Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Waldorf school?
Waldorf education is a global movement that began in 1919 and is currently practiced in over 1000 schools worldwide, including preschools, elementary schools, and secondary schools. Central features of Waldorf education include integrating arts into all academic disciplines and fostering a passion for joyful lifelong learning in a nurturing, cooperative environment.
Waldorf schools such as WHS benefit from the resources developed throughout the global Waldorf community over the past century and share many common characteristics, but each school is administered entirely independently and each is unique. The Waldorf approach empowers teachers as decision-makers, giving them freedom to determine their own curriculum and teaching methods.
Can my family afford a WHS education?
Yes! Keeping our exceptional education accessible to families of all income levels is a fundamental value of our school; we are dedicated to serving an economically diverse community from throughout the greater Boston area. We encourage all families to apply to our tailored tuition program, which customizes tuition to each family’s unique financial circumstances.
Is WHS a religious school?
No. Waldorf schools are non-sectarian and welcome students from all religious and non-religious backgrounds. Some aspects of Waldorf philosophy and tradition include spiritual components, but no religious or philosophical doctrine is taught or required of students. We take a broad and personalized view of the notion of spirituality that can incorporate a connection to nature, connection to others, and a deeper understanding of oneself. At WHS, we strive to be religiously inclusive in both our curriculum and our school traditions.
What is the approach to technology use at WHS?
We consider technology as one valuable tool among many that can be used by teachers and students. Students often work on computers or ipads for class activities, online research, and collaborative work as individual teachers deem appropriate. We also teach a course on information technology where students learn about the history of computing technology and construct electronic computing devices from scratch. At the same time, we recognize that excess screen time can be an unhealthy habit, and expect our students to have their phones and other devices turned off during school hours and on class field trips. Waldorf schools typically aim to minimize the use of technology during the elementary years, but we believe that high school is a suitable time to guide students to develop a healthy understanding of and relationship to the technological tools that shape our modern lives.
What colleges do WHS graduates attend?
The great majority of our students attend four year colleges, ranging from BU, Wellesley, and Smith to Wentworth, RISD, and WPI. Our graduates have been accepted into over 240 different colleges. Click here to learn more about the colleges, careers, and lives of our graduates.
How do students commute to school?
Our school is three blocks from Waverley Square in Belmont, which allows students from throughout the Boston metro area to commute to school via the MBTA 73 bus or the Fitchburg Line Commuter Rail. Students are eligible for discounted T passes through the school. WHS is also easily accessible by car from throughout the Massachusetts Bay area.
What are the benefits of a small school?
In a small school students are able to form rich and meaningful relationships with their teachers through their high school years. Students build confidence in communication with their teachers, and teachers take the time to genuinely know each student. This understanding of each student deepens over time as our teachers have the opportunity to teach students over the course of several successive years. Students are valued members of the school community and see they have an impact on the school environment.
Our students say that a smaller school helps them feel part of the school community and that they learn more without the social anxiety they have experienced before coming to WHS. Alumni have told us that with a smaller school, they were encouraged to know all types of students who they may not have sought out in a larger school and because of this they developed skills in collaborating and working through differences; an invaluable skill for work and personal life.
How are art, music, and drama integrated into the curriculum?
Classes at WHS are a multi-sensory experience; students learn through drawing as well as through reading, through singing as well as talking. For example, in history classes students learn songs from different time periods and cultures, and in biology classes students draw the organisms they are studying as a way to observe them at a deeper level. Our curriculum is infused with the arts to enliven and enhance learning. Some of our students become accomplished artists and musicians, many do not. Our artistic focus is not about producing beautiful finished products (although many students do), but about how the act of creating awakens the imagination of all learners, deepens their understanding, and enriches their perception of the world around them.
Drama and public speaking also play a significant role in our curriculum. Each year, the 11th and 12th grade produce a whole-class play together, and the 9th and 10th grade produce a whole-class play in alternating years. Producing these plays encourages class bonding and collaboration, pushes students out of their comfort zones, and invigorates intellectual growth.
Students have many other opportunities for practicing their public speaking as well, including regularly giving reports in class, participating in class discussions, and electives and extracurricular activities such as acting, debate, Model UN, and Destination Imagination.
What is the profile of a WHS student?
WHS seeks to enroll students who wish to learn on multiple levels - in the classroom and out in the world, with hands and eyes, through art, music, and travel as much as reading, writing, and discussion. They will appreciate diving deeply into a rich variety of subjects and find wonder and joy in the world around them. We seek to enroll students who are eager to engage with a close-knit learning community and form close bonds with their teachers and peers.
What is the daily schedule?
Our school day has a natural human rhythm, with a later-than-average start time of 8:50am that facilitates more productive learning and healthier student sleep. Each day we engage in three types of learning that strike a balance between deeply intellectual academics, developing essential skills, and student-driven project-based learning.
Main Lesson Block Courses (9-10:30am)
First, we look outward in morning “main lessons” focused on understanding the larger story our lives are part of. Each month, we focus on a specific aspect of history, literature, science and/or technology and dive deep, experiencing it through dynamic discussion, hands-on exploration, and artistic creativity.
Continuous Courses (11am-12:30pm)
Second, we spend late mornings developing communication and reasoning skills, working collaboratively to help each individual grow a little bit more each day from whatever skill level they have now to the next level they are reaching for. Each day, students go to two of the four continuous courses that run the full school year: English, Spanish, Math, & Cultural Studies.
Afternoon Courses (1:30-3pm)
Third, we spend every afternoon doing the real, creative work that students choose. Through the week, students pursue three chosen work areas, which can include studios in art, design, and/or theater, exploration workshops going out into the world to study and act on personally relevant issues and work together the community with a variety of service organizations, scientific and technical project labs, and active workshops building our own health and fitness. Students choose nine afternoon courses each year (three per trimester).
We also incorporate natural breathing room into the schedule with two 10-minute periods each day devoted to either community singing or a whole-school physical movement activity, plus a full hour open-campus lunch where students can dine at local restaurants or in the student lounge, and have time for socializing, committee meetings, and one-on-one meetings with teachers. The school day ends with 15 minutes of whole-school cleaning and maintenance, where students share in the responsibility and stewardship of caring for our school building.
How is student work assessed?
At WHS, scores, grades, and test results are de-emphasized in our daily work. Instead we focus on providing rich and meaningful formative feedback to support students to do their best work. Each trimester, families receive written narrative reports with detailed, personalized notes on the student’s performance, as well as a Pass or No Credit mark for each class. Students who demonstrate exemplary skill or commitment can earn a “Pass with Recognition” distinction for any class in three categories: Scholastic, Artistic, and Dedication. Letter grades are also kept on file for transfers and college applications and are available to families and students any time they are requested.
How does WHS address the needs of students with learning differences?
The curriculum at WHS is designed to meet the needs of a wide range of students. Those looking for more intense academic challenges find teachers at WHS eager to support them in advanced pursuits, and those looking to escape from competitive, high-pressure academics find that WHS’s collaborative approach and strong support systems enable them to do their best work. Students who would receive services or accommodations through an Individualized Educational Plan or 504 Plan at a public school typically have a written plan at WHS that is coordinated through our guidance department and supported by the faculty. We have had students with learning and emotional challenges including anxiety, depression, ADHD, and autism who have found that our experiential curriculum, small class sizes, and family-like community help them tap into their strengths and foster tremendous personal and academic growth. While we strive to meet the academic and emotional needs of all our students, we are not a Massachusetts Chapter 766 school and do not have the therapeutic resources needed by students with more severe difficulties. We expect all of our students to be able to attend school daily, engage meaningfully in class activities, and complete assignments independently outside of school. Students with challenges that affect their ability to meet these expectations might need more support than WHS is able to provide.
What is the athletics program like at WHS?
Intramural and league sports and fitness programs are offered each year in response to student interest and demand. Previous offerings have included soccer, basketball, cross-country running, general fitness, and ultimate Frisbee. We also support students who participate in club sports or community programs outside of school. We have had high-level student athletes involved in fencing, ballet, polo, baseball, and other sports who find our school enables them to balance their academic and athletic commitments.
Do students need to go to a Waldorf elementary school to attend WHS?
No, we admit students from a wide range of educational backgrounds. In the past 10 years, about 90% of our students have come from non-Waldorf schools and 10% have come from Waldorf elementary schools. Our secondary school curriculum is designed to directly address the questions that adolescents live with throughout their high school years, and is effective with or without an elementary Waldorf background. Students who discover Waldorf as adolescents often become some of the most positive proponents of Waldorf education.