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Parent Blog: How TSS Changed My Life (and My Daughter’s)

This blog is a part of a series where parents of The Sycamore School’s students share their experiences on what it’s like to be a part of the TSS community and the impact TSS has made on their children. Through these blogs, we hope you’ll gain inside knowledge and understanding of what to expect when…

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Parent Blog: How The Sycamore School Helped to Transform My Daughter

This blog is a part of a series where parents of The Sycamore School’s students share their experiences on what it’s like to be a part of the TSS community and the impact TSS has made on their children. Through these blogs, we hope you’ll gain inside knowledge and understanding of what to expect when…

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A Love Letter to Teachers

Teachers and healthcare workers are the unsung heroes of this pandemic. We keep dumping more and more on them and then expect them to keep going, undaunted. Perhaps it’s time to flip the script. How can we recognize our teachers as experts in their fields and give them the support and resources they need to…

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Parent Blog: How The Sycamore School is Helping us Navigate the Middle School Years

This blog is a part of a series where parents of The Sycamore School’s students share their experiences on what it’s like to be a part of the TSS community and the impact TSS has made on their children. Through these blogs, we hope you’ll gain inside knowledge and understanding of what to expect when…

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Pandemic Learning Loss

Educators across the country are noticing that students have lost many of the skills they acquired before the pandemic. In some cases, our younger students never developed the skills we expected them to have. For example, lower elementary school teachers are encountering students who have accidents at school because they are not used to asking…

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5 Signs Your Kid’s School Isn’t A Good Fit: Pandemic Edition

*This is an updated version of 5 Signs Your Kid’s School Isn’t A Good Fit, originally published in August 2018. As we continue to navigate education in the wake of a pandemic, many parents are assessing whether their child is thriving in their current school setting. For some families, the mix of asynchronous, hybrid, or…

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Communities in Crisis: The Pandemic, School Refusal, and Mental Health Struggles – What We’re Not Talking About

We are in a mental health crisis.  The pandemic is once again disrupting our daily lives, and we have a significant number of children, tweens, and teens who are not going to school. The isolation that COVID necessitated has caused a myriad of mental health issues. The “rates of depression and suicidal behaviors have increased…

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What Do We Want Our Children to Get Out of School?

What do parents want their children to learn in school?  To learn specific academic content?  To be an independent learner?  To be compliant (e.g., follow directions and rules)?  To successfully navigate peer and adult relationships (e.g., social skills)?  To cultivate a range of study skills, which work for them?  In an article What Do Parents…

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TSS Teacher Credentialing and Skills

The Sycamore School (TSS) has a unique approach to learning. We utilize a mastery-based approach to meet students where they are, address any gaps in skills, and move them forward at their own pace. Learning is engaging, purposeful, and individualized. Instead of traditional grades, we offer narrative feedback and authentic assessments to tell students where…

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High School Psych Experience

At The Sycamore School, each cohort has a different experience class. This transdisciplinary class weaves together language arts, science, history, and math under a common theme. This year, our high school cohort’s experience theme is Psychology. They will read fiction and nonfiction books, participate in book talks, conduct psychology experiments, and learn about historical events,…

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Return to In-Person Learning: How You Can Help Your Child

This fall, parents around the country took a deep breath and cautiously, worriedly, and maybe even gleefully sent their children back to school for a return to in-person learning. As our students return to school, parents may still be filled with anxiety asking themselves questions, such as:  Will my child be safe at school?  Will…

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Why Your Student Needs a Progressive No Grades High School

What if a high school has no grades? No Advanced Placement (AP) classes. No International Baccalaureate (IB) program. To most parents in Northern Virginia, this is profoundly unsettling information. They ask, “How will my child get into college?”. The current model is not working for many students, but parents are afraid of the unknown. What…

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TSS Earns Cognia Accreditation

“Is your school accredited?” Since opening The Sycamore School, that has been one of the most common questions. Answering that seemingly simple question was not easy and required some explanation. Schools can only apply for accreditation after they have been open for at least three years; some accreditation organizations require five years. As soon as…

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Summer Break Update

Summer: a time for barbecues, swimming pools, and some much-needed R&R. The weather outside may be slowing everyone down, but here at The Sycamore School (TSS), we’ve hit the ground running. The staff has been hard at work to get set up for the 2021-2022 school year, planning experiences and electives, re-organizing the school, and…

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Let’s Take A Walk Experience

How do I fit into my community? How does my community affect my identity? What about my environment shapes my point of view? These are the questions we pondered this past year in the Middle School experience class, Let’s Take a Walk (LTAW). At The Sycamore School, instead of separate core classes, our students engage…

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Tips to Avoid Summer Brain Drain

I recently was asked to give a talk for the FAA on School’s Out: Tips on How to Avoid Summer Brain Drain. Parents wanted to know how they should be engaging their students over the summer, especially in light of COVID and the hopeful relaxing of social guidelines. Parents often worry about regression and wonder…

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The New Normal

Are you excited about the prospect of a more relaxed and carefree summer? Or does the thought of parenting and navigating this new world fill you with anxiety? Maybe it’s my psychologist mind, but I think about, how comfortable are we with “getting back to normal” and what does that even look like?  Some of…

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A Unique Approach to Math

At The Sycamore School, we take a different approach to math instruction.  As an independent private school, we are unencumbered by arbitrary year-end standardized tests. Students are free to follow their choice of math concepts throughout the year in a manner that makes the most sense to them and a timeline that works for their…

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Why Grading Erodes our Students’ Love of Learning

Our education system is getting derailed, and as parents, we are unwittingly becoming part of the problem. Somehow, we have lost what education and school are all about: learning.  We want our kids to love learning and thrive in school. However, as a culture, we’ve become obsessed with achievement and accolades. Grades serve as academic…

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Ecosystems Experience

Ecosystems Experience Blog – by Jon McKenney  At The Sycamore School, instead of separate core classes, students engage in transdisciplinary experiences each semester that weave together content from english, science, history, and math under a unifying theme. Past themes have included Identity, Civilizations, Motion, and Forensics. This year, our Middle School 2 cohort (6th and…

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Remote Learning Part II

Over the summer, we created a comprehensive COVID reopening plan which offered our students the choice of full time in-person or remote instruction. The vast majority of our students chose in-person and it has gone incredibly well. We certainly had our share of adjustments but overall the fall in-person instruction was quite successful. I think…

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A Beginner’s Mind

At The Sycamore School, we regularly participate in professional development training. They cover a wide range of topics over the course of a year from familiarizing staff with our on-line platforms, authentic assessment, and executive functioning supports, to anti-bias training and social-emotional skill-building. Last week during our teacher workday, we had professional development training on…

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First Week of In-Person and Remote Learning

Back to School 2020 has necessitated months of creativity and planning.  The hard work paid off when our in-person learners walked through the door Monday for their first day of school.  Simultaneously, our remote learners were logging on to start their first day. Each was exciting and eventful in their own unique way.  But we…

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Opening Day In-Person Countdown!

It’s one week before we open our doors (literally) for the new school year at The Sycamore School!  It’s been a wild ride since we had to switch to a virtual model this past spring and as we’ve been preparing to resume class in-person next week.  Every summer at this time, staff wish for an…

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Capstone Project

The Sycamore School was founded on the fundamental belief that learning can be engaging, enjoyable and personal.  We encourage students to be active participants in their education through our student-driven learning model. Throughout high school, TSS students are continuously presented with opportunities to guide their learning to topics and areas of interest while developing the…

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COVID-19 Update

TSS plans to resume in-person learning 5 days a week this fall. As part of our return to school plan, no visitors (to include parents) will be allowed into the school for the foreseeable future.  Newly enrolled families will be invited for an in-person tour of the school in August. School meetings and community workshops will continue…

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Fall School Planning

Public schools in our area are asking parents to make a choice for fall: keep your child/ren home for 100% virtual, or choose a hybrid model where they are in school for a couple of days, and virtual the rest of the week. It’s a difficult choice for many reasons – and a large one…

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Remote Learning – Tips and Lessons Learned

Shifting to distance learning has been an adjustment for students, staff, and parents. At The Sycamore School, we offer individualized instruction, so our unique challenge was determining how to offer the same level of support remotely, recognizing that: Many of our parents work full time, so they have limited ability to monitor and check in…

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First Week of Remote Learning at TSS

The week of March 9th felt like a month.  At the beginning of the week, the coronavirus still seemed at arms length.  By Wednesday evening it became clear to me that we would need to shut down our school facility and support our students remotely sooner, rather than later.  On Thursday morning, I explained the…

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Virtual Schooling Resources: Movement and Mindfulness for Kids

Tips and Resources to Keep Kids and Families Active and Calm During the Coronavirus Outbreak (and always!) Are your kids going crazy in the house? At the Sycamore School, our physical education program is called Movement & Mindfulness. While families begin to adjust to virtual schooling, our school counselor and Director of Student Services, Yvette…

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Coronavirus Response and Updates

The Sycamore School Announces Changes In Response To Coronavirus After much deliberation, we have decided to move to distance learning and instructional support starting Monday, March 16th.  The TSS facility will be closed until April 14th. This means that we’ll be supporting student learning remotely for the three weeks up until spring break. This is a…

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Are Gifted and Talented Programs Dumbing Down Our Students?

More and more frequently, parents of young students are pushing for their child to be identified as “gifted and talented”.  Parents might think they are benefitting their children by advocating for that label and, to be honest, parents like the recognition themselves.  We must have done all the right things if our child is identified…

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Does Nagging Work for You?

At some point, every parent has nagged their child. It is just in our nature as parents.  We nag because we are frustrated and don’t know what else to do. We want to instill some life skills in our kids, but they’re not internalizing them. Nagging puts us in charge of tasks our kids should…

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Uncovering and Addressing Executive Functioning Struggles In Students

Late, Lost or Missing Homework? Uncovering and Addressing Executive Functioning Struggles In Students Another week and another missing assignment in the grade book for your student.  It seems like all their peers complete and turn assignments in on time, so why is it so hard for your child?  Late, lost or forgotten homework can be…

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Culture of Kindness

We have all heard the term “Mean Girl.” According to a  recent school study, nearly 1 in 4 girls reported being bullied during the year. This is in sharp contrast to only 17 percent of boys report being bullied.  A recent AP article reports girls are 3 times as likely to experience cyber or text…

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Back to School Jitters? Or a Bigger Issue?

On the first day of school it’s hard to tell who is more nervous, parents or students. You all want the school year to be a success, but there is some doubt and worry that it mightnot go as well as hoped. First day excitement and nervousness is very normal. Some students get excited by…

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Summer Reading Picks

One of the things I love about summer is that I’m able to read a lot. I lean toward mysteries and modern fiction. This summer, I branched out a little and read a few young adult books, which were really good.  Below are several lists of recommended books. Some are for parents, others are for…

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How to stop over-parenting and let your kids tough it out

Instead of being a snowplow parent, give your kid a shovel and show them how to use it. Helicopter parent, snowplow, lawn mower, bull dozing, blackhawk, tiger mom…there are an increasing number of phrases used to describe today’s parents in a pretty unflattering light. We hear that seemingly well-meaning parents are actually doing harm to…

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Average isn’t a four letter word

A recent Washington Post article, by Jacque Gorelick, There is no room for average students these days. Here’s why that worries me.” highlights many of the reasons that I started The Sycamore School. I saw a critical need to respond to the stress and pressure being placed on students at increasingly younger ages. As Gorelick writes,…

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We switched schools mid-year. Maybe you should too.

Guest Post by Current TSS Parent If your 5-10th grade student isn’t thriving at their current school and you are considering other options, I highly recommend The Sycamore School (TSS). Our daughter transferred in November, and it’s one of the best decisions we’ve made. She went from having terrible school anxiety and refusal, to happily skipping…

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“Finding a Love of Learning”

A Conversation with Karyn Ewart, Ph.D. on Radio Hotline with Dennis Price Why can’t school be fun and engaging? When did school become all about worksheets? Why does learning stop at the walls of the school? Founder and Head of School Karyn Ewart discusses these topics and why she started The Sycamore School on the…

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Rising Anxiety in Youth

Educators and clinicians across northern Virginia are seeing a significant increase in the number of youth who are experiencing some level of anxiety. We’re also seeing the onset of anxiety start at a younger age and many children are significantly compromised by its affects. There is an increased prevalence of school avoidance, school refusal and…

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5 Signs Your Kid’s School Isn’t A Good Fit  

Summer is a good time to reflect on your child’s school and think about whether it’s a good fit.  Did your child seem happy at school? Have friends? Enjoy learning? With back-to-school upon us, is your child upset about going back? Here are five signs your child’s school is not a good fit: School avoidance:…

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Get Off Your Screens, There’s So Much Summer To Do!

My Wish for Students this Summer Over the summer, I’d like our students to explore, inquire and enjoy. Many parents are already struggling with managing their child’s screen time, and frustrated with kids who don’t know what else to do. Here are some ideas of activities that might engage tweens and teens (and adults!) From…

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In Defense of Failure

We don’t want perfectionists, we want risk-takers who will fail and learn from their mistakes. I want our students to make mistakes and [gasp, shudder,] even fail. Making mistakes is a great way to learn. Learning is disorganized, perhaps messy, and not linear. And yet, mainstream education presents curriculum in a manner and sequence that…

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