Jill Tikkun’s Letter
I have been asked to share a bit of what I’ve been doing since I left The Children’s House way back in 1989, but understanding a bit of how this wonderful school has shaped me is key to my choices following it. The year before I started the Children’s House, I was in a public school on the West side of Indy. It was known to be a good school, but my sister and I struggled there. Memories of my 3rd grade year revolve around doing math homework with my father at the dining room table, crying a lot about being stupid, and becoming less and less confident as the year passed. This was the same year my parents were pulled aside late in the last semester to be told my sister would have to repeat her first grade year. That’s when my parents enrolled us at The Children’s House.
It took me a year for me to decide I liked the Children’s House enough to come back, but once I did I was bragging about the place everywhere I went. When it came time for high school, I decided to try public schools out again. I could have potentially skipped my 8th grade year because it was all repeat information and I came away with straight A’s. A few years of this, I became bored with academics and searched for another school. My last two years of high school I attended a Quaker college prep school in Ohio, called Olney Friends School, graduating with high grades (but more challenges) and not really having problems in school again. My sister, who also attended The Children’s House, graduated summa cum laude from college!
After graduating from Earlham College with a B.S. in Human Development and Social Relations (and a minor in German), I worked as a wilderness instructor with adjudicated youth for a while, ran rite of passage journeys for teenagers, and found myself in graduate school for education. I was a school photographer for a year which gave me the privilege of seeing the variety of public schools Northern Illinois had to offer. It shocked me to see the discrepancies between the rich and poor schools, even though I had read of it in college, and I decided I needed to do something about it. I received my M.S.Ed not long afterward, with the intention of opening a school like The Children’s House in my future. I taught at the college level for a while, opened a non-profit teen center in Iowa, directed a Quaker summer camp in Wisconsin, and found myself back at my alma mater teaching again. The class I’m most fond of is Education as an Agent for Change.
I never imagined myself as a teacher, but I was very much influenced by what The Children’s House gave me. I learned how to learn there-to enjoy the process and seek what knowledge my teachers didn’t give me. I gained confidence and a love for the natural world from hours of play outside. Mrs. Brannon taught me how to ask pointed questions when I needed help. Mrs. Nowicki taught me grammar skills, however much I complained. Mrs. Ritter and Mrs. Ben-hameda taught me science and art in a way I pass on to my kids now. These were the strong and beautiful women who inspired my childhood.
I opened a non-profit for teens because of their faith in my intelligence. I started Vegan Kids Cook because of the chickens, goats, snakes, fish, turtles, parrots, dogs, mice for which I fell in love with there. I’ve written a book with my children to celebrate this life because The Children’s House taught me to work with intention. I run a camp in summers because of the leadership skills The Children’s House offered me. I have aspirations for opening a school because I was shown that everyone deserves a meaningful education. I teach my college classes about how wonderful school can be that there are places that don’t put grades to your work, where children are free to make choices, where community is experienced daily. I am confident of my worth because of the few years I lived and breathed these values. This list is only a few of the lessons I have learned within the Children’s House community.
Thank you. I am deeply appreciative for the doors you have opened in my life. I am happy and whole and can give back to the world because of the gifts you’ve given.
Thank you truly,
Brie Warboldt, a graduate of The Children’s House in 1994, has recently graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She will be doing her residency, in Family Medicine, at the University of Pennsylvania, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Samantha McCormick, a 2010 graduate of The Children’s House, just completed her freshman year at Indiana University, Bloomington, where she is a student in the Honors College.
Samantha McCormick, TCH Class of 2010, is currently a student at Herron High School, here in Indianapolis. She recently participated in “Certamen”, a Latin Quiz Bowl, at Indiana State University campus in Terre Haute.
Mrs. Saundra A. Gupton’s Letter
I recently found an old article that was in The Indianapolis Star dated Sunday, October 20, 1985. The article was titled “This Old House.” The article was a rather lengthy spread in their Sunday edition. It started by telling the story of my now 39-year-old son, Kali Diggs who in 1985 was in the thralls of puberty and hormonal changes. At that time, he was (13) years old. It was not a happy time but a very stressful time in regards to my child’s future academically. I was frantically searching for a school that I believed could answer both my child’s educational and social needs at that point in his life.
Ms. Mary Wade, Star Staff Writer, wrote, “Kali Diggs remembers when his mother took him to visit his new school, nearly lost in a tangle of trees, bushes, and wildflowers.” At that time, the Children’s House was located at an old estate at 2401 West 39th Street off Kessler. At first glance, after getting off the main thoroughfare to wind up the road to the estate, you would never first identify the house as a school. There were animals such as chickens and ducks running freely about the acres and children who freely seemed to walk on the grounds as they went about their “business.” It quickly became an on-time type of deliverance and respite for my child.
I should tell you that he had been attending Township schools and some private Catholic schools up to the time that I found Children’s House. I must have come in and sat down and talked with the then Director, Ms. Louise Brannon for possibly (2) hours or more, I remember leaving feeling encouraged and even excited about the possibilities for my son’s education. I explained how my child was failing in his academic classes and jus as concerning to me, seemed to be suffering from not feeling accepted by his peers. Ms. Brannon told this mother about the Montessori education method that their school utilizes. To quote Kali in the article as Star Staff Writer, Ms Wade did, I will highlight what my then 13 year old son said “The school is more than my other school and I can make most of my own choices’, he said. Ms. Wade went on to add, “Kali can decide in most cases, when he wants to attend his classes and how he will get his work done.” It should be immediately made clear that this does not mean that there is no organized structure in the child’s daily routine at school. In fact, it is quite the opposite. To quote Ms. Brannon in the article who said, “It is a very tight structure in which a child is given freedom and also guidelines.
In addition to allowing my son to experience the liberty to express himself as the unique individual that he was (and continues to be), he was educated consistently to recognize the individual responsibility which he had to successfully perform his own “contact.” The individual contracts gave each child his own expected requirements to fulfill for what was his appropriate grade level. I can surely say that Children’s House gave him the emotional space to safely explore how he did “fit” in his world among his peers.
Kali successfully graduated from Children’s House and went on to the ninth grade to graduate from Pike High School. From there, he successfully graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelors Degree in Public Administration. Afterwards, he graduated from Chicago University with a Masters Degree in Education. At the present time, he is pursuing another Masters Degree in Psychotherapy. Kali recently told me that he wants to ultimately pursue his Doctorate in Psychotherapy.
As you might have guessed, I am not only proud of him as a mother for his educational pursuits but also for what I perceive as his pursuing what he senses as his purpose in life. I really believe that Children’s House was a pivotal point in my child’s sense of self-discovery. I must say that I thank God for their approach to children’s young minds not only for their academic style but also for their approach in wonderfully opening up the child’s self-worth. I consider it an untold loss if Children’s House does not continue to offer their unique alternative from the traditional school system. The loss would not only be to the current generation of children but to us all. Today’s youth need the same privileges from which my child and others in the past have benefited. Our world is in such need of what this generation brings as their unique giftings and purpose to a world.
Much Gratitude and Respect,
Mrs. Saundra A. Gupton, MA
Psychotherapy and Faith
And Kali’s response:
I really like the letter. I am glad that my name will be a part of the helping Children’s House to remain open. To this day I am grateful for how they do things. If I was going to still be in the field of education as a teacher…being a Montessori or Waldroffteacher would be a very attractive way to go. I am inspired in particular by the type of environment Children’s House established and it is my hope that they will find a way to continue…