Children ages 3 through 6 start by attending the Carolina Friends Early Schools. There are three Early Schools to choose from, each convenient to Durham: one on their Main Campus, one in Chapel Hill (at the Chapel Hill Friends Meeting, near UNC), and one in Durham (at the Durham Friends Meeting, on Duke's Central Campus). The school is open five days a week, from the end of August through early June, and summer programs are offered. Young children have several options of departure times, with half day leaving at 12:30, 3:15 for full day students, or 5:15 for extended day students. Each day is centered around the needs of young children, with a deliberate balance of active and quiet play, age specific and family-like mixed age groups. Carolina Friends School places a great importance on the need children have to learn to make choices for themselves, and this is reflected throughout their school day. The learning environment is flush with supplies, tools and materials for exploring all their heart desires, be it art, puppets, puzzles, manipulatives, sand and water, blocks, drama, games, science and nature, books, numbers, writing, and more. Children don't just learn in their lovely classrooms but also in the wooded playgrounds, forests and creeks. Each day children gather in large or small groups for reading, storytelling, singing and other activities thoughtfully planned by the teachers, with multiple opportunities for music, movement, guests, and field trips. One constant is a period of shared silence at the beginning of each day called "settling in", where students quietly gather around a candle and get their "bodies and minds ready and centered for the day ahead."
Two basic tenets inform Carolina Friends School:
- in every person there is a light through which wisdom can be accessed, for the benefit of all; and
- we seek truth by examining diverse perspectives in a gathered community.
Their approach to education is "constructivist; our pedagogy is inquiry-based, valuing multiple perspectives. Thus every member of the community plays a vital role in our continuing search for academic excellence in an environment where values matter." It is an incredibly thoughtful approach to education, as well as diversity. Founded in 1962, Carolina Friends School was one of the first schools in the southeast to pursue a policy of racial integration. The diversity of the student body continues to be a focus to this day, with around 24% of CFS students being of a minority race or ethnicity. In regards to the school being within reach for all children, Carolina Friends School allocates a "higher percentage of tuition revenue to tuition assistance (over 10%) than many independent schools in this region" with around 24% of their families receiving need-based tuition assistance and admission decisions are made regardless of ability to pay. Creating and maintaining a multicultural and inclusive community in all regards, be it national origin, race, religion, family structure, sexual orientation, gender identity, or socio-economic background, is paramount to their mission.
Their mission affirms six tenets:
- Truth continually revealed
- Seeking peace within ourselves and others
- Accepting and respecting each individual's uniqueness
- Spirituality of life
- Value of simplicity
- Power of silence
The learning environment has been thoughtfully curated to allow this growth to happen. You have to see the space to truly appreciate the natural lighting, calming colors, quiet spaces, and wooden furniture in the inviting rooms and explore the carefully designed outdoor facilities and forests ripe for wanderlust. Simply schedule a tour to witness it firsthand (tour info below).
Teacher involvement is essential to learning, and following The National Association for the Education of Young Children guidelines, CFS has impressively low student to teacher ratios, averaging 9 to 1. Their class sizes are smaller than most and also fluid, allowing for small groups of 3-4s and Kindergarteners, or a mixed-age larger gathering. All classrooms have at least 2 teachers and a Head Teacher, and in specific locations Extended-Day teachers as well. Classrooms, depending on location, may also benefit from Upper School community service students and work-study students from Duke University. Under the guidance of these world class educators (see more about CFS staff here), the children construct their understanding of the world by experimenting, playing, questioning, discussing, and wondering in CFS's emergent curriculum, which is discussed more here.
For basic facts and CFS by the numbers, you'll find lots of info on this page.
Early School children in action:
A preschooler uses a heddle tool to press yarn together. The youngest students participated in an all-campus art project for the Martin Luther King, Jr celebration, working together in their weaving.
Each February around Valentine's Day, The Durham Early School gathers to celebrate You Make a Difference Day. "Parents, teachers, and children are greeted as they walk in with a hug and special tags that say "Who You Are Makes A Difference." After sharing a delicious light breakfast, sometimes made by the children themselves, the community gathers together to reflect on special stories of making a difference as they pass a flame from one candle around the circle. Each of the campuses have their own cherished traditions.
"One of the things that I most appreciate about my children's CFS education is the degree to which they have been encouraged, from age three to eighteen, to think for themselves and take ownership of their intellectual growth. They learn facts, but much more importantly (and more uncommonly) they learn to learn—to enjoy and follow their curiosity, to question, and to vigorously pursue understanding of their questions. Equally important, my children have also been challenged at every stage to consider and develop their values. They have been engaged intellectually and experientially in their own ethical growth. For example, they have regularly participated in developing the ethical guidelines that they and their classmates follow (for example, “don’t hurt each other”)--and have both studied and practiced conflict resolution skills to apply when the guidelines are insufficient! As with their academic education, they have learned not just values, but to question, develop, and value their values."
associate professor of environmental toxicology at Duke University.
His son attended CFS from age 3 to 18, and his daughter is in Lower School.
Simply come by the Main Campus Open House this Sunday, December 7th, from 2:00 – 4:00 pm. Talk with staff, visit the facility, see what so many families have loved for so many years.
If you can't make it, or wish to see the other two early school locations, contact the school to reserve a spot in a tour. These take place from 9:00 - 10:30 am on December 4, 9, 10, 16. January 8, 13, 22, 27, February 17, March 24, and April 22. (Keep in mind that several of these tour dates take place after the application deadline so plan accordingly.)
For the Early School, families must apply by January 4th, with the application completed by January 23rd. Notification of acceptance happens on February 20th. Applications and instructions can be found here.
After parents have toured and applied, Carolina Friends School arranges for an observational visit to their first choice of Early School location. This visit is essential, as prospective parents will have time to observe children at work, and be given the opportunity to have a conversation with the Head Teacher of that Early School.
To schedule a campus tour or admission interview, please reach out to Kathy Krahenbuhl at 919.383.6602 x221 or via email.
and has been an institution of learning for over 50 years.
See why it can be a beautiful start to your child's lifelong love of learning -
visit Carolina Friends School today.