Pine Community School is a community – that means it’s as much a place for the adults as it is for the kids. It also means that we are actively involved in the community – everything from helping out at working bees, to fund-raising. Many of our parents love to spend time just hanging out at Pine, being involved in whatever way is appropriate at the time. At times, the parents even had their own watercolours class at Pine on a Tuesday morning, led by one of our more talented parents. More recently, the parents have been having regular coffee mornings once a month at a local café – a source of much fun, support and laughter! We also have a regular “Parent Chat” held on one afternoon a week after school, where we talk about how Pine works, and why we do things the way we do. It’s a great forum for understanding what’s going on at school.
Play-based learning in action
Before my son started at Pine I wondered how the learning happened in a child-led, play-based environment. In one week I had multiple opportunities to understand it better. Early in term one of prep, my son came home explaining the process of making paper to me, counting from 40 to 50, subtracting using his fingers and amusing his sister by turning his socks into puppets. At the end of the week I got the school newsletter, which told me my son’s class had made their own paper, created board games writing the numbers from 1 to 100 on the board, played a game of chance where they needed to add and subtract the numbers on dice, and wrote a puppet show for the arts event the following week. Each of these activities contributed to a new skill or knowledge, in real-world context, with a level of enjoyment I could plainly see.
Pine has given our children an open space in their lives to explore, grow and learn in a community setting, unshackled by purposeful comparison and competitiveness. It is a place where their voice, their ideas and their choices are as valued as any other in our community and they learn to be heard and to listen and mature as a result.
Pine values and supports the diversity of individual approaches to life and learning, giving the children first hand experience of the richness and depth it brings to a community and the job of following their own learning journey. One size, system and approach does not fit all and serves very few.
One of my favourite stories is about a kid who attended Pine some years ago, who wasn’t very academic, but was great with his hands. Any time anything needed fixing, people would seek out this kid to fix it. He went on to become a builder, and when once asked if he ever felt stupid (he didn’t learn to read until after 12), he said no, of course not, I’m good at fixing things. This, to me, is the magic of Pine. We celebrate what each person is good at. I truly believe every single person is a genius at something, and I think it’s a tragedy that the mainstream education system tends to make kids think they’re stupid if they don’t fit the academic mold.
Our oldest son started at Pine as a preschooler in 1992. Since that time all 6 of our children have attended Pine for the whole of their primary school years. In 2009 we have our last two children at Pine and a son and a daughter studying at the University of Queensland, a son who is third year apprentice carpenter, and a son at Kelvin Grove State College.
When we initially chose Pine it was because we were looking for a school that would treat children in a principled manner and would appreciate and encourage the whole child. Over the past 17 years we have found that each of our children has been able to grow in the manner and time frame that suited them best. Our children have wildly divergent learning styles and speeds and at Pine each of them has been valued for their talents and assisted and encouraged with their struggles.
Spending the primary school years at Pine has also resulted in less pressure on the family as a whole and a happier more peaceful home life.
Additionally, each of the children developed strong relationships with other children and with parents and teachers. These strong relationships have equipped them well to venture into the wider community. Attending Pine has helped them to have a happy childhood with plenty of play time to learn everything from reading, writing and mathematics to conflict resolution and ethics.
Our daughter started in the catholic system but after 3 terms we made a move to Pine. She was suffering anxiety at Prep and we were seeing a cycle of stress, reluctance to go to school and deteriorating self-confidence. We needed to do something different. When we thought about what she needs to be at ease we realised that she needed greater flexibility, more nurturing teachers, a setting that offered more connection to nature and a place where it was ok to be an individual. As parents we had requirements too. We needed to be able to be involved in her school community, know the teachers and families and have open information communication with all. We found what we needed at Pine.
After two terms at Pine she has blossomed into a Pine Kid – not afraid to get down and dirty in the pond or up a tree. She raises her concerns at meeting and debates her beliefs. She is inquisitive and keen to explore ideas. She is never in a hurry to leave. She loves her teacher. She feels respected and safe. Her love of literacy has been nurtured and the multi-age/small teacher child ratio settings means that she can learn at the pace she needs. She is happy and flourishing.
As parents I think we have become Pine Parents too – from involvement at fund raising, working bees and helping tidy up, as well as sharing with the kids something of our cultural diversity and life experiences. It’s a school community where you get out of it as much as you put in.
I feel very fortunate that we found Pine when we did. Some friends and family think we were brave to have made the move. Maybe so, sometimes it takes courage to follow your instinct and take a road less travelled. All I know is that our involvement in the Pine Community has been a very positive experience for us as a family. Our daughter is happy and learning a diverse range of life skills as well as Qld Education core curriculum learnings. Come and have a look at Pine and see for yourself this truly special place.
Our son is turning 10 next month and our daughter is turning 12 next week. Here is our story about Pine …
It was time for our son to go to pre-school; at the end of his second day he was so angry with me, he was hitting and kicking me, yelling at the top of his voice – pre-school was not the place for him, he never went back. So where was he to go … I found Pine Community School via their website and started both kids there for their month’s trial. This meant traveling from Southside to Northside three times a week, but it was more than worth it. At the end of the trial period we moved over to the Northside and the kids love of school and of learning began.
Our daughter had spent 18 months at a state primary school, we thought she was doing very well there, until she came to Pine and then we realised how mistaken we were. Sure, she could read as well as she “should”, she could write as well as she “should”, unfortunately her emotional and social development had been left behind in the effort to read and write as well as she “should”.
It took her about 6 months to settle into the Life of Pine, now, she is a well-rounded and empowered young lady.
Our son, well, he took to the school like he was always meant to be there. The school suits him to a tee, he is happy and hates being sick or on holiday.
Other parents find it hard to believe that kids at Pine hate school holidays, they hate being sick and would rather go to school even while they are vomiting and they constantly ask why on earth weekends were ever invented.
As parents we love Pine, our kids love Pine, we wouldn’t go anywhere else.
When we came to Brisbane from inter-state, we were concerned about choosing the right school for our son’s education because he had just spent 1 ½ years doing pre-primary and primary in a fairly rigid and strict school, which we believe had made him fairly nervous and uncertain.
It was our son’s grandmother who came across Pine Community School through doing a bit of googling on the internet (thank goodness for the world wide web!). Checking out the Pine website, we thought the school had a lot of appeal, particularly the highly child-focussed, interactive, stimulating and caring elements that were described.
Following our initial meeting at the school, our son wanted to come back to Pine immediately, due to the very warm and welcoming approach he encountered. That approach persisted for the entire 5 ½ years he subsequently spent at Pine. The school administrator and the teachers show enormous commitment and dedication, and are highly intelligent and insightful in the area of children’s development and alternative education, through which very close bonds have been formed with our son. This in turn gave us, as parents, a high degree of confidence in our son’s well- being, safety and development.
At times we have had doubts about whether such a fun and play focussed environment was really going to be able to meet the demands and standards required for high school. But through the huge variety of activities, interactions and experiences that the children are immersed in, as well as the key curriculum requirements, their social intelligence is built well beyond what any rote learning could achieve. Having this critical developmental building block firmly established has provided the foundation for our son to now thrive as an academically competent and self-confident individual who is now looking forward to starting a new period of life at high school in the New Year ahead.
Past or present parents – any comments you’d like to add to these? Please feel free to email them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll add them to the website.