Before a curriculum is set, goals must be established. At Fayette our goal for each student and teacher is to awaken integrated intelligence. By that we mean to have both brain hemispheres, both eyes, both ears, left and right side of the body, top and bottom of the body working together while in motion, or thought, while in a group or alone. After establishing teacher’s and child’s dominance profiles, e.g. preferred ear, eye, hand and hemisphere, we use simple playful activities to balance the various systems. Bouncing balls, tumbling, walking on balance beams while counting numbers, and similar programs lead toward wholeness. If a student has trouble learning to read or master multiplication facts, more time is spent in the studio, not simply pounding letters and numbers.
Our students, ages six through fourteen, are divided into three multi-age classes based on levels of neurological development. The curriculum is constructed to match the different ages. Piaget was correct when he stated that children are not simply little adults. They actually perceive the world in different ways at different ages.
Our youngest students, the Minis, ages six through nine, spend more time in play and integrative games than the older ones. A strong foundation makes for later academic ease and success. In the classroom jigsaw puzzles, logic games, boxes of crayons and counting blocks dominate the room. The first goal is to establish a group of young ones who can sit still, listen to a story and color. After such control, the further developpment is merely a matter of time and focus.
The Minis work on writing, language arts, reading and simple math operations. Each works at his/her own level and pace. Often two or three teachers attend to ten Minis, watching for times of explosive progress, or needed review and reinforcement. When ready to move on from the Mini class, students have developed the skill to control body and mind, get along with others, and are well launched in the 3 Rs.
Munchkins are those students ages eight to eleven. The curriculum supports their need to increase their proficiency with words and numbers. Mathematics is anchored on mastery of flash card facts and continues into the theories of fraction and decimal numbers. Reading, writing, and a good dose of grammar, solidify their literacy. Science, geography and history are approached in an integrated manner. ****
Our oldest students are the Bigs, age ten through fourteen. Their rigorous curriculum prepares them for higher education. Seminar lecture-discussion sessions on history and world religions; worksheets, created in house, present chemistry and physics; study of three languages, Latin, Greek, and Chinese; Algebra, geometry and a touch of trig, create a confidence and proficiency for advanced education. Poetry, a Shakespeare play, singing, art, yoga add breadth to the curriculum.
Since the Bigs are a multi-aged group, religion, history, Shakespeare, and science are taught in four year cycles. Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and Hinduism are discussed as we read from sacred text. Civil War – Civil Rights, Life and times of Churchill, Ancient Civilizations, and China’s dynasties and Mao’s life and times are the cycle of history. Two years of Chemistry, organic and inorganic, and two years of Physics, kinematics and waves, present a foundation for all future science classes.
Every day cycles through periods of academic focus alternated with breaks for food, chats with friends and physical activity. We play every day, soccer and baseball, are the sports filling most of our time. We swing and climb in the large elm that dominates the school grounds.
Most schools have a gauntlet of exams around the Christmas holidays and at the very end of the year, not particularly efficacious times for such examinations. After interacting with children’s natural rhythms for several years we settled into the pattern of academic activity and change of focus that we still use. The first ten weeks of the year are devoted to integrating new students in the classes and working at 80% of maximum effort. During the next seven weeks we spend no time on academics. Parents take over classes for a week of projects as varied as pottery, poetry and cooking in the classroom. We all enjoy a week’s vacation for Thanksgiving. Our return brings three weeks of crafts and singing Holiday songs, followed by two weeks of vacation. For new parents this academic hiatus is a leap of faith, for the students it provides a strengthening of their neurology, a break from the three R’s and of course, much fun. We are all now primed for the HNW, the Hard Nine Weeks, where students and teacher work at slightly over maximum capacity. Another Parents’ Week and Spring Break lead to the final ten weeks of the school year, when work slowly tapers off and hours of baseball increase. This rhythm optimizes learning and leaves each student with a memory of a great school year.
Our curriculum and community assist young scholar-citizens to better know themselves, interact in harmony with others, and become ever more grounded in successful strategies for future academic achievement and joy of life.