A simple stroll around the neighborhood resulted in Lalin and Sunny Brady enrolling at PFS in September 2015. Their parents, Kim and Edward, stumbled on the school by accident and spoke with a staff member, who invited them to attend an Open House. “Before and after attending, we researched the Free School model. Through books, internet articles, and a handful of TED Talks, we were ready to take the leap and applied for enrollment.” The change was welcome for all: “Our daughters had been to private, public, as well as parochial schools, and each time we found it lacking. PFS provided where others failed. Our girls blossomed immediately.”
The girls were very happy to jettison the stress of their previous school environments. Sunny (now 11) feels strongly about the acceptance that the PFS community has shown her. “You aren’t told what to wear or who to be, like at other schools. Everyone here has an open mind and doesn’t care what you are, just who you are.” At PFS, she likes to play Hide and Go Seek in the dark, hang out in the art room, play Tower Fall (a video game), and draw. She also feels like she has learned a lot more about current events than she did at conventional schools. “We are more in tune with the outside world, instead of wondering if I got this problem right or what is due tomorrow.” Lalin (now 12) likes to play video games, go off campus, read, and listen to music. She also likes to cook, and earned the right to use the kitchen independently: “Becoming a Sous-Chef was a fun 2-day process. We learned about putting out fires. I’ve made funnel cakes, cupcakes, my sister’s birthday cake, and buttery shortbread cookies. I also made pancakes, bacon and eggs after a school sleepover."
Sunny and Lalin both came out of their shells while at PFS. Their parents are impressed with the changes they see: “Our daughters have grown into themselves more since enrolling at PFS. They are inquisitive, they want dialogue with us and I find myself speaking to two people instead of 2 children. It's great.” The girls are aware of this opening up as well. Lalin says, “My social skills have gotten better. I used to not talk very much. I was really shy and stayed in my room playing video games. Now I can go up to a person and speak without hiding behind an adult. I’ve also gotten better at reading.” Sunny noticed that, since becoming a PFS student, “I’ve definitely been less shy and nervous. Before, I would always care about everything-- like if I wasn’t walking at the exact pace of the person in front of me. I thought everyone would care about my drawing style or what I wore. But it’s the exact opposite here. I learned that the opinions of other people matter much less than what I think about myself.” She also feels that PFS is giving her the opportunity to develop life skills that she hasn’t yet mastered: “We have a lot of responsibility and yet not at the same time. I haven’t really learned that balance yet and it’s great to have the opportunity to learn it.”
Kim and Edward feel like the transition to PFS was a big relief: “We are not stressing about petty grades and assessments. It makes home life for everyone so much nicer.” Time is one of the biggest gifts the school offers their children: “They can take time and really explore without being forced. The children navigate life and childhood at their own pace which makes for more ‘sticking power’.” Edward and Kim also appreciate the community that the school creates for them, as parents: “There are no competitive/comparative undertones when we chat with other parents.”
When asked what she would say to a student thinking about enrolling, Sunny says, “Please do! You’ll lose all of your insecurities. You can be much more open to people.” Lalin puts it this way: “It’s a pretty great place. You can play video games and read. You don’t have to raise your hand and call a teacher by their last name.” Edward and Kim send this message to prospective families: “You are either here because you are curious or you've struggled, as our family had, in a search for the ‘right fit.’ I can't speak for everyone, but I'm so glad we made this decision for our daughters. We took a leap of faith and our children are happier for it. Our family is more unified and we are so excited to see what's ahead!” They feel like joining the PFS community has the potential to benefit not only their family, but the wider society as well: “I often tell other adults when they ask me why I chose this school for my children-- I want to help cultivate good citizens for the world.”