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November 27, 2008

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Schools: Open House Report — The Waldorf School of Philadelphia

November 14, 2008

This is the first of many open house reports.  We will only report on schools we have actually visited, either when attending an open house or taking a private tour.  This is meant to be a snapshot of a school and will not be exhaustive.  These reports should not substitute for a visit to the school being reviewed.  

We will try our best to simply report facts and our impressions without too much subjective opinion injected in these entries (as much as possible).  Reviews will mainly contain positive aspects of the schools.  Simply because a school is reported on does not mean that we recommend any given school.

The Waldorf School of Philadelphia is for children pre-K through 8th grade.  Waldorf education originated in Germany by Rudolf Steiner and is increasing in popularity here in America.  This method of educating children is very different from other schools and there are many sources out there to investigate in order to learn more about this form of education, so make sure to be informed and read all you can.

Whether you agree with Steiner’s ideas or not, there are some aspects of the Waldorf School of Philadelphia that we can probably all agree on.  First of all, the building and classrooms are beautiful.  The school is located in an old, stone, castle-like building on the Covenant campus in Mt. Airy.  Each classroom is painted a different, warm, color and is filled with high-quality wooden furniture, play spaces, and toys.
The school supports bringing things from the natural world to children.  For example, in one of the Kindergarten classes, you will not only find soft dolls and wooden blocks, but baskets filled with seashells and rocks, and large tree trunks for children to explore.  The Waldorf School also truly values the importance of giving children exposure to the outdoors.  The children are outside for at least an hour a day in ALL weather, whether they are playing on the playground or roaming around the field and trees on the beautiful grounds of the Covenant campus.    
One unique quality of a Waldorf education is that, starting in 1st grade, teachers travel through the grades with students.  This means that your child will have the same teacher from 1st-8th.  The school stresses that this causes children and teachers to truly know each other and grow together.  The faculty believes that children only learn well from those they truly know and care about.  

Homework is not a big part of The Waldorf School of Philadelphia.  Younger students might be asked to go home and explore a particular item in nature or in their neighborhoods, but there is not usually formal homework to be done.  Some homework starts around 4th grade, but the volume will still not be substantial.  No letter grades are given, with the exception of 7th grade, purely because students are applying to high schools at this point and many require grades.  Children are assessed, but not in letter or number form.

The school is very non-violent, teaching children to respect and care
 for one another.  Instructors strive to teach a child’s “head, heart, and hands.”  The arts are stressed, with a lot of time spent on teaching children to do such things as knit, bake, play instruments, do woodworking, etc.  Spanish and German are also taught.  Each year has a central theme such as fairy tales, bible stories, fables, etc.  Early reading and writing is not taught; students are not taught these things formally until the 1st grade.  The Waldorf philosophy is that children will learn these things, but need to just learn through play and exploration in the early years.
Students do go on field trips.  In the lower grades, they stay close to home, going on hikes and walks in the area.  As they get older, they venture farther out, such as spending a few days at a farm and visiting museums.  Graduates of The Waldorf School of Philadelphia attend many area high schools, with most attending charter schools.  
Some arguments against Waldorf education in general (that you can research further if you wish) are: (these are not necessarily our opinion)

*”Bullying sometimes thrives because of a lack of discipline.”
*”Students are not being prepared for the ‘real world,’ since they are not exposed to technology etc.” (the use of T.V.s and computers are even discouraged for parents at home)
*”Students may be “stuck” with a teacher they don’t click with.”

Your Turn:  What do you think of Waldorf eduction and this school?  Do you have a child enrolled?  What has been your experience?  Click on the pencil below to comment.

Our Next Report Coming Soon:  Plymouth Meeting Friends School

Treat Yourself: Earth Bread + Brewery

November 13, 2008

It’s a dream for me. If someone were to ask this summer when I moved to Mt. Airy, “What do you dream about when you close your eyes?,” I would probably have said, “I wish they would build a brew pub in Mt. Airy where I could take the kids.”

Earth Bread + Brewery  at 7136 Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy has been packed both up and downstairs since it opened in the beginning of October. It’s a green-conscious space with great beer and flatbread pizza and, early on most nights, it’s filled with kids. 
Earth Bread has six types of flatbread pizza and a “make your own” variety. The balance of the menu now has great salads and soups. So if the kids do not like pizza (believe it or not, I know one of those) and will not eat soup, it’s not the place for them. But if your kids do like pizza, the Traditional is the best way to start. 
Ask for crayons too and the drinks in paper cups with straws. The owners tell me that they might branch out to sandwiches someday in the future but right now just want to get better and better at what they do. They also always knew that the Mt. Airy location meant that they should plan for families.

“I’m not sure we specifically planned to make the space kid- friendly,” proprietor Tom Baker said, “but when you’re planning a restaurant in a family place like Mount Airy you should plan for families.”

“Some nights in the last month,” partner Peggy Zwever added, “we’ve run out of highchairs.”

Not only are Peggy and Tom dedicated to the enviornment, good food and great beer; they are dedicated to Mt. Airy.

“We moved to West Mount Airy this summer,” they told me.

Earth Bread + Brewery has four types of their own brewed beer and eight varieties brewed in other local microbreweries. They offer wine also, but no other liquor yet.

Earth Bread + Brewery is only open for dinner for the time being from 4:30pm-midnight and until 1am Fridays and Saturdays. They stop serving dinner at 10, though. They are directly across the street from Infusion. There is on street parking but also a municipal lot behind FitLife.

White Elephant Sale and Wine Tasting at the Cooperative Nursery School

November 12, 2008

Not your everyday school rummage sale, the Cooperative Nursery School has decided to mix it up this year with a White Elephant Sale (think more Craig’s List, less garage sale) and Wine Tasting. If you’re looking for a fun evening with drinking, eating, and shopping, come check it out!

The event will have wine tasting ($15 per person), hors d’oeuvres and desserts for sale, as well as lots of new and gently used items including a variety of things for infants and children, kitchen wares, household items, and pieces by local artisans.

The evening will have a Thanksgiving theme, with wines that will complement your family feast and a raffle for a giant handmade salad bowl with serving utensils. Get some holiday shopping done early in a festive, low key, (and less expensive!) venue.

For parents thinking about sending a child to the Cooperative Nursery School, this is a great way to meet some of the parent community in a social and relaxed setting.

Saturday, November 15th. 5-8 pm

6503 Lincoln Dr. (enter off of Johnson St., between Wayne and Greene)
Go down the driveway to the little school building. Plenty of off street parking.

If you have any questions, please call the school at 215-844-5770.

Mom’s Night Out at the Maternal Wellness Center

November 11, 2008

Looking for a fun and relaxing night out for a good cause? Head on over the the Maternal Wellness Center in West Mt. Airy on Thursday night, November 13th between 6:30 and 9:30 pm. The center is located at 606 Carpenter Ln, next to High Point Cafe and right near Weaver’s Way Coop.

The Center is hosting a Mom’s Night Out complete with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, mini-massages, 10% off all retail items, door prizes, and more! Admission is $10.

It is the Maternal Wellness Center’s mission to support, educate, and empower women and families during their transition to parenthood, offering everything from prenatal massage and birthing classes to infant and child classes and support groups.

They also have a fabulous little retail space with great infant and toddler clothing (including organic and locally made), mama and baby skin care products, and a variety of fun and unique gift items. All proceeds from the retail sales go directly to support the Center’s programming.

Can’t make it Thursday night but still want to support the Center? Do some shopping at Ten Thousand Villages in Chestnut Hill (8331 Germantown Ave.) on the evening of November 25th (5-9pm) and 15% of the profits will be go to the Maternal Wellness Center.

This Weekend: School Fair

November 8, 2008

If you are a parent of a child who will soon be entering preschool or elementary school, there is a great event going on today that will help you get started on your journey of choosing the right place to send your child.  

Today (Sat.) from 3:00-5:00pm, there will be a school information fair held at the Roxborough YMCA.  Public and private schools in the area will be represented (about 20 schools all together).  This a wonderful chance to ask questions, pick up brochures, talk with other parents, and get an overview of many schools at once so that you can narrow down your list.
Best of all, there is free child care available, so you don’t have to worry about finding someone to watch the kids or having to chase little ones around the Y.  There is also free and ample parking.
This event is sponsored by the Roxborough YMCA and the Moms Club of the NW.

The Y is located at 7201 Ridge Ave., Phila, PA 19128.  
For more information, call 215.482.3900.

AveNEWS: High Point Cafe’s 2nd Location now Open!!

November 5, 2008

I realized yesterday morning that Election Day was not the day to check out the new location of High Point Cafe as I approached the long line outside. Could all these people really be waiting for coffee? This place was even more popular than expected! Then, as I got closer, I realized that they weren’t waiting for coffee, they were waiting to vote! How cool to have your polling place inside a coffee shop?!?!

Even with the inside tables temporarily replaced with voting booths, the kids and I were impressed. The same fabulous coffee, a cozy friendly space, lots of yummy food, and warm and smiling staff. Even better, they now have space for stroller parking outside and high chairs! The new location will not be serving crepes, but will have lots of other treats including some Grab&Go Sandwiches.

Fortunately, they also have some outdoor seating over on the side – with a perfect view of passing trains. With an iced coffee, a couple gruyere brioche, and an up close sighting of the R8, we were all happily satisfied.

High Point Cafe now has two locations in West Mt. Airy:
The original Cafe at 602 Carpenter Lane
and the new location at The Allens Lane Train Station

Both sites are open every day, 7am-7pm.

Happy Election Day!

November 4, 2008

We have all been waiting for this day for a long time.  It’s finally here!  So, get out and vote!  The polls will be open from 7am-8pm.  If you don’t know where your polling place is, plug in your address here (just your street address, not city and zip).  You can also see a list of polling places in Philadelphia and find out what to do if you are a first-time voter, such as what forms of identification are acceptable.  And you can find our more about what will be on the ballot.

If you have any problems casting your vote, call the Election Day Hotline, at (866) OUR-VOTE.  And, if you’ve been hearing any information about election day that you aren’t sure about, check out these elections myths exposed!  For example, you CAN wear clothing and buttons supporting a particular candidate; you just cannot campaign and must leave the voting location immediately after casting your vote.  You also CAN vote straight party without having to separately vote for the president here in Philadelphia.

If you have to bring children (it is a great experience for older kids to see you exercising your right to vote, but younger ones can be a handful, especially if there is a long line) try to come in pairs and take turns watching the kids outside.  Come with a neighbor or your spouse or partner who can help you with little ones.  Many of the polling places have playgrounds outside, so you may want to take advantage of that.  It may be raining, though, so that may take playgrounds out of the picture.  Bring along a special bag of toys/activities to help keep kids busy.
See you at the polls!

Happy Halloween!!

October 31, 2008

It’s finally here!  The day when you try and convince your child that, yes, he did want to be a bat for Halloween and it’s the only costume we have!!  Or you try to figure out how to keep the tiara on your little girl’s head without using super glue.  Happy Halloween, everyone!

In case you didn’t hear about or see it on our calendar, make sure to be in Mt. Airy this evening for their Annual Flashlight Costume Parade!  The parade will start at 6:30pm at the corner of Greene and Carpenter.  It will be followed by trick-or-treating in the neighborhood, ending around 9:30pm!
I have heard from several Mt. Airy residents that trick-or-treating there is incredible, with decorated houses, scary music playing at several homes, dressed-up adults, and everything Halloween!  So, even if you don’t live in Mt. Airy, you may want to give it a try!
We trick-or-treated here in Chestnut Hill last year and it was wonderful too.  On Benezet, near Germantown, there were even some musicians out on a porch playing music.  And I noticed that there is going to be a haunted house on the last block of Ardleigh St. (at the bottom of the hill near Mermaid Lane) this year!  
Wherever you are, have fun and good luck getting the kids to go home and to go to sleep (as you try to pull that candy bag out of their incredibly strong grip!)

The Candy Fairy is Coming

October 30, 2008

Aahhh, the aftermath of Halloween is coming. Lots of sugar, lots of junk, kids climbing on precariously stacked furniture to reach the candy that has been hidden out of their reach…

This year, for the first time ever, the Candy Fairy is coming to our house. Our oldest child is four now, and will be a little more aware if candy disappears from her bag after Halloween and will definitely notice if the whole bag is suddenly gone. So, this year we are introducing the Candy Fairy.

Halloween night, after Trick-or-Treating, the kids will each get to pick a couple pieces of candy to eat (haven’t decided how to determine how much – maybe their age? Knowing our daughter it will involve lots of negotiation no matter what). After that, we will pull out any somewhat nutritious snacks (pretzels, goldfish, juice, etc.) that can be saved and used for school lunches. After that, the remaining candy will be placed back into the trick-or-treat bags and laid out on the dining room table. We thought about having the kids put them next to their beds, but would you be able to fall asleep with a bucket of candy at your head??

While the kids are sleeping, the Candy Fairy will come visit. The fairy will take all of the candy out of the bags and replace it with some kind of treasure/toy for each child. A great deal all around – no overdosing on sugar, no crying and begging for another piece, and the candy fairy gets to bring some treats into the office for his co-workers!

What do you do to keep your kids from going overboard with the treats from Halloween? Anything that has worked or not? Please let us know in the comments!