Many natural-minded parents are drawn to Waldorf education for its emphasis on play, daily rhythms and connections to the natural world. Potomac Crescent Waldorf School, the only Waldorf school in Northern Virginia, offers programs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and children through fifth grade.
Mindful Healthy Life is proud to include Potomac Crescent Waldorf School, or PCWS, among its partners. The school has expanded in recent years and has moved its location to the education wing of Fairlington Presbyterian Church in Alexandria on King Street near 395. In addition to school-year programs, summer camp is also offered.
PCWS Director of Admissions Kismet Al-Hussaini took some time to explain a little more about how Waldorf education serves students and how PCWS implements Waldorf education.
Jessica of Mindful Healthy Life: I’d like you to share with our readers some background on Waldorf Education, but how about you first tell us what your grounding beliefs at PCWS are and how those are communicated to children?
Kismet of Potomac Crescent Waldorf School: Sure! At PCWS, we educate the whole child in a nurturing, creative community.
The Waldorf® curriculum enables children to build confidence, collaborate with peers, and creatively solve problems every day. Our calm and beautiful classrooms are free of screens and technology. Mindful Healthy Life previously published a guest post by a PCWS alumni parent about the unique Lazure method of painting that PCWS used for our classroom walls.
Additionally, our Early Childhood classrooms are free of academics. Free play forms the crux of the Early Childhood day. It helps children build social skills, develop imaginative faculties, and strengthen their bodies. All of our students spend abundant time in play in our playground and on nature walks, or in our classrooms with handmade and open-ended toys.
Regular rhythms in our curriculum create a balance with the freedom our students find in play. Our Early Childhood classes follow daily, weekly and seasonal rhythms that help children adjust to a school environment and to the larger world. These rhythms inspire reverence for the task at hand, and inspire reverence for a child’s environment, as well. Whether our students are chopping vegetables for vegetable soup, painting, reciting a poem or doing mental math, working on handwork or making rolls, they collaborate under the moral and academic supervision of our devoted Faculty.
A day at Potomac Crescent Waldorf School unfolds in a well-structured, beautiful and gentle way. Artful transitions find their apex in Waldorf® Education, where teachers often incorporate movement into transitions and sing directions. All of our students develop an appreciation for the natural world through song, story and artwork. Seasonal puppet plays, a variety of artistic projects and circle time stories reflect the rhythms in the world. Our students also celebrate various festivals throughout the year.
As a school, we respect the spiritual impulse in humankind and our curriculum and festivals reflect this impulse. It is also true that our curriculum supports social and cultural transformation in an inclusive environment. Our Early Childhood and Grades programs nurture a desire for life-long learning in each student.
Jessica: Tell us about your faculty and the different programs you offer.
Kismet: We offer a devoted Faculty and a heartening amount of individual student attention at every age level. Our offerings include two one-day programs: Parent-Toddler and Parent-Child, and several drop-off programs: Nursery (3-4 years), Kindergarten (4-6 years), Grades 1-5, Extended Care, a 6-week Summer Program, and ample outdoor time. Our subject classes include Spanish, Music, Handwork, Strings, and Games & Movement.
Our Grades curriculum supports each child’s academic, artistic, physical and spiritual needs. In addition to working with regular rhythms, each grade loops as a cohort with the same class teacher. This arrangement builds meaningful interpersonal connections and individual responsibility within a class. Grades students begin their day with a Main Lesson block that lasts around 4 weeks, and subject lessons and outdoor play complete their academic day. Main Lesson blocks cover traditional academic subjects in a fresh and enlivening way. We invite your readers to come see for themselves when their schedule allows.
Jessica: What is the parent community like at PCWS?
Kismet: Our parent body is a diverse group and they are enthusiastic about PCWS. Our Parent Association (PA) meets at school a few times each year. Parents are active in various school committees, and they get together for play dates and other gatherings on an ongoing basis.
Additionally, we offer a Waldorf Education Study Circle that is open to parents and the community, as well as a parent-led handwork group, and community coffee & teas, which are held after drop-off in the mornings, around 8:40 a.m.
The PA is also in charge of putting on our annual Spring Dance, which will be held this year on Saturday, April 29. The whole Potomac Crescent Waldorf School family comes together to celebrate and volunteer at our annual Fall Festival.
We offer multiple parent education events throughout the year, too. RSVPs for the parent education talks and the study circle may be found on our events page. http://potomacwaldorf.org/events/
Lastly, every program at our school includes regular parent meetings, so parents have numerous opportunities to see each other, work together and learn from each other.
A kindergarten parent had this to say about PCWS:
“This community has been such a nurturing and trustworthy place for my son and for me as his mother. I often feel it is difficult to find places and communities that align with my values. I feel 100% confident dropping off my son at PCWS. His teachers over the last two years have been beautiful, and inspiring guides in his early education. I am so grateful.”
The parent of a kindergartener and a 1st grader shared the following reflections:
“We are so grateful to have children in the Early Childhood and Grades Programs at PCWS, where the magic of childhood is revered. My children love their teachers, the generous outdoor time, playing in the rain, wholesome snacks, and long nature walks. Handwork, art, and daily rhythms help support well-rounded, healthy, happy children!”
Jessica: Where did Waldorf education come from? What does it mean to have a Waldorf approach?
Kismet: Waldorf schools offer a developmentally appropriate, experiential approach to education. They integrate the arts and academics for children from preschool through twelfth grade. The aim of the education is to inspire life-long learning in each student and enable them to fully develop their unique capacities. Founded in Germany in the early 20th century, Waldorf® Education is an independent and inclusive form of education based on the insights and teaching of the renowned anthroposophist, artist, and scientist, Rudolf Steiner. Evolving from a profound understanding of the human spirit and human development, Waldorf Education is regionally adaptive and has grown to include hundreds of schools worldwide.
Jessica: How can an interested parent learn more about PCWS?
Kismet: The best way to get a feel for a Waldorf Main Lesson or Early Childhood class is to observe one! At PCWS, we offer tours and opportunities to visit roughly every other week, including parent education resources, a handwork group and a Waldorf Education Study Circle—all open to the public! Please write to me, Kismet Al-Hussaini, Director of Admissions, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or see our Events page for more information: potomacwaldorf.org/events
We are still accepting applications for some programs for the 2016-2017 school year, as well as applications for 2017-2018.
Jessica: Thank you for your time and collaboration! People can also follow PCWS on Facebook?
Kismet: Yes, at facebook.com/PotomacCrescent. On our homepage at potomacwaldorf.org, you’ll see a newsletter signup form where you can share your email to receive updates from us. That’s the best way to hear about upcoming events and programs.
Here are some of the upcoming events at Potomac Crescent. For a complete listing, see potomacwaldorf.org/events
- School Tour January 23, 9:30 a.m. (repeats February 14 and 27, March 14, April 3, May 2)
- Waldorf Education Study Circle January 24, 7:00 p.m. (repeats February 21, March 7, April 18, May 9)
- Creative Discipline: A Developmental Approach Talk by Nancy Foster, January 26, 7:00 p.m.
- Open House, January 28, 10:00-11:30 a.m.
- Observe a Grades Main Lesson, February 3 (repeats March 22, May 10)
- Overview of PCWS, May 3, 6:30 p.m.
- Waldorf Payoffs: Meet Waldorf Education Graduates, May 3, 7:00 p.m.
Potomac Crescent Waldorf School is a member of the independent Waldorf schools of North America.
For more information about Waldorf® Education, explore these resources:
The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) – https://waldorfeducation.org/
Waldorf Early Childood Association of North America (WECAN) – www.waldorfearlychildhood.org
Jessica Claire Haney is the founder, publisher and editor of Mindful Healthy Life. She is the founder of the Arlington/Alexandria Chapter of Holistic Moms Network. Jessica is a writer and editor who is working on her first novel. Find information about her writing and about the editing and business consulting services she offers at JessicaClaireHaney.com. Her personal blog is Crunchy-Chewy Mama, on Facebook at facebook.com/CrunchyChewyMama. For more information, see Jessica’s Mindful Healthy Life Q&A.