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Curriculum Overview

Family School uses a unique curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking and nurturing of life-long learners. 

Critical Reframers

Critical Reframers are used throughout all subjects and grade levels at Family School.  Reframers represent a framework from which students approach problem solving and teachers approach instruction.  Reframers represent a common vocabulary and approach used throughout the school by teacher, parents and students.  As students or work groups develop an area of study, they are required to look at their assignment from different perspectives by “reframing” the questions, strategies, and issues associated with the specific area of study. 



The area of Inquiry is commonly referred to as the Scientific Method. At Family School, students are required to do inquiry projects periodically over the school year. The number of Inquiries required per student varies depending on the teacher. However, all inquiries share the following elements:

  • The students pick a question on any topic they may be wondering about.

  • The student uses critical reframers to pick a final “I wonder” question.

  • The student refers to any existing knowledge he or she may already know about the inquiry area and documents where their knowledge may be lacking.

  • Using observation only, the student develops a postulate to prove or disprove.

  • The student then designs a process to explore the inquiry question.

  • Finally, the student writes an analysis, with supporting data, charts, and graphs to answer the original questions.  Include in the analysis is a description of how the information learned might be used by various people.



Family School Math consists of the following units of study:

  • Anticounting

  • Addition 1

  • Addition 2

  • Subtraction

  • Multiplication

  • Division

  • Fractions 1

  • Fractions 2

  • Decimals/Percentages

  • Geometry

  • Algebra

1. At each level, manipulatives are used within the math unit as the student begins learning the specific concepts.  As the student gains experience with the concept, the use of manipulatives is phased out.

2. Mastery is assessed with a unit test on which the student must achieve a minimum of 85% accuracy.

3. Classroom math groups are made up of students who are working on the same skills rather than organized by grade level.

4. Math groups meet twice each week with the teacher for evaluating homework, instruction, and giving new assignments.

5. Math is frequently incorporated into Brainteaser, Workshop and Inquiry Projects.

6. A student who “passed” a level at the end of the school year will be reassessed at the beginning of the next school year for placement in a group.



At the beginning of the year, teachers meet with each student to assess their ability in the areas of vocabulary and comprehension.  Based upon this assessment, students are placed in Reading Journal groups that use the following progression:

Reading Journal Goals Overview:
Journal Name Grade Standard

Story Boards






Personal Commenting


Writing Technique


Critical Thinking






  • Reading Comprehension with the ability to extract pertinent information and details

  • Show organized thought with main ideas and supporting details

  • Demonstrate critical thinking

After initial assessments, students are grouped with children of comparable abilities for the school year regardless of their current grade.



Workshop is drawn from science and social studies standards based upon the range of grade levels within a classroom.  The teacher chooses a theme for the year (e.g. U.S. History, Physics and Simple Machines, Marine Biology, and Music) and designs group problem-solving and creative projects revolving around that theme.  

End results range from answering a question such as "Do we drink the same water the dinosaurs drank?" to student production of a video, brochure, or newsletter.



Brainteasers are designed to challenge students' thinking and help them approach a problem where they do not know the answer or even quite where to begin.  It is a part of the classroom curriculum in which students work in small groups or individually on math- or writing-based activities that engage students in deeper thinking.  Students learn to use multiple strategies to solve problems working with a group.  Brainteasers alternate between math and writing subject areas.


Spelling and Grammar

Instead of using traditional spelling lists or grammar lessons, students learn these areas through practical use through what is referred to as "Sophie Dictation" and "Sophie Letter" writing.  In the spirit of cross-curricular learning, dictation assignments and letters follow the classroom's yearlong theme.  Students further research the science theme or historical figure involved and incorporate this learning into the final product, while gaining spelling, grammar, and handwriting practice.