Birchwood Blog


  • November

    Putting Teeth in our Mission

    by Charles Debelak 

    Making Our Mission Real

    Although we value our mission, we understand that our mission statement is a philosophical and theoretical pronouncement. The mission must be real in the lives of the children we educate. Birchwood School believes the proclamation of high ideals in education must be matched by the performance and character of its students.
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  • October

    Education for Becoming

    At Birchwood we use the phrase “education for becoming” to summarize our educational aims. Becoming implies growing, thriving and flourishing, and while it certainly includes academic excellence, it is intended to explain the goals of our program. Our goals reach beyond achievement, hoping to affect the way children mature and approach life. 
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  • September

    The Aim of Education

    Conventional wisdom in the 21st century would suggest that the aim of education is to accumulate knowledge and skills that will lead to some form of professional productivity and economic security. It represents a ladder for success. At Birchwood, we accept this premise, but we accept it only as a part of a much bigger educational story.
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  • August

    Talent Development at Birchwood School

    Birchwood School’s Talent Development Model supports a practical classroom application of the master-apprentice approach – an approach that enlightens classroom practices
    and informs how we mentor children.
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  • July

    How we Build Character in Children

    When we teach young children about justice, we are actually teaching them how to be responsible, first toward themselves, then toward others, and finally toward different social settings. Certainly justice will assume deeper meaning as children mature. But when children and young adults are just starting a journey on the path of justice, their first step is to understand what is the right thing to do, and then to do it. Figure out how you are supposed to behave and do it.
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  • June

    Natural Learning Model and the Early Reading Journey

    Parents often ask “How do I teach my child to read?” or “How do you teach reading?” I suspect that they are surprised at the lengthy answer they get from Birchwood teachers! Teaching a child to read is more than teaching phonics, teaching sight words, or following a curriculum purchased from an educational publishing company. In order to help their students grow, thrive, and flourish as readers, Birchwood teachers utilize the Natural Learning Model.
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  • May

    The Natural Learning Model – Experience as it Applies to Language Arts

    Engaging in the writing process is an ideal example of the “experience” arm of the Natural Learning Model, which is deployed in every classroom at Birchwood, from preschool to grade 8. The model has three arms: knowledge, or the accumulation of information in a subject area; agency, or a student’s self-motivation and movement toward self-actualization; and experience, where students engage in hands-on, authentic experiences in a subject. These experiences allow them to think like a writer in language arts, a historian in social studies, a mathematician in math, and so on.
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  • April

    Accumulation of Knowledge

    Birchwood’s mission states that we are helping children to lead a life of becoming, which requires developing both their character and their intellect. The Natural Learning Model reflects how we believe children learn and grow, through the intersection of agency, experiential learning, and the accumulation of knowledge.
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  • March

    “Experience” the Difference – Guiding a Child’s Journey into Natural Learning

    Birchwood School’s emphasis on experience is guided by the Natural Learning Model (NLM), a pathway to deeper learning. According to the model, experience must work in concert with knowledge and agency. Knowledge is the information and skill set within a subject’s domain. Agency is a person’s exercise of the knowledge through their own willpower and cycles of success. Experience is someone’s perception of what their knowledge and agency are teaching them about reality. Because such a perception is generative, new interests and attitudes arise from the experience which then drive the learner toward further knowledge, agency, and experience.
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  • February

    Science and the Natural Learning Model

    The Natural Learning Model is education that helps children grow, thrive, flourish, and become lifelong learners. It is a functional bridge between traditional and progressive education. Its main components are: 1) experience of subject matter, 2) accumulation of knowledge in subject matter, and 3) self-agency that propels learning forward. Natural learning is just that, natural. It is easy to understand and easy to replicate. It is the way we would teach or learn anything in the real world such as life skills, performance skills, or academic skills fostered through science education.
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  • January

    Envisioning and Working Toward a Future

    The start of the New Year is not only a time for resolutions, but also for reflection. Reflection helps us sort out the past, realign out priorities, and set forth plans for the future. This is especially true in considering the growth and development of our children.
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