So your child is ready to enter Kindergarten. What might you want to consider? What are some questions you should ask? What is the best option for your child and your family?

Here, in the North Okanagan, we are lucky to have a variety of options ranging from public schools (which in School District 22, include a French Immersion and a Montessori option) to private schools (which include faith-based schools, as well as Okanagan Waldorf School).

Although your family might consider alternative schools at any point during your child’s educational journey, enrolling your child in a Kindergarten program that “fits” is a wonderful way to start.

Educational Philosophy

Perhaps the most important consideration is the pedagogy, educational philosophy, or teaching methodology of the school itself. Is it teacher versus student-lead? Is it direct instruction versus kinesthetic, experience or inquiry-based?

As a Waldorf school, Okanagan Waldorf School (OWS), strives to cultivate the social, emotional, physical, and academic foundation for future success. In Waldorf schools (often called Steiner schools in Europe) the learning process is threefold and engages the head, heart, and hands — or thinking, feeling, and doing. This is the basis out of which Waldorf teachers work in order to nurture and engage each child through a curriculum and methodology that integrates academics, arts, and practical skills.

Kindergarten at OWS offers project-based and sensory-rich activities where children learn by “doing” since the primary goal of the teacher is to lead by example. Each day children spend time playing, working, and exploring outdoors, either in the garden or forest. They engage in activities such as baking bread, finger knitting, woodworking, painting, and gardening. Children enjoy listening to storytelling, participating in puppet plays, exploring speech work and practical number sense, and celebrating multicultural festivals.

OWS is a Group 1 BC Ministry of Education accredited school. This means that our school, and our Waldorf curriculum specifically, meet the learning outcomes as prescribed by the province.

Class Size

Another element to consider when choosing a school for your kindergarten aged child is class size. What are the typical class sizes at the school? How might class size impact your child’s education?

Okanagan Waldorf is a small rural school – you might even call us a micro school. Currently, we have about 65 students from Kindergarten through Grade 8, but do hope to continue to grow in both student numbers and program offerings. The ideal class size for OWS is 18-24 students, with a Kindergarten ideal class size of 14-18.

Classroom Environment

Consider if the physical classroom itself is important to you? Are natural light and amenities on your list of considerations?

At Okanagan Waldorf School our classrooms are nurturing and “home-like” because we know that children thrive when they are comfortable.

Our Kindergarten and Grade 1/2 classrooms each have their own kitchens and washrooms. The kitchen allows for shared meals, snacks and farm-to-table activities such as food preparation and chores (when regulations allow). The kitchens are truly a centrepiece of the environment and community feel of our classrooms.

During the pandemic, the in-classroom washrooms and extra sinks have proven very beneficial. Students in these classes don’t have to enter into indoor common areas and have a washroom all to themselves – this adds to efficiency and function as well as peace of mind for the students, staff, and families.

Classroom Materials

Consider how the school uses the surrounding materials and supplies – do you believe that the ‘feel’ of toys can impact the quality of free, imaginative play?

From wood furniture and toys to beeswax modelling material and crayons, nearly every material in the OWS Kindergarten is natural. These materials add to the warm, inviting, and serene atmosphere of the classroom.

Location

Do you dream of your children walking to school? Or is it the school’s campus setting that speaks to you? Do you like the thought of a playground with monkey bars and swings, or would you rather a natural forest setting with sticks and logs?

Our Bridge Land for Learning campus is bordered by a creek on one side and farmland on the other, with a 1-acre community garden and 10 acres of forest surrounding our bright and home-like classrooms. Our campus adds so much to the education at OWS, and yet it is necessarily rural. This means that families at OWS commit to driving a greater distance than most each day – but to them, it is worth it. We have students that travel from as far as 40km each day, each way.

To assist with this, many families carpool – and some even come to look forward to the beautiful daily drive through the Coldstream valley (honestly, they do!). Although in time, we hope to offer a busing service for our families.

We are located at 730 Whitevale Road (between Lavington and Lumby off of highway 6), about 20 minutes outside of Vernon.

Before or After School Care

Will your child need to attend before or after school care? If so, where is this care located in relation to the school? How will your child travel to care?

Okanagan Waldorf School shares its campus with the Early Years Centre, a new child care facility that offers care from birth through school-age. This centre provides children with on-site before or after care; and offers pro-D, Spring Break, and Summer camps, all at the same location as where they attend school. Continuity of care is valuable for children to feel settled in their day – one campus, one setting, one group of peers.

Having an onsite child care centre also supports families in providing care for a wide range in their children’s ages at the same location.

Tuition

Private Kindergarten sounds great, but what about the cost?

We know that the education of your children is one of your top priorities, and that financing alternative education might be a challenge.

Choosing independent education for your child and family is a decision that requires much consideration, on both philosophical and financial levels. As a non-profit, independent school, we endeavour to keep our fees as low as possible.

Our current Tuition Schedule can be found here (link to tuition page).

We believe and work hard to ensure that OWS should be accessible to all families that share our values, regardless of their economic status. As such, we offer a Tuition Assistance program that serves families without the means to fully cover the costs of this education.

Don’t let your hesitancy around tuition payments be the reason you don’t explore the education at OWS for your child.

The “Feel”

Can you picture your child at the school, in the classroom and on the campus? Can you see yourself as a parent at the school?

One of the significant focuses at OWS throughout all of our programs is community, and community necessitates communication. That is why we recommend that you initiate communication to get a sense of what the school is about from actual interaction, via phone, email, and in person. Contact the prospective program for your child and speak to the administrative or admissions team. Ask all of the questions. Book a tour. And, if possible, speak to current parents.

A healthy teacher/child relationship is made possible by a healthy parent/teacher relationship. The time you spend at your school of choice will be a significant investment throughout your child’s elementary education. So test it out, learn about their communication policies, and see if it “feels” right for your family.

Is the Okanagan Waldorf School a Good Fit?

Finding a Kindergarten program that matches your child’s needs and your family’s values will be a conscientious first step to providing your child with an environment that will allow them to flourish and positively impact the rest of their grade school education.

If you are interested in learning more about us and our Kindergarten program please contact Okanagan Waldorf School today.

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