Friends General Conference

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Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

First Day School

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First Day School (FDS) is offered by many, although not by any means all, Quaker Meetings as a child-friendly alternative to silent worship. First Day School is also a way of passing on our values and ways of life as Quakers. Madison Monthly Meeting has provided First Day School during most of Second Worship for many years, involving the loving service of many volunteers. Our program is formed on the leadings and inspiration of individual leaders rather than determined from above, and is responsive to needs of the moment. We realize that the word "school", with its implications of pouring knowledge in, does not describe our program, but we continue it out of respect for the term's widespread use in Quakerism.

Principles that guide our program development

Our program and the community built through it support our young people in meeting the challenges of their unfolding lives.

The First Day Program seeks to nurture young people’s connection to God, Meeting, and Quaker community, within a safe and welcoming setting. We invite the active participation of Meeting adults in the program. Exposure to Friends deeply centered in Quaker life is a profound way of passing our tradition, and offers deep gifts to our children and youth.

The program helps our young people build friendships and grow in skills of relationship and responsible community life. As they mature, we offer opportunity for increasing levels of decision-making, commitment, and leadership within the program. We remain awake to guidance, and trust that participants are also guided to receive that which nurtures their lives.

Our program engages that of God in each participant.

We believe that people learn when curiosity and creativity are engaged. We observe that awareness expands when interpretation is left to the individual. Therefore, rather than "pouring in" information or ideas, we often prefer to offer the direct experience through story, creating, group discovery and discussion that may draw forth that of God in each. We show respect for each participant by supporting differing needs, abilities, emotional development, and learning/neural styles.

Our program provides a basis upon which each participant may discover his or her life path and way of connecting to Spirit.

Our teaching is based in Quaker diversity, respecting both universalist and theistic interpretations of the above principles. We use and teach the Bible, as well as resources from other sacred traditions. Understanding the importance of building a foundation for Quaker identity, we explore Friends' historical and contemporary faith and practice, including worship, service, and testimony. We support each participant's growth in Quaker life: silent worship, decision-making in the Light, discovery and use of gifts, and ministry.

* Friends in Madison Monthly Meeting use various terms to describe the experience that theistic religions refer to as “God”. Friends should understand that they may substitute terms such as The Light and The Divine as they read the word “God” throughout this document.

Teachers, Helpers, and Paid Staff

Leaders of our children's and high school programs, whether paid or volunteer, see First Day School service not as child care, but as sharing and growing in their spiritual gifts. We are grateful to them and respect their leading to serve.

Paid staff: We employ paid staff, responsible for recruitment and oversight of volunteers, communication, and general administration of the program, and may also lead gathered sessions or other classes as needed. Paid staff also support teachers in carrying out projects and using strategies of teaching and behavior management consistent with our Guiding Principles, seeking assistance when necessary.

Volunteers: The majority of our teachers and helpers are volunteers. We also invite participation from other Friends to lead activities or be a supportive Friendly Adult Presence for classes or other occasions.

Parents as Volunteers: Volunteers are always welcome, but we want parents to have sufficient time in Meeting for Worship for their own needs and to become part of our community. With some exceptions, we expect volunteers to have at least six months of attendance at our or another Friends Meeting before applying as a volunteer in the FDS program. (See Madison Monthly Meeting volunteer policy for details of our volunteer application process.)

Child Sexual Abuse Safety: The MMM is committed to implementing practices that protect our youth from child sexual abuse. These practices include screening of volunteers working in the FDS program, ensuring that there are at least two adults with any group of children, and ensuring visibility into spaces being used for FDS programs. Policy is available from Meeting as approved.

Paid staff are considered mandated reporters of suspected child abuse or neglect.  Paid staff who suspect a child has been abused or neglected are required to report the abuse or neglect to child protective services or the police. If volunteers suspect that a child has been abused or neglected they should talk to the FDS Coordinator.

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First Day School Program Offerings

Nursery: This group meets in the room opposite the open classroom spaces in the basement. Children aged three years or younger use the nursery, which is staffed by two adult volunteers. 

Margaret Fell Class: This class meets in the area nearest the piano room. Most children in this class range in age from kindergarten to second grade, but the class may include four-year-olds.

John Woolman Class: This class meets in the area farthest from the piano room and is generally composed of children in grades ranging from three to five.

Middle School: Children in grades ranging from six to eight meet in the caretakers’ residence next to the Meeting House.

High School Young Friends Program: Friends in grades ranging from 9 to 12 meet in the sunroom on the main floor. The group discusses building Quaker identity and community and adult life issues in the Quaker context.

Middle School and High School Friends enjoy social or service activities at times outside First Day School Program times. If you are a parent who is interested in organizing, hosting, or being a Kindly Adult Presence for these activities, please contact program leaders.

More information

The First Day School Committee has involved parents and others in the Meeting in creating and approving these documents. Click each link to learn more.