Birchwood School’s founding was based upon our desire to give our children the “best” preparation for a personally productive and socially responsible life. It was our belief that this “best,” while rooted in the family culture, could be augmented by a great education, one that would not only provide outstanding academics, but just as importantly, would collaborate with the home environment to build the habits and ethics of personal character – hard work, self-discipline, social commitment, and responsibility. We concluded that our school must include the highest standards of academic training while nurturing a schoolwide ethos that forged the development of good character. Our original mission explained that we were building character through challenging academics: inspire, develop and equip.
Our resolve to nurture the best in human character propelled a search for superior academic programming. We concluded that good character could be forged as children strove for excellence. It was self-evident that a premier academic curriculum includes elements that are time-tested, research-based and benchmarked against the best educational programs nationally and internationally. Developing a curriculum for shaping character is more difficult. We knew that the notion of character education had become popular in the United States yet effective and proven programs were hard to find. It was clear that we had few precedents to follow. We had to construct a comprehensive character curriculum from scratch. Undaunted, we looked to history, to the lives of great men and women, and to the common threads of morality and virtue that are woven into the fabric of every great world culture. From this eclectic approach, we devised programming for nurturing exemplary character.
We recognized that a major part of the character development curriculum required a special environment, one that promoted, supported and awarded high achievement and virtuous conduct. We called this a culture of achievement. It required an academic environment which 1) challenged each child to his/her maximum academic potential, 2) trained habits of mind – organization, time-management, diligence, critical thinking, and problem solving, 3) makes academic achievement and excellence the school’s sprit de corps that is celebrated and awarded, and 4) maintains that children should be immersed in this culture in their formative, elementary school years. Sustaining our achievement culture also required that we regulate what is permitted in an academic setting and what is not permitted. This enabled us to control many outside influences that often distract children from good education.