BRATTLEBORO -- Last year Oak Meadow, which provides progressive homeschooling curriculum to independent learners in kindergarten to grade 12, collaborated with Northfield Mount Hermon School to enroll nine students from an orphanage in India. Teachers from both schools work with the students using Oak Meadow's curriculum and distance-learning teaching model in a shared mission to provide educational access to underserved students.
This summer, Oak Meadow Executive Director Michelle Simpson-Siegel and her 10-year-old daughter, Zinnia, who attends Dummerston School, joined NMH's community service teaching team for three weeks at Joybells School and Orphanage in Dheradun, India, situated on the foothill of the Himalayas. NMH offers the summer community service trip to high school students.
"I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to travel and work with NMH colleagues and students in support of the children at Joybells, which is a truly remarkable place," said Simpson-Siegel. "The 39 students, age 3 and up, start their day at 5 a.m. with farm chores -- the gardens supply almost all of the food for the orphanage -- followed by yoga, breakfast, and a school assembly."
Classes run until 1:30 p.m. when the heat of the day demands a break, explained Simpson-Siegel.
"There is an afternoon study session, followed by football (soccer) -- they would play all day -- and arts and crafts. I have seen few schools run as well. The children are composed, respectful, focused, and willing. Really magical and memorable."
Simpson-Siegel said she learned that there are 31 million orphans in India.
"It's a staggering statistic," she said. "Nine students out of 31 million seems insignificant, unless you are one of those nine children. So, we will continue to do what we can with what we have to give."
Oak Meadow was co-founded in 1975 by Lawrence Williams EdD, a pioneer in the homeschooling movement whose early work in the field helped homeschooling gain widespread acceptance and legal status. Oak Meadow's curriculum can be used independently or by enrolling in its fully-accredited distance learning school. It will move its operations to the newly renovated, historic Brooks House in downtown Brattleboro this fall. More information can be found at oakmeadow.com.