VanDamme has been a blessing. Prior to coming here, our child was in the public school system. Unfortunately, our child wasn't challenged and the school could not and would not provide him opportunities to grow. Whereas the school he came from taught to the lowest common denominator, VDA treats all their students as individuals. The ability to move up or down in a subject area based on skillset enables all children to grow at their own pace. Because of the rigorous academic curriculum, there is never any downtime, or talk about fundraising during "instructional minutes". Every minute is focused on teaching in a loving way. My child is a new child. The no homework policy enables us to spend quality time on extra curricular activities without having to waste on time on non qualitative homework (I.e. worksheets after worksheets). How many first graders can say they got the chance to sit with an upper class during the dissection of a cow's eye for science class? How many of them learn about US History vs getting a coloring sheet of Christopher Columbus? What we get at VDA is top notch education and worth every penny (as I mentioned before never a word about fundraising!)
Wonderful school, my child is very happy there. Academics are very rigorous, but the kids have fun learning. Diverse student body is a rare find in Orange County.
This is a very special school. Our kids love going to school as the atmosphere is joyful and serious about learning. The school is also sized right for our kids, not too big and not too small. They have friends from their own grades as well as other grades. We see improvements in all subject areas. We are happy about the curriculum, the teachers and the administration. The director is open and available to parents. We feel fortunate to have found this school.
We moved to the area in order to enroll our child in Kindergarten at VDA, attracted by the educational philosophy (check their webpage and YouTube for details). I'm happy with the results so far (2 years in) and delighted with the teachers and staff and their sense of mission and cheerfulness. The no-homework policy is very special. It applies to parents as well. Typically with an exceptional school there is a good deal of extra time and money sought from the parents. This clearly works for many great schools (e.g. in the Northeast). But it's a relief that at VDA the extra-time-and-money is truly optional for parents. Neither does the administration work to pump up their waiting list to attract newborn applicants. VDA is a relaxed experience for students and parents. And yet the students leave the school after 8th grade, with their writing skills at the college level. No sweat. After all, they practice writing (and math, etc.) at school for years. Step by step, they hone their craft (at school, not in front of a blank computer screen at 9 pm the night before an assignment is due). It should be this way at all schools.
Children who have been taught by VanDamme teachers emerge with superior academic sophistication. They are taught to analyze literature, science, and the arts with meaningful discussion. The teacher turnover is low (we've been there for amost 6 years) and every new addition to the staff is always a positive one. My 3 children never complain about going to school and I never complain about the no homework policy. My kids are happy and well-adjusted. I credit the school for keeping them intellectually stimulated while allowing them to still maintain the innocence of childhood. There is no other school that could compete with the excellence of VanDamme.
I wish we had discovered VDA sooner, but at least our daughter got to attend for 8th grade. Like some of the prior commentators we regret that it only goes to 8th grade. Our daughter had serious surgery at the beginning of the school year that has impacted her to date. However, the school has been incredibly supportive and flexible, all while maintaining a first class program with caring, involved faculty and staff. The academics are first rate and the great teachers and small class size combine to keep the students interested and the achievement high. We are very grateful for the efforts of the entire staff.
We have had a wonderful experience at VDA. Only regret is that it doesn't continue through high school. The academics are top shelf. The teachers are enthusiastic and creative. They know how to make the subjects interesting and fun so that the students are engaged. The director is always available to listen to any concerns, and she has always been willing to work through any unique concerns we have had with our child. As my daughter says: "There are no bullies here." Can't say enough great things about this school.
I feel like that won the lottery ticket to find this amazing school. I never heard about VDA until my friend recommended me. I don t recall seeing any ads on magazines. They don t need to advertise because they get students from word of mouth. To me it is a good reputation. The faculties are so professional in their own subjects and they know how to get to these kids to learn since they are so passionate with subjects they teach. They are warm, sincere and have sense of humor so naturally attracts students. I love the director who is always ready to listen to your concerns. The school has no weird politics and no ego what so ever. In academics they are well above average but they never put pressure on the students. Nothing is forced on them. I have a special concern for my older one and they are taking care of it like their own child s problem. My older one experienced trauma from her peer and teachers in her last two schools but her painful journey is rewarded now by VDA. Aca This is the first school that I felt I could trust every single teacher for my kids physical and emotional safety and knowing that they are learning in their best way.
VanDamme Academy gets our top rating! Not only do the teachers have great educational backgrounds and experiences, they engage the children in the class with topics I've never received in my public school days. Before moving to VanDamme our children attended another private school and when they would come home from school and we'd asked them what they had learned their comment was stuff. After attending VanDamme topics at the dinner table are all about what they learned in history class, one of their favourite classes, science, literature, math, art history and they share them with incredible enthusiasm. They are proud of the knowledge they are gaining at VanDamme and are eager to go to school. When having troubles grasping certain concepts the teachers make sure they understand the material before moving on. They want the children to learn, not just memorize and get through the day and then drown at home in homework. We actually have more family time together since most of the learning is done in the hours they are in school. This has allowed them to pursue after school activities that they enjoy. VanDamme has always been supportive of our children and truly want them to learn.
Very happy with my son's schooling at VanDamme. Before he started in K-1, he was a really shy kid. Fast forward a few years later and we get people complimenting my son after having a conversation with him. I usually hear how mature he is for his age, how engaged he is while talking, and how he doesn't respond with "kid-like" answers upon being asked questions. It really is a true joy to experience.
We didn't find VDA until my daughter was in the 8th grade and my only complaint is that it doesn't go through high school. The teachers are wonderful, they motivate and inspire the students to apply themselves while challenging them. They are professional yet approachable and they truly find a way to meet the need of each individual student. I can't say enough about what a wonderful experience this year has been. I am sorry we didn't find VDA sooner.
Up until law school, I had attended public school my entire life, including the University of California school system and had always been proud of my public schooling. We selected Irvine as a place to live, with the hopes that our children would attend public schools, and they did initially. We volunteered and had no intention of transferring and were reasonably satisfied. A close friend encouraged us to tour Van Damme Academy many times, so eventually, we gave in, mostly out of curiosity. Well, our interest was piqued, and it led to more visits and interest. Sitting in on a science curriculum overview, I found myself wishing I had the same tteacher myself. We brought our older son to VDA and had him sit on a class. He liked it, we enrolled, and have been so impressed with the quality of the education, the incredible enthusiasm of the teaching staff and administration, and couldn't be more pleased academically. Our son comes home excited about his learnings and I feel it has been such a positive aspect. I love how different teachers focus on different subjects. I recommend a tour, we never would have changed to a private school without experiencing in person.
My child really likes the school, and equally importantly, is benefiting tremendously from it. I am very impressed with the carefully considered curriculum, and its application: potentially overwhelming activities like taking notes, or writing essays, are broken down into understandable building blocks, and gradually more independence is expected and encouraged. The results are a wonderful mixture of increased ability and increased confidence. I can tell that my child's interaction with the world has changed due to the education they have received: they understand (and like) grammar, comment on origins of words, think about where the sun is relative to the earth to give certain shadow patterns on (phases of) the moon, and are excited about knowing history, and appreciate its relevance to understanding today's world. Their mental environment is richer and more complex as a result--the sign of real education, and not simply memorization. In addition to superb instruction, the school works to provide a safe learning environment, proactively addressing potential conflicts between students. Overall, I highly recommend considering the school if you appreciate a classical education!
A miracle school. We visited twice while looking at every school in OC and were blown away both times. Our two children have now attended for 2 years, and we are so grateful we made the decision to enroll. Our kids are excited to go each day. Afterwards, they speak animatedly about their teachers, and sometimes literally fight to be first to tell us about what they learned. The teachers are extremely engaged, employing a Socratic method, and the results are obvious to anyone who looks in on a classroom: students raise their hands eagerly, hungry to participate in discussions. Subjects are explored in depth, and with a view to their connections to other subjects--all of them falling under an umbrella theme for the year--thus creating a complete educational experience rather than the typical fractured, short-attention-span-inducing model used by so many schools, public or private. VanDamme has developed a pedagogy that is at once serious, high-minded, classical, enriching, and enjoyable. The big question is: where will my children go once they've graduated from VanDamme. Everything else in the county seems to pale in comparison.
I wish I had the writing skills of the VDA graduates (or even those 4th graders in current attendance) to express my appreciation and respect for the institution and the teachers for providing a place of LEARNING for my children. All three of my children thrill at the prospect of their day spent here among their peers and genuinely motivated faculty.
Had one good year here, then one terrible year that was a complete waste of time and money -- it just depends on what teachers you get. There is no consistency, and the administration disregards all parental concerns. There is a huge revolving door, not just with teachers, but students...every year there are a lot of dissatisfied families that leave, with good reason. It's unfortunate because the school has potential, but needs an infrastructure and administration that actually cares about the students, not just the select few "stars" that are exploited to make the school look good. Don't be fooled by all the promises when you tour the school, they're just intended to get you in the door. And beware, the sample student work they show is that of their "chosen few", don't expect that quality.
My son is a freshman in High School and attended Van Damme for the 3 years of Middle School. All of his high school courses are Accelerated or Honors and he was supremely well-prepared by VDA. Several times he has remarked that his high school classes are "easy" because they do not require the thought that Van Damme required.
Lack of consistency is a big problem. Although my kids always loved class, there were years where things seemed off. Sometimes a teacher wasn't as knowledgeable as the rest, or assignments didn't seem to really be the best quality. Whenever my son has trouble with a high school math topic, its good odds that that topic was taught the year he had one of the one-year-and-out teachers that happens now and again. They have the right idea here for sure, but don't always carry it out.
Routinely, people who meet my daughter ( an elementary student at Vandamme Academy) will comment on how alive and thoughtful she seems compared to other kids her age. Proudly I say that she has a genuine sparkle in her eyes. Her school plays a large role in that. She is confident of her ability to think through ideas in various topics, excited to learn about how the world works, an avid and thoughful reader who loves to discuss the characters in her books, and not intimidated by new subjects. Vandamme academy teachers have nurtured her mind with their well thought out lessons and their passion for education. My daughter has blossomed there. As a parent, that is exactly what I want a school to do.
VanDamme Academy has been a wonderful experience for our daughter. Students are taught in a thoughtful and exciting way. The teachers are forthright and genuinely interested in what is best for each student, I have seen the teachers work to identify the unique learning styles of each student, This creates an exciting and safe place for the children. As a parent, I have always felt welcome in the school. We could not be happier about the choice of attending VDA!
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