At Fireflies, our teaching philosophy is rooted in a developmentally appropriate approach to learning.
We sort our classes based on emotional and social peer to peer readiness, rather than chronological age for grade. This allows children to learn social skills appropriate for lifelong success in relationships without as much academic pressure and judgement.
In mixed-age classrooms, children are more likely to cooperate than compete. This spirit of cooperation and caring makes it possible for children to see each other as individuals as opposed to competitors.
Mixed-age classrooms generate a family of learners who support and care for one another. Older children have the opportunity to serve as mentors and take leadership roles. They model more sophisticated approaches to problem solving, helping younger children to accomplish tasks they would not be able to do independently. This dynamic increases the older child’s level of independence and competence while increasing the younger child’s spirit of belonging in a community of learners.
Each day at Fireflies begins with a morning meeting to center ourselves mentally for the day. We talk about identifying emotions, feelings, and how we intend to try our best to be mindful of our actions.
A firefly is a student who is aware of their emotions, their friends' emotions, and are learning skills for coping with feelings and interacting with peers as well as adults. Our teachers use four key words to redirect behavior that might be hurtful to others.
Students can earn FIRE tickets when a teacher observes these key words being displayed, and redeem them for a prize in the prize box.
Individualized Pace of Learning
We allow students to self pace the fundamentals of learning through math (individual work in the STEAM pillar of the curriculum) and reading (individual work in the literacy pillar of the curriculum). STEAM projects, Art/drama/music, Life skills/culture/progressive continue to be taught and worked through as a whole group, as well as in small group work.
Our teachers tailor instruction for each student, rather than setting the instruction pace for a whole group. This is a striking difference from traditional education in which, for example,every child is expected to master the same concept at the same time as their peers. By teaching to the student’s individual academic readiness and abilities, rather than the assumptions of what their chronological age can handle, we help the student progress at their own pace. They can progress more quickly in the areas that come naturally to them, and with a better understanding of the material. In contrast, students can take their time without competition. If a student is not progressing and the teacher becomes concerned, the parent and teacher can address the issue and discuss further resources to help the child succeed.
We conduct regular assessment checkpoints to ensure progression and improvement, but no standardized group testing.
We also believe that after a full day of school work, time with family, extracurricular activities, and free time is critical to a balanced childhood. We strongly recommend free choice reading for at least 20 minutes before bed. There will occasionally be exceptions if there is a group project being worked on.
Year-round schooling means that students do not fall victim to the “summer slide”; the well-documented phenomenon where students unlearn some of the knowledge they worked so hard to attain when too much consecutive time is taken off from school.
Studies have found that students lose about 27 percent more of their learning gains in the summer months than their peers.
Teachers and students experience a closer relationship in year-round schools than they do in traditional, shorter-calendar-year schools.