What is Waldorf?

Waldorf education is based on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner who founded the first Waldorf school in Germany around the turn of the century. Steiner believed that education needed to address the WHOLE child and not to leave out the SPIRITUAL, or FEELING part of a child’s development. Waldorf education strives to educate the WHOLE child through engaging the HANDS (doing), HEAD (thinking) and HEART (feeling) in every learning endeavor. Children are taught to appreciate BEAUTY, TRUTH, and GOODNESS– in themselves, other people, in the world around them, and in the relationships they have with others and the earth. To learn more, there are a number of websites with information about Waldorf and Rudolf Steiner.

What does “Waldorf Inspired” mean to Greenwood Tree?

Greenwood Tree is a Waldorf-inspired cooperative. Much of our curriculum is based on the principles of Waldorf and what is found in traditional Waldorf schools while leaving room for interpretation and flexibility of the needs of the community, especially in the homeschooling enrichment classes. The richness and quality of Waldorf education can be found at GWT in many ways:

Materials – Waldorf education emphasizes an appreciation for what is beautiful and natural, hence our commitment to using natural materials in toys, art, and crafts.   We also strive to use foods in their organic, natural state.

Rhythm – Emphasis on consistent rhythms that provide balance between periods of BREATHING OUT (outdoor play, free play) with BREATHING IN (circle time, story telling and puppetry, main lesson, crafts).

Arts – Appreciation for ART and NATURE– outdoor nature walks, nature table, art instruction, music (flutes and other instruments), and foreign language.

Community Celebrations – Greenwood Tree celebrates and recognizes many of the typical Waldorf seasonal festivals that mark the seasons and provide an opportunity for community building and celebration. Examples include the Harvest Festival in the Fall, Martinmas Lantern Walk in November, Winter Festival and Spiral of Light in the Winter, Candlemas in February (Groundhog’s Day), and the May Day Festival.

What does it mean to be in a homeschool community as opposed to a school?

Greenwood Tree is a learning community for homeschooling families. This reflects our philosophy that people are learning all the time, everywhere. It is the responsibility and joy of all the adults in a child’s life to enrich a child’s learning opportunities. We challenge the conditioning that says “children’s most important learning happens only at school, where they are taught by certified teachers.” We recognize and honor that in a child’s family, immense learning has been happening from the time of birth and does not suddenly stop when a child reaches school age. Being a homeschool family doesn’t mean that parents have to wear the formal teacher hat for children to get their needs met. Children already learn so much from their families both about life and practical skills. Every time parents read to their children, every time they answer a child’s ‘why,’ every time they play a game, every time they engage in the tasks of managing a household, children are learning.
Additionally, in being a homeschool community, Greenwood Tree does not require children to attend 5 days per week. For some, the self-directed learning environment is one piece of the larger learning plan for their children.

What does it mean to be in a cooperative?

Greenwood Tree began as a grass roots organization of a handful of families who wanted to create a special learning environment for their children while also creating a strong supportive community that enriches everyone in the family.

Though GWT has grown to include new teachers, it is YOU, the parents, who continue to shape, inspire, and create the GWT community and make it a special place to learn and grow. As a cooperative, the school is owned and operated by the parents and staffed by teachers. Parents help the teacher in the classroom and do all of the daily work necessary to operate a successful school.

Parents are there to share the school experience with their child. In the Root Children, our parent toddler class, they participate in the class with their child – playing, learning, and making new friends together. In our Thimbleberry Kindergarten class, parents volunteer in the classroom 1-3 times a month. In the Grades Classes,  parents are asked to volunteer in the classroom as needed and remain involved in the education provided at home. Parents get to know the teachers and the other families their child interacts with on a daily basis. This also fosters an environment of open communication between parents, teachers, and the community as a whole.

Greenwood Tree Cooperative recognizes that parents are the primary educators of their children. Parents share their interests and talents by helping in the classroom, serving on committees, and on the Board of Directors. These direct parental efforts and involvement make the cooperative a unique educational opportunity. The children grow in mind, body, and spirit as they are nurtured with acceptance and kindness by their teacher and other parents. It is our small way of creating the “Village” in which children feel safe and know they are surrounded by a community of people who care about them.

Another expectation of being part of an educational cooperative is “Parent Jobs” for each family.  We do our best to find a job that works well with your family’s schedule.  The jobs range from weekly vacuuming to website assistance.  We do our best to keep tuition affordable and we need every family to pitch in and do their part!

Parent education and parental support is an integral part of the cooperative experience at Greenwood Tree. Seasonal festivals, social gatherings, and Parent Education discussions provide opportunities for the whole family to be involved and help build lasting, supportive relationships.

Benefits Of a Co-op

The benefits of a cooperative school are numerous. Parental involvement and a student/adult ratio of six to one are just some of the reasons children thrive in a cooperative environment.

How does the child benefit from a cooperative learning environment?

  • School is special when a parent is there to share it.
  • Children develop a positive attitude towards school.
  • Children see the value their parents place on education.
  • School is more easily extended beyond the classroom, leading to a lifelong habit of learning.
  • Children develop an increased sense of pride and self-esteem when they are the helper and get to show off their parent.
  • Children enjoy friendly adults who accept each child in a safe and nurturing environment.

How does a parent/family benefit from a cooperative learning environment?

  • Education in child development and parenting skills are found in the classroom and at parent meetings.
  • A support network in the good and the challenging times in parenting, from others in similar situations.
  • A network of friends with the same interests and concerns.
  • A chance to observe your child and their peers in a group setting.
  • A chance to discover new and hidden talents and contribute your abilities.
  • Participation in all aspects of your child’s education.
  • A voice in the school decisions and policy making.
  • Ease of communication with the teacher.
  • A chance to learn to effectively advocate on behalf of your child.

How and when was the Greenwood Tree Cooperative established?

Greenwood Tree began as a group of mothers meeting around the kitchen table, looking for an alternative education option for their children. Informal gatherings of children and parents took place in the home of a founding member in 2009 and the first official classes started in the Autumn of 2010 at the Unitarian Fellowship in Mount Vernon. GWT has grown from about 22 children in two classes in its first year, to nearly 70 students in five different classes in 2014-2015. GWT officially became a federally recognized 501(c)(3) in the summer of 2012.

Is there a Dress Code at GWT?

Though there is not a specific dress code, we ask that children and adults come properly attired to class, meaning that everyone wears clothing that can get messy, and is appropriate for the weather. We also request that everyone wear simple, plain clothing, refrain from wearing any violent images, and avoid popular commercialized characters like Disney or Star Wars. It has been our experience that these images can be distracting for children and take attention away from the simplicity and beauty of the environment.

Is there a Media Policy at GWT?

In an effort to preserve a simple, beautiful and natural environment where the imagination can fully grow, it is the policy of GWT that:
• Electronics be kept out of the classroom, unless previously arranged with the board and/or teacher (e.g.,for medical necessity).
• Cell phone use by adults is limited in front of children to only as needed and not in the classroom during class time.
• Electronic games, MP3 players, etc. should be left at home.
• In general, the use of any media, like television, computers, and electronic games, is discouraged in Waldorf pedagogy for the developmental health of children under 14.