Olympia Waldorf School Is a Nurturing Alternative to Homeschool and Public School

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A Waldorf education offers an exceptional option for students and families in search of an alternative to public school. After extended periods of remote learning in public schools, students and their parents are discovering that a return to the classroom can be overwhelming. Olympia Waldorf School looks and feels different. Small classes, individualized attention, and dynamic teaching are attracting new families looking for a home-like environment. Because of this, Waldorf is a place where parents who have homeschooled their children find a comfortable alternative as well.

young students sitting at large desks writing with pencils on paper
Olympia Waldorf School provides educational alternatives for students from preschool through eighth grade. Photo courtesy: Olympia Waldorf School

The two-plus years of online learning and time away from the previously traditional classroom was challenging. Students have missed or delayed developmental markers and are continuing to catch up and adjust. Waldorf understands this and works closely with students and their families to offer developmentally appropriate education.

“We meet students where they are,” explains Kelly Hanson, the school’s administrator. Prior to admission, there is a home visit with the family by the teacher. “It’s on a more personal level,” she says. Waldorf is not a fit for everyone, and the interview is a way to explore the private school option more fully.

a teacher helping a student at their desk with a laptop
Small classroom sizes provide more individualized time for students, adding greater depth and learning at Olympia Waldorf. Photo courtesy: Olympia Waldorf School

Small Classrooms Provide Powerful Learning

Olympia Waldorf has one class for each grade from first to eighth. Classrooms max out at 22 students, but right now the largest is 17. There are three kindergarten and two preschool classes, and that ratio is one teacher per six children. Students stay with their main teacher from first through eighth grade, which lessens anxiety for returning students. It also demands a deep focus on relationship building, including students-to-students and students-to-teacher.

Waldorf believes it is possible to create a school setting that engenders motivation to arise from within each student and nurture the capacity for joyful lifelong learning. Subjects are presented in a pictorial and dynamic manner with beautiful chalk art and interactive discussion. This eliminates competitive testing and academic placement stresses. While that different pace seems at odds with a modern format, Kelly states that: “Our curriculum is rigorous and meets all state standards for education. We want to encourage curiosity and want our students to know because they are curious and develop a love of learning, not because they have to take a test.”

A Waldorf School Day

Each day begins at 8:10 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m., except on Wednesday when the day ends at 1 p.m. The first two hours are a primary lesson time with the teacher. Blocks of focused attention on various topics are covered. Math, English language arts, science, history among others, are included. Later in the morning there is time for outdoor recess and snack, then another lesson time. After lunch there are specialty classes like Spanish, woodworking, or other handcrafts. There’s a string orchestra and a rhythm ensemble. Students circle back to their main teacher at the end of the day and finish with tasks, such as tidying up the room for the next day. The variety of activities balances individualized attention and socialization across their day.

Kids playing outside in dirt and bushes
Time outside for recess and study is enjoyed by students of all ages at Olympia Waldorf. Photo courtesy: Olympia Waldorf School

During the height of COVID restrictions Olympia Waldorf School remained open. Tents were erected in the field and students and teachers spent the day outside. “We are a hearty group,” says Kelly. After three years, classrooms are back indoors, but there is outside time every day. There remains a covered outdoor space for eating and also an outdoor learning facility.

Teachers are an exceptional component of the Waldorf experience. Even seemingly dry and academic subjects are presented in a pictorial and dynamic manner.  Waldorf does not want academics to be competitive. There are no traditional textbooks – though Chrome books are introduced in middle school. Each student creates their own book into an individualized textbook. “The teachers’ dedication is above and beyond with all the extra training and main lessons. Their deep understanding and respect for child development are impressive,” says Jessie Young, Waldorf parent.

A music teacher playing the cello with students on their string instruments with music in front of him
Music, art, languages and working with your hands are integrated into the daily life at Olympia Waldorf School. Photo courtesy: Olympia Waldorf School

Jessie’s family includes a seventh grader and a kindergartener. Her oldest child was in public school through the first year of COVID, when it was solely done remotely. After that first year, his parents made the choice to provide homeschooling. “He did well at school,” recalls Jessie, “but he really started thriving in the home-based learning with plenty of outdoor time.” After two years, it was time for Jessie to more fully resume her chiropractic career and build greater community for her children and family.

“I had always liked Waldorf,” she says. They did a parent/student interview and tour of Waldorf. “I really like it here,” is the sentiment their children portray to their mom. So does she.

“There is a focus on well-rounded kids,” Jessie adds. Classes are small and children actually know everyone’s name. Jessie’s children also thoroughly enjoy the extra classes that include music, art, and woodworking. Her oldest is already looking forward to eighth grade. “It’s such a relief,” smiles Jessie, appreciating the successful transition from public school to home school to Waldorf. She is amazed with the community and her children’s growth and comfort at school.

Kids doing a teacher-led group stretch
Group activities in work and play are part of the Waldorf curriculum. Photo courtesy: Olympia Waldorf School

Waldorf Teaches Life Balance

Waldorf offers a balance of individual attention with socialization. Kelly’s daughter attended Olympia Waldorf and is now a high schooler. “She maintains a deep love of learning,” she reports. Kelly also notices that her daughter keeps a healthy school work/life balance, which she admires.

Kelly, a former public-school counselor, knows that it is not possible for a one-size-fits-all education. Waldorf is a powerful, educational path. “I am excited to be here and love working here. We have a fantastic community including families, teachers, and board members,” says Kelly.

Learn more about enrollment on the Olympia Waldorf School website.

Waldorf School
8126 Normandy Street SE, Olympia
360.493.0906

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