IMG_1283Maria is a family day care provider and mother of three in Somerville, MA. After many years working alongside children of all ages and their families, she continues to dream of creating ideal places for children. Her dreams are part school, part family child care, part summer camp, all about life and learning as one. She wants kids to have time outside, to develop strong relationships, to know themselves and to be responsible members of their communities, to be creative, happy, and healthy. Maria hopes to keep working with kids and adults in ways that feel exciting, challenging, and supportive until she is a very old woman. Writing this blog is teaching her a lot and she hopes it will help bring together a group of people who want to make more good things happen for children and families in and around Somerville and throughout the world.

Update, over four years later, February 16, 2013

I spent the last several years trying to figure out this dream of a new place, then found myself right back where I was, operating the West Family Day Care, and trying something new, joining the staff of the Sudbury Valley School, a place as much like my own dream of how adults and children should live as I can imagine. It didn’t feel possible to create a new place like the one I imagined for older kids here in Somerville. My children are at SVS, and now live half time with their dad, so that piece works, too. I get to be in two places I love, and see my kids more often than I have since their dad and I split up.

I’m still dreaming and writing, just not working to make something new, but to keep two great old places going, WFDC and SVS, seventeen and forty something respectively. I could not be happier spending my days in these two places with kids and adults from babies through elders. I hope you’ll consider both in your search for models of good places to raise and educate our children.

In the process of writing this blog I found out that thinking about how to raise and educate our children is only part of what I want to do. I also need to figure out how to live my own life. Figuring that out involves writing and reflecting and dreaming, too. We are all learners. The process and the fascination never end. The two projects have melded into one here, making a good place to raise and educate our children and understanding what it means to live a good life and to be an authentic person.

Act Locally Think Globally was my first bumper sticker on the old Honda Civic. These days I drive a minivan with Yes Farms Yes Food and Openair Circus Best Circus in Somerville tacked to the bumper. They are all me. And I’m all here, on this blog, or  a whole lot of me, anyhow. Still uncovering more, and hopefully, I’m still becoming every day, just like each of the children in our schools and in our care, in settings we have the power to create, beginning with our dreams.

Dream on:)

Update October 2014

I’m back at West Family Day Care full time. I’ve passed the van on to my son at college, bumper stickers and all. I now drive a 2014 Subaru Impreza, spend half my weekends in Western, Mass, and am shifting away from organizing and making things on a larger scale, to learning to live life in a quieter, more centered way. By January, two of my own three kids will be adults and my third will be a solid teen. Instead of thinking of ways to expand the day care or start a new school or working at SVS, I’m thinking of how to keep running the day care so it sustains me and my family and our teachers as time goes on. We are no longer taking new children for homeschooling or after school care. Going forward, we will focus on caring for 2 to 5 year olds, mostly full day, year round this year, most likely closing for August in 2016, and possibly for the summer in 2017.

I’m hoping that over time, I’ll be able to focus a bit more on my writing, not just on this blog, but maybe in other ways, possibly reaching a larger audience and with more polished, publishable work. I’m also learning how to be a Quaker, making peace with my life as a single mom, and learning how to take care of myself and my family as my kids grow up and leave home.

There is always lots to learn and lots to live. As long as the writing here feels useful and compelling, I’ll continue, hoping it will lead me to more interesting places and provide material to which readers can relate.

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2 Responses to “About Maria West”

  1. Jennifer Yip Says:

    Dear Maria,

    Hello! We are a group of Junior College students from Singapore. We are currently working on our ‘A’ Level Project Work report, which considers the implementation of the Sudbury Valley School system in Japan as an alternative to the current Japanese education system. The Japanese system has been constantly accused of failing to inculcate individuality, independence, and creativity in its students, instead placing too large an emphasis on academic achievement. We are now exploring the possibilities of implementing the Sudbury Valley School system in Japan to curb these problems, as it seems tailored specifically to promote such qualities in its students.

    Given your extensive experience in the area of education, and also in that of alternatives to traditional schooling, such as free schools and democratic education, we would greatly appreciate your personal insights on this topic. We are specifically interested in the workings of the Sudbury Valley School system, and how it prepares students for the workplace. We also understand that two of your children now attend the Sudbury Valley School, and your opinions on the Sudbury system would be of great help to our project.

    Would you have time to have an online interview with us? More information on our project is also readily available should you require it. You can contact us at jennifer.alick@gmail.com.

    We look forward to hearing from you soon! Thank you!
    Yours Sincerely,
    Charis Wong
    Hazel Woon
    Jennifer Yip
    Yap Jia Jun
    Class 10A14
    Hwa Chong Institution (College Section), Singapore

    1. mariawest Says:

      Hello,

      What an inspiring group. I have replied offline, but want to say again, I am not an expert in either Sudbury Valley Schools or Democratic Education. I’m a (mostly) self-taught student of both and an experience mother, day care provider, and teacher. I am happy to talk to you from my experiences, but wouldn’t be able to give extensive insight as a Sudbury Valley expert. Thanks for reading the blog and for contacting me.

      Maria

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