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Success is ABOUT MORE THAN test scores

holistic education

The Lasting Benefits of a Holistic Education

“Education” and “success” are words that many people tend to take at face value. It’s very easy to equate success with a salary amount and education with the mastery of core subjects like math, science, and history. 

But success and education are related. And as we as a society broaden our definition of success to include happiness, fulfillment, independence, healthy relationships, and resilience, it should also change how we think about education.

What Is a Holistic Education?

A holistic education is a broader approach to education that seeks to serve the whole person — cognitively, academically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Though no two holistic schools are identical in approach, they tend to have several key elements in common.

key aspects of a holistic education

Ultimately, the goal of holistic education is to provide children with the tools they need to be successful — in the very broadest sense of the word.

What Are the Benefits of a Holistic Education?

One benefit of holistic education is fairly obvious — it actively supports children in becoming more balanced, well-adjusted members of society. But as educators, we love seeing the difference a holistic education makes for our students and their families.

Improved Real-World Skills

With more hands-on, experiential activities and less emphasis on lectures and rote memorization, students get more opportunities to practice creative problem-solving and hone their collaboration and communication skills.

Better Academic Performance

According to the Learning Policy Institute, children’s brain capacities actually increase when they feel safe and more connected with others. They also found that schools that focused entirely on test scores undermined student motivation and learning, facilitated student disengagement from school, and were associated with increased dropout rates, especially for students of color. 

So while it’s easy to assume that focusing on high test scores would be the best way to achieve that result, we now know the opposite is true. 

Less Stress

An intense focus on achievement also adds to stress and anxiety, which is a daily struggle for the majority of middle school and high school students. This is why holistic schools often incorporate mindfulness, movement, and social-emotional learning, which help students work through difficult feelings and develop the resilience they’ll need to succeed in college and beyond. 

A More Enjoyable Experience 

Children are inherently curious and love getting to know the world around them. But something happens when students move from elementary school to the typical middle school and high school experience — they get bored. That’s not just because they’re older! It’s because traditional high school and middle school classes tend to become less hands-on, less creative, and less interactive. 

Not only does a holistic education double down on everything that made those elementary school years so enjoyable, but it also allows students more flexibility to begin pursuing their own interests. 

In fact, at Saint John’s Prep, what excites us most about providing a holistic education is how much easier it is for students to connect their classroom experiences with their life goals. What we hear repeatedly from our students and their families is that they don’t see their time with us as an obligation. They see it as a lifelong gift.

Why Is a Holistic Education Especially Helpful for Middle Schoolers?

why a holistic education is helpful

During middle school, students are still developing their relationship and interpersonal skills. Unfortunately, those middle school years also see a lot of intense physical and emotional changes, and bullying is very common. In fact, 31% of bullying occurs in sixth grade, more than any other grade level.

Holistic models are especially helpful during this time to build the self-awareness, empathy, and relationship skills that children need to navigate this transitional period.

Our Approach to a Holistic Education

outdoors activities are part of a holistic education

If you were to visit our campus, one of the first things you might notice is how our students behave throughout our common areas. If you were to listen in on one of their lunchtime conversations, you’d likely find them discussing what they’d just learned. We are truly fortunate that our location, facilities, and small class sizes make it much easier for us to take a holistic approach to learning. And we are constantly thinking up new ways to make the most of them.

Social-Emotional Learning 

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is a significant focus in our middle school curriculum, including lessons on communication, conflict resolution, empathy, self-awareness, and more. We also offer small group sessions for our 6th graders that are led by our counselors and additional life skills courses to help students resist peer pressure and learn to advocate for themselves.  

Our Benedictine Values

Our school was founded in 1857 by the Order of Saint Benedict. And while you don’t have to be Catholic to attend our school, our Benedictine values are reflected throughout our curriculum and inside our classrooms. 

And while academic achievement will always be important, we also seek to create a learning community where every child is loved and respected and where every child’s unique gifts are encouraged and celebrated. 

Benedictine values at Saint John's Prep

Diverse Student Activities

We offer a variety of opportunities for students to participate in the performing and visual arts, sports, and other activities. We also have a thriving Esports program and encourage our students to find others who share their interests in various clubs. 

We also try to motivate our students to try new things. Some end up discovering talents they never knew they had, but it’s also a great way to help them practice getting out of their comfort zone. After all, life is always going to throw a few curveballs, and it’s often just as important to learn new skills as it is to master old ones.

Exposure to Different Cultures and Viewpoints

Although many of our students don’t live on our campus, our newly renovated boarding facilities allow us to welcome students from all over the world. Currently, 25% of our students are international students from 14 different countries. And because we’re a private school, our teachers and students are free to discuss different philosophies, belief systems, and world views inside and outside of the classroom. We also offer our students the opportunity to study abroad

Outdoor and Hands-On Learning

Our gorgeous 2,900-acre campus makes it easy for us to hold entire classes outside and offer multiple opportunities for hands-on learning. But our alumni often share with us that their fondest memory of attending Prep was our incredible sledding hill, and the fact that we allowed them enough time to take advantage of it. 

It may seem like a small point, but we don’t rush our students through meals and hurry them back to the classroom. They have almost an hour for lunch and recess, which allows them the time they need to burn off excess energy and form stronger friendships. We also feel that these experiences are a powerful reminder that no matter what their days bring them, our world is an incredible place where simple joys are always free and abundant. 

Getting a Head Start at Prep

Even if your child has a year or two before they start middle school, it’s not too early to start thinking about their next steps. Middle school can be a challenging, transformational time — and one where children often benefit from additional support. 

If you think Saint John’s Prep would be a good fit for your child, we would be honored to meet them! Click the link below to learn more about our middle school curriculum and the unique experience we provide.