The New Village School, a Bay Area independent school located in Sausalito, is redefining education for children from preschool through 8th grade. We prioritize small class sizes (10-20 students), meaningful and rigorous academics, screen-free learning through 6th grade, social/emotional intelligence, outdoor education on our farm and the sea, global travel, and awareness. Our grads leave with a strong sense of geographical, historical, societal orientation, and personal growth. They are prepared for high school and, more importantly, life.
The New Village School was founded in 2008 by a group of passionate, excited parents, their children and their teacher, Meinir Davies. The school began in one room in a home, but by February 2009, the school was able to move to its large Sausalito Campus, the site of the former Martin Luther King Jr. School.
This beautiful and spacious location offers ample space for movement with a track and field, pickleball, basketball, and tennis courts. It is easily accessible from Highway 101 north and south. The campus, with its proximity to Richardson Bay, and its location in Southern Marin, allows the children opportunities for wonderful play and discoveries during recess times and thrilling off-campus days with our excellent teachers.
Alongside the campus in Sausalito, the school owns a 5-acre piece of land nearby where children learn experientially by helping to care for the extensive edible gardens, fruit trees and farm animals. Subjects such as Chemistry, Physics, Botany, and Environmental Studies, alongside a range of other subjects, are often taught there.
- A School for Life - We create opportunities for children to develop a deep understanding of how it is to live in a fulfilling and contributive way that builds a sense of stability, happiness, and belonging.
- Small Class Sizes - We create a learning environment of small classes (10-20 students) within which children can experience their full potential, capabilities, capacities, skills, personal challenges, and ways of relating to the world and all that lives within it.
- Travel - We offer experiences beyond the confines of a traditional classroom. The world is our place of learning. Our students explore it by venturing off-campus at least once a week, starting from walks to Clipper Harbor in Kindergarten to international travel by 6th grade.
- Reflection - We utilize our classrooms to reflect upon and become aware of what we have experienced within the world.
- Global Awareness - We bring a global perspective into the school through various languages, cultures, music, and art from all across the globe.
- Authentic Real Experiences - is what we offer so that students can discern between what is real and what is virtual. By keeping our school “screen free” for younger children we protect them until they are old enough to be discerning. We also do this so they can navigate the vast amount of information and imagery that is so readily available in the 21st century.
- Meaningful Academics - We demand a conscious and self-motivated engagement with complex curricular themes where academics are rigorous.
- Intrinsic Motivation - We support students who need help accessing their source of motivation through a holistic approach to the development of social and emotional intelligences.
- Self Love - We offer a path to love and acceptance of body, mind, feelings, intellect, and spirit. Our children learn how to become a leader of the SELF and of others when needed.
- Confident Graduates - Our grads leave the New Village School with a strong sense of orientation geographically, historically, societally, and personally. They are prepared for High School and, more importantly, life.
- We believe that in a time when the future is unpredictable, it is important to develop an inner picture, independent of circumstances, of what a meaningful inner life can be. This supports health on a physical, mental, and spiritual level.
- When we know our capabilities, challenges, and how to overcome them, we have a sound foundation upon which to move into whatever circumstances may meet us, with a sense of confidence.
- It is essential to feel at home, wherever we are. Therefore, in a globalized world, the ability to move easefully from one cultural perspective to another, from one language to another, and to have a deep sense of acknowledgment for our differences and similarities is vital.
- The ability to reflect on one’s experiences, actions, words, thoughts, and feelings is key to fostering healthy relationships both in a personal and working sense.
- Our students are encouraged to ask questions like, “What version of whose truth should I trust?” The closest they can come to understanding that is the development of a sense for what they feel to be true, based on as many perspectives as possible and their own inner authentic moral voice.
- If our students know what moves them to use their energy for their own development, while giving room for others to develop, they can better find their place in any societal context, in a way that is right for them.
- Being dependent on an external motivator can be detrimental or even dangerous. Understanding what hinders our ability to move forward is an incredible gift.
- With so many virtual experiences available in our society, a person can get lost, not knowing what is authentic and what is not. That can lead to substantial detrimental effects on a psyche.
- Kindness to one’s body, the vehicle which carries me; kindness to my feelings, which allows me to experience life in all its nuances, kindness to my intellect and spirit, which allows for a healthy love of SELF, allows for self acceptance.
- Experiencing one’s own agency and ability to create and initiate life experiences is essential for a sense of wholeness, and thus fulfillment. Being able to step in to guide situations that are asking for a direction is exceedingly useful to any social group.
- We provide young people with a sense of orientation in a time when many traditional orientation points provided by societies, religions, and cultures no longer exist.
- Learning for Life - We do it by allowing school to be a “way of life” rather than a place where you come to prove what you know or what you don’t know. We allow each child the opportunity to feel what it is like to lead a meaningful, fulfilled life. It is not something one has to postpone until school is over. School itself is alive, real, authentic, with immediate possibilities for sensory experiences and thoughtful reflection.
- Traveling Near and Far - We do it by going off campus every week. We travel further and further afield as they grow older, eventually visiting countries such as Morocco, Mexico, Japan, London, Lisbon, Peru, refugee camps in Greece, and more.
- Learning Entrepreneurship - We do it by teaching them how to earn money financing these trips from 7th grade onward.
- Self Sufficiency - We do it by teaching students how to grow, cook, feed, clothe and create shelter for themselves.
- Thinking Critically - We do it by teaching how to think constructively and creatively and how to proof that thinking within any setting. Our students reflect deeply on why we do things the way we do, and whether it is helpful to do so.
- The World is our Classroom - we retreat behind classroom walls only to reflect, read, write, think, and conceive new ideas that could serve the planet.
- Subjects are Aspects of a Whole - Everything we learn contributes to the understanding of the whole. We speak about what others call “subjects” as aspects of the Whole.
- Learning Languages - Every child learns Spanish. We do live in California after all. Each child also learns one more language: Punjabi, Japanese, Russian, and Arabic are current example offerings. There have been and will be additional languages as our classes grow and graduate.
- Varying Student Experience- We do it by offering the most varied opportunities through:
- Academic Discourse
- Performing Arts
- Visual Arts
- Animal Care
- Boat Building
- And more!
- Self Development - We help our students experience the SELF in the most varied circumstances thus offering an opportunity to know who they are when they are their most capable and authentic selves. When using that inner barometer of the authentic self, it is much easier to be discerning around truth and untruth.
- Self Motivation- By offering the most varied ways of interacting with materials, other living beings and the world in general, the students have a chance to discover an activity or theme where they experience themselves as “motivated” from within.
- By having had at least one or two such experiences, students are more able to tap into that source of energy when they don’t have an immediate interest in a topic.
- We do it by ensuring our teachers bring content in a way that makes it obvious where its meaningfulness and usefulness lie in the grand scheme of learning.
- Child Studies - If we find that a student is not yet able to access that place of motivation, we take time to deeply study the child, alongside the parents, to come to a clearer understanding of what the hindrances might be.
- Meeting People From Many Cultures - We do it by speaking to people on our travels, sensing who the other is, and by welcoming those from different cultures and places.
- Respect and Reverence - We develop a profound reverence for all living organisms on our excursions into nature, both on land and sea.
- Caring for our Bodies - The body is seen as a vehicle, an instrument, that needs to be tuned and attuned to the authentic inner voice. Feelings are taken seriously, but more than that, we encourage students to ask themselves, “What do I do with these feelings so that I do not become them and they don’t affect others negatively?”
- Self Discipline - We do it by being self-motivated and self-disciplined, by being the guide of the SELF more and more over the years, by having teachers who live this way and are not subject to a boss (see our Leaderships Model). Our children see demonstrated every day what it means to be our own guides and to guide the school organizationally.
- Historical and Global Awareness - We use geography as the context for history. Societal questions such as racism, sexism, prejudice, war, societal change - to name a few - serve to allow the student to be aware and knowledgeable, as a 14-year-old student, why an event is taking place in the way it is now.
How We Run Our School
With full measures of love, respect, rigorous academic challenge, music, community and fresh air, the New Village School cultivates an atmosphere in which children can remain inquisitive and are allowed to become deeply capable and responsible. Their renewable inner resources will help them thrive in a profoundly changing world.
What Is the New Village?
We have created a new extended family: the new village. This is a place in which parents feel safe in the knowledge that everyone feels responsible for everyone’s well-being. Our neighborhoods as we once knew them have changed and our school addresses the need for community. In that way our school is a portable neighborhood and our children are raised in a community of caring individuals.
In the classroom, we have created a natural extended family. We do not always separate the children artificially by grades. Indeed, all the children interact with each other at various points throughout the day.
We believe in long-term relationships. Children respond with feelings of camaraderie, commitment, and a profound sense of trust. Teachers benefit from the time and ability to deeply understand and come to know the children, as well as how best to help them develop their abilities.
Finally, the New Village is a community of learners – children and adults – who never give up trying to discover even more about ourselves. Because of this, we strive to create an atmosphere in which everyone feels safe to be vulnerable, honest and authentic.
How Is the New Village School Governed?
The basic premise is that everyone in the community feels responsible for the well-being of, above all, the children but also of one another and the school.
The school is seen as a living organism that is growing and changing. “Form follows function” underscores any governance structure chosen for a given phase of the school’s development.
The New Village School has a volunteer Board of Directors comprised of elected community members, parents, and representatives of the Management Team, which is responsible for the legal and fiscal health of the school. The school is managed by its Management Team which is made up of all full-time teachers. All teachers engaged with the children belong to the Teaching Team.
The Board includes:
|GEOFF BARNEBY||BOARD CHAIR / PRESIDENT|
|YANA MEYDBRAY||MANAGEMENT TEAM REPRESENTATIVE|
|CRISTINA CABRERA||MANAGEMENT TEAM REPRESENTATIVE|
We are grateful to all of our board members who have supported our school.
All teachers who work with the school are part of our Teaching Team. In our school, the teachers see themselves as a team of adults who are there to provide absolute solidarity, warmth, love and care for the children. We create an atmosphere in which children can feel safe to be who they are.
We are here to help them uncover and discover who they are. We believe that helping children develop a strong inner sense of self and to develop the ability to love themselves is absolutely critical.
The teachers are committed to supporting each other in all aspects of their work and to model how human beings can be with each other in the best possible way. We observe the children as they move through their day and through continual conversation, try and make sure that each child feels seen and acknowledged.
Welcome to the New Village School! We look forward to speaking with you about our vibrant school and loving community. This summer, our administrators are hosting private tours of the school and accepting applications for the 2022-2023 school year and ensuing years.
Our Summer Admissions Process:
- Begin our admissions process by submitting an Admission Inquiry Form.
- Request a private tour of the school using the Admission Inquiry Form above.
- Submit a K-8 Application or Preschool Application once you have a good sense of our school.
- Schedule a meeting between your family (including your child) and two of our teachers. We have limited availability for teachers to meet over the summer, but we'll do our best to accommodate everyone's schedule.
- Connect with a long-time NVS parent so you can learn more about our wonderful parent community.
- Decision letters are sent as soon as possible during the summer.
The current annual tuition is $19,250. Payments are made annually, quarterly, or monthly. Please enjoy our video to learn more about the New Village School.
Health and Safety Protocols
The New Village School continues to be in close contact with the Department of Public Health and the Marin County Office of Education for the latest health and safety guidance regarding COVID-19.
The process of growing up and gathering rich, colorful, textured childhood experiences along the way is a fundamentally important one for becoming a balanced, well-educated child and adult. Many experiences that we have as children can hinder the healthy unfolding of such a process in the most varied of ways.
We see our task as teachers at the New Village School to do our utmost:
- Not to hinder this unfolding with any fixed philosophies
- No projection of what it means to be “successful”
- Not restrict learning approaches
- Not cause unnecessary stressful situations for the children...
...but rather in the observation of each unique individual child and the initiating and creating of a learning atmosphere, colorful and filled with sensory experiences, that allows each child to feel able and encouraged to explore his/her/their gifts, challenges, and potentialities, with an inner sense of ease and safety. It is the team of teachers gathered around the children:
- With whatever inspires them to engage with children in a healthy way
- In an ongoing process of observation and conversation with each other, that creates, fresh every day, the space and the relationships needed for the children to learn and develop an ever-expanding and deepening understanding of in which they are growing up
In that sense then, the philosophy of the school is not to have a fixed philosophy according to which children learn, but rather to be sensitive to, and strive to understand, each and every child’s ways of relating to and coming to an understanding of the phenomena of the world. In this way, each child feels acknowledged, seen, respected and loved in his/her/their very own growing unique individuality.
This means that each teacher has to be engaged in ongoing explorations of his/her/their biographical experiences, in order to prevent avoidable and unnecessary projections that can be a hindrance for a child. This ongoing biographical exploration also involves proofing one’s own perhaps still unconscious biases that would otherwise have remained hidden and would have affected others.
With a conscious, conscientious, sensitive and careful approach to:
- The use of language
- The choice of stories
- The way content is brought…
…we hope to offer the children the broadest and deepest picture of what it can mean to be a human being:
- Wherever we were born
- From whatever culture or religious background we come
- Whatever language we speak
- However we manifest our being human in physical form
A key element in this work is giving our children the opportunity to develop a vocabulary for speaking about themselves and others, for describing others, and resolving conflicts with others, should they arise. Alongside a rigorous academic life and the expectation for the highest quality work each student can achieve, our children leave the school prepared not just for high school, but for life, as they move into the next phases of their development.
The current annual tuition is: $19,250. Although kept deliberately low compared to other private schools, but still a large amount of money for so many, the New Village School has strived to keep tuition at a level that allows a broad spectrum of economic backgrounds to contemplate joining our school. We are always open to conversations about the financial aspect of joining our community.
We do not think of our school in terms of how it is different than other schools. We focus on what we feel to be the most balanced, and creative way of offering the students the opportunities they need to discover and grow into an awareness of the SELF.
When we speak of Academics, we relate the word to its origin, the place, Akademeia, where Plato worked and taught his students. Academics, in its original sense then, have more to do with students in conversation with their teacher/s, walking, speaking and discussing, rather than with worksheets, tests, grades, and multiple choice questions. Often today, when the word “academics” is used, it is referring actually to a more theoretical way of learning, detached from ongoing conversations and the development of ideas with a teacher or group of teachers. What we mean by academics, is the ongoing work with teachers on meaningful content, while having one’s own experiences in a setting that is - the real world!
The New Village School approach to learning is more of a marriage between an Apollonian/Dionysian one. We allow the children to first dance, move, experience a phenomenon or phenomena or aspects of the world, before asking them to develop theories or hypotheses about these phenomena or aspects. Questions such as: Why do we have to do this? What does this have to do with real life? When will I ever have to do this in real life?, therefore, do not arise.
Everything that is presented as a “subject,” already exists in the realities of life. Depending on how we are guided into discovering these “subjects,” we will know that it is “in and from life” or not. If we do, we will be able to access and use our own intrinsic motivation to work on understanding the “subject” more easily.
On a daily basis, we see that our students do have the sense that everything they engage in is “ life itself” and are thus able to access and use their own inner motivation to attend to the tasks they are guided towards. The idea that the world is our classroom, the first and foremost space in which discovery and learning take place, plays a fundamental role in our school. The curriculum then is the world and we walk with the students through aspects of the world that are appropriate and graspable to them at their age, grade by grade. The inner logic of the curriculum allows a sense of meaningfulness and wholeness for the children.
Everything begins for us as humans with the Geography of this planet. The study of Geography begins through experiences the students have through our Classroom Without Walls program, on walks, hikes and explorations in Sausalito and other beautiful landscapes of Marin County.
The name: Classroom Without Walls, that we use for the program that allows children these experiences in the world, has its name because being in life itself is the best classroom of all. They know the local area thoroughly and therefore, when the study of Local Geography is taken up more overtly in Fourth Grade, we are able to draw from inner pictures they have stored from actually being in the local geography of their more immediate surroundings. They will have hiked on Mount Tam, waded through the creeks, touched the Redwoods, had mud on their faces, felt the climate and weather, been on a boat on the bay and seen the coastline. When then, in the classroom with walls, they begin to draw maps, they are drawing something they have actually used all their senses to experience already.
Developmentally, giving students a sense of orientation in the area where they live, at this age, is a wonderful way to help them feel connected and rooted in where they physically find themselves. From this local beginning to this subject, we expand into the study of:
|Central and South America (often studied in Spanish)||6th Grade|
The Middle and Far East and India (in conjunction with the study of Ancient Civilizations)
|Africa (to understand where many modern-day Americans came from originally and why)||7th Grade|
|Europe (to understand where many modern Americans came from originally and why)||7th Grade|
|Australia and other areas of the world (By the end of 8th grade, the students have a clear orientation of where they are geographically in relation to other people with whom we live on this planet.)||8th Grade|
Similarly to Geography, the study of History, for example, begins in the early grades while they are out in the world. How local indigenous people lived in Marin County is part of the conversations during the Classroom Without Walls days.
Third Grade is the time when we begin to speak about the fact that humans began as ancient hunters and gatherers. They study this only after they have been in the places where ancient indigenous people hunted and gathered and made lives for themselves in and around where their school is located.
How did they build shelters? What did they eat? How did they hunt? How did they gather? In what relationship did they live with nature? These are some of the questions explored. When we talk about the transition to Settling and Farming we are very careful to look at this human activity in a way that shows respect for what that meant for other animals and plants. Not until the later part of middle school do we speak about the development from settling and farming and its immensely negative impact on animals that has come about as we industrialized farming more and more.
In Third Grade the emphasis is on the enormous responsibility we have towards animals if we choose to “domesticate” or more honestly said, subjugate them. Since we have a piece of land with gardens, fruit trees and animals, children studying this part of their history in third grade, have access to many “real” ways of experiencing these themes.
From this ancient time in Third Grade we continue with:
|US history in relation to indigenous tribes (US history in the post Columbus age we study later in order to be able to tell an accurate and truthful version)||5th Grade|
|Ancient Civilizations||6th Grade|
|Ancient Central and South American (Civilizations, often taught in Spanish)|
|The Middle Ages in Europe (Judaism, the rise of Christianity, Islam)|
|The “Cradles of Civilization”||6th Grade|
|The arrival of the Europeans and its effects||7th Grade|
|The Renaissance in Europe||7th Grade|
|World History and Current Events||8th Grade|
(Revolutions, political and economic systems, the horrors of the Third Reich, conflicts and events that have led to where we are today: slavery, religious differences, colonization and the consequences thereof that still remain in the 21st century).
Through the study of Geography and History in this way, the students by 8th grade, have had the opportunity to orientate in space and time. They have at least an initial understanding at this age, of why they are experiencing the world in the way they are through the news, the internet and all the sources of information they have at their disposal.
In Math, we begin in First Grade with questions such as:
What is a number? What is the quality of each number? Why did we begin to develop symbols for quantities? What did they look like when they began to be developed? What do ours look like? Where do the names we use for quantities come from? What do the signs + - x and ÷ and of course = mean? Why did we create those symbols? We also learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.
We work with whole numbers until 4th Grade, when we begin to work with fractions. This is a very deliberate developmental choice.
All the fundamentals of Arithmetic are covered and in addition, work on Pre-Algebra begins in 6th Grade.
By the end of 8th Grade, each student will have had the chance to work through Algebra 1 and some will have advanced to the themes of Algebra 2. The progression then is again logical. From quantities in the “real world” to the more abstract realm of Algebra - “ Al jabr”.
The students also discover Geometry as an abstracted form of naturally occurring forms in nature. Fibonacci numbers, the Golden Ratio, for example, are introduced. Free hand geometry gives way to work with geometrical tools and the study of:
- Ancient Mathematicians such as Archimedes
- The circle and “pi” and areas of other forms, angles, volumes
- Platonic solids
Again, it is a matter of offering opportunities to see how humans have studied nature in which they live, and have quantified, calculated, and discovered complex and fascinating forms that nature itself creates. Thus they have a solid foundation in the understanding of what math is.
Even if then, a student is not yet able to be “good at math” in the more conventional sense, there can still be a great deal of enjoyment in the study of math as an aspect of human life.
Science begins in KG through the experiences they have in the garden, while cooking and playing.
|The Study of Other Animals on Planet Earth||4th Grade|
|Physics||6th - 8th Grade|
|Chemistry (organic and inorganic)||7th - 8th Grade|
Whereby to the highest degree possible, what the students learn through the observation of experiments and deduce from what they are experiencing in a science class, will be based in experiences they will have had over the years at school.
An example: Speaking theoretically about levers and pulleys is much easier if you have used them to move heavy objects on our land or in our garden at school!
Languages play an enormous role in our school. We want our children to know the predominant language of communication amongst themselves at school and for teaching, English, very well. English as a way of communication, its vocabulary and expressions, its grammar and its literature, is explored. We work from the experience to the consciousness and understanding of HOW it offers us its particular vehicle of expressing ourSELVES, our ideas, feelings and thoughts.
We also however, lay an emphasis on the learning of Spanish. We are after all live in California. Initially, the children sing, play and speak in Spanish. From Fourth Grade onwards, they begin to write and read in Spanish. Handwork is also taught through the medium of Spanish, thus giving the children an opportunity to hear and understand the language while creating beautiful handmade projects.
Our Japanese Kindergarten teacher speaks Japanese to the KG children. They experience that after hearing something a few times and associating that with things they have to do, such as putting shoes on, hanging coats up, getting ready to go out, eating…they assimilate the language and can understand everything that is being said! Our other KG teacher speaks English and thus the children experience what the world is like!!
From First Grade onwards, the children also learn a third language. Once that language is chosen, that is the language they will learn until 8th Grade. Currently we have:
|Russian||Third and Fourth Grade|
|Arabic||Fifth through Eighth Grade|
In this way, we help our children feel that they are not only citizens of one place but citizens of the world.
There is much more to say about other hugely important subjects such as: Woodwork, Movement, Painting, Drawing, Sculpting, Music, Theater, Anatomy, Physiology, Meteorology, Astronomy, and our Classroom Without Walls program…but suffice it to say that our goal is to offer the students a broad and deep educational experience that allows them to:
- Retain their curiosity
- Retain their interest and passion for their lives and the lives of all other living organisms.
In pre-Covid times and hopefully again in post-Covid times, Classroom Without Walls trips that children undertake are:
|KG||The local harbor and beaches|
|1st/2nd Grade||Marin County|
|3rd Grade||2 nights on a farm.|
|4th Grade||1 week in Headwaters Outdoor School, Shasta.|
|5th Grade||1 week to 10 days sailing or cross-country train.|
|6th Grade||2 weeks in Mexico or to the country whose language they are learning as their third language at school.|
|7th Grade||3-week self financed trip to Portugal, Spain, Athens, Morocco, UK, Lesvos (with meetings with young people seeking refuge from war).|
|Trinity||3-week trip that includes a 48 hour “sit” alone with water, and a sleeping bag in locations such as The Alps of California, Mendocino California, and High Andes of Peru.|
We hope this gives some insight into our curriculum but of course, more questions can be answered in conversation.
The short answer is most definitely yes and not only for High School but for life.
The students are very prepared for a more traditional high school after the New Village School because: they have grown up in the world, we have worked preventatively with questions such as relationships to one’s own body, to the health of the body, and relationships in general. They will have experience with all the “academic” subjects that you will find in any high school. Every student needs at least a short period of adjustment when entering a new school. Our students are agile and are able to adapt while retaining their own inner integrity.
Having been in the real world:
- Having been in the real world:
- Through the meaningfulness and logic of the curriculum. Our students are more than prepared for the themes, whether academic, emotional, psychological or physical that await them from the ages of 14 onwards.
- Through the Classroom Without Walls Program, the trips, speaking to the various guests that have visited the school over the years.
New Village School grads are:
- Have spoken to others whose first language is not theirs
- Have taken trains, buses, planes, ferries to all sort of places, including to refugee camps on Lesvos, Greece. Know therefore how others live
- Have interacted with children and young people of all ages
- Have had close relationships with all their teachers and know how to ask for help when they need to
- Have been allowed to be honest and not pretend to know something if they do not
- Have not been judged with grades but encouraged and supported through conversations about their work
- Know what reasonable risks are and take them if it is necessary
- Know their bodies and respect their own and those of others
- They are well educated and also of course ready for what a high school curriculum entails.
- All of us, but especially children, need to be allowed to move and not be constrained in a room for an unhealthy amount of time. Movement, therefore, is essential.
- Breathing and being allowed to breathe is essential for health and should not be constricted by avoidable and unnecessary stress factors.
- Music and singing lifts the spirits and is a way of expression that is innate in all of us as humans and in other animals too! That all our senses are engaged during the day. It helps to make life “make sense”.
- We all, especially children, need to be surrounded by beauty, through the colors and textures inside the school but especially by having the chance to experience the beauty of the natural world.
- Being allowed to develop a love and respect of the natural world is essential.
- A clear path to the ability to think clearly, constructively, critically, and sharply but a thinking that is always imbued with a deep sense of a situational morality that is innate in us but is often hidden or lost through our biographies.
The first answer to this question is a series of questions: Differently from whom? Is there truly an objective standard against which everyone else can be measured? What does it mean to a child if he/she/they is assessed and seen to be learning “differently”? Of course it is true that a “norm” has evolved over the years that education for the general public has been available and there are certain capacities and skills that a child can develop by a certain age in general.
All of us experience the world in our unique way. Had these “norms” not been made into a standard, and if traditional education were not such an artificial construct in so many ways, children would not be seen to be learning “differently”...they would just be seen as learning at their own pace and in their own unique way. How freeing would that be!
If a child is stuck behind a hindrance, or finds it difficult to get over a hurdle, then of course, the teachers intervene. They do everything in their power to help the child. The moment we acknowledge that everyone learns differently or thinks differently and it is not the goal to standardize learning or to reduce the spectrum of differences, we allow each child the freedom to explore and understand the world in his/her/their unique way.
We introduce the children into the world of writing and reading in first grade and some children take to it like ducklings take to the water following their mother. The fact that some children are not yet ready to go into that water, does not mean that they never will. The question is: How long are we willing to support and help them individually or in the group before we insist that they now function “like everyone else”? Often, not long enough unfortunately.
So many of this world’s incredibly successful individuals are dyslexic. It took them a great deal of courage and inner strength to believe in themselves given the educational world many of them had to grow up in. When being able to read by a certain age is held up as a measure of a child’s potential academic success, there is the danger of losing many children, all of whom are gifted, to the idea that they are not up to par.
A highly developed sensitivity around these children is essential. We must avoid at all costs giving them the impression that there is something “wrong” with them or that they are inadequate in comparison to others. As teachers, we of course identify early on, even in KG sometimes, those who might potentially face challenges with certain tasks when they enter the grades. Never, however, would we make a prediction based on such observations about how they will succeed in their learning journey.
On the contrary, when a child has to struggle with something like writing, reading or math, that very same child is hugely gifted in equally important realms. It is essential that adults recognize each and every gift or challenge as equally important. Reducing a child to their ability to read by a certain age can be demoralizing and can cause a child to feel often deflated and even defeated.
Fortunately at our school, we are very subtle in our work to support children. We do not use textbooks, pre-prepared worksheets, or standardized materials, which means that we can create our classes based on the children that are in front of us. We can address each child’s way of learning and understanding and adjust our lessons accordingly. We can take more time with certain children in phases of the classes or after school in small groups. We work to find ways to allow a child to have the experience of being part of the peer group, gifted and challenged in his/her/their unique way.
The teachers are there every step of the way to observe, to acknowledge difficulties, to support and to help. Should there be a more severe manifestation of dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia, then of course, through more intensive work with teachers, if needed, with support from outside the school, we help our children get to the place that they can get to when they are doing their best. More they cannot do.
Thankfully, since our lessons are based in conversation and much if not most of the writing in First and Second Grade emerges out of these conversations or stories, each child has the chance to be part of the class in his/her/their own way.
When more independent writing begins, the teachers, since they know all the students extremely well, can intervene, support and help as needed. When you ask a math question for example and get answers from students, then ask them how they got to the answer, you will find so many different paths that children took to get to the correct answer or to an interesting answer. Sometimes, the unusual but inventive and lively path even to the “wrong” answer can be truly impressive!
In summary then, we hope not to lose gifted and talented students to the idea that if you cannot do “x, y, or z” by a certain age, that your ability to succeed academically is in danger. We know from experience that with the right kind of support, and with helping children do their best, all children can succeed in the way they need to.
Each child's progress is characterized thoroughly in parent-teacher conferences and in a written report at the end of each school year. We do not give grades unless asked to do so for Private High School applications or when children move to another school that requires them. We give children constructive and honest feedback on their work, always based on the premise that if the child is working to his/her/their fullest capacity, then that is excellent. It is the development of stamina, inner motivation, resilience, a love of learning that is important.
If a child for whom math is challenging, gets 13 out of 30 questions correct and was doing his/her/their best, then that is excellent. If a child for whom math is not challenging, gets 26 out of 30 because he/she/they were not doing his/her/their best, that is not excellent. It is then urgently important to find out why the child was not able to be at his/her/their best! That matters more than the outcome of the test.
A teacher of course is in the process of assessing how a child is experiencing the content of a class with every question the teacher asks, by seeing every look on a child’s face and with every answer a child gives. It is only in that way that a teacher can adjust, change, deepen, make more accessible to each child, the content the teacher is sharing. Any teacher worth his/her/their salt knows exactly how much a child is understanding or learning through observation.
Conventional testing of course is also introduced to students at the latest in the Middle School, so that they know how that looks and feels. However no conclusions are drawn about the future of a child based on such tests. They are a quick glimpse of how the child was able to answer under the circumstances of a test! It is the direct experience of the children in all the activities that they are engaged in at school that really matters. Knowing the child is what really matters, so that we can, as teachers, with great sensitivity and care, offer any support a student needs.
New Village students are engaged in the most varied activities during the days and weeks. Handwork, woodwork, math, singing, moving rocks, problem solving challenges, working individually, working in groups, working on projects alone, working in a group, doing theater, preparing for a concert...all the while being in or developing strong relationships with their peers, younger or older children and their teachers.
They are given the vocabulary to address conflict situations with their fellow students or teachers. They are supported by the teachers and can often at a very early age, address issues as they come up. If a child is doing something and you don’t like it, tell him/her/them kindly and clearly. We encourage and help develop the ability to speak without reproach but truthfully.
Often someone that you are having difficulties with has no idea that that is the case and it was not a deliberate act on their part. If they are not told, clearly but without reproach that you have a certain unpleasant response when something is done, then your counterpart cannot change his/her/their behavior!
- The practical work with wood, yarn, rocks, soil and so on
- The emotional work of learning how to live in a social group honestly and authentically
- The development of relationships
- The addressing of conflicts as they come up
- The rigorous demands on their intellect
- Their chances to interact with people from all over the world in the most varied of circumstances
….are just some of the ways that we give the students a chance to access and use their various intelligences.
All children can thrive at the New Village School even if he/she/they is not interested in relationships, getting to know the world, meeting people or doing any of the work we offer them to do. Sometimes a child just needs to be left alone until he/she/they is ready to interact and be open and active. However, it is not the school for all parents. Parents enjoy our school if they find importance in:
- Being out in nature like learning Astronomy under the stars
- Writing about themes that you truly care about
- Working with math, writing and reading at a pace that is healthy for each individual
Parents must be at peace with their child as a unique individual, but who, despite support, may need more time to learn certain skills. Or they can enjoy their child who is wonderful at math, but not yet so good at drawing or painting, and suddenly comes home with an incredible rendition of van Gogh’s Starry Night painting! Parents are happy if they know that it is healthy for their children to resonate with the world in a way that makes them feel buoyant and at home.
We like to have our classes to be at most 18 students. Some classes are smaller. 18 is a large enough group for children to have a good range of personalities in a class to relate to. We have one class per grade. On the practical level, since we go off campus regularly and have 9 seater vans, two of which are used for one grade, having a class of 18 is ideal. In the younger grades, when a child cannot sit in the front seat of our vans, we have three vehicles in action!
Parents, pre-covid and hopefully again, post covid, create the adult community around the children at the school. Conversations at drop off and pick with one another and with teachers were always a very enjoyable part of our life at school. Strong supportive relationships amongst the parents support strong supportive relationships amongst the students!
Monthly evenings allow for interactions between parents and teachers, as well as parent teacher conferences twice a year or as the need arises. Parents are engaged in events such as Auctions, Fund Raising Events of all kinds, Grandparents’ Day, the Winter Fair to name a few of our main ones.
They are not engaged in the classrooms, whereby if a class is in a Meteorology Block or are studying Aerodynamics and we have a pilot or an engineer in the community, then obviously we would ask that parent to join us for certain phases of the blocks where their level of expertise would be invaluable.
The Board consists of current and often former parents and two teacher representatives of the Management Team. There are ways to participate in such activities but only to the degree that the parent can remain healthy and happy doing so. The teachers of the school fully understand that parents have busy lives to lead and…children to look after!
Grade School Typical Day:
- School begins at 8.30 in the Big Circle. Arrival therefore early enough to be ready for the start of the day between 8:10-8:20am
- Two periods
- Snack ( 40 - 45 minutes) on a large field on the campus
- Two periods
- Lunch and recess ( 40-45 minutes) on the field
- Two periods
- End of classes: 3:10pm
- Clean up followed by a Circle to check in and make sure everyone understands any tasks they have been guided towards to do at home. (4th grade and up has a balanced amount of homework)
- End of day: 3:20pm
Kindergarten Typical Day:
- KG begins at 8:30, arrival therefore should be early enough to allow a child to settle and be ready for the start of the day between 8:10-8:20am
- All KGs join the older children for the time we call Morning Circle. They sit with their older friends and join in singing, conversations, stories. They love this time and look forward to it very much
- After circle: Movement or getting ready for soup and baking bread or tortillas
- Snack in the KG outdoor space
- Recess. The KGs are joined by their friends from the grades on a large field on the campus. (40 - 45 minutes)
- Activities, depending on the day, such as free play, painting, handwork, sweeping, woodwork, drawing, working in the garden
- On the off campus day, the children leave after snack to go to places such as Clipper Harbor or Schoonmaker Beach in Sausalito and stay for the day
- Lunch in the KG room
- Recess with their Grades friends
- Activities as mentioned above
- A story
- The day ends at 3:10pm
We live in a world where some fundamental things never change. Nature remains nature even though we have managed to damage so much, humans still have conflicts, still need to breathe, move and love. Children grow up, become more aware, or not as the case may be, we become adults if all goes well.
What is changing is how we live in the world, the technologies that we have continued to develop since the first stone that was thrown to kill an animal. We have always had the tendency to delegate the use of energy from ourselves onto other living beings or machines. We are doing that now to a degree that was impossible to imagine even a decade ago. With these changes that we have brought about, come changes in capabilities that children develop left to their own devices...as an idiom but also meant literally. So many are left not to but with their own devices! All of this has consequences.
At our school, we continually ask what capabilities do children fundamentally need in order to grow up into adults who can live well physically, emotionally, intellectually and even spiritually, in their presents and in their futures. What Zeitgeist is moving through our cultures and societies? What can we anticipate about the future our children are growing into? This question is extremely difficult to answer. The sudden onset of this current health situation demonstrates that clearly.
With all of that said, we, as a team of teachers, are constantly observing and asking these questions. We are adjusting, changing emphases, initiating, responding in the ways that the children in front of us at the moment, need us to. It would be neglectful and lazy of us as a school not to have been engaged in a constant creative metamorphosis over the years of being with children.
Tea Time, or afterschool care, is available every school day for children in kindergarten through 4th grade from 3:30-5:30 pm at $10/hr. Our Tea Time lead, Anna, will provide the children with a healthy snack and ample opportunities for outdoor activities (weather permitting).
A form is available if you know in advance which days in the month you would like your child(ren) to attend. You may contact Lori Grey, our Administrative Liaison, the day before or up to 12 noon the day of to place your child in Tea Time.
Any child in KG-4th grade who is not picked up at dismissal by 3:30 pm will be brought to Tea Time (located in and near the kindergarten classroom) by their last teacher of the day and billed accordingly.
We provide morning shuttle services for all San Francisco families who sign up. Our teachers drive our travel vans to Presidio at Stone St, San Francisco, CA 94129 every morning. They depart for school at 8:05 am. Booster seats are available if needed. The cost is $10/week whether you use the service 1 or 5 days/week.