INTERVIEWED BY EMILY FREEHLING
The right learning environment for your child is probably the best investment you can make as a parent. To find it, you need to know your child and his or her needs, and you should ask questions and make observations about your child’s school. As a Pre-K-8 private coeducational day school, Grymes Memorial School in Orange County has been committed since 1947 to creating a learning community where students can build knowledge, character and the skills they need to perform as they move through their academic and professional careers. As our April Expert, Grymes’ staff offer answers to many of the questions parents ask as they consider whether a private school is right for their child.
QWhat characterizes the learning environment at Grymes?
We like to call it joyful! We are building life-long learners here, and we start from a belief that children naturally want to learn. Many of the structures and limitations that exist in public education, such as standardized testing and large class sizes, can get in the way of that central goal of building learners. Everything we do at Grymes is aimed at developing students who are curious, independent learners. This joyful atmosphere starts in our Junior Kindergarten—where we emphasize play and hands-on learning—and continues through eighth grade, where our “Passing of the Torch” graduation ceremony launches these enthusiastic learners into the next phase of their academic career.
QWhat are some examples of the kind of individualized attention students receive at Grymes?
A good place to start is the beginning of each day. When students step out of their cars or off the buses from Fredericksburg, Culpeper, Madison and other surrounding counties, they start their day with a handshake greeting from Head of School Jonathan Brand. Starting the day by looking an adult in the eyes is emblematic of Grymes’ commitment to developing both knowledge and character in our students. Students end the day with a handshake from their homeroom teacher, closing the circle on the full range of support every student receives from the Grymes family. Individualized attention also comes through our smaller class sizes, with classrooms led by teachers who strive to accommodate all kinds of learning styles. We also have a full-time reading specialist who customizes programs to help students grow in this critical skill as they progress through the school.
QHow do you develop character in your students?
Guiding our work here at Grymes are the Four Pillars of Honor, Respect, Kindness and Responsibility. Teachers and students alike learn to recognize these qualities as ideals for how they conduct themselves and go about their work, and we truly think this foundation sets our students up for success after they leave the school. Teachers have the opportunity to nominate a student who exhibits one or more of these four pillars to be acknowledged at our assemblies, which helps build an atmosphere where students are striving to be seen as individuals of character just as much as they are striving for academic success.
Another character-related facet of our school environment that is on many parents’ minds today is our policy on cell phone use. Bottom line: Students are not permitted to use cell phones during the school day. All cell phones must be turned in to homeroom teachers at the beginning of the school day. Calls, texting and use of other applications are not allowed. Communication with parents and other adults is easily arranged in the front office with teacher permission. Any use of technology that negatively impacts student relationships is strictly forbidden. Teaching students the responsible and appropriate use of all technology is our primary goal.
QHow often do Grymes students get to experience classes like art, music and physical education?
We focus on educating the whole child at Grymes, and we think these special-area classes are crucial to that education. Grymes students participate in physical education every day starting in Junior Kindergarten. In our beautiful setting amid the rolling hills of Orange County, we want students to learn the benefits of time spent outdoors, so we include two 10-minute recess periods in every academic day. Students have art class and music class twice per week, as we place an emphasis on developing creative expression and use the arts to augment what students are learning in their academic classes. Foreign language instruction is also a priority, and students begin learning Spanish in Junior Kindergarten.
QWhat are some unique academic traditions at Grymes?
Public speaking is important here. One fun Grymes tradition is our annual Declamations event. Beginning in Kindergarten, every single Grymes student memorizes a poem of their choice and recites it from memory on stage in front of their teachers, peers and parents. Not only is this program developing confidence, poise and courage in public speaking, but it also infuses a deep love of poetry in our school community. Students also spend time on stage every year, as each grade level performs a class play for the school. We focus on memorizing lines, learning to speak clearly and learning how to speak and move in character. Students take countless lessons from these experiences that they carry with them for the rest of their lives.
QI like the idea of private school, but I have never thought it was within my family’s reach. Is any help available with tuition?
It’s our goal to make a Grymes education affordable for as many families in the area as possible. Everyone is welcome to apply for our Tuition Assistance Program, which can discount tuition by up to half for eligible families. More than 50 percent of our families participate in the program, and we encourage everyone to apply. The application is completely confidential, and we work with you to design a payment plan—all interest-free! Our goal is to make tuition as manageable and stress-free as possible for our families. Before you decide whether or not the tuition is too much, come to talk to us! Grymes is a community of families from lots of different social and economic backgrounds, who all share the common goal of giving their children a strong foundation for a lifetime of learning. We have members of all facets of the community, from small businesses owners, to farmers, to members of the law enforcement community to doctors.
QHow can I learn more about Grymes Memorial School?
Visit our website at Grymesschool.org for lots of information about our philosophy, programs and admissions process. To arrange a tour, or simply ask questions, email email@example.com, or give us a call at (540) 672-0904. We have a rolling admissions process and we are here to help you through every step of the way. Come visit us!
Tune in to the Fredericksburg Parent Facebook page and YouTube channel later this month for a video interview featuring a Grymes Memorial School teacher.