The Circle School Blog

An occasional thing

The Circle School Blog

I walked into my new life

I walked into my new life

When I first heard about The Circle School, I didn't know what to think of this strange place where there's hardly anything resembling “normal school.” I was petrified, and thought I wouldn’t be able to get anything done without a strict schedule. However, keeping an...

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I dreaded telling him school is closed

I dreaded telling him school is closed

I dreaded having to tell my son that school would be closed for quarantine. He loves school, which is saying a lot considering how our journey to The Circle School began. It was a very long road that I never imagined we would travel. When Dayton was very young, his...

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Community near and far away

Community near and far away

Coronavirus. Quarantine. Social isolation. This time has been difficult, to say the least, but I’m proud that I’ve been more or less using this time to catch up on education, spend time with family, and get a much needed mental health break. Don’t get me wrong. I have...

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Kids taking the lead

Kids taking the lead

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. How many times have you heard this? How many times have you been able to make lemonade? What we are experiencing right now in the world is something we will always remember. One moment our children are going to school. The...

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Cool Things Outside / Dreams of Flying

Cool Things Outside / Dreams of Flying

  I’m Lily C, and I am the chair and founder of Cool Things Outside Corporation. [“Corporations” at The Circle School are like clubs or interest groups. -Editor] I created this corporation four years ago, when the school was still at its old campus. I wanted to...

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Explaining The Circle School Made Easy (or Less Hard)

Explaining The Circle School Made Easy (or Less Hard)

Even now, after 35 years as a founding staff member, I half dread being asked by a newcomer to explain The Circle School. It could be a neighbor, the friend of a friend, or recently my dental hygienist just before she asked me to open wide. My anxiety arises not from...

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Trained at 12, saved a life at 15

Trained at 12, saved a life at 15

2019My aunt and uncle are so cute! I was at the kitchen sink dying my hair, while they ate dinner at the kitchen table. He was holding a fork near her mouth, trying to get her to try the chicken parmesan he had made. She doesn’t need to be fed; he was just being...

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Curious, playful, sociable, willful, planful

Curious, playful, sociable, willful, planful

Last week I traveled to Philadelphia to hear a talk by research psychologist Peter Gray, founder of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education. Dr Gray spoke at Philly Free School, which is, like The Circle School, a self-directed democratic school. Dr Gray starts from...

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Groundbreaking!

We did it! Today, with builder Pyramid Construction's vehicles and earth-movers in the background, Circle Schoolers ranging in age from 5 to 50+ (and then some) donned hardhats, picked up golden shovels, and broke ground on The Circle School's new home. Construction...

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Camping in the Schoolyard

Camping in the Schoolyard

I’ve gone on many field trips this year, but week before last was the first time I went on a "field trip" without leaving the campus. It was in the school’s backyard, with ten students ages eight to fourteen, and two staff members. Planning began in February, when...

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Field Trip to Another Democratic School

Field Trip to Another Democratic School

Last week I went on a school field trip. Unlike the majority of field trips this year, the planning for this trip didn’t unfold over the course of a few hours or days. This trip was weeks in the planning. Also, unlike most other trips this year, which have been within...

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The Noble, Humble Rag

The Noble, Humble Rag

I am inspired to write a bit about the noble, humble Circle School rag. Rags at The Circle School get used for everything from sanitizing doorknobs to soothing minor burns. They are implements of routine cleaning, but then they are also sporting goods (for Capture The...

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Circle School Graduates in College

Circle School Graduates in College

Today The Circle School releases a study of its graduates, casting the school in a very favorable light. Our graduates go to college at high rates: 84% of those who were here for 4 years of high school, and 91% of our "lifers." Nationwide the rate among same-age peers...

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Fanning a Flame at Millersville University

Fanning a Flame at Millersville University

After 30 years of answering questions about The Circle School, new ones don't come along very often. Last night I answered a new one. At Millersville University's Alternative Education Forum, I delivered the keynote address. The event organizer, Dr. Scott Richardson,...

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The Commons Area — The “Heart” of the School

The Commons Area — The “Heart” of the School

The latest renderings from architect Rich Gribble show some interior views of what the "Commons" could look like, our large "town square" room in the heart of the school. How did we get from the sketches shown in the last post to these detailed...

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Media Release: NO CLASSROOMS IN NEW SCHOOL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 14, 2015 FROM: The Circle School Contact: Jim Rietmulder 717-564-6700 jim@CircleSchool.org CIRCLE SCHOOL TO BUILD A SCHOOL WITH NO CLASSROOMS The Circle School of Swatara Township announced today its plans to relocate to an 8-acre site a...

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The Evolution of Our Design

The Evolution of Our Design

Wondering how you go from an idea of a new school to making it a reality? Here's everything you ever wanted to know about our design process. Part I: Research & Preparation By April of 2013 the Property Search Committee had progressed far enough to warrant...

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The Search for a Perfect Property

The Search for a Perfect Property

Sure, at times we didn't think it could possibly exist. 5+ acres with woods, stream, and open areas? That we could afford? Here is the story of how we managed to find, with a lot of work and a little luck, exactly what we were looking for. The school has long...

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Let It Go! Let It Go!

Let It Go! Let It Go!

Matt likes music that sounds to me like a car crash. Recently I found solace in the softer sounds of Disney's Frozen, sung and played (endlessly) by younger friends. 18-year-old Matt greets me with a big smile and genuine warmth; ready to engage, caring about me. When...

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What would you change about public school?

What would you change about public school?

Professor Richardson asked 15-year-old Ian what he would most like to change about public school. With 25 people in the room, most of them graduate students and current or future teachers, here's what Ian said earlier this week: [Ian:] I think it would be the...

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Skateboarding in the Library

Skateboarding in the Library

Five minutes before the Hour Of No Rules, I saw Cord and Zach sneaking out of the conference room lavatory. It was Zach who had proposed to suspend the rules for an hour, and brought it to a vote with mischief behind his charming grin. And Cord—well, Cord is our...

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All About Anarchy

All About Anarchy

If I'm being honest, it wasn't anarchy, but something more akin to libertarianism. The rules weren't really gone, but School Meeting voted to suspend enforcement of any victimless violations. And not even all of the rules were gone -- those about campus boundaries,...

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Circle School Grandparents

Circle School Grandparents

My mom is great. When Graham was a newborn, she used to arrive at my house late in the morning, bringing lunch for us and a basket of washed, folded baby clothes. She’d admire Graham, and we’d eat lunch together. Then she would do all the dishes, including the ones...

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A History of Snow

A History of Snow

This doesn't really require a narrative, right? Circle School kids are not unique in their love of snow, but they might be unique in how much time they get to play in it! Helpers Ashlin, Avery, Lexi, and Lucie sorted through pictures from 1984 through 2000ish with me...

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Connor’s List

Connor’s List

A little over 20 years ago, a young Connor Tyrrell (now president of The Circle School Board) dictated a list of reasons he wanted to attend The Circle School. I think most of them remain relevant today! -Julia I'll learn Japanese at TCS. I can do math at my own level...

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Cracking the Ice Cream Maker Whip

Cracking the Ice Cream Maker Whip

This post is contributed by parent Joan Cramer, whose sons John and Graham have attended The Circle School since 2008. It’s catalog season again! I’m not much of a shopper, but this time of year I love to curl up with a cup of coffee and a thick stack of catalogs. I...

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Musings on Forced Apologies

Musings on Forced Apologies

Sometimes while serving on the Judicial Committee at school, I am involved with my fellow JC members in giving a sentence to someone charged with physically or emotionally hurting someone else. It is often challenging to figure out an appropriate sentence, and...

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Homework

Homework

There are three 10ish-year-olds at the kitchen booth doing homework. "I have SO MUCH homework," they keep saying. They've made two bags of microwave popcorn between them, covered the table in paper towels, and poured the popcorn out into a huge pile. They are munching...

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Forts & fights & thirty years

Forts & fights & thirty years

At School Meeting today, we'll hear a motion to amend the current rules about "WIPs" (Works In Progress) to allow for outside WIPs to be kept on forts overnight. In other words, to establish some form of property rights -- the ability of a fort-builder to maintain...

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Over Exposure

Over Exposure

“But how will my child know what she’s interested in if she never gets exposed to it?” This question has been addressed many times before, but I woke up this morning thinking about it, so here are my thoughts today. Underlying this question is an assumption: “It is my...

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Wedding democracy

Wedding democracy

I don't know whether to call it democratic, or maybe crowd-sourced. Either way, I have never experienced a wedding as I did on Saturday. Well, yes, I was the father of the bride, and so, no, I don't see it through clear eyes, what with love and tears and all. But,...

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Seven sins of forced education

Seven sins of forced education

  "Children are biologically predisposed to take charge of their own education." So says psychologist Peter Gray in his recent new book, Free To Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for...

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Another note about test scores

Peter Gray's latest post over at Psychology Today, Be Glad for Our Failure to Catch Up with China in Education, reminds me of this post Jim wrote here back in October. Both make the pretty commonsense point that standardized test scores are probably not a great...

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A view from a new family

A new-to-The-Circle-School mom wrote a post on her blog about their journey from Kansas City to Harrisburg and The Circle School, and some of her observations and experiences of the school. I found it interesting, and even learned some things (did you know we have...

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Weaving justice

Weaving justice

Last night our judicial team demonstrated for the school community how the wheels of justice go 'round at The Circle School. Simulating what we do every day, they investigated complaints of law-breaking—real cases from a few years ago, with names changed. The...

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Agency, attention, mistakes, and school

Agency, attention, mistakes, and school

Agency is the capacity to choose and act on your own behalf, and may be a hallmark of life. A rock just sits there, but living creatures can do things, can take actions. Even bacteria detect and move towards nutrients, making choices and taking action in a primitive...

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Agency, attention, mistakes, and school

The benefits of play

Play is a hot topic these days, and every article I read on the subject reinforces for me the "rightness" of the Circle School experience. Here's an article about the benefits of play, both social and "academic." Enjoy. 🙂 -Julia

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Growing

The nice man is just trying to be friendly.  “So you two girls go to The Circle School…What’s your favorite subject?” The young girls are a little nonplussed.  “We only take classes if we want to.” “Oh. Well what do you do at school, if you’re not in classes?”...

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Infinity and the backyard bell tower

Infinity and the backyard bell tower

Nature impels us to avoid death and seek infinity. Call the first a biological imperative and the second a spiritual imperative. The first is the survival instinct. Maslow's hierarchy of needs suggests you must satisfy the first before you can do much about the...

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Washington gridlock and democratic schools

Tomorrow we Americans elect a president. Two days ago we Circle Schoolers hosted a group of families and educators here, telling them about life in our democratic school. Now I'm thinking about the connection between Washington gridlock and American schools. About...

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Low Test Scores Are Not The Problem

Of course all this talk of assessment and global competition treats children as raw materials in a government-run factory, rather than human beings with their own hopes, interests, and talents. Education policy should be centered on children and families, not money and power. Public funding should promote innovation and variety in schools, rather than uniformity and standards. It's good for children, families, society and, yes, a thriving global economy.
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Staying Calm

I was glad to come across this article reminding me how helpful it is to stay calm when interacting with others, especially when it is most difficult to do so! Re-framing my thinking to make it easier to remember others are not intentionally out to annoy me, but often...

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Freedom & creativity

I don't have a lot to say about this article by Peter Gray except to recommend it. Dr Gray cites studies indicating that creativity is one of the most-desired qualities in potential employees, and recent research indicating that creativity is declining in American...

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A Regular Person

A few days ago I experienced my 29th first-day-of-school at The Circle School, and I imagined what a child's first first day might be like... It's your first day at The Circle School and you are Alice down the rabbit hole. You are in a strange new world: fascinating,...

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How Children Succeed

How Children Succeed

I heard most of this radio interview the other morning, with Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character, and I was thinking of The Circle School the entire time.  I wonder if Paul Tough has heard of what we do here; I...

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A new blog, & a disclaimer

For years, I've wished The Circle School had a blog -- a place staff (and students!) could post articles they found interesting, thoughts about the school and education in general, and maybe even lovely pictures of life here. But...obstacles abound. A blog is a lot of...

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