I was baffled by how my math-loving child with a huge vocabulary and a love for inventions and science could be miserable and underachieving at 2 well-regarded schools in Madison--both with lovely teachers and caring staff. Research and testing finally turned up 2 learning disabilities, plus inattentive ADHD and a pretty high IQ (both of which make the learning disabilities harder to find- AND trickier to remediate- regular tutoring did not work for him).
After less than a year at Walbridge, his self-esteem is restored, he has friends of all ages there, and happily completes his homework (which used to cause weeping and take hours, even for very simple spelling worksheets.) Frankly, what they have done for him is AMAZING. There are several VERY experienced teachers there, and the teachers really care and love what they do.
When they had trouble understanding one of his learning issues and he was acting out and refusing to do some classwork, we met for an hour and a half. They really listened, and it was really clear to me that (after only a few months) they really understood my son, and his teacher, who was somewhat less experienced, just needed a different approach to getting him over a small hurdle that was causing him a LOT of frustration. Within a few weeks things were smooth again, and his attitude, willingness to engage and persevere to do the work he finds hard (handwriting is a real challenge) is just constantly getting better since then.
Meanwhile, they accelerate him in the subjects he loves best so he is both challenged in his strength areas and supported in his weaker ones. What they do is not voo-doo however: it comes from the faculty's training and experience in truly differentiating their teaching approach for each child, plus training in learning disabilities and implementing best practices for dealing with the disorganization and the focus problems that come with ADHD. The small classrooms and safe, positive (but structured) environment supports this approach.
This place is also great for kids with no LDs but social needs such as high-functioning autism or Asperger's, or just bright, creative kids who like to learn their own way and are not really engaged by mainstream educational approaches.
T has always struggled in school. He learned to read late and felt "stupid." He underwent testing in the public school and they found nothing wrong with him, though he tested with a very low IQ (having been taken out of gym class for the test). His self-esteem suffered to the point that, as a 6th grader in public school, he was walking into school each morning with his head hanging low and coming home each afternoon asking if he was "mentally retarded." A very sporty kid, who loves to laugh and is thoughtful and generous, speaks French and English -- he is far from being cognitively challenged in any way. Finally, we couldn't continue to allow his self-esteem to be battered any more so I quit my job in order to keep him home and assess the situation. We had him tested privately and came up with a diagnosis of ADHD, a little dyslexia and learning disabilities in math and writing -- basically a different type of learner than the public school was able to cater to. Now knowing more what we were dealing with, we investigated the idea of his attending Walbridge School, where the teachers are trained in all sorts of methods of teaching different learners. The class size is very small - so small that 6 kids studying fractions in math class can all be at different levels and still progress each at their own rate. They teach kids from where they are in their learning rather than just expecting them to "catch up" and "adapt" (two phrases we heard a lot at the public school). Walbridge was extremely flexible in how T started to attend. He was very skeptical about school and didn't want to set himself up for more disappointment. He started with just academics and after 2 months was attending full-time. Now, in his 3rd month of full-time attendance, he is bringing home mostly a's and b's but more importantly, he is learning, progressing, is happy to go to school, his needs are being met and he sees himself as a smart, capable, normal boy! The change is dramatic. In fact, the individualized curriculum at school has much more to do with countering his ADHD symptoms than his medication for it and he no longer takes the medication. We could not be more thrilled with Walbridge. It is scandalous that public school can not help learners like my son, but that is the situation we are in right now and Walbridge gave us a solution.
Walbridge is a wonderful school, and its teachers are very dedicated to ensuring that each child learns in their classroom and that of the other teachers at the school. Staff meet weekly to discuss strategies for each child. My son showed early signs of learning difficulty, and despite attempts in the public school to address his needs, his learning gap grew each year. Budget cuts in the district also meant that he was not getting quite the level of services he should have. Homework became a tearful ordeal and his self-esteem was crushed by the differences he could see in his progress from that of his peers. We decided a change was necessary and noticed a difference in our son within the first month at Walbridge. No more calling himself stupid, no more resistance to homework. He realized he COULD learn with instructor attention. As a middle schooler he is seeking out math challenges, and continues to comment that the teachers at Walbridge are able to help him, whereas at his previous school, whenever they would try, they would get called away to help another student. We are extremely grateful for what this school has done for our family and our son.
The teachers at Walbridge do a fantastic job of helping each child there excel. Our son was learning so much more at Walbridge than at his previous school, and he was extremely happy there as well. You will be so happy that you made the change!
Walbridge School is a private school for grades K-8. The philosophy of the school is adapting teaching methods based on how each child learns. My son attended from grades 3-8. If this school was not available to us, we probably would have moved out of state. My son is a unique individual and the public schools are a "one size fits none" type of operation. Kids at Walbridge are assessed as to their abilities and learning styles. Because it is a small school, all of the teachers communicate as to which approach is best for each child. I joined the Board based on our experience. I strongly believe that every child can and should be successful in school and Walbridge School has the experience and philosophy to make this happen.