FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Do I have to be Buddhist to send my child to a Middle Way school?
A: No. The common thread for Middle Way families and students is having a wish for a more compassionate and loving society, a desire for an education infused with self-reflection, and a curiosity to question assumptions.
Q: What kind of Buddhists are you?
A: Middle Way is nonsectarian. The Buddha taught in 84,000 different ways to meet each person’s specific needs and we aspire to follow this example of individualized teaching. We find inspiration from a number of Buddhist wisdom traditions from all three yanas (schools of Buddhism). We have already invited masters from the Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions to spend time at our school and have received blessings from heads of all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. We value the scholarly approach and the practitioner approach to Buddhism and trust lineage traditions first and foremost.
Q: Are you going to turn my child into a Buddhist?
A: No. As Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche says, “to be a Buddhist is not of utmost importance for Buddhists. There isn’t one stanza in the entire Buddhist world that says, ‘May all become Buddhist’.” If students ultimately choose to continue following the Buddha’s path of wisdom and compassion, we rejoice. And if they choose to follow their own path, we equally rejoice.
Q: Are you going to teach regular subjects?
A: Absolutely. We are relying on innovative contemporary research on learning to provide an exceptional college preparatory education. Our students will play, contemplate, be encouraged to question, and to use inquiry as the foundation for academic achievement. Using a developmental approach to teaching and learning allows regular subjects to be taught in ways that matter to students. The aim of all we teach and do with our students is to awaken their intelligence, discernment, and sense of connection to themselves and the world. Our approach allows “regular” subjects to become extraordinary opportunities for not only mastery of academic understanding, but for self-knowledge, creativity and engagement in the learning process.
Q: What if we move or need to switch our child to a new school?
A: All of the conventional benchmarks of a modern education will be met and students can transfer to another school. We will work with each student’s new school to determine any place where learning equivalencies have not been met so students are prepared for the next step in their education.
Q: Will my child be accepted into college?
A: Many colleges these days are searching for students who know how to think differently, who have an interesting outlook, and who have been educated in a system that takes into account something more than scores and the ability to regurgitate facts and figures.
Q: What type of teachers will you be hiring?
A: Our teachers must be well-practiced educators, with a passion for innovative education and a profound skill at maintaining an open mindset. We want teachers who bring their unique gifts but share a deep love of contemplative practice and its impacts on education.
Q: Will my children still be expected to take standardized tests?
A: There is some value in students knowing how to effectively take standardized tests in order to be able to participate in higher education. We believe this skill can be taught in the later middle school and high school years and is not a developmentally appropriate practice in the elementary years. Assessment and knowing where students are landing academically is essential, but our approach to assessment will not be one based on standardized tests.
Q: My child has special needs, will there be enough support?
A: We welcome diversity in our school. We can support many special needs and some needs might require support beyond the scope of what we can offer, especially in our first couple of years. Please contact us to set up a meeting in which we can evaluate if Middle Way School is the right fit for your child.
Q: What is the MWS stance on media consumption?
A: While it is clear that media exposure for young children is not ideal, we also know that our students are entering a world where navigating media will be necessary. Like standardized testing and homework, much of what makes media “right” or “wrong” for students is the developmental timing. While we are certain that electronic media will play a role in our middle and high school years, we are also certain that the younger elementary years are not served by media-based learning. We encourage families to help their children find non-media oriented ways to connect with their experience and to harness the often underrated moments of boredom as times for relaxation and integration. We will provide some media consumption guidelines, which will be encouraged but not enforced.
Q: What is your stance on homework?
A: We want to use our students’ time well. In the earliest years of a child’s education, doing homework is generally not a good use of their time. Again, we take a developmental approach to homework. As students mature, homework can be an enriching learning experience. However, in the younger grades, homework is often experienced as almost tortuous for students and this can harm their love of learning. We hope our students are able to spend their after-school time integrating their in-school experiences, spending time with family and having fun and exploring other interests. One type of homework we will encourage from kindergarten onwards is reading for pleasure. In the earlier grades, this will likely take the form of parents reading to their children to create the foundation for a deep love of literacy.
Q: Will you be teaching foreign languages?
A: Yes! Mandarin is now one of the most relevant languages in the world and has some wonderful benefits for the brain, including a connection to music development. As a pictographic language, it provides connections to calligraphy, graphomotor development, and early literacy. We are also working with the St. James School in England on introducing a Sanskrit component to the school. Romance languages may be introduced in the middle school years.
Q: How big do you expect the classes to be?
A: Ideally, each mixed-grade class will have 15-18 students, with one lead and one assistant teacher. We anticipate class sizes being smaller in our inaugural year.
Q: Will you have a music program?
A: Yes! Music is a significant part of our arts program and is an excellent way to bring cultural experiences into our classrooms. While some schools require students to study one instrument in depth as an extra-curricular activity, we do not see MWS having a requirement for families like this. Our strongest interest is having an emphasis on exposure to a wide variety of music and musical experiences and to support students who want to study music seriously. We are envisioning our music programs linking very directly to other art forms and to studies in the humanities and sciences. In addition, for many students, music becomes a contemplative practice and a support for executive function, which is something we will encourage and support. The music program is still taking shape and more information will be available soon.
Q: How much time will you spend in nature?
A: The Middle Way School campus includes 5 acres of forested land. Immersion in nature will be a part of every day and we have tapped outdoor education specialists to be integral staff members. We anticipate much of our curriculum revolving around the world outside the classroom walls. Nature is the ultimate teacher.
Q: Our family has an interest in spending time abroad. Will the school support this choice?
A: Travel broadens horizons and enriches the lives of our students and families so we support the decision to spend time abroad. That said, the continuity within the classroom culture is essential to the learning community. We trust we can find the balance with families that wish to travel and plan to work with these situations individually.
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