Why is state approval important? Legally, all school-aged children must be enrolled in a state-approved program. Stillpoint School is currently the only private elementary school on San Juan Island, and one of only two private school options on the island. The other school, Spring Street International School, serves middle and high school students. To be state-approved, private schools must pass health and fire safety inspections, follow all applicable laws and RCW codes of the State of Washington, offer a program that is developmentally and age appropriate, and file annual reports with the state. State approval is essential for parents who want their child or children to be enrolled in a program that meets the standards set forth by the Department of Education in Washington state.
What is continuous enrollment? Stillpoint School is a continuous enrollment school. For the convenience of our families and for continuity in our school learning environment, once students are enrolled at Stillpoint School, they are automatically welcomed back each year provided that students are succeeding academically and socially and that tuition is current. Families who need to make an educational change for an upcoming school year may withdraw their student in writing by July 1. Otherwise, students will remain enrolled at Stillpoint School through the essential culminating 6th grade Graduating year.
Why is the 6th grade Graduating year so important? Graduating from Stillpoint School is the culmination of the Stillpoint experience. Our 6th grade Graduates receive Diplomas at our Graduation Ceremony on the last day of school, demonstrating successful completion of the academic goals and objectives of our state-approved program. Our challenging 6th grade program ensures that our Graduates are very well prepared for their future and make an excellent transition to the middle school setting. We form lasting bonds with our Graduates and remain connected with them throughout their lives.
Do you welcome volunteers? YES! We warmly welcome family and community volunteers. We are actively seeking positive, caring, dedicated individuals who love children and would enjoy working one-on-one, with small groups, or with our whole group. We have volunteer positions available in all subject areas and in "special" subjects, including Art, French, and Music. If you would love to come volunteer at Stillpoint School, we will be thrilled to find the perfect place for you!!
Which Math program do you use? We use Singapore Math, a top-ranked Math program widely recognized as one of the best Math programs in the world. Our Math curriculum is individualized for every student and includes the use of hands-on manipulatives, Math games, Math volunteers, and high-quality supporting materials to create a highly successful Math experience for every student.
Do you teach a Foreign Language? Yes! We introduce our students to French, a beautiful language which offers many benefits to English-speaking students. French is a vowel-based language, with many ties to English and other foreign languages. This makes it a perfect language to introduce to students at a young age. French is also an excellent language to learn in the San Juan Islands, due to our close proximity to Canada and French-speaking provinces. We also introduce students to ASL (American Sign Language), an amazing visual language which allows our students to experience a beautiful and expressive form of communication and to appreciate the Deaf culture and community.
What are your school hours? Our school hours are from 8am to 2:30pm, Monday through Friday. School is dismissed at 11am on half days.
What are your class sizes? Our class sizes are very small-- between 2 to 5 students per grade level-- for students who learn best with a low teacher-to- student ratio.
Do you offer a full-day Kindergarten program? Yes. Our full-day Kindergarten program is only offered to families committed to enrolling their student(s) for our full K-6 program. Our full-day Kindergarten is a developmental program that prepares students to succeed in 1st-6th grade at Stillpoint School. We do not offer Kindergarten for parents wishing to enroll solely for one year, as our program is highly academic and developmental and will not coincide with other educational programs. In general, it is most successful if Kindergarten students are 5 years old by August 31 or are 6 years old when entering.
Stillpoint School's full-day Kindergarten program provides significant benefits to our Kindergarten students. The extra time our Kindergartners spend at school allows us to provide many more learning opportunities, address individual students’ needs, spend more time on the curriculum instead of rushing each day, and providing more time for hands-on projects and learning. Recent research has indicated that quality full-day Kindergarten programs result in greater progress and success for children socially, academically, and emotionally than half-day programs.
What does "brain-friendly" or "brain-based" learning mean at Stillpoint? Brain-based learning means that we intentionally use teaching strategies that are based on our current understanding of how the brain works. When we teach the way the brain learns, we find that the learning process is much more effective and successful for students and teachers. We see significant progress in students' learning, academic confidence, and success levels by applying our current knowledge of the brain's systems and processes to education.
What type of students do well at Stillpoint School? We welcome students who love learning and have curiosity. Our students tend to be independent workers who are internally motivated and enjoy identifying and solving problems. We also look for creative thinkers who work well in small-group situations, as our grade levels are flexible and we do many whole school projects along with grade-specific learning projects.
What type of parents does Stillpoint School seek? Stillpoint School parents are positive, supportive, and enthusiastic. Stillpoint parents are excited about the opportunity for their child to learn in a caring, small school atmosphere. We warmly welcome parent input, and encourage volunteer activities from parents, families, friends, and the community. Volunteering is not a requirement at Stillpoint School because we recognize that many parents cannot make that commitment, but we welcome any and all positive participation in Stillpoint School.
What is your discipline policy? As a classroom community, we begin the year by choosing rules that we all agree are fair and will help us work cooperatively together throughout the school year. With ownership in deciding our classroom rules, we find that students rarely misbehave because they helped create the rules and have agreed that they are fair. When students are disruptive or when misbehavior occurs, we use an approach similar to Love and Logic to handle the problem. We hold students accountable for their behavior and begin by asking how they would like to solve the problem they created. Then we encourage ideas for solving the problem, or suggest different approaches if a student needs help thinking of solutions. Although we encourage students to solve their own problems, we provide plenty of support so that students can successfully handle a situation and learn from it.
Whenever possible, we try to discover what is behind misbehavior (for instance, a student is feeling left out, or an event happened outside of school) to find the root of the problem instead of simply dealing with the surface. This eliminates repeated or chronic misbehavior. And, of course, we use humor! Humor helps students realize that problems are a part of life, meaning that one’s response to the problem is more important in the long term than the actual problem. This philosophy provides students with tools to be effective lifelong problem solvers.
What are examples of your classroom rules? While the wording of our rules will change from year to year as students provide important input into our school rules, a few basic ideas always surface. First, we use kindness at all times, and recognize that we all want to learn in a safe, clean, enjoyable environment. We are a community of learners, and we make it our goal to maintain a cooperative and caring climate that values everyone. These basic concepts are always reflected in our school rules.
Respect is critical, but it must be earned, not demanded. We all respect each other equally, and we also respect ourselves, our materials, and our building. Often we use a Love and Logic concept as our overall motto: you can do anything you want as long as it doesn’t cause a problem for yourself or anyone else. (It’s harder to do that than it sounds!) We model the behavior we want to see by respecting and caring for each other, our materials and building, and ourselves. Finally, we always have general rules about listening when others are talking and making sure we use words to solve problems– familiar rules that mean much more when we all write them together, as a small community of learners.
Will my child have to take standardized tests? No. Private schools are not required to administer high-stakes standardized tests, which allows us to use all of our classroom time engaged in effective teaching and active learning instead of focusing our curriculum on a standardized test. We teach to the learners, not to the test.
Without standardized testing, how do you assess students? We use authentic assessment, which measures student gains over a period of time in a variety of ways that go above and beyond traditional testing. Portfolios are an excellent example of authentic assessment. We collect student work at different points throughout the school year, such as writing samples or completed projects, and at designated times throughout the year we evaluate the portfolios and students are encouraged to share them. We can clearly see monthly progress as our students’ knowledge and skills increase, and students find portfolios of their work to be much more meaningful than a high- stress, high-stakes test. We also provide rubrics for projects prior to assigning them, so students know how they will be graded and how their projects will be evaluated. Overall, we strive to make our assessments low-stress, personalized, and even fun for students to complete. After all, our goal is to promote a love of learning, and we have found that testing often kills the joy of learning.
Do you use phonics to teach reading? We use a combination of phonics and whole language to teach reading. Although the educational pendulum swings dramatically between “whole language” and “phonics” approaches to teaching reading, our experience has taught us that most students learn best through a combination of both. The key is context, which is our main focus as we teach students to read. Without context, language is meaningless, and so are any strategies for teaching reading! We believe that both approaches to teaching reading complement each other, and with dedication and patience, every student will learn to read fluently and for the joy of reading.
Public schools across the nation are eliminating recess. Do you believe in recess? YES! As a brain-friendly school, we know the research supporting the value of recess as a time for mental processing. We’ve learned through brain research workshops that the brain can only handle a certain amount of new information at one time. Studies show that students can handle a greater percentage of new information in a given day and will gain a deeper understanding of that information when they are given time to absorb knowledge. This process happens unconsciously but is extremely valuable for learning and retaining information. Recess is a built-in “down time” for the brain. Recess, like the arts, is critical!
What is your policy on computers / technology? We believe in technology, computers, and similar instructional tools– at the appropriate developmental age. We are squarely in the Information Age. Computers and technology have vastly increased our ability to communicate and gather information. We recognize the enormous impact technology has had and will continue to have on teaching, learning, and education in general. In fact, our Master’s Degrees are in Instructional Technology, a field which is constantly growing. We believe in teaching students how to responsibly use computers and technology, recognizing that they can offer tremendous benefits but can also be misused.
As a brain-friendly school, we advocate a limited-to-zero computers policy for students under 8 years of age. Between the ages of 0-8, students’ brains and eyes are not fully developed or prepared for computer screens and other similar technology. Research indicates that computers can be damaging to brain development before the age of 8. Nevertheless, computers are extremely useful tools, and we fully support them once students are developmentally ready. We wait to introduce technology at appropriate developmental ages, and teach students at those ages how to make the most of technology while learning to use it responsibly and safely.
What is your policy on observations during school hours? We intentionally maintain small class sizes to provide a high level of individualization for the success of our students. As our school is a small close-knit family, observations during school hours disrupt the essential flow of learning and distract from our mission to provide a safe, focused academic experience for each student. Instead of observations, we welcome scheduled school tours after school hours. Additionally, we welcome community connections and volunteers! Please contact us if you would like to volunteer at our school or bring a special opportunity to enrich our students and our environment!