Over the last few years, we've been asked a lot of questions, so we decided to assemble the most common ones and answer them for you. If you still have questions about Blue Mountain School after reading, please just let us know!
1. What is a Contemplative Progress school? Is it like a Montessori school or a Waldorf school?
A contemplative progressive school is a unique type of learning environment based on educational theories and methods that have been around for generations. Contemplative progressive models are now enjoying an increase in public interest due to educational research that illustrates their effectiveness. But ‘contemplative progressive’ can be a mouthful, and saying it might make people look at you quizzically, so read here to learn more about what contemplative progressive means so you can say it with confidence!
A contemplative progressive school like BMS shares some similarities and some differences with other types of alternative schools, like Montessori schools and Waldorf schools. Read here to understand those similarities and differences more clearly.
2. What kind of training do your teachers have?
Our teachers come from various backgrounds, from traditional teacher training at 4-year universities, Montessori training, Waldorf training, Reggio Emilia training, Early Childhood training, and so on. We value formal teacher training and require that our classroom teachers have it. Several of our teachers and staff also have Master’s degrees in education and human development. Current educational research and extensive staff experience inform our educational methods, and we continuously reflect on and refine our practices to best meet the needs of our school community. Regular staff development and training in contemplative practices and progressive methods ensure continuity in programming throughout our school.
3. I've heard BMS called a "Hippie School." What does that mean, and is it true?
BMS was founded during the early 80s mainly by a group of families who moved to Floyd to get back to nature and to enjoy a slower pace of life. Read more about our history here. Over the last 35 years, BMS has continued to evolve to reflect the changing needs of our community. As you can see from our values, we still hold to the basic principles of many of our founders. (So does that make us a Hippie School? Did we mention that tie-dyed clothing remains popular here, and that bare feet are common for students and teachers when it’s warm outside?)
4. Will my child learn the same things her peers will be learning in public school or at other private schools?
Regardless of schooling, every child learns differently. No school can guarantee what your child will learn during a given school year. When it comes to humans, who can make a guarantee? However, while your child is at BMS, he will be supported by a dedicated group of educated, experienced, and loving staff who will work with your family to give your child the best education possible. Classes at BMS are formed around a curriculum that is based on current educational research and many years of experience. This is a living document that continues to evolve.
A key part of the learning philosophy at BMS is that everyone learns different things at a different rate, and we use Developmentally Appropriate Practices to allow children to take the time they need. This means that it is possible, for example, that your child may not begin to read until she is older than her public school peers. In fact, research shows that this rate of learning is normal and natural, and that students who learn to read at 6 or 7 quickly catch up with their earlier-reading peers.
5. What about art, music, and other types of enrichment classes?
Because BMS has a holistic approach to education, school time is devoted to more than just academics. In addition to more traditional school subjects, all students have daily enrichment classes which include art, contemplative studies (mindfulness), Physical Education, and yoga for all students, all year. Music, dance, theater, and service learning classes are also offered for different age groups. Everyone is outside for unstructured play and some group games at recess for a minimum of half an hour a day.
In addition to academics and enrichment classes, Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is also a main focus at BMS. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Social Emotional Learning “is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
CASEL explains that “SEL programming is based on the understanding that the best learning emerges in the context of supportive relationships that make learning challenging, engaging and meaningful.” Our staff are all trained at employing SEL techniques in and out of the classroom.
6. Is this a child-led school? How much freedom do students have to decide what they will do and when they will do it?
Children learn best when they feel secure, and to feel secure children must have well-defined boundaries in place, set by loving and knowledgeable adults. At BMS, we encourage students to feed their curiosity and explore ideas that interest them in ways that engage them. This occurs within the structure created and held by the staff, and it means that while teachers and adults have a leadership role, we respect the needs and rights of the children as well. When appropriate considering development and circumstances, students are given the freedom and responsibility to make their own choices as often as possible, to allow them to learn self-regulation skills.
7. Is BMS a religious school?
BMS is not a religious school. However, we recognize the value of wisdom traditions and spiritual exploration. Our mission states: "As a Contemplative Progressive school, we commit to providing a holistic approach to education that nurtures the mind and the heart, the rational and the creative, the physical and the spiritual. Together, the Contemplative and Progressive elements of our model honor the whole child."
8. Does my child have to be a certain age to be in a particular class?
BMS staff work with families to determine which class is the best fit for a child based on that child’s academic and social development.
9. Can my preschooler attend only one or two days a week?
We offer several attendance plans for the early childhood classroom: four extended days, three extended days, four full days, three full days, four half days, or three half days. Our experience has found that when a child attends fewer than three days a week, things become more challenging for her, her classmates, and her teachers. At BMS we place a high value on community and relationships, and in the early years, a child’s social growth is top priority. It can be difficult for a student to feel comfortable in the school community when she is present only one or two days a week, and she and her classmates may also find it a struggle to build relationships when the student is absent from many class activities.
For families who are looking for a more gradual transition from home to school, our half-day options are a great alternative. Half-day students participate in the main activities of the day, including enrichment class, and stay through recess.
10. Can we afford the tuition?
We make every attempt to keep tuition and fees as low as possible while still providing an excellent education to our students. Our biggest expense is also our most important: our skilled, professional teachers. Still, we understand that for many of our families, choosing to pay for private schooling requires a lot of belt-tightening. For families enrolling more than one child, there is a 10% tuition discount for all additional children. Financial aid is also available, and there are usually several work opportunities during the year. One way to help tuition be a bit more manageable is to enroll in the extended payment plan, which spreads tuition out over the entire year instead of only the nine months of school.
11. Why should we choose Blue Mountain School?
There are a lot of educational opportunities available, and the truth is BMS may not be the best fit for your family. We sure hope it is, but we understand that every family is different. So how do you decide? We recommend that you take some time to read about BMS and consider whether our mission, vision, and values feel like a good fit to you. We also encourage you to check out our newsletters and blog to see what’s happening at school. Finally, we suggest you schedule a visit to meet our staff and explore our campus, so you can experience first-hand the incredible people and the beautiful spaces we offer. We hope to hear from you soon!
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