BLOG

All
  • All
  • Academics
  • Civic Engagement
  • Covid19
  • Executive Functioning
  • Parent Blogs
  • Parenting
  • Remote Learning
  • Social-Emotional

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 presumes a linear path of learning, leading students to seek perfection. At The Sycamore School, we regularly present students with challenging problems or tasks and ask that they go outside of their comfort zone to try something new. For example, one student is making a water wheel out of two LPs, lots of carpenters glue and a pencil. One of our teachers often warns, “the first model will be rough, but the next time you do it, you’ll know what to avoid and the process will go much more smoothly.” We teach students to value academic feedback.…

Read More

You are not SOL at The Sycamore School, Reprise

Last year, when our school was being developed, we blogged about the SOLs. Now that we are are open and our students are thriving, and we have practical experience in authentic assessment, we felt the subject deserved another post.  The Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) are the Virginia public school’s standardized testing program that sets learning and achievement expectations for core subjects. The SOL Test is a minimum competency test designed to assess whether students have mastered the basic concepts of a core subject area. The evolution of the SOLs is a story of how a well-intentioned educational tool has undermined authentic learning. The SOL learning strands themselves are not “bad.” SOL standards can serve as a pacing guide, to ensure that teachers cover the basic tenants of biology, algebra or Spanish I. It’s the SOL test that is problematic. Many school systems mandate teaching to a test. Schools have…

Read More

Creating a Culture of Kindness

Hearts are breaking in communities all over our nation in the aftermath of yet another devastating school shooting. How do we keep our children safe?  How do we change our culture?  I contend that if parents, teachers and leaders would teach and model kindness, empathy and perhaps even courage, we would make significant progress in our quest to keep our children safe. Part of having a safe community involves us taking care of one another. How well do we know our community and how much do we reach out and support others? Get to know your neighbors. Check in with them. Help each other out. Teaching Empathy At The Sycamore School, we’re teaching our students how to positively impact their community. At school, students apply for jobs that include a school counsel member, peer mediator, timekeeper, dog handler and shopkeeper. Through these jobs they learn not only how to monitor…

Read More

Problem-Based Learning Summer Camp

Problem-based learning is exemplified at our Rube Goldberg Machine Summer Camp. A Rube Goldberg machine is a simple machine comprised of common items that perform a simple task in a deliberately complicated manner.  Rube Goldberg machines include many aspects of physics, energy, and energy transfer, all working together in a chain reaction. The machine is named after American cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg (1883–1970). Campers will research, envision and build Rube Goldberg Machines individually or in teams. Each day, they will be presented with a different scientific feature they need to incorporate into their machine. Campers are encouraged collaborate and problem solve, to try different ideas, knowing it will take several tries before they’re successful. We believe making mistakes is an essential part of learning and we empower students to push themselves, think creatively and take risks.

Read More

You’re not SOL at The Sycamore School

It’s SOL testing season, a time where teachers are stressed out and kids are wishing school was done for the year. What are SOLs? SOLs are the Virginia Standards of Learning. They describe the commonwealth’s expectations for student learning and achievement in grades K-12 in English, mathematics, science, history/social science, technology, the fine arts, foreign language, health and physical education, and driver education (Virginia Department of Education, 2017). The SOLs include curriculum frameworks, scope and sequence guides and standardized tests that determine minimum competency in a subject area. Unfortunately, the SOL testing pass rates impact school ratings, school funding and are one of the criteria for obtaining a Virginia high school diploma. The Negative Impact Virginia public schools are increasingly resorting to scripted teaching, requiring teachers to teach in a prescribed manner, with identical scope and sequence. In short, teachers are not trusted to independently teach and assess their students…

Read More

Even the open house is hands-on!

“I learned more in two hours than I do all day at school!”* *Incoming TSS student Students and their families are invited to participate in our hands-on open house on June 14th from 6pm-8pm. The Sycamore School is an experiential, problem-based learning secondary school with no homework for our middle schoolers! Explore The Sycamore School’s innovative, experiential approach to education at our June family open house. Students and families curious about how we do school differently can explore problem based learning in 3 consecutive 30-minute “pop up” classrooms – giving prospective students a taste of what it’s like to learn at The Sycamore School. Parents will have ample opportunity to observe student activities as well as hear from staff about the school and our curriculum. Families are encouraged to attend for the entire event. Please register so that we can accommodate all participants. Please note: the open house is held…

Read More

Even the open house is hands-on!

“I learned more in two hours than I do all day at school!”* *Incoming TSS student Students and their families are invited to participate in our hands-on open house on June 14th from 6pm-8pm. The Sycamore School is an experiential, problem-based learning secondary school with no homework for our middle schoolers! Explore The Sycamore School’s innovative, experiential approach to education at our June family open house. Students and families curious about how we do school differently can explore problem based learning in 3 consecutive 30-minute “pop up” classrooms – giving prospective students a taste of what it’s like to learn at The Sycamore School. Parents will have ample opportunity to observe student activities as well as hear from staff about the school and our curriculum. Families are encouraged to attend for the entire event. Please register so that we can accommodate all participants. Please note: the open house is held…

Read More

Stress and Teenage Suicide

We’ve lost another Northern Virginia teenager to suicide. We shouldn’t be surprised. Northern Virginia high schools have turned into the Bermuda Triangle of stress: high achieving students + high achieving parents + high achieving school system = teens who are overloaded, over-scheduled, stressed out, sleep deprived, overly focused on grades and pushed to their limits. Stress has become the norm and the damage it’s causing can’t be underestimated. The 13 Reasons Why TV show on Netflix, based on a book of the same name by Jay Asher, has sparked controversy among mental health professionals, educators, parents and teens. Some people think the show is powerful and sparks meaningful dialogue with teens. Others feel it glamorizes suicide and has led to increased teen self-harm and suicide attempts. Blaming the show for teens increased risky behaviors seems to be missing the point. Kids who are emotionally healthy don’t hurt themselves or make…

Read More

How to create an island of calm in a sea of chaos

The world of a parent can feel unrelentingly fast paced, chaotic and stressful, with no indication that it will ever slow down…at least not until all our kids are grown. There is an increasing need for us as parents to set the pace and create an environment at home that can help buffer our children and ourselves against a world that sometimes seems intent on sucking the life out of us. Especially in Northern Virginia, there is no shortage of activities, events, responsibilities and commitments vying for our time. How many times do you think to yourself “I don’t have time for that” or, “if only I had time to ______”. At times, it feels like we can’t even enjoy or savor our best moments because we’re thinking, planning and worrying about what’s next. The irony is that we’re rushing so much to do everything and do it right that…

Read More

The Flip-Side Of Academic Acceleration: Why I Started The Sycamore School

          Stressed out, overwhelmed, anxious. Sound familiar? I’m not talking about you, I’m talking about your kids! As families prepare to take a much needed spring break next week, now is a good time to talk about why our kids are more burnt out than some corporate executives, and how parents can help their kids chill out on spring break, and even when they return to school. Middle and high school students are under pressure: Social pressure is high and social acceptance can now be measured by social media stats. Worse yet, kids never get a break from the social pressure, even after their school day is over. The Sycamore School is addressing social issues by giving students a place to talk about socialization as well as adolescent development and explicitly teaching students skills to increase self-awareness, self-regulation and effective communication skills. Extracurricular pressure is mounting. Particularly in our…

Read More

For kids to thrive, school should be a good fit

Is your school a good fit? As a parent, one of our biggest concerns can be making sure our children are thriving in their current school setting. When our children struggle and are unhappy at school, it creates considerable stress for the student and the whole family. Often it is this stress that leads parents to seek private school. As you consider school options for your children, be sure to ask potential school administrators “what is your school’s target student? Who are you serving?” At The Sycamore School, we’re intentionally recruiting a diverse community of learners that reflect the range of abilities you would encounter in the general population. We are particularly seeking students who might be surviving – but not thriving – in their current learning environment. Students who would be a good fit at The Sycamore School Students with a Montessori background – because they already have many…

Read More

Becoming A Founding Family at The Sycamore School

What does it mean to be a Founding Family? The Sycamore School is currently recruiting Founding Families to join our school for the 2017/18 school year.  While we understand that it takes a certain leap of faith to place your child a new school, our first families are not choosing The Sycamore School on a whim. Our Founding Families have decided that The Sycamore School is a great fit for their students and their family, by attending information sessions, asking important questions, and meeting with our Head of School for a private interview. Our founding families include parents who are concerned about their child’s learning, or their child’s social development, or both. These parents are willing to try something different and are committed to supporting a school that is the right fit for their child. Being a founding family takes some courage; we recognize that you’re putting your trust in…

Read More

The Sycamore School Will Open in the Fall, 2017

Check back soon for updates!

Read More