Broadly, we have four major divisions of our curriculum, based on nominal age groups:
- Early K – K. They have their own classroom with all the teaching materials and equipment. Our teacher is Arielle Lane, educated in the Montessori method. Kindergarten students leave the class for Chinese lessons for 5 periods each week. PE is in our enclosed courtyard, tennis on our professionally striped parking area.
- Grades 1 & 2. They also have their own classroom with very diverse teaching materials and equipment. Our teacher is Janet Hain, with 20 years’ experience in early childhood teaching. Other teachers come to the classroom to teach music appreciation. Students leave the classroom for classes in Chinese (one of two levels, according to their ability), Spanish, and science 1-2, as well as for PE and tennis.
- Grades 3-5. Students have classes in four different rooms, by subject and by level. PE is in our enclosed courtyard; tennis is on the parking lot where regulation striping has been painted professionally.
- Middle school. We made an innovative curriculum for this group, beginning in the 2015-16 academic year. Students have 15 subject classes each week, 10 of them specific to their group. Classes in each subject meet from 1 to 5 times weekly, totaling 52 periods of group learning. A huge group project is the light-up periodic table of the chemical elements.
All students have free access to our vast collection of books (3,000 on display). Older students access our networked computers for class research and composing content for the student newspaper club. Most students have several periods not assigned to a subject, using these periods then for reading.
Beyond academic learning, our students learn leadership and service. Besides initiatives within classes, they participate in projects in the greater community. They organize events for charitable donations. Our outreach page tells the story.
Below we note how students may jump age boundaries, getting the most advanced classes that reward them.
Our academic curriculum is designed to meet the needs of advanced and motivated students, in a number of ways:
- Students get classes that challenge and reward them by ability level, not age group. Our classes do have nominal age groups, such as English 3-5 or math 3-5, but students progress at their best pace. An advanced 2nd-grader is found in math 3-5. In a math 3-5 class, one finds students working in Singapore math books spanning 4 years.
- Classes are small – 15 is a maximum, 10 is average
- We set the range of subjects for effective learning. For example, there are classes in both reading and writing for English, with distinct pedagogies
- Math, science, and languages are our core, meeting the demands of the modern world. Students learn three world languages, English, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese. We fill out the curriculum fully.
- The level of classes is advanced. Singapore math is a world-leading method, about 1-2 grade levels above nominal grade levels of ordinary math. Our kindergarteners learn phonics. Science and technology are taught by scientists who have had prolific careers in research and teaching.
- Subjects are not siloed. Writing ability comes up in science; math comes up in science and technology, of course. Student projects blend several subjects.
- Our teachers are proven experts in their subjects. No teacher has to span the curriculum, sacrificing mastery in some subjects. Our teachers hold advanced degrees or certifications, up through PhDs in the hard sciences.
- Teachers develop their own curricula, which we review for progress. We do not impose a restrictive outline. Overall, our curriculum most closely resembles the International Baccalaureate. We plan to certify that we meet IB criteria.
Only Singapore math has standard textbooks. The coverage of topics in all classes is reported in our weekly newsletter by every teacher.
- Students spend their time learning, not taking standardized tests or preparing for them the way that public schools spend an estimated 28 days annually. Our teachers give their own tests. We will be implementing very selective standardized testing, using the results the proper way: guiding our curriculum, not imposing consequences for students or teachers. Our students are already doing well; upon moving to public schools, they typically get advanced or very advanced placement.
- It may be of real interest to know how we schedule classes with so many individualized schedules, in which advancing a student above even our grade levels makes a “collision” between subjects on different grade levels. In short, we use a powerful mathematical technique called simulated annealing to test about 1 billion alternative schedules, each new year. Board member David Gutschick, as a PhD student in Material Science and Engineering at the Ohio State University, programmed the method.
Outside of formal subjects, our students have other opportunities to grow academically. We have six after-school or lunch-time clubs: engineering, theater, yearbook, student newspaper, gardening, and American Sign Language. Students as young as in early kindergarten participate. Interesting projects also arise; students have come before the semester began to build PCs from scratch, learning about electronics, mechanical and electrical construction, operating systems, and user accounts.
Subjects – each link gives more detail, resolved by nominal grade level and sub-topi
- Early kindergarten – kindergarten – a home room with classes outside for Chinese and tennis
- Grades 1 & 2 – a home room with classes outside for science, Spanish, Chinese, and tennis
- Technology – middle school
- Social studies
- Music appreciation
- Computer programming – 5th grade & middle school
- Special topics for middle school, changing each semester
- Physical education
- Cursive handwriting & touch-typing
- Special overview of middle school