Will my child be prepared academically in a play-based early childhood program?
We see the central tasks of early childhood education as encouraging healthy physical, neurological, social and personal development. Play and creative activities build strong foundations in all these areas, which facilitates ease in academic learning. Our understanding of child development is in tune with current educational research that supports delaying academic focus until grade school. Our experience has been that our students have excellent academic preparation when they graduate from eighth grade but also have social, artistic and personal strengths that set them apart from their peers who have been educated in high-pressure mainstream schools.
Why do the kindergarten teachers seem to be always singing to the children?
Our early childhood teachers use singing as way to redirect attention, signal transitions in activities, begin and end certain tasks, and sing seasonal songs with the students while in circle time. At other times, teachers use what is sometimes perceived as a “sing-song” voice to gently bring attention to a task or activity and keep the atmosphere and the “tone” in the classroom gentle, inviting and positive. Our teachers have intensive training in clarity of speech and articulation as children in this age group learn primarily through imitation.
What is the difference between Waldorf and Montessori?
These two educational approaches began with a similar goal: to design a curriculum that was developmentally appropriate to the child and that addressed the child's need to learn in a tactile as well as an intellectual way. The philosophies are otherwise very different. Waldorf education is a teacher lead ‘child-centric’ pedagogy and Montessori is a child lead, teacher facilitated pedagogy. Waldorf education begins in the rhythmic, imaginative, experiential, play based world of the young child where the teacher models and guides the classroom in a way that supports community and social skills building. As children progress through the grades the academic curriculum is approached in an experiential, artistic, social and physical way. Montessori is much more individualistic and self-led. Children may work on any subject for as long as they wish in a mixed age class with input from other children and their teacher.
What is the benefit of having the same class teacher from first through eighth grade?
Meaningful education is dependent on a relationship built on trust and respect developed over time between a teacher and student, and equally between the teacher and the parents. At Waldorf grade schools it is the aim for teachers to track with students from first through eighth grade. In this way, there is ample opportunity for a teacher to get to know the strengths and challenges of a student's learning style, and to work with parents to support their child's educational journey. In more conventional school settings, a child may just get comfortable in a class, or a teacher may just discover the best way to meet a child's needs, when the year ends and the child must change classes and teachers. There has been research to show that the benefits of a teacher staying with the student consistently outweigh the disadvantages.
How do class teachers prepare to teach all eight years of elementary school?
At Waldorf schools, the class teacher is responsible for the main academic content of the day in a two-hour main lesson. Students also have a number of specialty class teachers (language, handwork, music, etc). Waldorf teachers are recommended to have a bachelor's degree and specialized Waldorf training which develops the art of teaching children to see cause and effect in the world and perceive meaning in all things. In addition, teachers regularly attend yearly summer training with master teachers who help them to prepare their curriculum for the following school year.
What is a typical school day like?
In the Early Childhood program, rhythm and routine set the day which includes creative play, circle time, ample outdoor time, a homemade organic snack, seasonal crafts, indoor play, then rest and more outdoor play.
For our Lower and Middle School Students, each day begins with a personal greeting and handshake from their teacher. This is followed by the Main lesson, a ninety minute to two-hour period of academic concentration (depending upon grade level). Main Lessons are taught in three to four-week blocks devoted to a particular subject such as humanities, math or science. Main Lesson is followed by a snack and recess, two specialty classes, lunch, lunch recess and two more specialty classes. Specialty classes include American Sign Language, music, handwork, woodwork, movement, art, gardening, etc.
Are Waldorf schools religious?
Waldorf schools are non-sectarian and non-denominational. They educate all children, regardless of their cultural or religious backgrounds. The pedagogical method is comprehensive, and, as part of its task, seeks to bring about recognition and understanding of all the world cultures and religions. Waldorf schools are not part of any church. They espouse no particular religious doctrine but are based on a belief that there is a spiritual dimension to the human being and to all of life. As such, a sense of reverence for oneself, for another, and for nature and each individual’s relationship to the larger universe is nurtured. Waldorf families come from a broad spectrum of religious traditions and interests.
How do you address food allergies?
In our preschools and kindergartens, food is prepared communally and ingredients are provided by the school. We source organic and local ingredients whenever possible, commit to vegetarian recipes and honor children with dietary restrictions. Children in the grades bring their own lunch. Traditionally, our Seventh and Eighth Grades provide optional hot lunches once a week as a fundraiser. They adhere to the same policies as above.
What is the school’s stance on immunization?
Whatcom Hills Waldorf School strives to ensure the health and safety of all children in our school. We adhere to the immunization requirements of Washington State and require parents to follow all state and local laws regarding immunization, including providing valid immunization records upon enrollment. Consistent with state immunization laws, the school is fully prepared to follow state and local requests to keep home children who are not completely immunized against a disease in the event of possible exposure.
When do students begin reading?
The alphabet is learned in the same way it originated in the course of human history: people perceived, then drew pictures, and out of the pictures, abstract signs and symbols arose. First Graders hear stories, draw pictures, and discover the letter in the gesture of the picture. This process is accompanied by much phonetic work in songs, poems, and games that help establish a joyful and living experience of language. Through the grades, texts taken from the rich humanities curriculum (Folk Tales, Mythology, Genesis, the Bhagavad Gita, the Kalevala,etc.) provide material for reading practice.
How do you approach science?
All sciences begin empirically with immersion in nature experiences beginning in our early childhood classes. Science studies advance as the student approaches Middle School with the study of chemistry, modern physics, biology, botany, and zoology. The emphasis is on direct encounters with observable phenomena: “Describe what happened. Evaluate what you have observed. What are the conditions under which the phenomena appear? How does this relate to what you already know?” Then students are asked to think through the experiment and discover the natural law that stands behind and within the phenomena.
How well do students adapt to transferring into your school?
Of course this depends upon the child, but in general new students feel at home very quickly. Part of the culture of Waldorf Schools is our focus on community and inclusion, and our school family is very intentional about welcoming and supporting new members. We also require a 3-day classroom trial to ensure that all parties feel like WHWS is a good fit (please see our Admission process for more information). Students blossom with our arts-infused academic teaching and become life-long learners.
How is technology used in a Waldorf School?
We encourage the practice of media mindfulness, with the understanding that computers are tools to be used to enhance learning and life. The Waldorf philosophy on technology is based on a developmentally appropriate curriculum. For children under the age of twelve, the focus remains on hands-on, experiential learning of the core subjects of mathematics, sciences, reading, writing and social studies, along with music training, free play, outdoor education, cursive handwriting, storytelling, and art.
When our students reach middle school age, our students begin learning keyboarding and working with laptops. The curriculum included in the CyberCivics class explores the norms of appropriate, responsible, behavior with regard to engaging with the internet. They develop “information literacy” by learning how to find, retrieve, analyze, and use online information. These practical skills are vital and research shows that they are lacking in most young people.
In the end, a computer can’t replace personal interaction, good teaching, and a rigorous, balanced curriculum.
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How do testing and grading happen at a Waldorf school?
We have found that standardized testing is not an accurate or complete reflection of a student’s knowledge, intellectual capacities, or ability to learn. Thus our curriculum does not put focus on standardized test-taking preparation. Students receive comprehensive assessments that are prepared by their class and specialty teachers, and these are supported by teacher conferences and class meetings throughout the year. Receiving grades is introduced slowly at our school and only as the child develops higher executive functions. This allows time for the child to develop a strong sense of self, and an innate love of learning independent of grades-based motivation.
How do Whatcom Hills Waldorf students transition to high school?
Whatcom Hills graduates generally transition to their new high schools highly capable and curious. Many of our alumni join sports, music and theater activities, and enroll in AP classes. Local high school teachers often remark that our Waldorf graduates are well-rounded for many reasons: they are knowledgeable about the world, they have the ability to think independently, and are self motivated; they aren't afraid to ask questions or seek help, they show respect and act with integrity, and they bring creativity and imagination to everything they approach.
Are there opportunities for parents to learn or be involved?
When your child is a student at our school, there are parent evenings where your teacher will present a certain topic that pertains especially to students of that age group, and there will be time for questions and discussions. Your teacher can also recommend books and articles to answer your questions and deepen your knowledge. We also hope you will participate in school-wide volunteer opportunities and festivals that enrich your understanding as a parent and strengthen your connection to the school community. As your child progresses through the school, there are many opportunities to get involved with your class, school committees and festival life.
Do you offer financial aid?
Whatcom Hills Waldorf School strives for an economically diverse school community and is committed to providing needs-based financial aid to qualifying families. Although we are not able to award any full scholarships at this time, most awards range between 10% to 40% off full tuition and are available for those with children enrolled in Kindergarten through Grade 8 who have submitted all required documents by the March deadline. Please visit here for more information.