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What is Waldorf education?

Waldorf education was created by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, educator, scientist and artist. The first Waldorf school opened in September 1919 in Stuttgart, Germany. Steiner designed the school’s curriculum based on children’s natural course of development, incorporating their imaginations into their lessons, encouraging artistic mastery, and creative thinking and problem-solving.

Private Waldorf schools first appeared in the U.S. 1928. After the establishment of public charter schools in 1994, public Waldorf-inspired education has expanded rapidly. The Alliance for Public Waldorf Education currently supports nearly 60 member schools and educational initiatives operating in over 14 states.

What makes a Waldorf-inspired school unique?

In addition to rigorous academics, methods used in our Waldorf-inspired school also address children’s emotional growth and help them learn valuable inter- and intra-personal skills. While artistic expression plays a central role, students master a variety of different disciplines, including mathematics, natural sciences, language arts, history and social students, world languages, and more. Often, Waldorf is described as an education that nurtures the “head, heart, and hands,” emphasizing growth mentally, emotionally, and physically. Lessons and activities blend cognitive, auditory, and kinesthetic approaches to address the students’ various learning styles.

What is a public charter school?

In Colorado, a public charter school is a public school, administered independently from the public school district in which it resides. Charter schools receive state funding, must adhere to Colorado Academic Standards, and maintain accreditation through various state and local accountability measures.  The curricular emphasis and school governance are specified in the school’s charter, which also serves as the school’s contract with the state. It is important to note that charter schools receive no additional funds and often have higher operating expenses than neighborhood schools.

How are public charter schools inspired by Waldorf education different than private Waldorf schools?

Private Waldorf schools require a per-student tuition. Public charter schools bring bring a tuition-free Waldorf-inspired education. As a school inspired by Waldorf education, Mountain Sage offers a program that complies with the requirements of Colorado public schools and that is also dedicated to developing the ‘heart’ toward responsibility, respect, and compassion. We bring the essence of Waldorf education through a secular educational experience.

What are Multiple Learning Intelligences?

Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor, put forth the idea that there are many types of intelligence and our educational system is catering to only one or two. By teaching in a way that appeals to a variety of different learning styles children can process information holistically and more effectively. The types of intelligence are:

  • Linguistic: word and language-based learning
  • Logical: mathematical numbers-based, logical, linear learning
  • Visual-Spatial: visually oriented, artistic learning
  • Body-Kinesthetic: physical movement and action oriented learning
  • Musical: melody, pitch, and rhythm-based learning
  • Interpersonal Intelligence: social-emotional, group interaction and relationship learning
  • Intrapersonal Intelligence: inner reflection, self awareness and introspective learning
  • Naturalist Intelligence: nature-based, environmental, scientific learning

We believe that every child is gifted in his or her own way. A holistic approach to education helps to develop the child’s unique gifts and talents while strengthening all intelligence areas.

How is reading taught at Mountain Sage?

Reading is intimately woven into writing, and creates a complete, well-rounded, artistic approach to literacy. The foundations are planted in Kindergarten by cultivating listening and speaking skills through songs, poetry, story, and other foundational literacy experiences. For example, a letter of the week is incorporated and the name and sound of the letter are experienced throughout the week in playful and engaging ways.

Stories of imagination and archetypal imagery are continued by the first grade teacher. The story is then literally put to sleep overnight. When the children return to school the teacher guides them in remembering the significant details of the story, practicing linear memory. Through their recapitulation their memories are engaged and the pictures form anew in their creative minds. From there, the teacher leads the children in a guided drawing and ultimately a letter (or letters) to phonetically and pictorially bring the experience to life. This true learning is satisfactory for the young child who is in a developmental stage where they ‘think’ in pictures. This is substantially better than simply memorizing, for example, that 3 straight lines make an ‘A’. Through this beginning writing, with the added depth of story, art, and imagination, we mirror human evolution in that our ancestors used hieroglyphs and pictographs at the early stages of writing.

From the learning of letters comes many literacy skills; spelling of familiar sight words, recognizing digraphs (ie: th, ch, sh), making plural words, phonics (understanding letters have sounds associated with them), phonemic awareness (understanding ‘cat’ is made up of ‘c’ ‘a’ ‘t’ sounds), rhyming, consonant blends (fl, st, tw, etc.). From this rich foundational work come many games and activities to strengthen the skills and lots of writing of words and simple sentences.

In first grade the teacher compiles favorite songs, poetry, the morning verse (spoken each day to begin the school day) and other verses that have been learned ‘by heart.’ When the children follow along the printed page with their finger they are seeing what they have spoken or sung many times over. The moment of recognition that they “know” how to read this is a powerful one. This approach gives depth and meaning to the first reading experiences, and is not abstract. This transition from listening, speaking, writing, to reading is a natural one that supports child developmental phases.

What does homework look like at Mountain Sage?

Homework does not begin until 3rd grade as we believe every child has “work” to do at home as part of their family. When it does begin, part of its purpose is to train the habit life of the child; remembering to bring it home, do it, and bring it back to school. It is also an opportunity for parents to see what is being worked on at school and how their child is doing with that work. Homework will often include reading, and may include other activities. The work will always be purposeful, never “busy work.” We also strive to give time during the school day to work on the assignments, ask questions, get support, etc. so the opportunity is there to finish the work and not have to take it home. We do not assign homework over a weekend unless there are multiple weeks to accomplish (like a research project or learning of lines for a play). We strive to have a healthy school/home life balance.

Is there standardized testing?

Yes. As a publicly funded charter school, our students must participate in standardized testing. We recognize that testing can be stressful for many students and have worked to create an atmosphere around testing time that focuses on self-care, test preparedness, and plenty of outside time. Our educational program is not designed around standardized testing however our students perform very well. Please visit our Student Assessment page to learn more.

How many students attend Mountain Sage?

The school serves approximately 330 kindergarten through eighth graders and homeschool enrichment students.

How many students will there be in each class?

The typical maximum enrollment in the kindergarten class is 22 students. The typical maximum enrollment in the 1st-8th grade classes is 26 students.

Do you plan on expanding to include a high school?

No. Mountain Sage Community School is dedicated to creating and growing our K-8 program. The school’s current administration and board have no plans to lead the effort to create a high school. Should the effort to create a high school for Mountain Sage graduates arise from a knowledgeable group within our community, we would happily show our support, sharing resources and contacts that may aid in such a development.

What does the school require for teacher qualifications?

Teaching at Mountain Sage requires excellent teaching habits, classroom management, and previous experience. The ideal candidate has both public school and Waldorf teacher certification. Teachers are selected based on an evaluation of their ability to deliver the curriculum and vision as described in the school’s charter. All teachers at Mountain Sage demonstrate strong abilities to bring the mission and vision of our school to life. Teachers have classroom experience and the ability to weave together CO academic standards and the Waldorf curriculum in age appropriate ways. Our teachers also possess social-emotional, classroom management, planning, and artistic skills. Preferred qualifications include a bachelor’s degree and elementary PLACE or PRAXIS certification, Waldorf teacher certification and/or experience, and/or Colorado teacher licensure.

Is there a dress code?

Yes. You can find it in the Parent Handbook. Mountain Sage Community School requests the active support and cooperation of all parents in encouraging clothing and personal grooming in alignment with our dress code for the sake of creating a student community based in safety, kindness, respect, and responsibility.

What is your cold weather policy?

At Mountain Sage, we value the outdoors and believe all children should spend time outdoors daily. Our Cold Weather Policy can be found in the Parent Handbook. Please remember to send your child prepared for Colorado’s cold and changing weather conditions. Families who need support in finding appropriate cold weather clothing may benefit from our Winter Warmth Drive, held annually by the Community Circle.

Do you charge tuition?

No. We are a tuition-free publicly funded charter school.

Are there any fees?

Yes. The school does not ask parents to purchase any supplies before the school year starts.  Instead, there is an annual fee for school supplies, which is currently $250 for each K-8 student and $100 for each homeschool enrichment student. Those who qualify for free or reduced-priced services, this fee may be waived.

What does lunch look like?

Our school lunch program offers hot lunches Monday-Thursday and sack lunches to be taken home on Friday. Orders need to be placed in advance. Meals will not be available for purchase day-of. Visit the School Food page of our website to learn more.

Does the school provide transportation to and from school?

No, however we do have a Carpool Program and support biking and walking to school. Please visit our Transportation page to learn more.

Is there a before and after school program?

No. Mountain Sage does not offer before or after school care, however there are a few afterschool providers in town that also offer transportation. You will need to inquire directly with them. Know of other before and after school programs our families might be interested in? Email connect@mountainsage.org.

Are there extra-curricular activities?

Mountain Sage offers middle school cross country running, and multiple after school clubs (many have a small fee) that change on a yearly basis. The Extracurriculars page on our website will be live soon.

Is there a homeschool curriculum you would recommend?

There are many wonderful Waldorf-inspired homeschool curricula out there. Three to consider are SEA Homeschoolers, Christopherus, and Waldorf Essentials.

Can my currently enrolled homeschool enrichment student switch to the full-time grades program?

Enrollment has an “Order of Priority.” Currently enrolled students who wish to change their enrollment type (e.g. home school enrichment to full time program) are the 3rd level of priority behind returning students and siblings of already enrolled students. Please visit our Enrollment Process page to learn more.

Is there a parent organization like a PTA or PTO?

Mountain Sage has had various parent groups over the years. We are currently re-examining the best model for our community through a collaborative process with families and staff.  Watch for updates!

Are parents required to volunteer a certain number of hours?

The active participation of parents both within and outside of the classroom is essential in supporting the school’s educational program. Parents are strongly encouraged to volunteer a minimum of 25 hours per year. Parents’ professional, cultural and creative knowledge, talents, and abilities help make Mountain Sage a vibrant, dynamic learning environment. In addition to the classroom assistance, the school relies on parent volunteers to perform many non-classroom jobs such as fundraising, outreach, and involvement in seasonal school festivals. Please visit our Volunteer page to learn more.

Can I volunteer if I do not have a child at Mountain Sage?

Yes! We welcome volunteers from far and wide. It’s wonderful to have both parent and non-parent volunteers helping in our school. All potential volunteers must apply and undergo a background check. Please visit the Volunteer page to learn more.

Will volunteering help secure a spot for my child who is not yet enrolled?

No. All children are admitted through a lottery system. At one time we had a “founding families” category in our order of priority, but that was years ago. Please visit the Enrollment Process page to learn more.