We Believe: Education is a Family Experience
Updated: Oct 11
At the Blacksburg New School, we believe education is a family experience. In 1971, BNS was founded by a group of parents and teachers who wanted to collaborate on a “new” way to educate children. The goal was to create a place where students could really flourish, and early families chose the model of a parent-teacher cooperative school, which was gaining traction in the 1970s. Over fifty years later, BNS remains as one of the few schools in the country that still thrives on its initial co-op culture. And family involvement, whether by parents, grandparents, or other caregivers, still remains at the core of our school.
Research has consistently shown that families are the greatest influence on their children’s educational development and success in school. Whether it is helping a child gather 100 objects to celebrate the 100th day of school, offering guidance on how to organize their backpacks and binders, providing routine encouragement on their homework, or reading the narration in a documentary the student is making, BNS families are actively involved in their child’s education at home. Additionally, our lead teacher, TJ Stone, has often spoken with the BNS community about the importance of reading at home – every night. Within the classroom, parents at BNS also help by sharing their expertise as guest speakers on topics, chaperoning our numerous field trips, or teaching elective classes to the middle schoolers.
Equally important, families help with the day-to-day operation of the school. Various “Tuition Reduction Options” (or TROs) help us keep costs as low as possible, while allowing parents to become more engaged with the school. Parents and grandparents help monitor children at lunch, assist with arrival and dismissal, clean classrooms, act as classroom assistants, and serve as officers of the corporation. Each year begins with an all-school “Get the School Ready Day” where families come together to pitch in and get the school in shape for the next school year. Throughout the year parents also help with finances by organizing and running a number of fundraising events in our local community, such as the Chocolate Party and the Earth Day Extravaganza.
Most importantly, though, we look to families as a primary driver of our school’s co-op culture and community-building. Throughout the years families have organized parent hangouts, grade-level playdates on our playground, and evening group discussions on challenging parenting topics. They serve on committees and help plan the future of our school. Experienced families help new (and potential) families understand who we are as a community, and what BNS can offer them as a whole.
Finally, communication with families is an essential part of our school structure, in order to connect families with what is happening in the classroom, and what is happening with their child specifically. Regular academic summaries, conferences, and mid-year notes help keep track of academic and behavioral updates. Routine weekly updates, small chats with parents before or after school, or specific contacts about something that happened in the day all let parents be more informed about what is going on in the classroom in real time.
Families are the foundation that hold BNS together - without them, BNS would not be who we are. To celebrate this, a number of all-school events provides opportunities for families to get together and celebrate the educational experiences of our students. Whether it’s bringing a Spanish-themed dish to the “Dia Cultural” potluck, listening to stories read at Authors’ nights, or attending art shows and performances, we believe education is for the family to experience together.