Is an independent study program a public school?
Yes. When an independent study program is run under a charter school it is a public school of choice open to anyone committed to being a part of the educational community.

So how is a public independent study program different from a traditional public school?
A charter school independent study program operates independently from its local school district, yet it is still accountable for student achievement and operational performance. All charter school programs are funded on a per-student basis from state tax funds, and is bound by a legal contract (charter) with its sponsoring district. However, it is exempt from many elements of state education regulations and is governed as an independent non-profit, with its own board of directors.  Charter schools were developed to encourage educators to try different approaches in the public sector since children do not all learn in the same manner.

Do you charge tuition?
No. We receive funding from the state of California. However, this funding is insufficient to provide the level of education offered. All families are encouraged to support the school to the extent possible. The gap between what the state provides and what it costs to educate a student at Willow Tree is about $2,000 per year. We have a separate, non-profit called The Friends of Willow Tree that is partly dedicated to supporting our school. We hope everyone participates by volunteering and giving in various ways.

Do you follow a traditional Waldorf curriculum?
Yes.  Our school follows closely the traditional Waldorf pedagogy and is committed to being a model in this regard.

Why do you discourage media for children?
The reasons for this have as much to do with the physical effects of the medium on the developing child as with the (to say the least) questionable content of much of the programming. Electronic media are believed by Waldorf teachers and many neuroscientists to seriously hamper the development of the child’s imagination – a faculty which is believed to be central to the healthy development of the individual. Computer use by young children is also discouraged.

Who is eligible to attend Willow Tree?
As a non-tuition based government-funded public learning center, we are open to anyone residing in the state of California. If more students apply than there are spaces available, admission is decided by lottery. Priority is given to siblings of currently enrolled students.  Age restrictions on public school students also apply to us.

What are Waldorf methods and how are they different?
Educational approaches incorporating Waldorf methods are designed to be developmentally appropriate. The method is partly based on the question: what is the best thing to teach a child at each age? Rather than the question: how early can a child be taught each subject? Children are given tasks according to their readiness, and not pushed towards the earliest possible achievement.

Our educational approach is also multidisciplinary, centered on a 3-4 week subject unit called the Main Lesson Block. At Willow Tree, academic studies are integrated across disciplines such as art, science, math, and history.

Do Waldorf-methods support early reading skills?
Waldorf curriculum has a strong bent toward early-learning language skills including story-telling and oral traditions. This exposure, when integrated in lessons, serves to awaken the imagination and creates a strong curiosity for successful introduction of reading and writing, in addition to introducing phonemic awareness through listening.  Our curriculum includes instruction of foundational reading skills starting in Kindergarten including phonemic awareness, sequence, and fine motor skills. Comprehension and reading interest are strongly linked to the creative aspects of our curriculum. Focus on oral traditions and the Main Lesson Block approach, further helping to build foundational skills. We are confident that the Waldorf curriculum meets student academic needs.

What kind of child benefits from a Waldorf-methods school?
Many different types of children benefit from Waldorf methods. Because the lessons involve multiple intelligences (movement, language, drawing) children can enter into learning in several ways. That said, Waldorf-methods involve a structured approach that is centered around whole group instruction, rather than individualized work or programs where children rotate around lesson centers. Because the teaching style and curriculum are centered around a child’s development needs, children tend to be heavily engaged in their individual learning in the group setting. As one Waldorf-methods teacher refers to it: “teacher-directed, child-centered.”

One of the major strengths of this type of instruction is the sense of community and cooperation that develops within the class — an open community that invites children in rather than closing out new kids. That said, it isn’t right for everyone. Those families looking for very individualized instruction, a “choice-based” learning environment, may not find our school the right fit, but our Program Lead can help you to decide.

Does your school provide support for different kinds of learners?  How do you support single classrooms for both “advanced” and slower learners?
While the lessons are whole class, different children can engage at different levels of complexity and/or progress at different speeds. We strive to meet the needs of each student and most families find that their child’s needs are fulfilled through the mix of auditory and visual presentation of the material.

Does your school have a music program?
Yes. All students study music at our school. In fact, it is a requirement for students to play an instrument throughout their time with us and we ask that families take this commitment seriously.

What kind of foreign language program do you offer and for which grades?
We offer Spanish and French to all students, grades 1 – 5. Following our arts-based framework, much of the early instruction in Spanish and French will be song and music-based. Games and verse will figure prominently in instruction through the grades.

How can I reserve a spot for my child in your school?
We encourage you to contact us to begin a conversation to learn if our school is right for you, email: info@willowtreelearning.org or call: 442.232.2900.