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What is Desert Willow Family School?

Desert Willow family School is a hybrid program combining in-school and homeschool. Our students choose to attend either the 50% or 80% program.

Family School Program

Desert Willow Family School (DWFS)

DWFS is an alternative K-8 program offered by the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS). Students attend a public school program that combines a half-day or 80% of classroom instruction with a half-day or 20% of home-based instruction. This unique arrangement enables parents to take an active role in the education of their children. Students develop their own knowledge by actively engaging in problem-solving lessons and community activities.

DWFS’s multi-age, open-ended curriculum is designed to help students take responsibility for their learning process.

The program’s use of both the classroom and home environment encourages students to grow into self-initiating, life-long learners. The student curriculum is a rigorous, hands-on, integrated, self-directed approach to cooperative learning. Parents attend monthly classes designed to effectively share responsibility for assessing and educating their student(s).

What We Believe

We at DWFS believe that the active, intellectual engagement of teachers, parents, students, and the community is beneficial to all. When everyone is actively learning, students can achieve the highest level of intellectual development. The rigorous curriculum must work in conjunction with the individual student’s learning process to create the greatest level of knowledge and understanding of the world. Student evaluation is an ongoing process that focuses on all aspects of learning; therefore, students, parents, and teachers work together in the assessment process. Finally, we believe that, as a community of learners, our ability to change and grow is fundamental.

Our Students

  • Learn to work cooperatively as both leaders and co-learners, both at school and home
  • Work with different ages in multi-age classrooms
  • Develop into “interdependent” learners, knowing when to work independently and when to call on diverse academic resources, including schoolteachers and home-teachers

Our Parents

  • Commit to at least 10–15 hours per week of documented home instruction, with logs monitored by the classroom teacher
  • Provide transportation to and from school
  • Attend one or two hours of parent classes a month, taught at DWFS

Family School History

More than 20 years ago, in the basement of Monte Vista Elementary School, one teacher and six families launched an innovative educational program that has evolved into what we know today as Desert Willow Family School. From that basement classroom, Gael Keyes’ vision of integrative learning—in which teachers, students, and parents participate equally in the learning process—has grown and found a home in its current state-of-the-art, eco-friendly facility. Today, Family School’s unique combination of classroom- and home-based instruction provides both a curriculum and an educational philosophy to parents who want to actively participate in their children’s education.

Family School’s philosophy places critical thinking and problem solving at the core of its curriculum.

Critical thinking teaches students and parents how to learn, rather than simply what to learn. This approach asks students to question assumptions, consider different learning strategies, and determine whether a strategy suits a particular situation. Problem solving, particularly during group activities, teaches students how to approach a question and think through various ways of answering it. Focusing on these two methods of learning has allowed Desert Willow Family School to maintain one of the consistently highest educational ratings in the state.