Coming To Waldorf

The decision to move our kids from Montpelier's public schools to the Orchard Valley School did not come easy. And it wasn't the 27 years of tuition covering our four kids that gave us the most angst. It was the numerous unknowns about a Waldorf education that kept us up at night.

You see we were public school fans. Still are in many ways. It is what we knew. But we couldn't figure out how to help our kids expand their base beyond purely academics, other than supplementing at home what they weren't learning at school. As much as we wanted to believe we could effectively do that, we quickly realized we weren't wired quite right given other life commitments.

That is what led us to explore alternative educations, focusing primarily on Orchard Valley. We toured the campus. It was beautiful, even peaceful. We had the kids attend a day at the school. They loved it because of what it offered that they didn't get at their public school. We wrote out the proverbial pros and cons list trying to capture all that we learned.

Finally, we made the decision to enroll, carrying with it our high expectations for what the program would do for our kids. In every case, our expectations have been exceeded.

Most important, our kids are expanding in breadth, rather than seeing who can accelerate the fastest in a given academic area. They are learning not one, but two foreign languages. They sing constantly, saving their best performances for the acoustically enhanced shower. They practice their music (piano, violin) without being asked, and they do so with passion. They use their hands and focused concentration to create wonderful works of art. And, they are learning the importance of stories as a means to communicate and understand academic and important life lessons.

They are also being exposed to the idyllic natural landscape of East Montpelier, taking long walks through the orchard, down to the creek, and back again, always absorbing all the wonderful things going on around them. And with spring upon us, they will soon see the earth waking up on a daily basis, something they would not have seen in their old school.

And at home, we have mimicked the rhythms and rituals they are learning at school. We wake up the kids and eat breakfast together as a family, ensuring a smooth and steady start to each day. Our children take turns blessing our meals with thoughtful verse. Our oldest has regularly enthralled us with stories of ancient times, as we sit glued on her every word after a satisfying dinner.

At the core of all this is the Orchard Valley community, including students, teachers, staff and parents, a community that welcomed us from day one, and continues to ask, on a regular basis, if there is anything we need.

The joy our family has experienced makes it hard to believe all of this has happened since January. What is even more inspiring is that we know it will only get better.

— By Maria Smart, an OVS Parent