Traditional Approach vs. Our Approach:
Traditional Approach: Children attend school 5 days per week.
Our Approach: With the availability of information today, we believe it is not necessary to attend school 5 days/week. Instead, we are in session on M, T, & TH, and students work at home on W & F. We consider this to be the best balance – instruction from teachers followed by time for students to learn at home.
Traditional Approach: Schools are organized from the top down. This means that decisions about curriculum, testing, schedules, etc. come from administrators and supervisors who often make these decisions based on test scores. Teachers have little to no say in what is taught and how. Consequently, those who know their students the best are not consulted on such decisions. This leads to teacher burnout, and low student performance (despite the emphasis on it). The motivation to complete textbooks is low. Often only 1/3 – 1/2 of textbooks are completed.
Our Approach: DOW (Days of Wonder) is organized from the bottom up. Teachers help pick the yearly theme. Then, they are free to choose how the theme in incorporated in all the subjects. They use their particular strengths to approach each subject with their strengths in mind.
When I meet with teachers to discuss their plans for the school year, I find that they set HIGHER goals that I would have suggested. And, by the end of the school year, because teachers were able to choose their own goals, materials, books, etc., they complete nearly 100% of their goals by the end of the year. I have never seen teachers push themselves so hard. And they inspire me to do the same.
Traditional Approach: Students have homework (sometimes a lot) to complete on school nights.
Our Approach: Students do not have homework on school days. Instead, W’s and F’s are set aside for homework. They can wake up on those days and dive into their assignments after a good night’s sleep.
Traditional Approach: School days are divided into class periods. Students switch classes throughout the day, seeing a variety of teachers.
Our Approach: Except for high school, students have the same teacher all day long. Teachers have the freedom to divide school hours as they see fit. Students can delve into their work without bells going off to signal change of classes. (And think about how well our teachers know their students!)
Traditional Approach: Children are grouped into classes of peers of the same age.
Our Approach: While homeschooling, I was often asked to teach a group of children of different ages. I quickly learned the benefits of such learning. Older students push younger students. Younger students learn from the older. With different ages comes different perspectives. Now I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Traditional Approach: Students have a teacher for one year before moving to another classroom.
Our Approach: I remember when I had my exit interview years ago with a principal. He asked me, “If you could make one change what would it be?” I answered, “Give me the same students for at least 2 – 3 years.” He was surprised and baffled until I pointed out the following benefits:
-It takes me whole year to get to know a student. If I had him/her another year, we could start the year with all the knowledge I already had and waste less time getting to that point.
-The returning students know our classroom routines so they can easily begin a new year without wasting any time.
-I already know the parents of the students and they know me. We would already be a team when the next year resumed.
-I would already know the strengths and challenges of each student. In the summer, I can plan curriculum that best meets those needs.
-Having a student year after year develops strong bonds with him/her which leads to trust, more progress with learning, and a relationship that can, ultimately, last a lifetime.
P.S. He said I convinced him, and now DOW has these types of classrooms.
Traditional Approach: Teachers teach to the bottom of the class. Often this is due to the necessity of making sure that each student has mastered a standard before moving on.
Our Approach: We teach to the top of the class.* Younger students pick up what they can. The become motivated to learn what the others are. Older students want to keep pushing themselves to stay ahead of younger ones. It’s fun to watch. Being at the “top of the class” is cool at DOW, not a curse as I experienced it in school.
*Math, however, is taught on the students’ individual levels.
Traditional Approach: Sometimes parents experience difficulties communicating with their children’s teachers.
Our Approach: When parents pick up their children, they can often chat with a teacher that day. If not, our teachers and staff are available to parents via telephone, e-mail, etc. We believe that addressing problems right away is the best approach.
Traditional Approach: Learning is teacher led. It is seen as teachers presenting material to students who learn it, memorize it, and take a test on it.
Our Approach: Learning is student led with teachers providing necessary parameters for this to happen. Here is an example: When learning how to correctly write a book title, the teacher-led way would be this…teachers would tell students the rule, they write it down, etc. The student-led way would go like this…teachers would tell students that book titles are written with certain words capitalized. They go to the library, look at books, and write what they surmise is the rule. Then, they get into small groups and share their answers. If they don’t all agree, they go back to the library to “prove” their way is right. Finally, the rule is shared with the whole class and the teacher verifies that it is correct. Which way would students remember better?
Traditional Approach: Most classrooms do not offer a variety of teaching modalities such as visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (hands on). They typically include lecture, reading from a textbook, and worksheets.
Our Approach: We plan a variety of activities to meet student needs. There are a lot of hands-on activities as well as auditory, visual, demonstrations, group work, interviewing people, etc.
Traditional Approach: Bullying and peer pressure is often present. Teachers, if they have time to address bullying, are often not supported by their superiors.
Our Approach: Students need to know that the classroom is a safe place – no teasing, taunting, or bullying will be tolerated. We have monthly discussions on topics such as: How does it feel to be left out? Why do some kids pick on others? How can conflicts be resolved?
Inclusive, kind behavior is praised. Bullying issues are addressed right away. Poor treatment of others is not acceptable. We feel so strongly about this that students who cannot be team players will be asked to leave the program.
**We have a non-bullying policy that every family is asked to sign upon admission. See tabs above to find it.
Traditional Approach: Children eat unhealthy diets, leading to inability to concentrate, hyperactivity, and inability to learn.
Our Approach: At our school, no candy, soda, sweets, or caffeine are allowed.
Traditional Approach: Children get little time outside, usually only at recess, which can be canceled at the first sign of cold weather.
Our Approach: Being outside is very important! DOW students go outside at least twice per day. On warm days, classes are often taught outdoors. Students are required to go outside unless the temperature is below 15. In the winter, we even have sled riding.
Children who feel a connection to the outdoors are calmer and do better in school. Our location has a lovely yard that children are free to explore. Being outdoors encourages not only exercise, but imagination (at all ages) and time to spend with all other students, not just those in their particular classrooms.
Traditional Approach: Some subjects have been dropped from the curriculum so school can focus on the skills needed for standardized testing.
Our Approach: We believe in education of the whole child. Therefore, in grades K – 8, students have instruction in all subjects including music, art, geography, social studies, etc.
Traditional Approach: Students read, on average, 1 – 3 books per year.
Our Approach: Although we do teach reading skills in the younger grades, we also believe that the more reading students do, the better. Listening to audio books IS reading. We follow the approach explained in the book, The Book Whisperer. The teacher decided to forgo traditional reading curriculum and let students choose what they wanted to read and she started classes with silent reading time. She also eliminated book reports. We follow the same program. Our day starts with silent reading. Students choose most of what they read. Students in grades 4 – 6 read, on average, 25 books per year!
Traditional Approach: Students learn history from the American point of view. They do not learn names of other countries. Both of these lead to a narrow view of the world.
Our Approach: We have a 4 year geography rotation.
North & South America (Year 1)
Europe (Year 2)
Asia (Year 3)
Australia, Africa, Antarctica (Year 4)
Each year and depending on the students’ ages, students learn the countries, capitals, rivers, mountains, food, animals, traditions, etc. of that year’s continent(s). In addition, history is learned from the perspective of that continent. Students develop an understanding that historical events have at least 2 points of view. How important in today’s global world!