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A New Year…A New Decade

A new year… a new decade… a fresh start for new beginnings!  Ever hopeful, we ring in each new year!  And as with the other December holidays, traditions abound that unite families, cities, and even countries in welcoming another 365 days of possibilities.  I was raised to enjoy pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day for luck and my husband’s family made sure the meal also included black-eyed peas with a sweet relish to top it off.  Here a few more interesting traditions from across the globe!

In Spain, it is customary to eat 12 grapes – one at each stroke of the clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Each grape represents good luck for one month of the coming year. In bigger cities like Madrid and Barcelona, people gather in main squares to eat their grapes together and pass around bottles of Cava.

In hopes of a travel-filled new year, residents of Colombia carry empty suitcases around the block.  That’s one New Year’s tradition we can get behind!

Residents of Denmark greet the New Year by throwing old plates and glasses against the doors of family and friends to banish bad spirits. They also stand on chairs and jump off them together at midnight to “leap” into January in hopes of good luck.

In Finland people predict the coming year by casting molten tin into a container of water, then interpreting the shape the metal takes after hardening. A heart or ring means a wedding, while a ship predicts travel and a pig declares there will be plenty of food.

To drive off evil spirits for a fresh New Year’s start, it is tradition to burn effigies (muñecos) of well-known people such as television characters and political figures in Panama. The effigies are meant to represent the old year.

During Scotland’s New Year’s Eve celebration of Hogmanay, “first-footing” is practiced across the country. The first person who crosses a threshold of a home in the New Year should carry a gift for luck. Scots also hold bonfire ceremonies where people parade while swinging giant fireballs on poles, supposedly symbols of the sun, to purify the coming year.

You’ll find round shapes all over the Philippines on New Year’s Eve as representatives of coins to symbolize prosperity in the coming year. Many families display piles of fruit on their dining tables and some eat exactly 12 round fruits (grapes being the most common) at midnight. Many also wear polka dots for luck.

In Brazil, as well as other Central and South America countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela, it is thought to be lucky to wear special underwear on New Year’s Eve. The most popular colors are red, thought to bring love in the New Year, and yellow, thought to bring money.

An onion is traditionally hung on the front door of homes on New Year’s Eve in Greece as a symbol of rebirth in the New Year. On New Year’s Day, parents wake their children by tapping them on the head with the onion.

On January 2, the Cape Town Street Parade in South Africa (also known as Tweede Nuwe Jaar or Second New Year) sees thousands of colorfully dressed minstrels take to the streets in celebration.

As Tevye sang in the classic Broadway musical, Fiddler on the Roof– “and how do we keep our balance?  That I can tell you in one word… TRADITION!”

As you well know, we are deep in tradition @ the Woods, especially with the 2019-2020 academic year being our 50th anniversary for The Wood Acres School.  We embrace our traditions of the ginkgo tree and other school symbols, Constitution Day and special campus celebrations, as well as academic and learning traditions that enhance teaching and create a vibrant cohesive school family.  I am not sure our students will ever embrace my tradition of sauerkraut though!

As each of you have welcomed 2020, embrace your family traditions as well as the children and other family members who are part of the fiber of your lives throughout the new decade.  No one will remember page 50 in a textbook but each will remember the ceremonies and traditions of The Wood Acres School for another 50 years to come!

It’s beginning to look a lot like home, hearth, holidays and a new year! Oh my!

Gleeful anticipation is on the faces of the Wood Acres students as we welcome the month of December!  It is not the more serious anticipation of a math or language arts test, but the anticipation of surprises, school vacation, visitors, yummy treats, later bed times, special snacks, plays and pageants, tasty food, travel…you get the idea!  “Children see the holidays in anticipation.  Adults see them in memories.” 

May the anticipation that your children feel during this month “infect” you with wonder and joy.  And may the memories of holidays past yield new traditions for your families that each generation can enjoy.  May your home and hearth be filled with holiday magic and may the New Year reward you with continued health, hope, and happiness!

High Expectations – Private Kindergarten

I often marvel at our kindergarteners. They are naturally interested in the world around them and full of curious wonder. When I walk into the classroom, children with their wide eyes, smiles, and hugs, eager to show their writing, greet me at the door. What better place to capitalize on the rigor and enthusiasm of literacy learning than in a private kindergarten setting.

When I spend time with our kindergarteners during reading instruction, there is much focus on sight words, vocabulary, reading strategies, initial and final sounds, spelling, blending, and comprehension of text. All of these skills demonstrate a commitment to building a solid foundation of literacy while teaching children to be excellent.

Equally important and unique to these lessons is our focus on handwriting, organizing our belongings, demonstrating pride in our work, taking risks, respecting our friends, and loving the learning of reading.

At Wood Acres, we value purposeful and developmentally appropriate practices in learning to read while trusting in high expectations for all of our students. Even in kindergarten, we foster a climate of high expectations. This is one of the seven correlates of effective schools noted by researcher Larry Lezotte. These correlates drive all learning and success for our kindergarteners and for all of our students ages 2-14. For a five-year-old, talking out the process of forming letters and perhaps carefully erasing if needed to make sure it looks just right, is just one of many ways s/he demonstrates an understanding of high expectations.

Rigor. Excellence. Curiosity. High Expectations.

This is private kindergarten at Wood Acres.

50th celebrations now in WA history

Our 50th celebrations are now in Wood Acres history, captured in hundreds of photos, and now a part of our rich tradition of inspiring young people to explore, discover, apply, and engage in learning.  It was a spectacular weekend in every way and we were so fortunate to have hundreds of past and present students, staff, and families join in the celebration. 

The 50th anniversary photo book is completed and we invite you to enjoy it any time in the school office lobby.  Pictures are worth 1,000 words and this book is full of tens of thousands!  We also have individual photo prints on display in the Newbery Room of the Stacks for students and staff to enjoy.  Sorry no ice cream or popsicle leftovers! 

Wood Acres certainly has a strong vibrant legacy as well as a rich history of which we are both proud and humbled.  Fifty years is a milestone any way you look at it!  But we are also looking toward the future and the next decades of our unique “Ginkgo” school. 

While strong instructional leadership is key to any successful organization, it is completely ineffective if the rest of the team is not in sync with that leadership and vision.  Wood Acres simply excels in this area.  We teach leadership classes and strategies to our students, we empower our faculty and staff to be leaders in their classrooms and model effective leadership skills, and we work together as a living organism that grows, innovates, and improves with the times.  We got this… and it has stood the test of time… for 50 years!

At this time of thankfulness, I am so honored to be the Head of this amazing school and the caretaker of your children’s education.  I thank each of you for making this milestone of 50 years possible!  God bless us everyone!

Judy Thigpen

Kindergarten – The First Educational Milestone

A private kindergarten experience at Wood Acres will nurture and challenge your child like no other. Kindergarten is the first big educational milestone of childhood. It holds all of the wonder of the age and the excitement for all of the formal learning that will occur over the next few years. This is the start of something big.

We know our young kindergarteners will achieve at the end of the school year because we carefully set high, yet attainable goals within the context of a challenging curriculum for each age and stage. When you are fortunate to have a middle school on a campus filled with preschool and grammar school students, this educational roadmap allows our vision to be more focused and effective.

At Wood Acres, we often say we, “begin with the end in mind” from leading researcher Steven Covey of the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” If we look at what our oldest student knows, sees, says, and does, it becomes easier to translate these attributes to our younger students.  If we value standards of excellence such as communication, effort, preparedness, respect, organization, among others, then we are able to break these down into their smallest parts and expect all of our students to achieve these at some level.

Our students participate in a day filled with strong academics but also for moments engaging in the arts, recess, physical education, STEM activities, Spanish, and areas of interest the children bring into the classroom. Seasoned faculty nurture a love of learning and strong sense self that children need in today’s challenging world. Click here to learn more about a Wood Acres Kindergarten curriculum.

Moments of magic, mastery, and the beginnings of a solid educational foundation is what you will find in a private Kindergarten classroom at Wood Acres.

Schedule a campus tour to discover more about the Kindergarten programs.

The next steps…high school

As quickly as the school year begins for our Wood Acres 8th graders, we turn our attention to assisting them in the next steps in their educational career: high school.

This may seem daunting when you consider that many students in the Wood Acres private middle school have been a part of the Wood Acres family for their most formative years, but they are actually more prepared than they realize. If the amount of growth from 12-14 years old is equally significant to that from birth-2, when students are challenged with a rigorous curriculum within a supportive and familiar environment, they emerge as solid, confident leaders who are ready to take on this next phase.

Students already have high school thoughts in mind after coaching we offer to parents and families when they are welcomed into the Upper School. The varied options in this area allow families to be thoughtful about finding a school and a program that is the best choice for their student. Long gone are the days when you just register at the high school down the street. Choice is a wonderful option in today’s ever-changing world and we pride ourselves on helping our students make these choices.

Each fall, we invite our colleagues in area public, private, and magnet schools to our 10 acre campus to chat with our students and to give them an overview of what their school has to offer as well as to share tips on transitioning to any high school. In this area especially, high school is difficult and competitive no matter where our student’s attend. These relationships ensure that we are helping our students be successful no matter their choice.

When students ask questions, shake hands with these administrators and follow up with them via email, they are applying all of the skills they have learned as a student of Wood Acres. They are demonstrating to their teachers, peers, and families that they not only have the solid academic foundation that the Wood Acres private middle school is known for, but the soft skill set necessary to navigate today’s complex world.

Click here for more information about a Wood Acres middle school education and the curriculum.

The “Shakedown” month

At the Wood Acres School, we know that long stretches of time create maximum opportunities for student learning and we build our school calendar to facilitate this belief.  I recently read an article from Susan Kruger, the creator of SOAR, a study skills program, who actually refers to October as the most difficult month of the school year because it is a long stretch of time without a school break. One of her teachers even referred to it as “shakedown” month.

Her feeling was that the days are long and our students are growing and testing their boundaries with us and with their peers. We are stretching our students and they are facing new and higher expectations and learning new material. They are challenging themselves daily.

So…how do we make the most of this “shakedown”? How do we help our students be successful during this time? Here are some tips from Susan Kruger that resonated with my faculty and me.

We recognize that learning can be challenging, is hard work and that is ok. We are not afraid to instill a strong work ethic in our students.

We tell our students who are feeling the stress and pressure of this time that it will not last forever. The lovely holiday season is just around the corner.

We help our students get ready for a day of learning. We help them relax, settle into the day, feel comfortable, and reset any negative emotional thoughts they might be bringing into the classroom.

We move around on our spacious campus to get some exercise before starting a new lesson.

We always emphasize the positive.  We remind students not to give up, but to keep trying and to stay the course. This is of course, the most important indicator of long-term success.

50 Years of Wood Acres

On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of The Wood Acres School, it brings me such pride and joy to serve as the Principal of this amazing place.  I am honored to be a part of the front row seat to the learning of these amazing students and to get a 360 degree perspective on what makes Wood Acres the place where I am able to come each day to make a difference for our children, families, and faculty.

I am humbled by that, each day and especially during this milestone year. All of us have been sharing anecdotes about our connections to Wood Acres, the beginnings of Wood Acres, and our feelings about why we love this school. My love for Wood Acres began over ten years ago and together, we all love…

Working on our beautiful outdoor campus that nurtures the learning process with an appreciation and respect for childhood. 

Caring, educated faculty who make decisions with administration and each other on what is good for students. 

Honoring education and a rigorous curriculum and the process of learning while keeping expectations high.

Recognizing children have the potential to be leaders and providing opportunities like peer mentoring, book buddies, and service to our school and community.   

Encouraging students to make mistakes as this is a supportive place and celebrating their successes.

It is essential to know where you have been to know where you are headed.  We know where we have been, and like beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss tells us…..we are certainly going places.

As we look forward to the next fifty years and our bright future, it is clear in this busy, and sometimes unsettling time, more than ever the Wood Acres School is relevant and needed. We are excited that you are part of this story. Our future is all of you and your children, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  Together we will continue this legacy and our ideals. We will share the excitement that is a Wood Acres education.  We will deepen connections among ourselves and our community.  We will thoughtfully make decisions for the good of our students in these changing times based on what they need to be successful in their future.

When visitors come onto our campus.  They smile and look with wide eyes.  They instantly see how special it is. They feel part of that excitement that we see everyday.

When alumni proudly visit us, they always share much they miss the beautiful surroundings of Wood Acres and how much they treasure the uniqueness of this experience.

In the words of Dr. Maya Angelou, people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Wood Acres, you have made all of us feel special.

Today we celebrate fifty years of that legacy and look forward to the next fifty years of students, families, and faculty that will undoubtedly feel special too.

Early Literacy

At The Wood Acres School, we instill a love of learning and literacy in our youngest preschool students. Our curriculum is developmentally appropriate, yet challenging for children who are constantly engaging with the wonderful world around them.

Our two year olds are exposed to language through play and stories that are a part of building a solid foundation as they begin their academic journey. In the three year old program, our classrooms are filled with songs and rhymes and more stories as they meet reading “investigators” who become friends as a part of our reading curriculum. Our preschool learners are beginning to make more of a leap to understanding the format of books, learning left to right progression, sequencing, recognizing words on a page and in their world, and that those words carry a message.

We recognize our families play a key role in nurturing their children to be readers and that role is paramount to their children’s success. Taking time to snuggle with children to read or re read a favorite story demonstrates reading is comforting and special. Making time for your own reading encourages children to be just like mom and dad and pick up a book on their own. We invite you to celebrate reading with your families and to fall into a perfect book.

50 years! What an accomplishment! What a legacy! What a success story! What a reason to celebrate!

While not as globally grand as walking on the moon, or musically influential as Woodstock, or eternally entertaining as Sesame Street, The Wood Acres School shares its 50th anniversary with these 1969 trailblazers.  Who would have known that The Wood Acres Country Day School begun in several rented cottages in what would become East Cobb would flourish into the 9+ beautiful acres and over 10 buildings that is the home of The Wood Acres School today. 

Dreams do become reality with hard work, team work and the providence of visionary faculty, staff, and administration.  Over the last 50 years Wood Acres has shared its vision of teaching, learning, and caring with 5 decades of students and their supportive families.  Just do the math- over 10,000 students have matriculated here as well as thousands of summer campers who enjoyed the simple joys of “fun in the sun”.  We have used the tools of learning well- hundreds of thousands of pages in text and library books, crayons and markers, pencils and erasers, as well as 21st century digital footprints- not on the moon- but in the minds and hearts of our wonderful students.  That does not even begin to mention the snacks eaten each day, the lunches devoured at noon, or the celebratory treats that come with birthdays, new siblings, campus wide events, and a classic gumball machine each Friday. 

5 Decades             600 Months           2609 Weeks            18,263 Days            438,312 Hours

26,298,720 Minutes            1,577,923,200 Seconds

It recalls the wonderful anthem from the Broadway musical “Rent”.    525,600 minutes   How do you measure a year?  In LOVE- seasons of LOVE!   We love what we do.  We love that what we do matters.  We love every opportunity when we can be an educational role model for our students.  We love to learn from them.  We love acorns, oak leaves, Ginkgos, compass roses, books, rallying around the flag, and celebrating reading, writing, arithmetic, respect and responsibility.  We are a school for all seasons and all the right reasons!

We celebrate our 200 seasons of love, laughter and learning!

CHEERS TO 50 YEARS!

Judy Thigpen

This Matters At Wood Acres.

  • High Expectations For Teaching And Learning

  • Strong Instructional Leadership

  • Safe Learning Environment For Everyone

  • Positive And Welcoming School Climate

  • Valuing Time On Task For Mastery

  • Close Home School Partnerships