Our Educational experience

Onward Learning provides an exceptional educational experience tailored to each child’s unique gifts, interests, and developmental needs.

 Onward Learning ensures a safe community of interactive learning
with a love based and child centered approach. Every child is seen as
extraordinary and is supported in finding their own unique strengths
and interests. Onward students will become responsible human beings by embracing independence, responsibility, and critical thinking.

What is Onward Learning?


• We believe all children possess unique gifts that will serve others in an impactful way changing the world as we know it.

• We believe all children are naturally curious and love to learn.

• We believe in the importance of the arts, physical movement, time in nature, and hands-on experiences in the learning process and child development.

• We believe in the power of a community of loving support in the success and overall well-being of children.

Child Centered

We meet every child where they’re at and adjust daily to meet the needs of each individual child.

“The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn.” -Maria Montessori

Love Based

Our first priority is to ensure each child enters an environment of complete and absolute love each day. At Onward Learning, families are a part of a community where they can find support, love, honesty, appreciation, and respect.

Community Led

Children, Staff, Parents, and the Founding Team make decisions collaboratively regarding functions of Onward. Community partnerships are pivotal in the success of our programs.


Contact Us for Questions!


Ages 1 to 3

(Not Currently Accepting New Students)

Research has shown the first three years of a child’s life to be the most vital in healthy development.  Every aspect of this program has been meticulously crafted through the lens of what is best for the early development of children.  During this stage of development, children learn best through sensory experiences, manipulating objects, imitation, and involvement in carrying out daily tasks and responsibilities.  In our first steps program, we nurture curiosity, independence, and connection in every child.  An environment of protection, warmth, and a sense of belonging is cultivated.

“Onward has been such a great thing for my little guy!  He started off shy at drop off and now doesn’t want to come home with mom.  The teachers are SO compassionate and caring.  I never have to worry how the day has gone with the pictures we get at the end of each day.”



Preschool & Kindergarten

Accepting applications for the the 2023-2024 School Year

During these years, we foster a learning environment in which children develop a love of learning. Teachers guide the learning process of hands-on learning and independent and collaborative play.  During this stage of development, children soak up everything around them and learn best through imaginative play, imitation, and movement.  In preschool and kindergarten, there is an emphasis on imagination, the arts, music, and the natural world in the learning process.

“I am so excited for the opportunity to send my child to Onward Learning.  The first few years of school are so important and I am excited for her to be in a small class with such an interactive environment.”

-Parent & Public School Educator

“I have never seen my daughter come home from school this engaged or excited.  Thank you for creating such an incredible environment for her.”

-Preschool Parent



1st to 5th Grade

Accepting applications for the the 2023-2024 School Year

At about 6.5  years old, a child begins exploring who they are as independent beings.  They look for beauty all around them and begin seeking relationships with others. We encourage and nurture healthy relationships, creating a sense of safety, belonging, and responsibility.

Highly experienced teachers guide students in meaningful, real-world learning, giving students a deeper understanding of language, mathematics, science, social studies, music, the natural world, social interactions and much more.  Learning is enriched through community awareness activities such as visiting senior centers to perform, performances for the community, hosting bake sales, and volunteering at various community events.

 “The teachers at Onward have gone above and beyond to find what works for my daughter in her learning.  They have made learning engaging and fun, while also allowing her time to work through new concepts on her own. She has benefited greatly from this type of school environment!”

-2nd Grade Parent



6th to 8th Grade

Accepting applications for the 2023-2024 School Year            

During this stage of development, children yearn for independence and emotional and physical safety.  Self-directed learning is at the core of teaching, giving students the independence to learn skills at a much deeper level in all content areas while also teaching them to work in teams to achieve a common goal.  Teachers use comprehensive units of study to guide students in learning holistically, rather than in parts.  Students are encouraged to be responsible for and take care of themselves, those around them, and the natural world.  Community work is continued on a larger scale through community improvement projects and activities.

In 6th-8th grade, students will participate in a capstone experience at the end of each year.  Each experience is an overnight trip involving age-appropriate team building activities and individual challenges.  Parent volunteers are asked to participate in this trip to help chaperone.  The purpose of this capstone experience is to build trust, independence, confidence, and connection among our Onward students and adults.

“A school like this is so needed in our community!  I am so happy for our families to have this option.”

-Community Elder


What's the Difference?


Mainstream education is centered around national curriculum and standards.

Onward education is centered around the healthy development of the whole child.

“Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility—these three forces are the nerve of education.”
-Rudolf Steiner

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Onward Learning right for my family?

Will my child be ready for high school if they attend Onward Learning?

Onward Learning fosters an environment in which children learn to be confident, independent problem solvers with a love for learning.  We offer a full academic program to ensure students master the skills necessary to be successful in school wherever they are.


Is Onward Learning a Montessori School?

We are not a Montessori School, but we respect Maria Montessori’s philosophy.  At Onward Learning, we allow children to make creative choices in their learning and guide them in becoming responsible and independent.

Are Onward Learning teachers fully certified and qualified to teach?

All of our teachers are experienced, qualified, and certified.  They bring with them not only their experience and expertise, but a love for children and teaching.

How much is tuition at Onward Learning?

Our tuition is $300/month for our elementary school and $400/month for children under the age of 4.    

Our goal is to raise enough funding each year to make Onward Learning affordable for any family who would like to join our learning community.  Please visit our fundraising page to learn more about how you can help!


How old does my child need to be to attend Onward Learning?

We offer full-time learning programs for infants to eighth grade and summer programs for all children up to age 18.  Our goal is to expand our school to 12th grade by 2025.

How can I be sure my child is learning what they need to learn if there is no standardized testing?

Standardized testing leads to children being labeled as behind or gifted. We believe children should be seen and assessed as individuals without comparison with other children.  Assessment at Onward Learning is done through observation by the teacher and is used to determine proper timing of presentation of new information and experiences to provide an optimal learning experience.  Periodic meetings with parents are held throughout the year to discuss the student’s progress, needs, gifts, interests, and goals. 

What is your maximum child to adult ratio?
  • Birth to 3.5 (8:1)
  • Preschool & Kindergarten (10:1)
  • 1st Grade to 3rd Grade (12:1)
  • 4th Grade to 8th Grade (15:1)

Get In Touch!

Have Questions? Want to Get Involved? Need more Information?

We want to hear from you!

Call Us

(605) 515-3262

Mailing Address

PO Box 1037

Martin, SD 57551

Located in Martin, South Dakota near the Pine Ridge Reservation.