A co-educational private school for Preschool–Grade Eight

Feature Friday: Grade 3 Mom and Daughter Duo

This week's #FeatureFriday highlights Laura van Rooyen and her daughter, Grier. Laura is a proud parent to four Far Hills Falcons. She has an extensive range of knowledge for the Far Hills third-grade experience, as three of her children have gone through the third-grade program, and one is currently in it. Her oldest, McLaren, is now a proud FH alum, Walker is now in grade 6, Bristow is now in grade 4, and her daughter Grier is currently flourishing in third grade.

Q+A with Laura 

Name a couple of your favorite Third Grade projects and why? 

  • Adventure America is, by far, my most favorite Third Grade project. I have watched McLaren, Bristow, and Grier start the year with the excitement of picking their state. There was always a lot of mirth and anticipation on which state they would choose and much debate if they wanted a state they have already visited or a state they had not. From there, it was fun to listen to them relay all sorts of facts about their states as they conducted their research. Then, there is the long-awaited moment when each child received a letter from the Governor from their state thanking them for their handwritten letters. I think that is the moment when they realize there is a real context to what they have been learning. I think all three would agree their favorite part was building day! Who doesn't love the opportunity to get a dress-down day and use the ever-coveted glue gun! Of course, it was always a panic to get the right supplies and then a last-minute request for 100 popsicle sticks, which entailed a late-night run to Staples. But their enthusiasm to imagine, plan and build, McLaren's Tabernacle in Utah, Bristow's Fort Sumter in South Carolina's and Grier's Ben and Jerry's Factory in Vermont's, was palpable.

Every day our Grade 3 students are presented with social interaction opportunities, mindfulness, kindness, public speaking, teamwork, resilience, and so much more. Third grade is a tremendous year of growth and preparation to become the Lower School leaders in Fourth Grade. Can you share an example or describe your observations of that transformation?

  • Projects such as Adventure America provide third graders with a real sense of ownership. From the moment they picked their state, it was their job to know and learn everything they could and become experts on their states. When it came time to present their states to parents, teachers, and students at the end of the year, they were familiar and knowledgeable about the states they had each researched. Any fears they had about standing up and speaking in front of peers and grownups completely dissipated because they were just so excited to share all they had learned and how hard they worked. It was a proud moment for us to see how much each child had grown in this process. I see how they have grown into confident students that do not fear standing up to showcase what they have learned and proud of their efforts.

What is your proudest mom moment this year?

  • My proudest mom moment is seeing Grier's love of reading grow. Through her research this year, she has learned to love non-fiction as well as fiction. She is constantly telling me that she has finished a series of books and wants to move on to another set. I can see the impact it has had on her writing and vocabulary as well.

How has FH changed since you were a student?

  • Far Hills has changed in the obvious ways, such as new technology in the classrooms and how parents can access their child's work through Seesaw on a real-time basis. However, what I love most about Far Hills is what hasn't changed. Take my PE teacher, Linda Houghland, for example (Hee hee, I mean, she literally has not changed!) Far Hills has remained a family-oriented school that fosters a strong sense of community. There are so many opportunities to be a part of Far Hills through volunteering and school events, where parents can interact with faculty and other students. It helps create a sense of belonging that lasts well after graduation. My son, McLaren, graduated last year, and the mothers still frequently get together to catch up. Also, the amazing faculty know our children so well and have such a close bond with them. I often say by the time my children graduate, their teachers have probably spent more time with them than I have.

Q+A with Grier 

What has been your favorite part about Adventure America? 

  • My favorite part has been building my landmark, the Ben and Jerry's Factory in Vermont.

What will you miss most about third grade? 

  • I will miss my amazing teacher, Mrs. Casella. She teaches me in a fun way that makes me want to learn. 

What are you looking forward to most in fourth grade? 

  • I am looking forward to being with a new group of classmates and a new teacher. I am also excited to learn how to multiply and divide fractions.

What has been something new that you have been able to do this year that you couldn't in Second Grade? 

  • I can multiply and divide. Last summer, my brothers always tried to test me, and I didn't know the answers, and now I do. 

What is the best or coolest thing you learned so far in Third Grade? 

  • Mrs. Burns taught me how to make my own song in music. I used a computer to make beats and made a band using the drums, bass guitar, and piano. I also liked when we had the caterpillars in science class and watched them turn into beautiful butterflies. It was really neat to come into class each day and see the changes. 

Discuss how Far Hills has helped uncover passions. Have you signed up for the Performing Arts Talent Show in the past, or was this your first year? 

  • This was my first year! I was always a little nervous about doing the Talent show, but I have been taking piano lessons for a while, and this year my mom made me do it. I really enjoyed playing my piece and felt proud of myself for participating.  

Tell us about a time your teacher made you laugh/smile? 

  • I like it when Mrs. Casella tells us funny stories about her dog, Millie.

What is your favorite special subject and why? 

  • I really like library class because we are researching our state birds. My bird is the Hermit Thrush. People think its' song is the most beautiful in all of the United States. Also, Mrs. Ridder always recommends books that I really like to read.