Education, like many aspects of culture, goes through phases.  Often these trends trickle down from the university world to high schools, then to middle schools. Currently, 21st century skills take center stage, a set of tools and habits that many agree students need to function in their world of today and tomorrow.  Previous trends emphasized points of passion – a focus on fewer areas of interest; prior to that, a holistic experience emphasizing the whole child approach was in vogue.

It is still early in our year; yet the demands of fall require that we begin to look ahead to next year – in budget planning, for hiring needs, and for transitional purposes as we begin to prepare our parents and students for what lies ahead.  In doing so, the term holistic takes a different meaning, certainly in independent school education.

In a pre-Kindergarten through grade 12 environment, holistic education speaks to a longitudinal journey with empowering experiences and strong preparation, marked by smooth transitions along the way. It speaks, not just to the “whole” of offerings in academics, Fine Arts, and athletics, but the complete experience and impact on a student’s learning and growth from a young child to a young adult.

An education that lays a foundation for academic success is almost a given in any good independent school; one that includes a thread of character education, service, and leadership is not. Neither is one that so highly values personal connections, as students learn to advocate for themselves with caring faculty that make time to know who they are as people as well as students. These same teachers watch students grow from youngsters to  young men or young women ready to tackle the next set of challenges life presents; teachers who watch our graduates as they march through our beautiful rose arbor onto our campus green and fondly remark, “I remember when…”  or “I had him/her in …”

At a recent transition meeting, parents shared stories of their children’s journeys through Middle School. We saw the value of an English teacher drawing out the writing talent in a student who did not realize she had such a gift. Rather than follow her planned path to be an engineer, she became a student of the law, writing for select journals as she transitioned from post-secondary education to the “real” world. Or the young man who worked diligently, sometimes struggling, as he found his way with the support of our Academic Skills program and learned the true meaning of dedication. Or the young lady who never expected to enter medicine until an injury kept her out of sports and our Athletic Trainer invited her into the training room, which opened up a new world to her. And the young girl who, after just one year in Middle School, became more confident, independent, and responsible. And the parents … so proud and so comfortable knowing that their children are not only cared for, but prepared for their futures.

There are many reasons to join an independent school; there are even more to stay for the long haul. As we hear the stories of Ravenscroft students and families and see the dedicated, successful citizens our students become, we realize that the holistic value of an education truly comes to fruition only when the journey is complete.

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