Caulbridge School - Education for our Time

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Frequently Asked Questions


What about academics?
How do you deliver the curriculum?
Do you use standardized testing?
What about vaccinations and the new law?
Why do you teach practical arts and skills?
How are your Three Frames of Learning incorporated into a typical day?
Do you accept students with an IEP?
Do you offer therapeutic services?
How do you ensure social emotional learning?
Do you teach mindfulness practices?
What is your homework policy?
What about technology and media literacy?
Will students be fully prepared for high school?

What about academics? – Explicit teaching in a systematic way works to build the codes of math, language arts and all learning.

Math and Language Arts at Caulbridge School are inspired by Universal Design for Learning which is a set of principles for curriculum development that provide skills for all children, regardless of learning style. A solid foundation in literacy and numeracy builds both competence and confidence which can turn a child’s natural curiosity into a love of learning.

Making Math Real and Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics and Sight Words are the specific platforms for our math and language arts. “Typically children who struggle with math do not lack the intelligence or motivation, but rather are missing the foundation and basic tools”, David Berg, developer of Making Math Real, an innovative, fun, hands-on method of learning math that integrates key cognitive development such as symbol imaging, detail analysis, and sequential processing, within every lesson and activity.  These academic programs are often used for remediation when children didn’t get the foundational skills in reading or math, however we want all children to develop solid skills and not wait to remediate.

How do you deliver the curriculum? – Children are physical beings and use all their senses to learn. Learning is physiological and begins in the body.

Everything the child is learning has a relationship to a developmentally appropriate and academically relevant thematic unit. The Morning Lesson delivers the main curriculum content and concepts in an extended morning class period. The lessons are taught in a multi-disciplinary, multi-sensory experiential way, and without standard textbooks. Instead, the children make their own portfolio which includes essays, drawings, maps, poetry or descriptions of lab experiments. Teachers work to create lessons and classroom activities that are responsive to a variety of student readiness levels, learning styles and individual capacities. Students create their own lesson books or portfolios of work. Teachers use a variety of curriculum materials and resources, enhanced with teaching, library and research materials. Teachers assemble a collection of resources to integrate the artistic and experiential components within the academics. Because we teach in thematic units, integrating the curriculum, we find standard textbooks lack the inter-connectedness of subject content.

Do you use standardized testing? – Meaningful assessments are aligned to grade-level expectations along with a child’s capacities and learning styles, and ultimately help to inform the ongoing teaching and learning needs. Rather than standardized testing, curriculum-referenced tests are used along with portfolio and observation style academic assessments. Comprehensive developmental assessments that include academic, sensory motor and social-emotional development offer a more complete picture of a child’s education.

What about vaccinations and the new law? – As a school we do not take a position on medical or other family matters. We comply with all legal and educational requirements and have policies and procedures in place for responding to all health or safety emergencies (medical, environmental, etc.). The new vaccine law, SB277 became effective January 1, 2016, requiring students to provide vaccination records or exemptions upon enrollment. To understand the legal exemptions and requirements, please contact our Head of School.

Why do you teach practical arts and skills? – Activities such as carving, knitting, cooking and building are essential to get children working with their hands, using natural materials and creating something practical. Rhythmical movements while working with the hands promotes the mental operations of logic (reaching conclusions, forming judgments, comprehension), calms the nervous system and further develops intelligence which is formed through activity, movement and manual dexterity.

Integrating visual and practical arts throughout the day can help to open a child’s mind and heart in a balanced way. Making something beautiful helps children cultivate a deeper respect for both their own creations and the works of others. Read more…

How are your Three Frames of Learning incorporated into a typical day? – The daily schedule is designed around the needs of children, in support of optimal learning and healthy development. An unintended consequence of children growing up in a faster, technology and media centered, digitally connected, more-new-now world is that we seem to have shorter attention spans. A typical school response is to shorten class periods, setting up almost a game-like environment with as many as 3, 5 or 6 transitions in an hour! Any teacher will tell you, what every parent already knows, that transitions are the most difficult times for children. Instead, we have longer class periods which allow for varied activities or ways of approaching the subject content and fewer transitions within the day. See the Daily Schedule and the Three Frames of Learning described.

Do you accept students with an IEP, or individual education plan? – There is a wide continuum from learning styles and learning differences to learning disabilities that require specific interventions. We do not focus our enrollment on students with learning disabilities; however we are also aware that learning differences sometimes present themselves within the traditional school environment of crowded classrooms, fragmented lessons and increased technology. Given a different learning environment of integrated and more in-depth lessons, smaller class sizes, less technology, more focused attention and more nature, these same students have a completely different experience. We assess our school’s capacity to serve a student if there are academic, developmental, physical or behavioral considerations that have been problematic for the student.

Do you offer therapeutic services? – Our School Psychologist, Derek Rubinstein Psy.D., received his doctorate in clinical psychology and has worked as an autism clinician and researcher, a therapist at San Rafael High School, and has provided therapy and psychoeducational assessments. Dr. Rubinstein has also published research on the development and implementation of school-based social clubs for kids on the autism spectrum, animal-assisted group therapy for adults, and the experiences and benefits of learning and practicing mindfulness. Derek spends time on campus as a teacher/mentor to the students and is available for therapeutic support to our students and families.

How do you ensure social emotional literacy? – Strong relationships are forged in the classroom and school community. Our teachers work to deeply understand each child and deliver lessons that take them to the next step of their academic and social development. Without knowing why, children respond to this enthusiasm and attention by reflecting back their best achievements. Educational researchers now recognize that social and emotional learning is a prerequisite for academic success.

Do you teach mindfulness practices? – Using a strengths-based approach, we incorporate mindfulness as a key practice to cultivate present moment awareness, compassion, and curiosity. Through brief mindfulness practices and games, students learn to be aware of their bodies, calm their minds, and become adaptive thinkers with strength of heart and character. Learn more about our Boys Time and Girls Time class for coming of age with mindfulness.

What is your homework policy? – The purpose of homework is to reinforce learning and to practice self-regulation and executive functioning skills (time management, care of materials, prioritizing). Homework is not routinely given until the Fourth Grade. In earlier grades children may like to practice their numbers, letters, or arithmetic and spelling skills at home, and may work on other class related activities such as memorizing lines of the class play or their artistic projects.

Our goal is academic strength, not academic stress. Rather than excessive homework or last-minute expectations that may disrupt family time, the teacher prepares a homework ‘packet’ which will be due the following week so that children and families can balance other commitments and family time. Within the weekly homework there will be some expectation of independent reading or lessons and practice of musical instruments.
Middle school students will have increasing homework, typically 45-60 minutes several days per week, preparing them for the workload of high school.

What about technology and media literacy? – Caulbridge School engages the young child in adult and peer interactions rather than using computer screens for learning. An increasing body of literature shows that today’s fast‐paced technology and media‐infused society can negatively influence the development of children on many levels including reducing their capacity to create a meaningful connection with others and the world around them.
There will be no regular use of technology in the lower grades, except for students with special needs who may benefit from technology support learning.

Technology is used as a tool to enhance children’s work and creativity in the older grades. Media literacy, digital citizenship and cyber civics (online safety and ethics) are essential as students enter pre-adolescence and will be taught by the 6th grade. In middle school, children begin to do research projects and might use computers in the classroom and as part of their homework. Keyboarding will be taught along with research skills.

Students are not allowed cell phone use during the school day.

Will students be accepted at any high school? – We want our graduates to be prepared for high school and for life as a teenager! We are familiar with the requirements for acceptance at both public and private schools and will work with families by 7th grade to help guide the process as necessary. We begin providing more formal letter grades and report card format in 7th and 8th grades to support the high school application process. For those interested in private high school, we know students will want to start thinking about the SSAT by spring of 7th grade, and can be a resource for that process as well.

Would middle school years spent at your school, although fun and engaging, get a child ready for high school? – Yes. We expect our students to be prepared academically, and also socially/emotionally. We hope students have confidence and creativity and resourcefulness that will support their high school years. We spend the time necessary to develop the mindset, skill-set and internal architecture for our students to thrive!

At Caulbridge, we believe fun is not just a luxury. The latest neuroscience tells us that the brain is at optimal capacity for learning when children are engaged and relaxed. This happens with interesting, relevant lessons in a safe and supportive environment. If the nervous system is stressed or the senses are over-stimulated by the environment, the brain is less able to process information or learning.