If my child has not been in a Waldorf school before, how easy is it to transfer in?Our experience is that it varies with the temperament of the child, how well he or she adjusts to changes, and the grade of the transfer. Generally, through grade 5, the transition goes smoothly with slight adjustments to a new learning environment, artistic activities, and foreign languages. In grades 6-8, sometimes extra tutoring in Spanish or German and a musical instrument can help a student “catch up” to the level of the class. In the High School ninth grade is the optimum year to enter, although tenth and eleventh graders have found our approach suits them well. In the High School, during the admissions and visit process, we look at the applicant’s transcript to determine if the sequence of math courses or the level of foreign language integrates with ours, and overall if the student has an academic record appropriate to the level of work already taking place in the High School. Shining Mountain classes, K-12, are known for welcoming new students in a friendly and inclusive manner.
What is the thinking behind the recommendation that all forms of media be eliminated in the early years?
Throughout the Waldorf movement, one of our major goals is to increase the neural pathways in the brain, thereby optimizing overall brain functioning. This is especially important for areas of discrimination and critical thinking – lifelong skills. The TV screen, video games, movies, apart from the content on the screen, all lay down simple, repetitive neural pathways and actually shut down those areas of the brain that activate higher level thinking skills and powers of discrimination.
Furthermore, for young children, their primary means of self-development is through healthy movement, active play, and fantasy, which arises out of an innate capacity to form images. This capacity of imagination, so strong in the young child, is what we at Shining Mountain highly value, consciously cultivate, and see as the basis for critical thinking skills that emerge in the adolescent.
How large is the typical Shining Mountain class?Kindergarten: 18 children with a lead teacher and an assistant in each of our two kindergartens.
Grades 1-8: Ranges from 18 to 28, with certain subjects or electives split in half.
High School: Generally 12-15 in the track classes and 15-25 in the Main Lessons.
What kind of training do your teachers have?About 98% of the teachers at Shining Mountain have completed a two-year Waldorf teacher training program in addition to having at least a Bachelor’s degree. A number of teachers have Masters or Doctoral degrees, as well.
Do you have a full Waldorf program?Yes, we do, Kindergarten through Grade 12 – academics, music, drama, eurythmy, practical arts, movement, two foreign languages, and handwork. Please see Our Program and click on Lower School and High School, Curriculum Overviews.
In what ways are parents involved at Shining Mountain?Parents are vitally important to the smooth functioning of Shining Mountain Waldorf School: Board of Trustees, Finance Committee, governance and long range planning, Parent Council, festivals, fundraising, class trips, support for the teachers, organizing parent education evenings. Opportunities abound for parents to contribute their unique skills and energy to the school community.
Will my child be prepared for college?Absolutely! The High School program is strongly college prep, with 90% of our graduates entering four-year colleges and universities upon graduation, 5% entering two-year colleges, and 5% choosing alternate career plans. While the how and why of what we teach is uniquely Waldorf, the curriculum not only exceeds all state requirements for graduation, but also provides a depth to learning and thinking skills that is unparalleled.
What happens if my child and the Class Teacher do not get along?Our experience is that this situation is rare between the child and the teacher, because the Waldorf emphasis on honoring and supporting each child’s individual unfolding and life path allows for a great embracing of differences. However, if the relationship hits a snag, frequent communication between teacher and parents ensures that any difficulties are resolved as quickly and as cooperatively as possible.
How do you work with giftedness?The Waldorf ideal is to value all expressions of humanity, and so we see every child as gifted in his or her own unique way, to be appreciated for both strengths and weaknesses. Our approach emphasizes balance in the three distinct ways that human beings relate to the world: through thinking, through the life of the emotions, and through physical activity. In the curriculum all three aspects are cultivated. Although our methodology is such that all children are taught the same curriculum, a child who is gifted in certain areas, such as in music, science, or the arts, may go deeper or do more advanced work within the general classroom setting.
What type of extra help is available for my child?Shining Mountain has an Educational Support Department which is responsible for assisting teachers to find support for students that may need additional help through their educational journey. The Educational Support Director will perform full student assessments on a student when requested by a parent or teacher for students in Kindergarten through grade 6. We also offer small group classes in math and reading for grades 2 through 6 and have limited individual classes available for developmental and tutorial needs. In addition, we have small group eurythmy classes.
When a child’s needs extend beyond that of the Educational Support Department, then we will recommend outside tutoring or consultation. At the High School level, outside consultants support the extra help from faculty.
Is Shining Mountain affiliated with any religious denomination?No, we are not. We do, however, recognize that each human being in his/her essence is a spiritual being with a destiny to fulfill. The role of education is to support the unfolding individuality, but without any religious dogma. We honor various spiritual traditions and have confidence that, in our fundamental nature, human beings are alike, part of a global humanity.
How do you handle discipline?Approaches to discipline are varied and relate directly to the age of the child, his/her temperament, and any unique needs that child has. Parents are often surprised at how cooperative and peaceful our classes are, because the age-appropriate curriculum, the artistic activities, and the amount of movement in the day all help to keep students engaged in their learning. When needed, a teacher meets with parents to discuss discipline issues and formulate a plan.
What are you looking for in selecting a child and a family?First and foremost, we want to be able to meet the needs of the child, so during the admissions process and the student visit, we make sure there are no issues beyond our ability to handle them. Also, we find that a child’s success is further enhanced when parents understand and support our unique philosophy and educational approach. Towards this goal, we encourage you to ask us questions and become informed about the depth, breadth, and multifaceted aspects of our program.
Are you an art school?While many artistic activities are woven into the daily experience of our students, we do not consider ourselves an art school. Rather, the arts are the context in which academic work is imbedded. We believe that drama, painting, handcrafts, singing, instrumental music, and eurythmy are highly important for children to reach their full potential, to help them build confidence in bringing their creative ideas into the world.