"Our child has blossomed at Sundial. We appreciate the blended Montessori/Charlotte Mason method and ultimately love that Sundial offers an amazing alternative to what we feel is the broken—albeit well-meaning—education system that is currently the “mainstream” option. Sundial also offers more structure and social interaction than we could achieve through homeschooling our only child on our own, even with the addition of homeschool co-op activities. We love that our child can experience an hour-plus of outdoor time daily, exposure to common arts, skills and trades, fine arts, and a Classical education. We were praying for something like Sundial that aligned with our counter-cultural values, and our family has been so blessed to be a part of the community. That’s the other value-add of Sundial: a welcoming and supportive community of families looking for the best option for their children. Every family involved seems interested in seeing the staff, students, and families experience their best life. We love Sundial and are grateful to be a part of it!"
"Sundial offers education in a way that actually connects with our children. It’s a context that promotes curiosity, creativity, and wonder. It’s not naively anti-technology, but operates from an understanding of how precious screen-free spaces can be to encourage young minds to open, engage with the natural world, and relate to each other and adults who model virtue and love of learning. Our trust in the philosophy and practice of Sundial is high, and the setting in an expansive nature center is ideal. We are so happy and grateful for how our children have grown both personally and academically being part of Sundial."
"We were hesitant to enroll our daughter in another school setting. The risk of her falling behind academically was far less than the risk of her losing her love of learning. Homeschooling was going well, but she needed more than I could give her alone. A few weeks in I heard her singing a song in the back seat of the car. When I realized it was a song she had learned at Sundial (as she was singing in Latin) it hit me that, unlike what we’d experienced in a previous school setting, this was the first time that the work of schooling was showing up at home in a joyful way. Not only is the quality of education she is getting at Sundial impressive, but more importantly she is inspired, engaged, and happy."
"At our old traditional-classroom school my daughter had a tendency to be timid, quiet, and afraid to make mistakes, and easily sunk into the periphery of the class and labeled as 'shy'. Since we’ve found Sundial, she’s now coming home bursting with excitement to tell us about how she used her abacus to add and subtract, or how she caught a frog in the pond on a nature walk. She has transformed in only one school year into an engaged, active, and confident learner who is no longer afraid to raise her hand. Seeing the staff at Sundial recognize her potential and masterfully draw out her confidence has been incredible. As a parent, you can’t ask for more than to see your child flourish and develop a true eagerness for learning. We feel like we’ve struck gold with Sundial."
"After years working in the public school system, one of the observations I made after most of my traditional classroom experiences was that the main 'learning mode' used there is the opposite of child-friendly. Children aren't designed to sit in chairs filling out worksheets, or sit in chairs listening to teachers, or sit anywhere for most of the day! They're designed to be in nature, playing and being rambunctious! What if many/most of the struggles children have in school are because they are being asked to do something that can't reasonably be expected of them? What if we could foster a life-long love for learning - by working WITH their natural strengths? While a certain amount of discipline, organization, and memorization are necessary parts of schooling, I don't believe that these components should comprise the majority of children's learning experiences - especially those of younger children! But how to find a school with excellent academics presented with a different approach? That is where Sundial comes in. By putting as much emphasis on hands-on learning of a variety of practical skills and arts as well as academics, conducted as much as possible in a natural environment, Sundial has, in my opinion, achieved "the holy grail": strong academic teaching in a way that not only builds children's confidence but helps them grow toward their potential as whole human beings."
"I have been a private music lesson instructor for over 20 years. Through those years I've honed my craft and have found wonderful ways to work with students of all levels and abilities. My own children have followed suit with the many failures and shortfalls that most young musicians find a struggle. Since their start at Sundial a few months ago, the difference I've noticed in my children during their lessons is that they now have the ability to be legitimate scholars of music. They have taken responsibility for their own learning. Before, I had to be constantly reminding them of the ways to hold their instruments, to pay attention when I gave directions and to repeat the practice until it was complete. I was astounded as I spent time teaching them today to find them not only incredibly focused, but reminding themselves of the instructions...they were the masters of their own learning! As a result of this shift in mindset, they were able to progress faster than they had before with more attention to detail and thereby EXCEL. They were empowered, and I had a pretty wide smile on my face as well!"
"Sundial has been a place where our daughter has been able to catch up on essential educational building blocks that had fallen through the cracks when she was in a much larger class. More importantly, she’s taking more responsibility for her own learning, as well as discovering the joy of it, especially in literature, nature, and creating."
"As the common arts instructor it's my joy to give students substantive experiences in which they can make sense of their classroom learning. Throughout my grade school years I struggled with not seeing how anything connected to the real world, but that is not the case at Sundial. Here students are regularly able to apply what they are learning through experiences which cultivate a sense of wonder in life."
"At the Director’s recommendation, I spent the first week of school tucked in a corner of the room. Available if needed, out of sight and mind if not. I watched in disbelief one afternoon as kids aged 5-9 engaged in a conversation about the painting The Fog Warning by Winslow Homer (1885). When prompted, they each described the painting not by listing colors or objects but by describing the mood the artist sought to evoke. Afterwards, as the work of composer Franz Liszt played in the background, they worked on their own sketches of the painting, silently focused without any “shushes” or redirects necessary. They were interested. They were engaged. They were focused. And while I made a joke about it being sorcery, I knew it was what Classical Education looks like in practice."
"The other day we had a kayaker flip his craft just before our little part of the river. While their dad helped the man pull in his Kayak and drain it, the kids came running to tell me - and I sent a towel out for the cold water logged stranger who had literally washed up the bank. As she ran down the hill to deliver thr towel our daughter said "because we can always be HOSPITABLE!" Not only are our kids looking for ways to show hospitality - they're identifying it in others as well."
The Hot Chocolate Connection
by Sarah Kwilinski, teacher
It was the first snowfall of the year and it was a doozy. It fell silent, fast, and deep; when we walked into school in the morning the grass was green, when we looked outside at 10am the world was covered in two inches of fluffy whiteness.
There is nothing like the wonder of small children at the first snowfall of the year. I brought all the kids to the door, threw it open, and then watched all their eyes open wide and their mouths make perfect Os as they breathed a hushed, “Ohhh!” in unison. As one, the whole class swiveled up to look at me, their faces silently pleading, “Can we???” I laughed and said yes. With a whoop they rushed to pull on coats, hats, mittens and boots and then tumbled out the door. Some of them danced in the middle of a snow globe come to life. Others stood stock still, eyes squeezed shut, tongue stuck out as far as it could go.
I whispered to my classroom assistant and she smiled, then shooed the kids ahead of her to the playground to make snow angels and snowmen. I ducked back inside, set out each kids’ personal mug (purchased in anticipation of moments just like this), and then went to the stove and stirred up a massive batch of hot chocolate.
Recess ran long that day. When at last the kids came inside, red-cheeked and bright-eyed, they filled the room with noise. Grand recounts of the biggest snowball ever were told and retold. I gathered the children into our library, passed out mugs of hot chocolate, sat in my rocking chair, and opened a storybook. A contented hush fell over the room, children warming their hands and sipping carefully, as I began to read aloud.
In modern schools that look like anonymous office buildings, and over-crowded classrooms where children respond to a number rather than their own name, we have lost the one thing every teacher could provide to every student, every day, without exception, if only they had the freedom and the time–a connection. At Sundial our students are seen and heard and connected with every day. That moment may be as simple as a teacher smiling into their eyes as she hands them a warm mug but it is precisely these simple moments that are pivotal to a child still forming their sense of place within a community.
Sundial’s students are storing up hundreds of moments like these. A long wintery recess, being greeted with hot chocolate, and then piling into our cozy library, is just one of many. Because along with the reading and the math, it is deeply important that we take time to teach the most important lesson of all–that the adults in your life see you and care about you. School must never be too busy for that.