Our daughter entered The Studio School this year. She is so excited about going to school each day. She feels at home. We have noticed that she is constantly making things out of cardboard and clay. She is working on all of these independent projects around our apartment. We certainly must give Studio School credit. The teachers encourage children to explore. It's a critical part of the school's philosophy and culture. My husband and I wish we had the freedom to explore when we were her age. The Studio School is also an intimate and supportive community for our entire family. Community matters to Studio. It matters to our family, particularly in New York City.
Our world is a beautifully diverse place – one which must be celebrated on every level. The beauty of the Studio School (one of many) is that diversity is inherent, not only in its make up but in its philosophy. It doesn’t try to be diverse in its teachings – it just simply is. They don’t compare themselves. It is simply part of the natural order.
Diversity, of course, by its very definition, comes in all forms, shapes and sizes. Diversity is economic, racial, religious, social and familial to name just a few. We should be so lucky to live in a world that is completely open to full diversity. Unlike many of us who grew up in a different time and place, the wonderful thing for our children at Studio is that there is no other way. They grow and learn without anyone telling them that any part of their lives is wrong or any part of their colleague’s lives are wrong. Therefore, everyone’s lives are right.
Promoting this is the fact that the school is just small enough that everyone knows everyone. The kindergarten student knows the 8th grader, the 8th grader knows the kitchen staff, the kitchen staff knows the 3rd grade teacher, so on and so on. Actually knowing each other breaks down any mysterious barrier that could exist somewhere else. It certainly doesn’t hurt that underlying all of this is a staff of unbelievably supportive, intelligent, funny and open individuals.
I have a son in his second year at Studio School (Middle School). When we looked for an Independent School for our son, after making a meditated decision to switch from the public school system, we knew it had to be one in which the curriculum and teachers' approach would emphasize critical and independent thinking, creativity, and self-reliance (over testing, assessments, and competition among students). I work in the private sector, at an advertising agency in midtown Manhattan, and I have interviewed and hired enough interns and full time employees to realize that what matters the most in the current (and future) economy is the kind of skills that are fostered at Studio School: problem solving, ability to work independently but also as a positive member of a team, solid writing and thinking skills, cultural sensitivity, and a creative mind. Those are skills that, regardless what happens to our economy, will never be outsourced. That is the kind of individual that I would want to have under my team, and one of the many reasons why we appreciate Studio's approach so much.
Our daughter is a student in the early childhood program, and we couldn't be happier. I could go on and on discussing what a special place this is. First of all, children are "allowed" to be children. From basic tasks such as tiding up after playing, to getting ready for school without having to remind the child what needs to be done, teachers and administrators work closely with the children to meet them where they are and develop a sense of responsibility and independence, and helping the child understand their own emotional responses to routine situations. On a different note, something that I really like about the school is its approach to the use of computers. I am a software engineer in Manhattan, and I dread when I see schools falling into the fad of having an iPad or computer indiscriminately used in the classroom. At Studio, they have a wonderful computer lab fully equipped with Mac computers. However, students do not rely on laptops to get their work done on a regular basis. Instead, it is mostly in the upper grades, and in a way that makes sense: for specific projects, such as research papers and layout designs (students learn to use programs like Adobe Indesign and Photoshop, for instance). I have seen how the older kids are not obsessed with screens, and I know this is thanks to Studio's approach to a great extent: screens are one tool among many, and the student's critical mind learns to know how much is good for them at home.
They don't swoop in to punish, which might make some parents uncomfortable. They deal with the issues that are causing kids to speak to or treat each other disrespectfully. Once they're dealt with, they seem to be truly dealt with, and not pushed underground.
From my observation, teachers at Studio are effective because they are supported by the administration and there is sufficient time devoted to prep and curriculum development. I think it makes a huge difference that the Head of School meets with the children in a weekly class.
One of the key tenets of the curriculum is the student-teacher relationship. As per the school's policy, parents are not to interfere with homework, or even ask about (unless asked by your child for help). This develops a great sense of independence for the child.
My daughter entered The Studio School in 4th grade after unsuccessful, unhappy years in a good public school. She was anxious, dreaded school, and felt like a failure to her teachers. At Studio, we were drawn to the excellent academic curriculum and the commitment on teaching kids how to learn. We loved the fact that parents are not to be involved in children's homework (no reminding, no policing), that the relationship between the teacher and the student is central, and that the school seemed to be truly committed to building children's critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving abilities. Now, in her second year, our daughter is thriving. She races through her homework with something resembling joy, proud in her competence in doing advanced math and taking fun classes like "Strategic Thinking". Her social and emotional development is gently guided by the faculty and staff. Each child is attended to with a degree of patience that is nothing short of astounding. In our daughter's case, it's resulted in a confident child that has grown in self-reflection and patience.