Optimal Learning

Numerous studies cite the importance of the learning environment on student achievement. They have found correlations between improved learning environments and behavior, motivation, learning, achievement, and overall well-being. It makes sense, really, that the more comfortable a child is, the more they will able to focus, engage, learn, and progress in school. The trouble most schools find in creating optimal learning environments is trying to find some middle ground that will appeal to a majority of students (the mythical “average”).
Practice: At Chrysalis we have the benefit of being able to find just the right environment for each student to capitalize on these benefits. We can factor multiple elements into the equation, including teacher/student personalities, time of day, length of day, noise or light sensitivity, 1-1 setting, group setting, peer groupings, and much more to create an optimal learning environment for each student. We can even adapt preferences for different subjects where students exhibit significant strengths, weaknesses, or preferences. In these first weeks of school we are gathering observations about students in a variety of contexts and micro-environments to ensure we’ve created the right program for your child, and may be making adjustments as necessary to ensure their success.

Encouraging well-being

The World Health Organization identifies health and well-being as crucial elements to academic performance and educational attainment. Beyond the absence of disease, this refers to physical safety, nutritional health, physical fitness, sleep hygiene, supportive relationships, and positive mental health. When any aspect of well-being is lacking, the ability to learn is compromised.
Practice: We know from experience that when a child is hungry, tired, upset, or lacking any other basic need, they are not ready to learn. As we start a new year, we ask for your help in assuring that your child is in peak learning condition when they come to school by: packing them enough food for the day or money for snacks, ensuring they get enough rest, keeping them home when ill, making sure they have their glasses or other supplies they need to be successful, and doing anything you can to make for a good day. We thank you in advance!

The Gift of Time

Research: Rebecca Givens Rolland laments that schools are racing through K-12 education these days, with policies that encourage children to cover more material in shorter amounts of time under expectations that are misaligned with natural child development. She argues, “This push, while well-intentioned, is counterproductive. Children need time to sit with a subject, to see mistakes not as humiliations, but as chances to learn.” What’s missing in this “need for speed” is an understanding of the nature of the learning process and proper encouragement to create lifelong learners.
Practice: At Chrysalis every student is allowed to learn at their own pace and in their own time. Since we don’t adhere to arbitrary standards we can create educational programs that meet each child where they are and allow them to progress when they’re developmentally ready. Our program allows children the extraordinary gift of time to flourish, learn deeply, and develop a love of learning.

Work smarter, not harder!

1.WorkSmarterNotHarderResearch: Studies show that traditional classrooms wield inefficient use of student time (Goodlad 1984, Godwin et al. 2013). Only 70 percent of a student’s time in such an environment is dedicated to instruction, while the other 30 percent is dedicated to routines, behavioral issues, and socialization. Within that 70 percent of the school day, instruction is geared to teaching the mythical “average student,” meaning that lessons must be presented broadly, practiced, assessed, corrective procedures put into place, and assessed again. After assessment the teacher moves on to the next lesson, with or without students who mastered the concept. This methodology serves a few students well, but students on either end are left either bored or frustrated and, ultimately, alienated.
Practice: At Chrysalis we try to work smarter, not harder, by offering classes one-on-one and in small groups. Smaller numbers allow us to track student easily, continually assess their progress, create meaningful assignments toward their goals, and achieve mastery. We ensure that every minute we have with a student counts because academia is just one part of a child’s world…there’s so much else to explore!

No Such Thing as Average

Research: Todd Rose of the Harvard Graduate School of Education recently presented a TEDx talk on the myth of the average child. When we assume that an “average” child exists, we assume that they have an average learning profile–that they are equally skilled or gifted in all areas. But in reality, all students have different strengths and weaknesses in many dimensions of learning and subject areas. Rose argues that teaching to the average destroys talent. By contrast, when we design learning environments for individuals we can see what they’re really capable of, nurture their individual potential, and let them soar.  Average

Practice: At Chrysalis we know that while a child may struggle in reading, they may also excel in science, math, art, or drama. They may struggle in art, but may enjoy computer programming or electronics. We are able to create schedules that allow students to develop their areas of challenge, while also spending larger quantities of time in their areas of strength to nurture and grow these areas to work toward their potential. We are the nurturers of individual potential!

A Little Respect!

Research: Sound Discipline of Seattle published a great article this week that asks us to re-think the notion of disrespect in scRespectAllhool and at home, distinguishing the concept of respect from that of obedience. They define obedience as “following the directions of an authority figure,” an act that is based in fear and results in compliance. By contrast, respect means “holding the other person in high regard” and considering their feelings, an act that is based in a cooperative relationship. In schools, they suggest that teachers and staff model self-regulation and respect, connect with students before asking anything of them/correcting them, and listen to their students. Click here for tips about how to practice respect at home.
Practice: We don’t believe that children choose to be disrespectful. So when we see behaviors that could be interpreted as such we dig down to find what’s really going on. Something must be off for such behaviors to flare. Is the student being stretched too far in some way? Academically? Socially? Physically? Emotionally? Does the student connect with their teacher or their peers? We gather teachers together or call team meetings to problem-solve such issues and can change the student’s program to meet their changing needs at any time. Respect is a fundamental aspect of our program.


CalmResearch: Eric Jensen argues that self-regulation is the number one executive function skill that kids need to be successful in school. Also termed grit, resilience, or perseverance, Jensen cites numerous studies that relate this skill to academic performance and educational achievement. Students who can regulate their emotions and behavior are simply more likely to succeed in school and in life.

Practice: Self-regulation can be taught by slowing down to consider student attitudes and choices in given circumstances. At Chrysalis we engage students in direct, honest conversations about their behavior–where it might be appropriate, where it might not, and how to make that decision. We look for teachable moments where we see students struggling with self-regulation and use that opportunity to drive lessons around behavior and promote positive interactions. We allow students the opportunity to fail and get back up in a caring environment where everyone makes mistakes and learns from them.



Spatial Reasoning

Spatial reasoning
Research: The Journal of Educational Psychology published a paper that links spatial reasoning to academic achievement in STEM-related subjects, particularly engineering and mathematics. Spatial reasoning refers to one’s ability to understand relationships among objects in space. It can be taught by maneuvering material through physical space, including activities that are generally linked to play—such as playing with blocks or Legos, knitting, doing puzzles, and playing games. The skills children build in these arenas (while not overtly related to STEM content) can actually improve their ability to perform in STEM-related subjects.

Practice: This evidence strengthens the importance we place on hands-on activities and play during the school day. While most schools refer to drama, art, design, geography, or PE as electives that are too easily eliminated from a student’s day, we recognize their importance and can easily incorporate them into a student’s schedule. Students have access to makerspace activities, puzzles, and games during their free time. While they aren’t directly working on STEM content, their brains are being prepared to do so in ways that they find rewarding and fun.

Think Deeply!

Research: Many curricWebula utilized in schools today focus on cramming a vast quantity of content into students’ heads with the expectation that they will not only know it, but also be able to evaluate, apply, and think critically about it—all on a high-pace timetable. More focus is placed on what they know than how they think, with a worrisome sense that our kids won’t “know everything” by the time they’re 18. Our founder, Karen Fogle, notes that it’s important to step back and realize that children aren’t going to learn everything. As such, trying to teach them more than they can process is a waste of time and energy. Instead, it’s more valuable to cover less material and have it be remembered than cover a lot of material and have it be forgotten. Students need time to process information and figure out where and how to store it, otherwise they will have no memory of learning it and certainly no ability to use it to solve problems. In today’s world, there is no lack of information and very little need to memorize facts when they are at your fingertips. What’s really valuable is knowing how to access resources to gather what you need to know and be able to think critically about what you discover.
Practice: At Chrysalis we value deep learning that requires complex thinking over shallow, superficial coverage of a subject. We place our focus on teaching the student, not solely the content, which allows us a great deal of flexibility in what we cover, how long we take, and the methods we use with each student. The content serves a a vehicle for larger lessons. Our students aren’t burdened by massive loads of reading and homework because we know just how much to give them to make their learning meaningful and challenging, without burning them out in the process.

Dignity in School

Research: Educator and author Tim Lucas argues that one of the most important ways to connect with students is to engage them through their dignity. Schools in general have become places where children’s dignity is constantly tested. It occurs in overt ways like peer bullying, but also in more subtle ways like the labeling of some students as lazy, disorganized, or dumb; grading systems that highlight weakness; and the failure to recognize individual needs in learning. But as Lucas argues, “Only students with a strong sense of their own dignity can grow up to be adults who can take risks, handle failures, and act to protect other people’s dignity.”
Practice: Many of our students have experienced a loss of dignity at some point in their school experience. We work to combat any damage that’s been done by re-framing the school environment from one that’s based in competition and rank to one that focuses on collaboration and community. We encourage positive behaviors at school by modeling them ourselves and encouraging positive relationships with students and one another. Our staff guide conversations, initiate discussions about the importance of respect when needed, and demonstrate empathy. We’ve seen amazing transformations as a result!