Family School currently has two homerooms combining kindergarten and 1st graders, two homerooms combining 2nd and 3rd graders, and two combining 4th and 5th graders. A child who starts at Family School in kindergarten will usually have the same homeroom teacher for two years in a row, K-1, 2-3, and 4-5, allowing relationship and confidence building.
Multi-grade classrooms support the social and emotional development of students. Behavior problems are minimized, as older children have more experience with the rules and can model for younger children. Children learn to get along with and work with others of various ages. The atmosphere in Family School is relaxed and welcoming.
Multi-grade classrooms also support children’s academic development. The wide range of skills and abilities in a multi-grade classroom necessitate an individualized approach to education. The curriculum is open-ended and adaptable. Supported by skilled educators, children develop skills at a pace and timing fitting their individual development. Each child learns without comparing themselves to other students of their own age.
Reading may be taught in two, three or four different groups. Writing is usually taught to the entire class at once, with different expectations for different ages. For instance, everyone may write on the same topic, with 1st graders writing a few words or sentences and drawing a picture, while 3rd graders write a paragraph or two.
Math is the only class taught by grade level at Family School. When multi-grade classrooms were implemented at Family School in 1992, many students wanted to have a part of the day when they could be with all the other kids their own grade. Math was chosen because skills must be taught more sequentially than other subjects, and this fits with the 4j model of focusing on strong foundational skill development in the elementary years, with potential advancement starting in middle school. Teachers select programs allowing students at all skill levels to attain mastery, while also relating mathematics to other subjects.