East Wind's child program changes with the breezes. It's gone from kibbutzian-style communal raising of the children with the kids living in separate buildings, to a no-structure each family does what it wants type arrangement. Regardless of the structure, our childcare philosophy reflects our communal values, in particular equality and nonviolence. We encourage cooperation rather than competition in learning and playing, encourage non-sexism and independence. We generally believe in a rational approach to child rearing as the means of discovering what is best for the child in a given situation.
Right now, East Wind is somewhere in the middle ground regarding structure. There is currently a "meta program" which provides child care during working hours. Metas are more than babysitters and direct stimulating activities and projects, or take the kids on outings around the community. At this time we have children both in the public school system, and homeschooling. Our preference is accepting families who are willing to work with group care as this is what the majority of the community and families want, and the more people involved, the more solid the program can be. When there is no scheduled care, parents are expected to do, or arrange for, one on one care for their child. East Wind is also committed to being flexible, and to meet the needs of any child, and recognizes the fact that it may take time for parents and children to work themselves into group care, or even opt not to be a part of it. It does take time to adjust to a new environment and a support network tends to develop over time. Parents however are the bottom line for planning for the future needs of their child. While the community offers support through labor hours and resources and lots of people who choose to be involved with the children, the family unit remains intact.
East Wind is committed to providing the basic resources for the health, safety and education of the children who live here. We have a child oriented building with 16 rooms, kitchen, and bathroom. The outhouse remains down the path. Most families (both by choice of the community and the parents) live in Lilliput, and it's the center for the meta program. It can be a rather intense place to live. There are currently 9 children (6 boys and 3 girls) and 3 in utero, ranging from age 10 to -4 months and all but 4 will be living in Lilliput.
There is a 3 person childboard chosen to make overall policy and long range decisions, and to check in with the community at large. Child rearing is a very controversial subject and tends to bring out strong emotions and opinions. While the community at large is supportive of children, occasionally noise and behavior issues erupt, and there can be tensions in the dining hall. Most issues can be solved with a little bit of communication, though sometimes we find in community meeting and fall back on process.
Ultimately though, we think East Wind is a great place to raise a child. That's why we're here. The children have unlimited opportunities to learn and develop. They forge deep relationships among themselves and with adults. They have the advantages of rural living, beautiful natural surroundings, swimming in the creek, mooing with the cows, as well as exciting stimulating interactions with people. They have access to a CD-ROM and computer, and their stock of toys seems endless. East Wind kids tend to be secure and creative, and very bright. Sometimes a bit unruly. The authority of parents is somewhat eroded in the community environment, and parents often have to compete with peers to spend time with their children. But I believe the advantages of raising a family in community soon make it hard for a family to go back "out there".