My big lottery win (let the winfall begin!)
I won the lottery last week!
Before you start hitting me up for a loan, I’m remiss to say it wasn’t that kind of winfall but rather it involved my daughter being selected via a lottery to enter a new school in the fall.
I’ve watched the public vs. charter vs. private school debate with passing interest thinking it didn’t apply to me. I have been very happy with our neighborhood public school, which has high assessment scores and a capable staff.
But then the bottom fell out in the form of my daughter’s day-long anti-homework meltdown last month.
(Insert collective nod from homework-wary parents everywhere).
On the surface, I recognize a lot of kids hate homework (though I was a brown-nosing nerd who loved it). But then I started to look deeper. My daughter is a smart, visual, out-of-the-box thinker who spends hours in her room just creating. Though she is performing at grade level, she is struggling with the barrage of worksheets and math drills. Her excellent teacher has recognized this and tweaks her assignments but she has 24 other kids to juggle.
I knew something had to give and I hoped it wasn’t my sanity for the next 10 years.
Call it a coincidence or providence but shortly thereafter, Haddie had a new friend over for a playdate. When her mom came to pick her up, she raved about a new Waldorf-inspired charter school. Not familiar with The Waldorf Method, I started to do some research into Waldorf’s arts-integrated academic education.
And I really liked what I found.
Their curriculum is comprehensive in scope and artistic in nature. Its academic components are aligned to state standards and framed within an artistic, creative and imaginative context with a multi-sensory approach without an emphasis on technology.
The school offered several open houses and I was shocked to see a jam-packed room of enthusiastic parents who hailed from as far away as Parker to Evergreen. We toured various classrooms. The second graders were singing about Hot Cross Buns with engaging storytelling, fractions and multiplication. At the back of the room, a cooking area was set-up for the kids to make Hot Cross Buns to apply what they learned.
As we turned to leave, our guide whispered, “That is their math class.”
And admittedly, the whole thing made me weepy because this hands-on, creative learning approach is such a perfect fit for my daughter.
Arts are interwoven into every subject with really cool programs like a greenhouse where the children grow plants (and later sell them for a fundraiser), weekly cooking classes, handwork, orchestra, eurythmy (huh?), field trips, and community festivals. A few weeks ago, we attended an after-school Valentine card making class that was open to the public where one of the fathers raved, “My daughter is thrilled to come to school every day!”
But I had some questions. Sure, the arts are swell but how do the students perform academically so I asked the Denver Waldorf School’s enrollment director Leigh Rhysling. “In the younger grades it may seem as if we fall behind because we take much longer teaching foundational skills in reading, writing and math for more in-depth comprehension,” she said.
“But it pays off because we’ve built that foundation,” she continued. “Nationwide, 97 percent of Waldorf graduates continue on to college, 88 percent of those graduate with a four-year degree and 78 percent go on to do higher level degrees.”
Last month, the Denver Post reported Denver Public Schools’ high school graduation rate is up 4 percent…to 56 percent.
Though I am at the beginning of my journey, I firmly believe this method is not for everyone (including my arts-challenged son who will happily remain at our beloved public school). But I’m grateful there are options for children who don’t always fit the mold.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
― Albert Einstein
A private Waldorf Method education can run you upwards $12,000 per year, which is why the Waldorf-inspired charter school and homeschool programs are worth looking into. Here are some options in the Denver-area.
The Denver Waldorf School, Denver (pre-K-12th grade)
Parzival Shield, Denver (pre-K-kindergarten)
Mountain Phoenix Community School, Wheat Ridge and Coal Creek Canyon (pre-K-8)
Shining Mountain Waldorf School, Boulder (pre-K-12 grade)
Tara Performing Arts High School, Boulder
Waldorf-inspired homeschool programs