South Africa’s ever-changing (and oftentimes controversial) government education policy and system, have many parents investigating the private school sector for an alternative in a bid to give their children the best education their budgets can afford.
But what should you take into consideration after having attended all those tedious Open Day visits? What are the game changers when making this costly long-term investment in your child’s future? Apart from the obvious (children everywhere in the world have the same basic needs), there are a few key aspects worth probing and pondering:
1. Teaching according to developmental stages (not a government prescribed recipe)
Worksheets and homework in grade R, or lo and behold, even younger?! A reality in many schools and according to various international studies highly overrated and completely unnecessary. What is important is for any teacher standing in front of a class to understand how the children looking up at them with so much expectation and wonder, have a specific developmental stage they are going through. That which the teacher brings to the lessons every day will mirror what the children are trying to work out for themselves, to challenge them in a safe environment, and conquer each stage like a champ.
2. Healthy teacher-learner relationships (building blocks for good emotional health)
Will your child be seen, treated and appreciated as a unique individual by the teacher in the classroom? Are you confident that the teacher, or the school’s administration, will be able to ‘work things out’ if the teacher and learner can’t seem to get along, or temperaments clash? We don’t always like our own children, but we always love them. As adults, we understand that in any close relationship (as we hope any teacher worth their weight in gold will establish with the learners entrusted in their care), there will be some measure of conflict, disappointment or a change in dynamic at times. We experience the same thing at home with our spouses and children as well. In the long run the pleasant experiences and strong bonds of understanding, commitment, trust and acceptance we build should far outweigh the moments of tension or disappointment. This is a precious lesson for impressionable youths in human relations, and a good school should value and foster these relationships. (Should we even get started on the disruption caused in many schools with the high staff turnover rate…?)
3. Temperaments (tempering tempers to become driving forces of change)
Any parent with two or more children can attest to this: siblings, raised by the same parents with the same rules in the same house need an adjustment in approach according to each child’s unique temperament. A choleric child might drive you completely bonkers sometimes, but an immense amount of passion in a tiny body, can become a force for change where it matters one day – if said child’s temperament is guided with empathy to harness and channel it correctly. This should be understood by any school as well. Each child’s strong characteristics, and the personal challenges they face, how they can be motivated and how they attain personal growth, should be well understood by their class teacher. Lessons should be prepared in such a way that it reaches and addresses each temperament so that children are drawn to participate in their own way.
4. Unpressured learning (kindling the fire for a love for learning)
What is the school’s homework policy? How much time will they (and by ‘they’ we mean ‘parents’ too, of course) be spending on homework? How much emphasis does the school put on testing and exams, standardised or otherwise? How much time will your child be spending behind a desk during the school day? Is there ample opportunity for learning outside the classroom? How much time and thought is spared for PLAYING at school? Children learn best through play (hardly a revolutionary idea) and this should be encouraged for as long as possible. Imagination, and free imaginative play, are pre-cursors to problem solving and critical thinking when learning becomes formal and academic – at the right time. Each child should be measured and motivated according to their own ability and scope of personal growth. Unpressured learning does not mean lower levels of academic achievement or excellence: there are countless international studies proving this…or simply read up on Finland’s education system. Rather, children who have abundant time to play and BE CHILDREN, stay emotionally healthy and learn to love to learn.
5. The return of empathy (loving, good and kind)
Teachers illustrating respect in every aspect of their daily activities towards children, will be mirrored in the children’s behaviour towards a teacher, and each other. In this day and age where political and economic strife and uncertainty in the adult world can so easily roll into and affect children at school, the children of our beautiful rainbow nation should be taught tolerance and acceptance for differences in opinion, culture, religion, language and even lunch box preferences! They should be shown that it is possible for people from different backgrounds, with conflicting points of view to spend hours together each day and get along if respect and empathy for each other prevail.
6. STEM, STEAM or STREAM:
In the academic debate between the pros and cons of a STEM, STEAM or STREAM curriculum (buzzwords in education), what we should not lose sight of, is that a balanced curriculum remains relevant and crucial in a modern world – developing innovative, creative, joyful and progressive idealists to become the problem solvers, and perhaps even the disruptors, of tomorrow. Does your school of choice tick all these boxes? Does covering science, language, art, music and the humanities enjoy equal weight and focus in the classroom to give your child a well-rounded education and, meet every aspect of their development: intellectually, physically, emotionally, spiritually…?
There are countless more areas to consider when selecting a school or education system/philosophy (notice how we omitted the vast array of extra-curricular activities schools are expected to list to cater to every parental whim nowadays?). Your list might include some of the above or be completely different. All the academic and pedagogical drivel aside, pick a school which values and celebrates each child’s individuality: the unique character and gifts each child brings must be appreciated, nurtured, developed and given the freedom to bloom.
Above all, pick a school that consistently creates a culture of happy, healthy and balanced children, creating a new generation of contributing, healthy, happy and compassionate members of society.
We accept new applications for grade 1 to 7 learners at any time during the school year. Contact us today to book your school visit and learn more about how The Waldorf School honours and fosters children’s individuality and developmental stages.