Both of our children each spent four years in the pre-grades program at the NLS. They started in Little Dippers, and finished with two years of Kindergarten, including a Forest Kindergarten for our daughter in the program's inaugural year. Both kids transiotioned to Petrova Elementary directly into first grade. They are now in public school in Texas. Both are doing well in all phases of their schooling lives. They are academically good students, emotionally confident, have better than average social skills, very independent, loving and incredibly conscientious. We owe much of this to the teachers at the NLS. Not only did our kids thrive at the School, but the programs taught us to be better parents. It's a huge win for our family and it can be a huge win for yours.
Many parents today are worried that their kids will fall behind academically if they don't get on the treadmill as young as possible. I can assure you that the time my children spent at NLS did anything but that. Both kids are reading above their grade levels. It took both of our children exactly 60 instructional days in first grade to reach grade level reading proficiency. It took many of their peers two to three years to get to grade one reading proficiency. This is not an accident. Waldorf-inspired education works. Northern Lights School works.
My son Reuben attended NLS for 3 years - 1 in morning garden and 2 in kindergarten. His 2nd year of kindergarten at age 5 - 6 was instead of attending public school kindergarten. At age 6, he started first grade at Bloomingdale School and is now in 7th grade at the middle school.
Transitioning out of NLS before 1st grade worked extremely well for Reuben. While he started 1st grade as a complete "non-reader", even triggering intervention from the reading specialist, within probably less than a month, he had caught up the reading level of his classmates. By the end of the year, he was probably the top reader in his class. To this day, he is an avid reader, devouring books like other kids do candy.
I feel confident that Reuben learned so many more valuable social skills in NLS kindergarten than the early reading tools children are exposed to in public school kindergarten. Perhaps his love for reading is one of them. Certainly his ability to listen quietly, focus on his teachers, think creatively, and his passion for learning are all some of the important tools he learned at NLS. He still has very fond memories of the school and his years there. His closest friend are still the ones he was in Morning Garden with.
In my opinion, one of the greatest gifts that Northern Lights School offers to the children of our community is the opportunity to attend a truly appropriate kindergarten for 5 to 6-year-old children. Ages five and six are the pinnacle of early childhood, the important completion of a
wonderful stage of development that can never be completed again. 5- and 6-year-old children are still served by a Waldorf-inspired kindergarten curriculum, and they are served in ways that younger children are not yet ready to be served. It is always exciting when children are ready to take the next step, but it is important that they don’t take the next step before they are thoroughly finished with the step they are in, and truly ready to reap the benefits of the next step. Our culture tells us in many ways to rush our children ahead. Waldorf-inspired Education offers our children the opportunity to keep their natural pace and really suck the marrow out of this important time in their lives.
The holistic development of 5- and 6-year olds is supported by the Northern Lights School curriculum in myriad ways that may not be obvious to the observer. Children’s creativity and imagination are nurtured through opportunities for higher levels of creative play (different from what 3- and 4-year-olds do). Children of this age are still brilliant imaginers who live in a world of wonder. Being allowed to stay in that world gives them joy. Concentration, coordination and work ethic are developed through more complicated and advanced levels of purposeful work. The foundations of reading and math readiness are laid down through movement, music and language
and listening opportunities in more elaborate circles and stories. Continued physical development is nurtured through more complex movement opportunities, rest and good nutrition. Social growth is given great importance in the curriculum, as these older children learn to help
younger children, and have opportunities to work out conflicts in more mature ways.
Children who have completed kindergarten at Northern Lights typically do not have significant difficulty transitioning into the public schools. Usually by 6 or 7, they are truly ready for the more abstract ways of thinking that academics require, and they have gained skills and experience that
they could not have gained if they had put their energy into academics at an earlier age. They have “missed” early academics in kindergarten, but they are able to “catch up” quickly because they have very strong pre-academic skills and are developmentally ready for that kind of learning.
My son, Daven, transitioned to first grade at St. Bernard’s after two years of Kindergarten at Northern Lights. He was just turning 7. He was still learning the alphabet but had a host of pre-academic skills from his years at Northern Lights as well as a developmental maturity that made it
possible for him to pick up new concepts quickly. Math came easily and his reading developed steadily as his teacher put in some extra time with him with de-coding skills. He rose steadily through the reading levels throughout first and second grade and by the beginning of third grade
at Petrova he was reading well above grade level. He lost nothing through beginning academics later. He gained so much by spending all of his birth-7 early childhood years in a learning environment that supported the wonder of childhood and the kind of growth that children are
wired to do during those precious years.
One completely understandable reason that many families choose to move to public kindergarten is that it is tuition-free. I remember, when my eldest was a pre-schooler, being influenced by a Northern Lights School founding parent who said she believed that investing in early childhood education was more important than saving for college. The magic and the learning potential packed into the first seven years lays a foundation for the rest of a child’s life. Important skills can be learned during those years that cannot be learned again. Of course each
family’s financial situation is different and each family must make very personal and nuanced decisions about how to prioritize their spending. For us, though, the opinion this parent shared with us years ago led to decisions that have had wonderful and lasting effects for our family.
Northern Lights School was the introduction to a Waldorf-inspired Education for my family! We were there when the seed was planted and it has taken our family for the most rich and arduous journey! I remember incredible arts days ,doll making for the Kindergarten and a lot of painting and reglazing old windows. A wonderful Star Fairy Cafe for the holiday Fair! My children experienced butter making, painting, and acting out of the fairytales! Northern Lights School seemed so humble in it's beginnings but it has become so large in it's impact on our lives! I am so excited that it still is providing this opportunity for families today! It holds a very special place in my heart!
Yes, I would strongly encourage parents to keep their children at NLS through Kindergarten and not be worried about them being "behind" when they get to first grade!
We chose to do four days a week instead of five because we wanted to keep the option open to do other activities on Fridays. That turned out to be lots of fun (for mom and child) because we hiked almost every Friday during the fall and skied on many Fridays during the winter. I also felt that at the age of five, children shouldn't have to spend all day in school. It just doesn't seem like the right place for such young children to be. Half days with the option of aftercare seems much more reasonable.
Before making this decision, I went to visit kindergarten classrooms at Petrova, Lake Colby, and St. Bernards. The teachers were very proud of their childrens' accomplishments in terms of alphabet and numbers, as well as all the colorful posters pushing language development plastered all over the walls. To me the physical surrounding was overwhelming and distracting. As I watched the kids saying the letters of the alphabet when the flashcards were shown, I was certainly impressed that they knew all the letters and I started to wonder if my son would be behind if he didn't hurry up and learn them, but I still had this nagging feeling that this just wasn't the right way to go about it. And so, we chose to stay at NLS.
The end result was that Adrian had a great year, learning, and preparing his brain for more learning, all the while thinking he was "just playing." Kim Holmlund was great at explaining to me things about childhood development that I never would have thought about! At the end of the school year when Adrian said to me "I'm tired of just playing all day! I want to go to school and learn how to read and do math!" I told him that was great and that in September he would do just that! When Adrian started first grade at Petrova, he embraced it fully. He received one-on-one help with reading for the first half of the fall, and then jumped to the top of the class. He also received a special award in first grade for being "a creative thinker" (or something like that...)
And one last note... the friends that Adrian had from NLS are still his best friends now in the 7th grade; the best peer group I could ask for!
When my son, Bladen, was in Kindergarden he became interested in learning to write. Whenever we were driving he'd point to a sign and ask what letters they were. That winter, I noticed him etching the letters he saw on the icy car windows. Sometimes he would even trace a letter in the air to figure out what it was. I knew that at Northern Lights, he was not yet learning his letters in school, but I did know he was learning skills that would enable him to write easier in the future. One day I found a stack of index cards on a table in our home office. I picked them up and sifted through them, finding quite unexpectedly pages and pages of random letters, all capital and some backwords, but nonetheless I saw most of the letters of the alphabet. I promptly stapled them together and we now call it Bladens First Book. Since I had never shown him how to write, and he had not yet learned it in school, I suddenly realized that this is just one of the many magical aspects of learning found at Northern Lights; to be able to discover the alphabet, without being shown how, just by practicing the motions through artistic activities. What a beautiful gift to give a child.
Wynde Kate Keough
I discovered Northern Lights School when my eldest was only one. I had never heard of a Waldorf-inspired education, but was curious; and during my initial lets-just-see-what-this-is-all-about visit, I sensed I had found what I was looking for. A beautiful, natural aesthetic and a reverence for the young child and nature permeated the building; and I was introduced to educational ideas like head, heart and hands, will-work and imaginative play. My daughter and I joined the parent-toddler group and the rest was history! Our family spent the next 8 years intimately involved with the NLS community through Little Dippers, Morning Garden, Kindergarten and three years of Grade School -- and I never regretted one minute of it.
My children, now teenagers, say that many of their most precious childhood memories include Northern Lights School. It was a truly magical time for them, and I feel they gained skills and capacities they would not have developed otherwise. I also appreciated the ongoing adult educational support the school offered as well; i.e. I learned about the various developmental stages of childhood and how to nourish them. Waldorf education is so deeply thought out -- I loved how I could always find answers to my questions, like "How are reading (and pre-reading) skills taught?" or "Why is there such predictability to the day and week and season?" The camaraderie and fellowship within the community was palpable and I feel fortunate to have connected with so many like-minded parents. I highly recommend you visit the school and see for yourself. You have to experience a Northern Lights School education to get it!