The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards. - Anatole France

This collection of frequently asked questions (FAQ) provides brief answers to many common questions about the Natural Learning School. Please check here for answers before submitting a question to our faculty.

Why should I choose a private school instead of public?

By paying tuition, you are buying not only the benefits of a unique learning environment for your child, but membership in a community where parents are welcomed and valued at all times. There is tight communication between the school's administrators, teachers, and parents. Our program is coordinated school-wide, success is shared, and problems are addressed immediately. Research, parental input and the best interests of our students guide our decision-making process. The teachers, curriculum, and activities are free of traditional educational politics. In our school each child is respected as an individual with unique abilities. We therefore create a personalized curriculum for each child.

Why are classrooms multi-age at the Natural Learning School?

The primary goal of multi-age grouping is success for all students. Children grow and develop at varying rates. The multi-age classroom provides time and support for each individual to develop, honoring differences in learning styles and paces. Where an individual is along his/her own learning continuum determines the focus of instruction. There are many additional benefits to multi-aged grouping. Students and teachers work together over a period of years encouraging a stronger sense of community and commitment to one another. Teachers have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of each student’s academic, social, emotional, and physical strengths and can plan to best meet each student’s needs. Parents and teachers have more time to become partners in supporting children. Students are encouraged to teach and learn from one another. Younger children benefit from older students who model more sophisticated approaches to learning while older children benefit from their roles as mentors. The learner-centered structure of the multi-age classroom encourages children to be enthusiastic participants in their own learning.

In a mixed-age classroom will older students simply be passing the time?

All students, including the more advanced students in our classrooms, are encouraged to continually move forward at their own pace, facing new challenges, and always deepening, clarifying, and expanding their understanding. During their subsequent years in the classroom, all students have the benefit of the teachers' better understanding of their learning needs and styles. The older students are leaders and mentors. They set an example for the younger students, but are never held back while others catch up.

Does the Natural Learning School emphasize basic skills?

Basic skills are obviously important for every child to master, but alone they are not enough. They must be balanced by an understanding of how and when to apply the skills. Research shows that people master skills more easily when they learn them in a realistic context. Memorizing abstract skills first, then attempting to apply them is less effective. For instance, we don't assign grade-level-appropriate spelling lists. Instead, students generate individual lists of words they need to study such as words they have misspelled in their own writing. We introduce mathematical concepts first in the concrete, with manipulatives, before moving on to the conceptual.

How does the Natural Learning School handle discipline?

The word discipline comes from the root word “disciple,"which means "to teach." Our goal is for each child to become self-disciplined and able to behave appropriately in any given situation. We work to maintain an environment conducive to the children's growth and independence.  Kindness, honesty, respect and consideration of others will be modeled and expected of all. Positive attention and natural consequences are the primary disciplinary strategies we choose to adopt.

Any necessary disciplinary measures will be an attempt to lead the student toward cooperative behavior and to make him/her feel part of a loving and caring community. Care will be taken to guide rather than embarrass or humiliate the child. Physical punishment of any kind will never be employed. Should these disciplinary measures cease to be effective a conference will be requested with parents to develop a strategy that works for the child. In extreme circumstances removal from the classroom, in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension and the child being expelled are escalating measures which may need to be taken.

How are students evaluated at the Natural Learning School?

Evaluation of a student is an ongoing process involving informal parent-teacher communication, periodic observation, documentation of children's words and works, authentic assessment tools and biannual parent-teacher conferences. In place of letter or numerical subject grades, teachers build a portfolio of each individual’s work highlighting change and growth in particular areas over time. Evaluations measure each child’s progress in comparison to their own previous performance and are used to improve and individualize instruction to meet each learner’s needs.

With no letter grades, how will I know if my child is making progress?

Non-competitive assessment means observing each child's progress in relation to his/her own abilities, not abstractly in relationship to the class average. Children demonstrate understanding through portfolios of their work, contributions to the group projects, and interactions with the teachers. We are fully versed in the state and national education standards which undergird each child's individual curriculum. We challenge each child to learn a complete repertoire of skills and knowledge that they can build upon and apply to real situations. Regular parent-teacher conferences are held to inform parents about each child's progress in much more detail than is possible through letter grades.

Will students take the TCAP tests?

No. Private schools are not required to administer standardized tests. We will introduce students to test-taking skills as their maturity and level of understanding permits.

What is a learner-centered learning environment?

Our curriculum is learner-centered in that students' interests and curiosity play a critical role in our focus. Teachers collaborate and plan based on the interests of the children. They make sure to cover all disciplines in the course of their exploration, from math to science to music, art, drama and language. We guide children to explore topics in greater detail and better equip them to become life-long learners who enjoy the educational process. This fluidity helps students see relationships that traditional teaching styles may miss. Teachers work to create a concept rich classroom providing materials, tools, opportunities and guidance while encouraging children to make choices, to interact with the environment and other children. Children learn or construct knowledge through meaningful experiences which build interest, motivation, and the love of learning. Learner-centered environments are risk-friendly environments inviting children to explore, experiment, and solve problems.

Are the basics addressed by a learner-centered environment?

A learner-centered classroom is not synonymous with a free environment. Teachers work to plan goals, experiences, and projects for individuals that match their learning styles and developmental need, and that take age and grade level into consideration. Undergirding our academic goals for each child are the state and national education standards. Our goals include competency in language arts, mathematics, and sciences as well as the arts. A learner-centered environment challenges learners to discover and apply basic skills through active exploration, projects and research.

What about language?

Research indicates that literacy, the ability to utilize reading and writing skills to communicate, is a lifelong process that begins at birth. Much of the early brain wiring necessary for literacy takes place while children are learning to use their hands and bodies to explore their environment. Like learning to speak, each student has his or her own timeline for learning to read and write. Our teachers work to create an environment that supports the development of literacy, in a natural manner, from our youngest child at NLS Infant Toddler to our oldest child at NLS Elementary.

Does the Natural Learning School assign homework?

No. The Natural Learning School recognizes the value of your time at home with your children. We believe that children are always learning and encourage you to:

  • Take time each and every day to read to or with your child.
  • Encourage your emerging reader to spend 15 minutes daily with reading material that is limited in vocabulary and phonetically controlled.
  • Expose your child to museums, art exhibits, plays, nature and other cultural and educationally-stimulating experiences.

Will my child be prepared for the transition to other school environments upon leaving the Natural Learning School?

One of the top priorities of educating students at the Natural Learning School is to equip them with the knowledge and tools they need to adapt and succeed in any environment. Our curriculum takes particular care in identifying the skills needed to make a successful transition to other schools. Being educated at the Natural Learning School is a life-enriching experience. Natural Learning School students learn to value themselves as capable, communicative, creative, literate critical thinkers who are motivated, lifelong learners.