes from age 3 - 5th grade. We loved Brown/ Fox Point preschool (in Providence) - it's more structured, but the kids have a fantastic experience there and the staff is outstanding. My older son is now at Paul Cuffee School in Providence - a public charter school. Some of the charter schools are really interesting. Cuffee is super loving, supportive, diverse, challenging and thoughtful. The problem w Providence is that the charters can be very hard to get into, and if you don't get in, the neighborhood schools can be challenging. Depends where you live.
My friend just opened a lovely new Montessori school on the West Side of Providence. I can connect you if you are interested.
Thank you all for taking the time to respond.
KTProvi - I think I know your friend. :) Do you know up to what age she is planning to accommodate at West Side Montessori?
I guess I just have sticker shock at the costs of the Waldorf and Montessori schools here. They aren't much better in VT but they are a little bit more reasonable. We have two kids (and plan for one more in a few years) so we're talking $24K maybe $36K per year for the three of them. Doesn't that seem steep? Still, we're planning to look into them, so I thank you all for your suggestions.
Do Charter schools give any priority to siblings of existing students? I'd be concerned that we'd have one in a good charter school and one (or two) stuck at the local school. Cuffee does sound nice.
What about Cumberland and Barrington? People have told me these are good schools. But my idea of good is not good standardized test scores...you know?
Plus, Barrington seems like a cute, walkable little town???
I love the West End but I'm so concerned about the school options there. I attended inner city schools here as a child. My education was fine (at best), no arts or music, but the atmosphere in the schools is more like prison and I'd hate to think of my kids going into a place like that for so many hours every day.
My friend is Amy Borak - she just started her school and wants to add grades as the kids get older - right now I think she has 2 - 4? But again, wants to keep expanding older. I've seen her space and it's lovely, and Amy and her co-teacher Holly are extraordinary educators and people. I'm sure she would be happy to speak w you (pm me for her email).
Cuffee and I think most schools give preference to siblings.
The sticker shock is CRAZY, esp w several kids. All I can say is that many schools have financial aid if you ask (including Brown/ Fox Point, the YMCA, the JCC, but not many of the smaller, home-based schools). But yeah, I think the tuition you're finding is pretty standard. Several people I know have moved to Barrington because of the quality of the public schools. I wouldn't write off the whole town without spending time there - I think it could be a great option.
I think Barrington looks cute. It's not as self contained as Bristol but it's pretty similar looking by RI standards. We're also going to look into Franklin, MA. Living in trendy VT towns, certainly got me used to the snooty type! I think we can deal...but who knows till we try it?
Thanks for all your suggestions!
I live in Franklin, MA and we really like it. This might be because we lived in really urban areas for a long time and Franklin has been a good change. We have been here for almost 6 years and my boys are just about 3 and 5. The area is great for families. The playgrounds are great, the town is walkable, the Y is awesome. Although the town seems to be wealthy, we do most of our activities for free. I have not had any luck at all though finding many crunchy families or even many nursing mamas. I am trying to change that, but it is a slow process. No one is unfriendly to any of it, just doesn't seem to be anyone's thing.
Regarding schools, the public schools here are very good. My DH and I had always talked about homeschooling, but with the good quaility here, we are going to try the public schools out. The charter school here is amazing. Admission is lottery based, so we have applied. The Montessori school is down the street from me (Sunrise) and my son attended summer camp there for a couple of weeks. The director, Karen, is very nice. My son attends pre-school at the Dean College Children's Center and I cannot say enough how much I love them. They are very nurturing, and it is not a set of prescribed activities, instead they follow the High/Scope curriculum. Their conflict resolution is excellent. They are amazing!!! There is an elementary-high school about 40 minutes away that follows the same curriculum, but it is way out of our price range.
Hope this helps your process! Good luck!
I also thought that such close proximity to a college campus must provide good access to the arts? Something that can really be hard to find in VT. does the community come together for holidays and events? (Bristol had its own little first night and all sorts of gatherings all year through, such as: Easter agg hunt, parades, little music festivals, etc? Those things aren't a MUST have but they are nice.)
The commuter rail in Franklin really helps make it accessible to Boston, for work, events, kid stuff etc etc. The college has a strong dance program and has performances throughout the year. Also, there is the Franklin School of Performing Arts, which has excellent classes and performances throughout the year. My DS2 is doing a music class there and the curriculum is impressive. The Franklin Arts Center is newer, but has classes in a few different mediums.
The town has a series of events almost monthly. In the summer, there is a weekly performance on the common, parades on Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day, fireworks, carnivals for the 4th and the Feast of St. Rocco (put on by the Catholic Church, but not a religious event), Harvest Fair, Strawberry Stroll, Lighting of the Common and probably more that I am forgetting! There is a Farmer's Market every Friday May through October. It is small, but good.
We live near the train, and can walk to 3 different playgrounds, pre-school, the elementary school, library, and restaurants.