A Guide to the Guiding Principles of Five Local Private Schools
Choosing the best private school for your child involves a great deal of decision-making, and it can be hard to know where to start. Fortunately, many answers you seek stem from an understanding of a school’s overarching philosophy. To aid in your research of these guiding principles and how they can help children succeed, we asked five local private schools to share and expound their philosophies.
James River Day School
Fostering a lifelong love of learning is the cornerstone of James River Day School’s educational philosophy. The school serves qualified children in kindergarten through eighth grade.
“We cherish [students] as individuals, challenge them as scholars, and help them develop as leaders,” says Peter H. York, Head of School. “Character education is not only built into our curriculum but is also deeply embedded in our everyday routines and practices.”
James River’s curriculum emphasizes both educational and life skills, with York adding that students develop strong skills in the areas of reading, writing, problem-solving, calculating, creating, critical thinking, and reflecting.
“Essential life skills such as organization, time management, and self-regulation are also woven into their educational journey,” York explains. “Our curriculum is carefully developed and constantly reviewed by our educational experts to make sure our students are well prepared for high school and beyond.”
Arts, athletics, and citizenship also play important roles in James River’s philosophy. Beginning in kindergarten, students are exposed to visual and fine arts, world languages, physical education, and community service opportunities.
“With this intentional focus during these developmentally formative years [K-8], we are able to give each student an opportunity to create a strong foundation to tackle any challenge that may come their way,” says Maryanna Stands, Associate Head of School for Advancement and Director of Admissions.
Liberty Christian Academy
Liberty Christian Academy’s philosophy focuses on building strong relationships among students, families, and teachers.
“Our educational philosophy begins with a partnership,” says Amy Love, Director of Curriculum. “Our role is to come alongside parents as they raise and educate their children. We also believe that every student has God-given potential and we provide opportunities for students to realize that potential.”
A wide variety of academic, artistic, and athletic opportunities are available to LCA students.
“We provide a wide variety of opportunities for students because we know our students have different gifts and areas of interest,” Love notes. “By offering so many different opportunities for students, we can better meet their individual needs.”
LCA’s curriculum emphasizes active and engaging instruction and meeting students where they are academically.
“We offer AP, Dual Enrollment, and Honors classes for students who want a higher level of academic rigor,” says Love. “We also offer a Resource program to provide additional support for students with specific learning needs.”
The school’s extensive selection of electives, fine/applied arts programs and clubs can also help students realize their potential.
“We want students to get involved and to try different activities, so we offer a variety of clubs, National Honor Society, Beta Club, an award-winning theater program, and a strong athletic program,” says Love.
New Covenant Schools
New Covenant Schools was founded in the classical, Christian tradition, and its educational philosophy is built upon the three tenets of the Trivium: knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.
According to Headmaster John Heaton, classical education does not adhere to a specific curriculum, but is considered an approach or a way of looking at the world.
“In its broadest objectives it is concerned with promulgating the best of that which has been thought and said by great minds of the past,” says Heaton. “It is helpful to think of it as a conversation into which we lead our students as participants. We introduce them to the primary languages of that conversation—Latin and Greek—and we introduce them to the great questions that have been the subject of this long discussion.”
That being said, New Covenant’s curriculum is comprehensive and dynamic. They begin younger students with reading, writing and basic arithmetic, but along the way students begin to learn the “languages of music, math, and persuasion,” Heaton explains.
“They are required to study art, which is yet another means of human expression. Broadly speaking, classical, Christian education will include as much as it can of all that is good, all that is true, and all that is beautiful. With these guiding principles, the classical, Christian educator creates a curriculum that stands apart from contemporary educational fads,” says Heaton.
New Vistas School
New Vistas School’s philosophy centers around the belief that students with learning, attention, and social/emotional challenges learn best from a variety of educational approaches.
“New Vistas provides a safe, nurturing environment that fosters the development of personal characteristics, including responsibility, self-discipline, and respect for others—all necessary for productive citizenship,” says Sally James, Development Director.
The school’s approach to academics helps students adapt and succeed, by using the most recent research in Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders.
“Multisensory education involves the use of visual, auditory, and tactile pathways used simultaneously to enhance memory and learning, as well as daily homework and regular quizzes, tests, and progress reviews to determine learning and continued learning needs,” says James.
Community service and enrichment programs also play integral roles in the school’s curriculum.
“All young people benefit from adult guidance regarding social skills, civic responsibilities, and service to the wider community,” says James.
New Vistas also offers an overarching system of support and encouragement.
“Faculty and staff realize learning has not always had a pleasant outcome for some of our students,” says Lori Eaglin, Ed. S., Head of School. “We teach in a way where students can build on their own strengths while being supported in areas of weaknesses.”
ONE Forest School
ONE Forest School utilizes a traditional forest school philosophy, which focuses on emotional intelligence—a child’s EQ or Emotional Quotient.
“This can be holistically accomplished by connecting children with nature,” says Catherine Eubank, Director.
She adds that a forest school philosophy also promotes an active teaching approach where children are asked to engage in their own learning, leading to benefits such as improved critical thinking skills and increased retention and transfer of new information.
A project-based STREAM (Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Arts, and Math) curriculum reinforces this philosophy.
“Our STREAM focus is on American history, which helps foster a sense of community and belonging, as well as a feeling of patriotism for our country,” says Eubank.
“We utilize a place-based education for our learning so we center our focus on Virginia history as much as possible.”
The school’s outdoor setting allows students to engage in activities such as shelter and campfire building, whittling, and forest exploration.
“Using the forest as our classroom, with no desks or textbooks, has many benefits,” says Eubank. “They include improved energy levels, physical and emotional resilience, conflict resolution, higher self-esteem, and bolstered leadership skills. A mindful nature connection can also provide opportunities for positive social interactions and help give one a sense of meaning and purpose in life.”