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|Why TCS is our #1 Choice|
As a parent and clinical psychologist, I chose The Children’s School for my children because of the unique academic and socio-emotional curriculum it provides to children of all ages. The educational philosophy of TCS is holistic, in that it fosters child development in multiple domains: academic/cognitive, social, emotional, and physical.
Movement, language, music, arts, science, and creativity are heavily sprinkled across subjects, and children learn in multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary ways throughout the day.
Central tenets of the TCS academic approach are kinesthetic, holistic, applied, and socratic teaching methods. This means that children actually learn reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies, history, geography, music, and art by asking, doing, and producing – and not by passive listening or copying. Individuality is honored, as is teamwork via small group projects in all facets of learning. Moreover, it is the process that is highly valued and fostered, and not just the final product.
This exceptional teaching approach is vital to children learning and achieving via intrinsic motivation, cooperation, curiosity, exploration, self-generated questions and interests, and initiation – all of which lend themselves to establishing a solid foundation of healthy emotional, cognitive, and social development, and high self-esteem.
The warmth and nurturance that the teachers, staff, and administrative faculty consistently provide to the children is phenomenal, and the small student to teacher ratio enables each teacher to know the child, challenge the child, and work with the child individually and at his/her developmental level in multiple ways throughout the day.
TCS fosters a superior platform for children of all ages, abilities, and interests to simply thrive – in the present and for the future. For our family, we could not have made a better choice…. Thank You TCS!
Azmaira H. Maker, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
|The Case for Child-Centered Active Learning: A Neurobiologist's Perspective|
For most people, reading a recipe or a text on brain surgery confers little benefit to performance of the task. Rather, we learn these things best by doing them. Through active engagement, we acquire an understanding of time and space, we learn the meaning and utility of tools and materials, we develop an appreciation for the value of measurement, we internalize and apply concepts of logic, causality and interaction, and we attain the ability to make wise decisions and accurate predictions about the consequences of our actions.
We measure, mix and fold, poke and press, cut, paste, add, subtract, smooth, measure some more, evaluate our hypotheses, debate the alternatives, and consider the products of our labor. And each time we do it better than before.
Most adults understand the value of active learning, at least implicitly, and it is richly incorporated in our lives. We become “interns” at tasks as broad ranging as skiing, negotiating international peace treaties, practicing medicine, and designing aeroplanes. But when it comes to teaching our children, we have long followed the reigning philosophy of mass education, in which the mind of the child is viewed as an empty vessel filled with knowledge by recitation of facts. We read our children the recipe and measure learning by their ability to repeat it back to us, without ever giving them the opportunity to bake the cake.
One might thus reasonably ask whether there is something to be gained by adopting a more active approach to childhood education. Intuition and adult experience would suggest that there is, but we can now document and supplement this view with findings from the fields of cognitive science and neurobiology. Studies of cognitive development have discredited the widely-held view that children possess a generalized intelligence that can be filled like pumping gas into the car. On the contrary, children possess many different intellectual capacities – e.g. spatial, linguistic, logical, social – that are best developed through action and problem solving in an environment tuned to each individual’s intellectual strengths.
Neurobiology also speaks to the issue of active learning. There is abundant evidence that richness of the sensory-motor environment – an environment that encourages active exploration and hypothesis testing – during critical periods of development is correlated with the strength and selectivity of connections between neurons in the brain. This early experience-based sculpting of brain circuitry is believed to lay the groundwork for further cognitive development and may be manifested throughout life as greater capacities for skill learning, problem solving, creativity and social intelligence – capacities that are at the heart of valued professions in our society today.
The larger picture that emerges from this research is thus one in which the developing mind is naturally acquisitive, configured by evolutionary pressures to function optimally when actively collecting, storing and recalling information, planning actions and testing predictions about the world. This optimal state, in turn, serves to fine-tune the neuronal hardware to promote learning. Despite these arguments and facts, early childhood educational practices that are deeply rooted in active learning – that attempt to fully engage each child according to his/her intellectual proclivities – are rare. Part of this is simply short-sighted economics; it takes less time and effort to lecture, and there is less to clean up at the end of the day. But it is also true that educational practices that defy the 20th century norm – the passive learning approach that most of us grew-up with – are often greeted with skepticism and apprehension. Furthermore, the standard measures of success in childhood education – the ubiquitous tests of rote memory dictated by the state curriculum (and infamously reinforced by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001) – are pitched to capture that learned by the standard passive approach, not the multiple intellectual capacities of the engaged child. In other words, the standard approach is not merely limiting, it is self-fulfilling.
We all wish our sons and daughters to succeed – not simply in the narrow guise of top scores on a standardized test, but to face the world with brilliance and confidence, to design and create, to understand and fulfill the needs of individuals and societies, to broker, to discover, to win, and to lead. As we gain increasing knowledge of brain and cognitive development, the promise of such broad intellectual mastery offered by child-centered active learning has become evermore clear.
Professor of Neurobiology at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
|The Hallmark of TCS|
TCS is a thriving community where the curriculum and social environment empowers students to lead happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.
Having taught at the University of North Carolina, the American Film Institute and SDSU for over 20 years, I have seen firsthand how critical it is for students to learn academic, social and life skills during their formative years in order to succeed as they transition into professional careers. These life lessons, combined with a strong multidisciplinary curriculum, are the hallmark of TCS.
Steven Salvador Montal
Current TCS Parent
Faculty, San Diego State University
CEO, Caucho Technology, Inc.
|What Parent Could Wish for More?|
We chose The Children's School for our son nine years ago (our daughter followed a year later). There was no question in our minds that the educational theory behind the program made sense. Children learn best when they are active participants. Well, of course.
It not only makes pedagogical sense, but it makes practical, “this-is-what-you-experience-every-day-when-you’re-a-parent” sense. What we’ve found though, is that by sending our children to a school guided by this educational theory, learning and discovery have remained for them a natural part of their daily lives.
We chose The Children’s School not just because their philosophy matched ours, not just because we felt both the academic and social curriculums to be rich and meaningful, and not just because TCS rejects the commonplace assumption that testing a child into a coma will somehow make him smarter or more successful. We chose The Children’s School because of the students we met there. They were funny; they were confident. They had things to say, and they said them. They were interesting. And they were smart: scary smart. They spoke about their education and their school as if it were precisely that – theirs. And it was. And so it is for our son and daughter. It is their education, their learning, their lives. And they have become those children we met nine years ago – they are smart, articulate, knowledgeable and interested. (All these things and they score incredibly well on standardized tests, too!) They don’t see education as something apart from themselves. They don’t see the learning process as something they have to do. To them, it’s life – a life of asking questions, a lifetime of learning new things. It’s part of them. And it’s something that will stay with them as they continue their education. From technology to the arts, from the classics to cutting-edge theorists, our children have been given the tools, the skills and the knowledge to become whomever and whatever they’d like to become. What parent could wish for more than that?
Simon and Kira
|A Beloved Partner in Our Son's Learning|
I have three observations about Ellen that I believe are worth sharing – her excellence as a teacher, particularly in developing young readers and fostering intellectual curiosity; her attentiveness to her students, both as individuals and how they function collectively; and her interactions with parents.
As an educator, Ellen is outstanding. She has a true gift for teaching and has shared her love of books with every child in her classroom, inspiring each of them to be lifelong readers. Ellen has challenged her students with reading marathons, daily homework assignments, "reading the room" activities and encouraging parents to donate books to the classroom. She has introduced reading as both a skill to be mastered and a hobby to be enjoyed. In my opinion, there's no greater task for a child than to learn to read – not just functionally putting letters together to form words, but to understand the meaning of those words and the intent of the author. When my son reads a page of a book, he is able to articulate the thoughts and ideas he just read and derive implication in the words and the pictures that accompany the text. He sees reading as an accomplishment to be proud of – not just a task to complete on his "have to" list.
Likewise, Ellen promotes intellectual curiosity and confidence in her classroom. She encourages her students to seek the answers to their questions and not fear being wrong. Beyond achieving academic milestones, my son is learning to think – a skill few adults ever master. With Ellen, my son is receiving a mixture of technical knowledge (the three R's) and introduction to critical thought. My son is willing to share and defend his opinions with others AND admit when he's wrong. To me, those abilities are the foundation of a thoughtful life.
Since my son was an infant in daycare, I have always asked his teachers the same two questions: "Do you know my son?" and "Do you like my son?" Looking back on my own childhood, I can remember the teachers who never bothered to know me and certainly never showed any affinity toward their students. For us adults, it's important to spend our work day in the company of those who care for us and regard us positively. I'm sure it's even more important for children. Their worlds are so much smaller than ours, and the authority figures in their lives seem so all-powerful, it's very important to me that my sons' teachers know and appreciate them. At the first parent-teacher conference of the year, it was apparent that Ellen already knew my son well. She knew his strengths, weaknesses, motivations and personality. She described him in considerable detail and even added bits about his character that I had never noticed. When I asked her, "do you like my son?" Ellen didn't just say "yes". She was able to tell me what she liked about him and gave examples of times when they'd shared a special connection. Since that meeting, I have had several conversations with Ellen that demonstrate to me that she's paying attention to my son and genuinely cares about his well-being. I have seen the same interaction with Ellen and nearly every other parent in the class room. Her fondness for her students touches every element of the school day. My son learns better, because he trusts his teacher and knows that she cares about him. His time in school and relationships with authority figures will be positively influenced by this relationship. Just imagine how different the world would be if every child began their schooling with a teacher who believed in them!
Finally, I am continually amazed at Ellen's ability to juggle the balance of being both teacher and parent at The Children's School. Seemingly without effort, she has maintained the appropriate professional boundaries between parent and teacher while at the same time participating in play-dates, birthday parties and social events. I have seen her manage very difficult personalities with grace and tact, then turn around and mingle with those same parents at a kids' event. She is appropriately in control of her classroom, setting good limits with parents and gently enforcing school rules. Ellen is approachable, friendly and fun to be around without blurring roles, something that can't be easy given that she has a daughter in the same grade.
I have been delighted by the quality of education my son has received from Ellen. With her guidance, he is growing to be thoughtful, hard working and curious. She is a beloved partner in our son's learning.
|It Was the Process|
I just got back from an amazing math presentation by a First Grade teacher, a Kindergarten teacher, and a Third Grade teacher this morning - they are in the second year of a three year math training program called CGI. For those of you who couldn't make it, I was so blown away that I feel compelled to share how the presentation helped me remember what I love about The Children's School.
It reminded me that there are teachers there who care so much, who are so talented, and who are spending so much time and energy training themselves to do the incredible job they do every day with our kids.
The presentation, like the education at TCS at its best, was hands on - we were asked to do an equation just as the kids would be asked to do it. Suddenly, by doing it, we got it, in a way we wouldn't just by being lectured by the principles of CGI. Actually, what I got first were genuine hot flashes, my discomfort level with math being off the charts. Flushed and uncomfortable, I sat there trying to write out my thinking process but I completely blocked and couldn't do it! Thank you conventional algorithmic education!
Then, as a group, we looked at how several people solved the problem, and I had an aha moment as I looked on the screen: Oh yes, of course, that makes sense, I would do it like that next time (sharing an uneven number of cookies among friends - notice the problem is about cookies, not trains - that's important, because CGI is about doing math that has some meaning for the kids). Looking at what others had done, it took about two minutes for me to get it. Two minutes! And I know it would be the same for our kids. An unbelievable video of two kindergartners doing the same spoke volumes.
No hours spent staring at abstract numbers that make no sense until they dance in front of one's eyes, unable to see or think, forbidden to talk with one's neighbor to help figure it out, and certainly not encouraged to think about different ways to solve the problems. I am SO grateful my son will never have to go through that! That he will be guided, with a sense of fun and exploration to discover, on his own, then with the help of his friends, how to solve a problem, and always - this is the important part - that there is no one way to solve the problem.
Driving home it hit me, why this simple presentation was so moving... it was the process. I thought, going in, that CGI was a new way of doing of math.
But it's not. No notebooks, no special steps to solve equations. It's a way of thinking. And by extension, a way of approaching everything, all sorts of problems, not just math problems. Working alone, trying out different approaches, brainstorming, seeing if there's a way, or two, or three, or four, to approach something that makes sense. Bouncing ideas off other people, getting feedback on your own ideas, getting new ideas from your peers. Finally, sharing the solutions with the group, and seeing what makes sense to you, individually.
Young people who are being encouraged to think this way are being given the greatest gift of education. They are not being taught what to think, but how to think, and even more importantly, that there is never only one way, or one right way to think. This obviously goes way beyond math. Imagine, with these critical thinking skills, how our kids are going to approach individual challenges, and also challenges for the world - political, environmental, and social challenges. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I have no doubt what they are learning in math is going to help them with all of that! I was so filled with hope after that presentation, and gratitude that my son is in an environment where there are such inspired teachers guiding him every day. The work those teachers are doing is so incredibly important and meaningful. And if you couldn't make it, when you get a chance, ask them about CGI, it's fascinating. Who would have thought I'd ever say that about MATH!
Ph.D. Film and Media Studies, UCLA
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