Public Blogs Blog

We did it!

Not a creature will be stirring on the Wood Acres campus as we begin our annual two-week winter break.  But we also reached an amazing milestone, too!

With detailed planning and work this past summer, amazing team effort from our dedicated faculty and staff, and the strong partnership with our Wood Acres families we had a full, robust, exciting teaching and learning environment with REAL face time on campus each and every day. 

Wood Acres School safely and proudly began this academic year as was always planned in mid-August and now we look forward to our awesome students returning in the new year!

Very few schools can boast that accomplishment amidst the strain, pain, worry, and challenges of this pandemic.  Wood Acres is so proud of this amazing milestone and we hope you are, too.

With annual legacy family re-enrollment coming up in late January and prospective family enrollment soon after that in February be sure to join us as we continue to put safety, security, and your children FIRST.

Wood Acres is a school for all seasons AND all the right reasons!

#woodacresistheplacetobe in 2021-2022, too!

Safe Return to School

A year ago, The Wood Acres School started the year by celebrating our 50th anniversary of educating students in our community with grand fanfare and pride. As we closed that milestone year, our world looked very different, but the goals and vision that carried us through these important years remained the same. We quickly comprised our plan for the safe return of our students because we value the work we do each day with students and all of the magical moments that are a part of teaching and learning together.

Our spacious nine acre campus, abundant cottages housing classrooms, facility improvements and PPE purchases, dedicated faculty, and supportive families allowed us to easily follow the guidelines from the CDC and GA department of Public Health regarding the safe reopening of schools.
Starting on our first day of school as usual (August 10 for K-8th) and (August 17 for 2s-4s) we welcomed legacy and new students and families who share our vision. We purchased PPE for all students and faculty and required the wearing of masks when on our campus. We updated our HVAC systems with special filtration to ensure that students, teachers, and staff are breathing clean and fresh air. Regular electrostatic spraying, deep cleaning and sanitizing is also part of our effort in keeping areas clean and
germ free.

We required a signed Parent Partnership Agreement from our families to commit to keeping our community safe and healthy. Families must follow our protocols and make sure activities outside of school align with our goals of keeping everyone safe and healthy at school. We placed students in classes of no more than 13 and one teacher to maximize opportunities for
distancing. This class remains together for the entire day and in one shared space. Specialist area teachers (Art, Music, STEM, Technology, PE) work with just a few classes at a time in the students’ space each day for three weeks before moving on to another cohort in our Early (2s-4s) and Grammar Schools (K-5). This allows for students to explore these enrichment areas while still following guidelines. Students also receive Spanish instruction as we are an International Spanish Academy and everyone enjoys a minimum of 30 minutes of recess each day.

Our Upper School Students (6-8) follow a block schedule which allows them to delve deeper into subject matter (Spanish, English Studies, History Geography and Culture, Science) and limit their time in transitioning between classes this year. The one non-negotiable: math. Math instruction is always each day. They complete their electives (Technology, Leadership, Art, and Music History) virtually (except for Physical Education which is face to face). Students in grades 4th-8th use laptops assigned to them for the
school year as a tool for research, word processing, and to extend daily lessons. Students in lower grades still use purposeful technology on a rotating schedule.

As we look to the 2021-22 admissions season, we have noticed an interest in all grades and programs by families who are looking for academic excellence and a commitment to an affordable private school experience in a beautiful environment with dedicated faculty. We are offering tours by appointment by emailing admissions@woodacresschool.org. We have Open Houses by appointment on November 8 and January 24. Check out visit page to register. Come see why The Wood Acres School has done an
excellent job in educating children in our community for over 50 years and be a part of our lasting legacy.

Distance Learning in Early School

The unprecedented turn of events caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in our community has completely altered the way that spring typically looks on our beautiful campus.  Distance learning has developed quickly into the best way for our teachers to stay in touch and keep their students learning.  

Even before the decision was made to pause in-school lessons, I was meeting with our teachers to begin developing a plan to facilitate distance learning.  You will not be surprised to hear that every teacher embraced this challenge and began exploring and sharing their ideas on how to best facilitate this new model. 

With every new post, the teachers are working to discover what content will be the most helpful for the students while keeping it fun, engaging, and meaningful along with how best to get the material to them.  They are also being mindful of each family’s time and ability to support the lessons and activities. They are aware that many parents are trying to juggle multiple responsibilities throughout the day. With that in mind,  the teachers are seeking a balance between active and independent learning. This balance is also helpful when working with early school learners as their ability to focus on a task depends in large part on their age.

In an article in Parents.com,  Leslie Harris O’Hanlon states, “Child development experts say that, on average, a 4- or 5-year-old child should be able to stay focused on a task for two to five minutes times the year of their age. So, young kids should be able to focus between 4 and 20 minutes, possibly more, depending on the task.”  It is also important to give yourself permission to leave a task undone if it is becoming too arduous.  

We want nothing more than to get back together in our classrooms and on our campus so that we can once again share the laughter,  our love of learning and care for one another.  

What a joyous day when we again meet!

“When this is over, may we never again take for granted…a handshake with a stranger, full shelves at the store, conversations with neighbors, a crowded theater, Friday night out, a routine checkup, the school rush each morning, coffee with a friend, the stadium roaring, each deep breath, a boring Tuesday, and life itself. When this ends, may we find that we have become more like the people we wanted to be, we were called to be, we hoped to be, and may we stay that way- better for each other because of the worst.” Laura Kelly Fanucci

May I add…when we return, may we give thanks for our school, our teachers and staff, and the joy of learning together.

May we be ever thankful for supportive families, natural creativity, the ability to adjust, the ability to wait, the ability to know this, too, shall pass.

What a joyous day when we again meet!

Judy Thigpen

Thoughts for February

As this is the month of hearts, flowers, acts of affection, and sweet treats let us remember these special four letter words and take them to heart and into action… not just in February but in the other 11 months of 2020!

LOVE   TIME   READ    KIND    DUTY    GIVE   

GROW    HELP    HEAL    HOPE    WISH    WOW

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, today is a gift which is why we call it the present!”

“Today is a good day for a good day!”

“Time is the most expensive thing we can give.  Spend it with love.”

What is purposeful play?

As children begin to move through their first early school experiences, it is easy to focus on the tangible skills that we observe in private pre-k.  What is harder to observe are the important skills that are developed through everyday play interactions. Purposeful play is sometimes an afterthought as we tick off the list of academic achievements such as shapes, colors, letters, and numbers that are more easily measured.  

 At Wood Acres private pre-k, we provide numerous purposeful play opportunities.  When children are engaged with their peers, a teacher’s role becomes that of an observer and guide rather than instructor.  Students relish these opportunities and any observer will see that the student’s natural curiosity and energy drives the learning.  Opportunities that organically occur are the best at developing the skills that will allow students to rise up and move through difficult situations, whether they be physical, social, or academic in nature. Purposeful play that is both fun and interesting promotes a love of school and learning that benefits children. 

Providing a balanced approach to academic and play opportunities for students is crucial to developing children that are passionate learners whose curiosity leads them to  seek deeper understanding. Children enrolled in the Wood Acres private pre-k classes learn with their head, heart, and all of their senses.

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.

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