School Review for Highlander School

This is a school review for Highlander School in Dallas, TX from our guest blogger Meghan Riney.
Now enrolling 3 years through 6th grade! Half-day and full-day Pre-K and Kindergarten options.
Call 214-348-3220 to request a school tour. Use the discount code “WiseMommies” for $50 off your registration fee if you decide to enroll your child anytime at Highlander School.

There is a little school in Dallas’ Lake Highlands neighborhood that has touched my heart. If someone didn’t point it out, you might even miss the humble Highlander School building on busy Plano Road. However, within the walls of this school masterful teachers have been awakening young minds to a love of learning for more than 50 years. As a Highlander graduate and now a Highlander parent, I have been able to experience this remarkable school from two perspectives.

Hands-on science at Highlander School
Lower school students exploring the wonders of science through hands-on learning

Life is a joy, so should be learning,” said famed teacher and Carden curriculum founder Mae Carden in the Orange Coast Daily Planet in 1974.

It was Carden’s incrementally developed — brick-by-brick — and phonetics-based education philosophy that inspired Highlander School founder, Dr. Betty Woodring, to start the school in 1966. Woodring was so impressed by the results which she saw when using the Carden reading method with her own students in Midland that she wanted a Carden school for her own daughter, Jill. When she moved to Dallas and there weren’t any Carden schools in sight, Highlander School was born.

Why Highlander?

Your first picture of life begins in your home. There begins the development of your tastes and your interests. From your home you reached out inquiringly into the world, learning the possibilities the world had to offer.” -Mae Carden

Highlander students gathering at the flagpole
Highlander students gathering for prayer before school

You’ll often hear graduates of Highlander School refer to it as their home. School tours, which usually have at least one alumnus in attendance who is eager to return, can often baffle newcomers with nostalgic side conversations about sentence analysis, research projects, and musical programs. That is because to us Highlander is a magical place. It is a safe and nurturing Christian environment where every day begins with prayer and where children can still be children. At Highlander, teachers and students respect each other and share laughs and hugs on a daily basis.

There is something about Highlander that becomes a part of you. It’s not just where you went to school; it’s a large part of who you are. This is the result of the intentional character formation that takes place within its walls. Highlander believes in educating the whole child: academically, socially, emotionally, and physically. The strong academic curriculum ensures its students are prepared to go wherever they choose, but it is the character formation that helps equip them with emotional, spiritual, and moral maturity to succeed once they get there.

Highlander's Annual Musical Productions
Students taking center stage at one of Highlander’s many annual musical productions

Character/integrity/wisdom/honor/tradition/community … these are the qualities that comprise the Highlander motto, and Highlander teachers integrate these lessons each day into their students. Highlander students are taught to speak with ease to adults, to respond “Yes ma’am,” to open doors, to use “may I” instead of “can I,” to say please and thank you. New parent lunchroom volunteers are often taken aback at the civilized cafeteria scene, as well as the individual “Thank you, Mrs. Jones” from each student as he or she returns to class after eating. Getting this kind of reinforcement of manners and kindness at my child’s school is important to me.

Care Packages created and sent to soldiers
Upper elementary students creating care packages for Lake Highlands soldiers

The Highlander “Buddy Program” teaches sixth graders to care for people other than themselves, pairing them with buddies from the early childhood classes. These older students walk these little children to their classrooms, eat lunch with them, and play with them on the playground. Teachers have found that the sixth graders benefit from and enjoy the program just as much — if not more — than the three, four, and five-year-olds. They learn to care, be compassionate, and act as role models.

At Highlander, they believe “It is a wise teacher who makes learning a joy, but an even wiser one who makes each of God’s children feel special.” As a student, you feel this manifesto come to life. You are aware that the teachers who guide you truly care for your well-being and are preparing you for the world that awaits.

Highlander playground
Students enjoy recess and/or P.E. every day on Highlander’s two acres of green space.

What is the Highlander curriculum? How is it unique?

You cannot talk about Highlander School without discussing its cornerstone, a challenging, classical academic foundation rooted in the Carden curriculum. Highlander School firmly believes that if you thoughtfully develop children during their most formative years, they will benefit from that foundation for the rest of their lives.

Highlander’s academic program includes art, music, French, Greek and Latin (sixth grade), physical education (every day), computer applications, language arts, Saxon Math with Hands on Equations, science, and social studies presented in a schedule that alternates academics and play. Founder, Dr. Woodring, once noted in The White Rocker News, “If you give a child too much at once, he will tune you out.” The Highlander academic model gives children time to absorb the material while they unwind with art appreciation, music, yoga, sports, or free play in Highlander’s two acres of green space, and small class sizes allow for more teachable moments, making learning a joy.

The Carden curriculum, which stresses mastery of content and analytical thinking, offers continuity from grade to grade. Beginning in the PKII (3’s) program, every activity in the lesson plans has been intentionally chosen as the first bricks in this multilayered educational foundation. Three-year-olds learn and recite classic nursery rhymes and are asked basic questions: “Who had a little lamb? Mary. What did she have? A lamb.” Each year the curriculum strengthens this foundation. When a student graduates from Highlander School, he or she leaves with not only comprehensive knowledge in a variety of studies that can support any education that follows, but also with an understanding of their moral character.

Painting at Highlander School
Early childhood students learning to blend colors

A powerful tool in that comprehensive bank of knowledge is grammar. Grammar is the root of communication, which is an essential skill in our world. As communication continues to rapidly increase with little time for proofing and review, those who can efficiently and effectively communicate properly will be the ones who stand out. Understanding and mastering one’s language is paramount to effective communication. When you can break down a sentence that doesn’t work and rebuild it into one that accurately conveys your thoughts, that’s half the battle. There is not a profession that does not benefit from proper communication.

Decades later, I still feel the thirst for knowledge that Highlander instilled in me so many years ago. I get a lump in my throat when I walk by Highlander students enjoying a good book, confidently reciting a poem, or excitedly caring for the ducklings in the second-grade classroom. My Highlander days were filled with such wonder, and I continue to see that in these students’ eyes.

Today, Dr. Woodring’s daughter, Jill Reed, is the principal of Highlander School, and every morning, she holds the door open for my son and the other early childhood students, just as her mother did for generations of students before her.

Meghan Riney Lake Highlands Mom Dallas TX
Our Guest Blogger: Meghan is a Lake Highlands mom of three boys under five. She is a wise — but tired — mommy

As a parent, I am confident that my son is getting the same loving guidance and academic foundation I received as a Highlander student, and I hope that one day he will look back as fondly as I do on his days at this very special school.

Registration is open for 2017-2018 school year!
Highlander School: 9120 Plano Road, Dallas, TX, 75238 214-348-3220,

Use the discount code “WiseMommies” for $50 off your registration fee if you decide to enroll your child anytime at Highlander School.

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6 thoughts on “School Review for Highlander School”

  1. Such a great post and exactly how I feel about this school! I toured many Dallas area private schools looking for a small, family school environment for my almost Kinder child and was so delighted I found this school (AND loved the half-day Kinder option!)! My child loves going to school here and we love all of the programs you mentioned above! And it is so good to hear that you loved it so much you wanted your children to go to Highlander too! I hear more and more of that from alumni I meet in the community. It says A LOT!

  2. What an honor it is to call myself a Highlander Alum and my daughters Highlander students. This article could not have been written better. Meghan Riney truly highlighted our beloved school in such a perfect fashion. Without a doubt, my daughters receive top notch education from nurturing, purposeful teachers in a warm and safe environment every day. Highlander will always be home for our family.

  3. We love Highlander. We were in RISD school before Highlander. This school is a Lake Highlands’ gem of a school. Go and visit and see what a wonderful place Highlander School really is.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Rineys review of the Highlander School. The dedication, commitment and love each and every teacher and staff member gives to the students is the true reflection of this school. I am so blessed that my Son will enter the sixth grade next year having spent a total of eight years there. Highlander was the perfect fit for us.

    • My 3 children’s education at Highlander launched them into Jr. High with a love for reading and literature, the grammar skills of a college graduate (my daughter tutored her A&M linguistic friends), and the confidence to speak before a group.
      Their RISD teachers said they could identify the Highlander students from day one.
      I’ve often said, a Highlander School education was the best gift we gave our children. Nothing compares to the academic and character foundation they acquired there.


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