I came to Quakerism by living in a Quaker community through my four years at George School. This was an enlightening experience and built a strong spiritual foundation in my life.
Through participating in volunteer service at a state psychiatric hospital for children as a student at George School, I became interested in Special Education. I attended Fitchburg State College in MA where I graduated with a degree in Elementary and Special Education. Within the Special Education field, I explored and experienced several areas. During the summer vacations while in college, I worked at an area community recreation and swimming pool. I started a community recreation and adaptive swimming program for children with special needs. I found this to be an exciting and rewarding experience since I was able to create and provide a service for children who were unable to participate in other mainstream programs in our community. A three-year old child began to walk following our water therapy sessions that summer. Her mother and I cried with joy as she took her first steps on her own. Following college graduation, I worked in the Public school system in Massachusetts, with children who had vision difficulties. From this experience I moved to Perkins school for the Blind where I worked with adults who were blind and had multiple impairments.
It was at Perkins school where I discovered a group of people who were legally blind and had sustained traumatic brain injuries. This was a new field where there were very few appropriate programs and support services for the client and their families. Within the first year of working with this group of people and their families, I became dedicated to finding methods and adaptive strategies for them to rebuild their quality of life and participate in a full range of real life activities. I worked for many years with people and their families who have sustained brain injuries and other neurological challenges. My primary area of interest and specialty was to work with folks in their own homes and communities. I traveled across the country in 1983 visiting Brain Injury programs and learning about what others were doing to provide services and support to clients and their families. Over the years, this work led me to work in Residential Schools, Rehabilitation Hospitals, and the PA State Head Injury program. Eventually, I became an Independent Contractor and Consultant to provide more flexibility in my schedule to devote to parenting our children.
In 1986 my husband and I were married under the care of Newtown Monthly Meeting in a Quaker wedding ceremony at the George School meetinghouse. As parents, we valued the spiritual development and nurturing of our children. As a family, we became very actively involved in the life and community of our Quaker meeting. Our daughters have been members and attended the Newtown Monthly Meeting since birth. I became very actively involved as the clerk of the children’s Religious Education committee in developing a curriculum for the Newtown meeting children.
As a result of this work and research, I became very interested in working with children to teach and develop skills in peaceful conflict resolution. My consultation work grew and evolved to include work with the Bucks County Peace Center where I facilitated workshops in Peer Mediation and Conflict Resolution within many of our local schools with administrators, teachers and students. One of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had through this work is the opportunity to facilitate and lead trainings for the Quakertown school district in all eight of their elementary schools. It was the first time that I was able to work with a group of students from each school, their school Principles and Guidance Counselors. I had real hope that this could provide a set of skills and a knowledge base for peaceful conflict resolution for a group of students within their school environments, that was well supported and understood from the administrators, guidance counselors and teachers perspectives as well as the students. It was a wonderful feeling to think that I was able to contribute something I valued to an entire school district.
Both of our children attended George School. I have served on the George School Committee school board for the past eight years. I feel so honored to continue to be a part of the community. It has been a wonderful experience for me to be able to serve and give back to George School and the community that has been so special to me, and my family.
Our two girls are now adults busy in their own worlds. Our eldest, Sarah, has a baby, Mia. I am fortunate that they live near-by and we get to see them frequently and even have Mia here for the night. Becka has achieved certification as a Montessori teacher and is now the head teacher in a school in South Carolina.
It was important to us as parents to nurture and provide a well-balanced approach to mind, body and spiritual opportunities for our children. As a family, we participated in several activities at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) and within our Meeting community. My first contacts with Harriet Heath and Marty Smith were through the PYM program activities.
My husband and I attended a workshop called Raising Quaker Children in a Non Quaker World at a PYM event facilitated by Harriet Heath. This workshop participation resulted in the beginning of a Quaker Parents Support Group that we began at our Meeting. Our relationship with Harriet Heath grew and deepened as she facilitated an eight-week Creative Parenting discussion series with our Parents Support Group. As a family we were actively involved in our Meeting community. Marty Smith provided a tremendous resource and support through the development of our children’s religious education program within our meeting. I have found that many of the concepts presented by Harriet in her Creative Parenting model have been helpful in guiding my parenting throughout the stages of development with our children. As parents, we have been able to remain focused on our values and goals to provide a balanced approach to nurture our children’s minds, bodies and spirits. This has been a focus at all of the stages of their development from remaining actively involved in their education from elementary school through college, participation in physical activities of their choice from competitive to recreational sports, as well as Quaker meeting and community participation from religious first day school, to later becoming the child care providers with the younger children in our meeting.
I have been a part of the Quaker Parenting Initiative out of a desire to offer resources and support to other parents who have an interest in guiding their children in a Quakerly manner.