Summer Term 2017
Our first term, ever! It was so exciting when we finally found a location to rent in June and could start really recruiting students! We are very thankful to St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church management team for allowing us to rent about ¼ of their hall (The Hall at St. John’s). What a joy to have classrooms, a commons, restrooms, storage, a playground and an athletic field! 18 months of searching paid off.
As we began recruiting students, our concerns of being late to the recruiting season were supported but it was either begin the school and test driving the curriculum or just pay out rent for a year on a building that we were not using. We decided to go ahead and remove all minimums from our class sizes and began the year with a style of education that looked more like small group tutoring or a homeschool family! That was ok. Every good thing begins with a simple step of taking action. We took action! We started school. As part of that, we quickly created some signs for our parking lot to show folks how to drive through our drop-off and pick-up zones. We also had a big one that we put out by 17 Bypass to show where to turn to reach the school.
Our basic language arts curriculum while strong (tested every 20 years with the result that children routinely score 2 grades higher than their enrolled grade on standardized tests) was also new to our faculty. Speaking of which, Jennifer Delaney is our headmaster and full time teacher (and she is awesome!). That being said, the program took some above average preparations for class. Since we also incorporate sign language, the need to be sure that all students know (really know and can use, remember, we are a mastery program) their phonograms was easier as we also taught the sign language fingerspelling and signals for representative words.
Our math program had received some strong recommendations from folks in gifted and talented programs and mapped well to common core standards but again uses a mastery approach. This means that students are expected to get basic math facts correct 90% of the time by the time they are finished with elementary school. What we found on testing our students is that there is a consistent gap between what children have mastered and their current grade level expectations of two or three years. Students rapidly learned our mantra of “We are a mastery program.”
Its corollary was “And once you show us that you can consistently and quickly do the work well, you move out of the R&R process.” R&R can stand for many things; but, since many of the children come to us with the expectation that teachers won’t actually be grading the work just if there is something there, it stands for review and redo. Working too rapidly and doing poor work or trying to “cheat” the system by writing the same sequence of numbers as answers just doesn’t work, their top and they typically score in the "Low" to "No" mastery levels. We expect that many of these students will be moving on to a rapid review beginning in January (Winter Term). We coach, teach, reteach, and let them explore the concepts both in directed sessions but also in centers and in our theme units. We are pleased with the curriculum and with the students learning to persist towards mastery!
Our summer theme units began with manners and introductions. We moved to looking at families and in particular each student’s family tree. We decided to discuss family by blood, by law, and by choice. What a neat way to be inclusive! We have students from a variety of family backgrounds attending. The student’s personal family tree was a unit deliverable. After that unit, Hurricane Matthew blew through so we did a unit on natural disasters and their clean up. This topic was intertwined to a certain extent with our unit on Pets which had been planned as the unit following the family unit. However, Hurricane Matthew put that sequence to
rest. Our deliverables there were two-fold: Civic duty to help clean up and the creation of a volcano model and exploding it! We started it at our school site and finished it during a 3-day field trip to the Myrtle Beach State Park. That was the grand end of term celebration for the Summer Term.
Fall Term 2017
Our Fall Term began in October. When we had decided on the school calendar, we chose to have a short fall break (only 2 weeks) and then to take a week off for Thanksgiving. We also have a number of religious holidays that the public school does not support. We support two major religious holidays for four major religions. This resulted in a number of four day weeks during our Fall Term! Fortunately we have a 40 week in each instructional year so having these extra days (and the days missed due to Hurricane Matthew) wasn’t a big deal. We upgraded our parking lot signs to those little “green” child figures that use a flag to indicate direction and to drive slow. They are sooo cute!
Our Language Arts program continued with required reading in non-fiction related to our theme units. We also use SRA reading labs for grade level reading practice and began the actual grammar portions of the Writing Road to Reading.
We continued to teach the signs associated with our theme units’ vocabulary words. Even though our students currently are all in different grades, the vocabulary words range from easy peasy to difficult multi-syllable words. So students, from the time they learn their phonics to the time they graduate, learn words related to the theme units along with words related to spelling rules and phonics rules. All of these programs support our mastery objective.
Because we had an older student (i.e. middle school age) enter our program around Thanksgiving, we needed to take our Math program into middle school and beyond. We chose to move to an upper school program that continued to take a mastery approach and which showed real applications of concepts while following the general philosophy that we had begun in the Mammoth Math program that we adopted for through the 7th grade (especially for those who move rapidly through a math program).
We chose “The Life of Fred”. This program takes a unique “story telling” approach along with its emphasis on mastery. It offers materials through the second year of calculus, as well as, statistics. We are excited with this new upper school program dovetailing right into our existing programs.
Our Fall theme units continued extending from each student’s personal experiences by talking about where they lived and the type of home that they had. We had fun relearning the nursery rhyme, “The House that Jack Built” but in ASL! After a short unit on architecture we integrated it with exploring the biomes of different geographic areas and linking those to the 50 states by region. The students created models of an adobe house from the southwest and made dioramas.
We did a number of different map projects for this unit and culminated with a test where students had to write in the names of the fifty states and their capitals. Again we take a mastery approach so even after the unit has ended, the students will keep working on remembering all 50 states, their capitals, and biomes of the US my doing map tests/reviews until they can get at least 85% right for younger students and 90% right for middle school students. The students also had the opportunity to explore
life skills in the form of creating a luncheon for an end of term event. They made chili, corn bread, cake, and hot chocolate all in crock pots! We had a very yummy end of term party where we ate, opened Santa stockings, and watched students sing, sign, or recite!
Coming Up for Winter 2018
We again encourage parents who want their 5-year-old to start kindergarten before the start of the next school year to contact us ASAP! We do start a new cohort of novice kindergarten students every term! We now have on site curriculum through advanced language arts and math so we encourage parents with children who are not really being academically challenged in their current setting to consider transferring in January to our school! Sometimes, it is bullying or other disrespectful behavior that may spark a change of environment. We understand about that too! We actively work with our students to help them learn to use the Honor Code as a guide to behavior and we explicitly tell and show them how to do this. We welcome new students to our January start, January 8, 2018 (See blue in calendar to right).
Our Math program will use grade level recursive reviews to help students recover information from earlier grades. This spiral approach to reviews is reminiscent of how public school does its teaching and will help students transition to our mastery program easier.
Winter Theme Units include the following titles. “Our Solar System Neighbors” “Weather and the Sun” “Direct Energy and Our Sun, Sol” “Secondary Energy and Sol” Our tentative deliverables this upcoming term include: Solar System model, Written Report on Energy Sources in Use, and one of the following projects: building a kite from scratch, creating landscape windmill, attempting to create a solar cell or a windmill to generate electricity or make a solar powered model.
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Janice Black, Founder
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We are an independent non-profit private school in the Myrtle Beach area that operates with rigorous academic standards, a commitment to developing all aspects of a child, an orientation that is respectful of religious organizations, and has a strong honor code.
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