Hudson Valley Private Schools
Discover all the unique educational opportunities the Valley has to offer with this comprehensive guide to the region’s private schools
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Following a different path
GREEN MEADOW WALDORF SCHOOL
You won’t see kids at the Green Meadow Waldorf School glued to computer screens during study hall or chattering on cell phones between classes.
“We’ve instituted a no-media policy up through the fifth grade,” says School Administrator Tari Steinrueck. No cell phones, MP3 players, or other electronic devices are allowed on campus during school hours without special approval.
“We also ask parents to adhere as much as possible to a no-media program for the kids at home, too,” Steinrueck continues. That means no TV, movies or videos, and no computers, cell phones or texting. “We realize it’s nearly impossible to totally avoid electronic media, but it’s important for a child’s development that parents restrict it. Feeding children all sorts of outside stimuli from the media, constantly imprinting images on their brains, has been found to dampen the ability to imagine and think creatively.”
And just as Green Meadow discourages oversaturation by technology, it encourages some “old-fashioned” pursuits, such as plenty of playtime for its youngest students. “Our kindergarten, for instance, is play-based,” says Steinrueck. “Research confirms that when kids are allowed to move around and play a great deal during kindergarten age, they’re learning important life skills and developing executive functions. On the other hand, when children are placed in chairs at desks for hours a day, it can work against future learning ability. This can actually block development of some brain pathways that occurs when kids are allowed to move around and be active.”
Green Meadow — a day school located in Rockland County’s Chestnut Ridge — also encourages kids to learn to read at their own pace, not according to an external timetable. “Reading comes naturally for most kids,” says Steinrueck. “They usually begin to learn it on their own, generally between first and third grade. Sometimes a child doesn’t really pick it up until about the fourth grade. But teachers and parents fear that a skill like reading may not unfold, so they start pushing kids earlier and earlier.”
Waldorf education was developed by Austrian thinker Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th century and is based upon his philosophy called anthroposophy. Steiner espoused the view that the human being is a being of body, soul, and spirit; and that children develop through several specific stages from childhood through adulthood. One of the oldest Waldorf schools in the nation, Green Meadow opened in 1950. It offers nursery school through 12th grade classes, with a full curriculum including math, science, languages, history, English, music — along with activities such as athletics, gardening, even knitting instruction. Tenth and 11th graders can expand their horizons even further, with foreign exchange programs in countries ranging from France to Peru.
Since Green Meadow isn’t a public school, it isn’t required to administer state tests. “We do have a lot of testing — it just isn’t standardized; it isn’t the Regents,” Steinrueck explains. “Our students take tests regularly, but they don’t learn to the test. Instead of multiple-choice tests, students go into depth about a topic; they write a lot of essays.”
Since about 98 percent of Green Meadow students continue on to college, they do take SAT exams. “And although many go to excellent colleges, we don’t consider ourselves an elite private school aiming to get our students only into the upper 10 percent of colleges. We feel that we educate a bell curve of students who go to a bell curve of colleges,” Steinrueck says.
Still, tuition costs can be a jolt for parents. With current basic annual tuition ranging from $11,800 for full-day kindergarten to $17,900 for grades nine through 12, “it can be challenging. The economy is really difficult for everybody,” Steinrueck acknowledges. “As a nonprofit school, we try to keep tuition as low as possible. We’re not here to make money for anybody. Tuition costs allow the school to stay open, to operate and provide excellent teachers, excellent programs.
“We help students become whole human beings,” she adds. “The goal is not for kids to get a certain grade, or get into a certain college, but to grow up to be an individual able to stand on their own two feet. To make healthy, ethical decisions in their life, to feel free, and think creatively.”
Green Meadow Waldorf student
How long at the school: “I’ve been here since the sixth grade, and been in Waldorf schools almost all my life. I did go to a public school for six months, but I hated it. It was very dry and factual. One day a science teacher brought in dead animals and we were supposed to observe their characteristics. I said, ‘How can I observe their characteristics if they’re not alive? How can I observe this bird fly if it’s dead?’ Things like that were hard to deal with.”
Hardest thing to adjust to in private school: “I came to Green Meadow to visit for three days and never left. There was no adjustment; I was so happy to be here.”
Favorite subject: “I love music; I play the oboe. I also like science and will probably go into that field.”
Best part of the school day: “We have 45- to 50-minute classes and I’ll go from, say, chorus to chemistry to German. I love the diversity and variety of the courses.”
Best thing about the campus: “It’s a small size. Everything is right at my fingertips.”
People might be surprised: “At how vigorous the academic program is in our high school.”