The Lewis Family spoke with us about making the decision to continue with Waldorf Education for their son, Indiana, beyond Early Childhood and into Grades 1-8. Indiana is going into Grade 7 next year.
Were you alway interested in Waldorf Education?
We knew nothing about Waldorf Education, honestly. We’d done a parent child class when our son was two, but choose a different school that focused on academic rigor. We started Indy in their preschool program and he chewed holes in his sleeves and disliked school. We knew if school stressed him at age four and five, there was NO way he’d thrive in the upper grades. We came and looked again at Spring Garden; this time thinking more about the long-term experience.
What were your initial thoughts?
To be honest, we had concerns. It seemed lovely, but were the kids really learning? Plus, we run an internet marketing company and love technology. We also have public school educators and advocates in our family, so we ran up against the usual skepticism — later reading, no ed tech, and reservations about the one teacher system.
Why did you ultimately choose SGWS?
We did our research, and really found that the science out there supported this approach pretty overwhelmingly in early education. Especially on issues like recess time, social emotional learning, print writing, hands-on learning and, of course, no testing until 4th grade.
The lack of technology has been a non issue. In fact, our son’s writing skills and comprehension are better for all the printing. And science supports print note taking over laptop work. I can see that as true in our experience.
The one teacher system has worked out very well. She’s been this consistent, stable presence in his school day and his life. Someone who knows his learning style, gifts and challenges. But he learns from over 6 – 7 teachers each week, so she is in no way his only teacher.
The later reading turned into a real blessing.
How was late reading a good thing?
We have a same-aged cousin in our family in public school, so we can compare curriculum and they’re learning very similar things, but in very different ways. In the case of reading, she read in first grade through lots of worksheets and phonics lessons. We were completely hands off with Indy and we had moments when we worried. But one day, in November of Grade 3, he picked up a book for 4-6th graders and just started reading voraciously. It was the flip of a switch.
The best part is he loved and still loves reading. His cousin, however, often declares that she dislikes reading. That’s exactly what we hoped to avoid.
Do you feel Indy is thriving here in elementary school?
Totally. The overall best part about Indy going to Spring Garden is that he LOVES school. Even as a kid about to enter Jr. High, he loves school. That is crazy! And every day, when we pick him up and ask how his day was, he says, “Great.” He’s learning so much too and is on-par with peers, while still enjoying school.
Would you recommend SGWS to a family considering a new school environment? If so, why?
Absolutely. It’s different, but it’s effective. I think people falsely believe that academic rigor means drills, lectures, homework and misery. The reality is quite the opposite. Deep learning that sticks, the kind that comes through intrinsic motivation, comes from hands-on relevancy. For kids, that means it’s interesting. That means school is fun and stimulating and challenging in rewarding ways. That’s what Spring Garden offers.
And, for those worried about results, just check out the alumni and how well they do. Or talk to the 7th and 8th graders about what they’re learning, look at their work, and ask them what they think of school. Then go do the same elsewhere. It’s a compelling testimony to the effectiveness of this type of education.
What advice would you give a family with a child coming into Spring Garden next year?
Talk about your education values as a family and what you want your child to “get” from these first 8 years in education. Maybe Spring Garden isn’t a great fit. But if you want a well-rounded education that your child will find exciting and interesting; if you value outdoor time, arts education and social emotional learning; and if you want to give your child the gift of childhood without testing and drills and worksheets… then Spring Garden is a wonderful option for your family.