Over the past half-century, children have spent progressively less time with adults on a daily basis. At NCS our faculty share their lives with children, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When children spend time with dedicated adults willing to share their interests and pursuits—whether the constellations, poetry, telemark skiing or the mandolin—students' interests are sparked, their learning is facilitated, and horizons are expanded. The house is an important place for interaction and growth.
There are seven residential houses on campus: Algonquin, Balcony, Bramwell, Cascade, Clark, Mountain and Woods. Sharing the daily routines of morning wake-up, late afternoon free time, evening study hall and bedtime creates strong relationships among children and those who care for them. Houseparents, the first adults to see students every morning and the last to see them at night, provide the consistency and security that make every house a place of safety and comfort.
Boarding students live with a roommate in our houses, and there are 12 or fewer children in each house. Day students are also assigned to houses. Many of our traditions and celebrations involve activities by house group. At Thanksgiving and holiday dinners, for example, the community is seated at banquet tables by house. For Saturday evening activities, or all-school work-jobs like potato harvest, teams are organized by house. Throughout the year, there are many events that build house spirit, adding to the family-like atmosphere of a true home away from home.
Homenights give children the opportunity to have an afternoon and evening "at home," much like children in day schools have. The afternoon begins with laundry (putting away clean clothes and bringing the next week's bag to the main building) and preparing dinner (learning to cook, as each house provides a menu and ingredients for all houses' suppers on a rotating basis). Evening routines vary, but most houses settle into a job rotation with pairs of students taking turns cooking dinner, baking dessert, setting the table, and doing dishes. The house group—including day students, support faculty and houseparents' own children—has dinner together.
After dinner, one house might challenge another to a game of capture-the-flag, soccer or ultimate frisbee. House funds allow for special trips to town for ice cream, bowling or night skiing. Occasionally, a house will shop for dinner at the supermarket, pick up take-out, or dine at a restaurant. Each house decides as a group how to spend the house funds. Homenights are about fun, friendship and relaxation.