Scroll down to see our answers to some commonly asked questions.
Answers to practical questions are listed first, followed by answers to common educational questions. We are adding more questions to this as time goes on, so feel free to to contact us or check back later to see if your question has been answered.
Answers to commonly asked practical questions
How do I apply?
Our goal with enrollment is to attract families that appreciate and support our approach to education, value outdoor engagement, and are committed to joining our school community. In order to ensure a good fit for your family with our school, the first step in our application process is to attend one of our open houses or schedule a tour to learn more about what we do. Once you've attended an open house or tour, we will provide you with an application which is due Feb. 22. Your application will be considered complete when you've submitted the application, paid a nonrefundable application fee of $60, and submitted your income verification information. We will then contact you to schedule a family interview with one of our teachers. To learn more about the details of our enrollment process, please click here.
Is there a sibling discount?
Yes, we can offer a 5% discount for families with multiple children enrolled in the school.
Where is the school located?
Solid Ground School is located in the rolling hills of Millfield, Ohio on Solid Ground Farm. The school is about 10 minutes north of uptown Athens off of SR 550. To learn more about our grounds and facilities, please click here
Will there be busing?
We are not able to provide busing at this time. We encourage parents who live near one another to consider carpooling arrangements.
How are calamity days determined?
Solid Ground School will follow the Athens City School District with regards to school closings.
Can you give me more details about the clothing my children will need?
Because we believe that children benefit from playing outdoors in dirt and mud and from working freely with art supplies, we ask that children come to school in clothing they can get dirty. We also ask that your child be able to move freely and easily in their clothes and require that they wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes that are suitable for varied terrain.
As a nature-based program, we believe that “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” Children will spend time outdoors in all weather--rain, snow, or sun. On rainy days, your child will need waterproof boots, waterproof pants or overalls, and a waterproof jacket. In order to stay safe in cold weather, we require that children have fully waterproof boots, waterproof pants, a waterproof jacket, waterproof gloves, and a warm hat when the weather is 40 degrees F or below, even on dry days. We also ask that children wear wool, silk, or synthetic long underwear (not cotton), a mid-layer of wool or fleece, and wool socks in cold weather. You are welcome and encouraged to store your children's outwear and an extra sweater and pair of socks at the school during the week, taking them home to wash as you feel necessary. In warm weather, we recommend that you send your child in light, breathable clothing with a sunhat. Proper clothing is absolutely essential to your child's well-being and comfort and to the success of a nature-based program. We are happy to provide you with guidance on finding all-weather gear.
Answers to commonly asked questions about our educational experience.
What will a typical day look like?
A sample routine is available here. Much in the same way that creativity can flourish within constraints, young children thrive when they have freedom to create and explore within a predictable and nourishing daily rhythm. Our teachers thoughtfully structure the school day to integrate a variety of opportunities for learning and community-building throughout the children's day. We seek to provide the children with balance: of time spent focused on exploration and play, time spent on academics, and time spent developing social and emotional skills.
How does your curriculum work?
We follow an emergent curriculum, which allows teachers to create meaningful learning experiences based on what students are interested in and motivated to study. Emergent curriculum emphasizes project-based learning, learning through inquiry, problem-solving, and community values. To read more about how this works and see some examples of curricular projects, visit our curriculum page.
Will you teach my child to read, write, and do math?
Yes. Individualized reading, writing, and mathematics instruction will be woven into our daily routines, integrated into project work, and incorporated into the environment. Literacy, communication skills, math, and logical thinking skills are an important part of our curriculum.
Why is play so essential? What do children learn from play?
In play, children transform themselves into someone more than themselves--more confident, more creative, more daring, and more skilled--leading developmental theorist Lev Vygotsky to famously remark that "[i]n play a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behavior; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself."
For a child, play is powerful and serious work that lays a foundation for healthy development. Imaginary and pretend play builds a child's capacity for representation, a critical skill that underlies literacy, mathematical thinking, and art. Every time a child pretends that a stick is magic wand or their tower of blocks is a skyscraper, they are learning and practicing the skill of understanding that one thing can stand for another--a skill that is not just nice but is necessary for the development of symbolic thought. Play is also essential for healthy social and emotional development, giving children opportunities to learn to communicate effectively, mediate conflict, develop empathy, and practice self-control. Beyond the development of these critical "soft" skills, play represents a wellspring of creative and imaginative potential for the human spirit. All creative people play, and through their play, children develop their capacity for creativity and imagination.
How do children benefit from spending time outdoors in nature?
We believe that time in nature is essential for the human spirit and for developing a profound understanding of our interconnected world. Many of us have experienced firsthand the restorative and enlivening effects of spending time in nature. Children are incredibly perceptive and affected very keenly by their surroundings and as a result, experience many developmental, educational, and physical benefits from spending time in nature, such as:
- improved academic achievement in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies
- improved executive functioning and self-regulation
- improved focus and attention and a reduction in ADHD symptoms
- more creativity and problem-solving
- increased engagement and enthusiasm for learning
- fewer behavioral issues
- improved performance on fine and gross motor skills assessments
- improved sensory stimulation and sensory integration
- more empathy
- more independence
- more resilience
- healthier weight
- healthier vision development
- increased vitamin D levels
- less stress and anxiety and improved mental health
Given the many documented benefits to time spent in nature and our evolutionary history of developing in the outdoors, a better question might be: at what cost do we keep our children inside?
How does documentation, assessment, and testing work at your school?
Assessment and testing is an area that people often have very strong feelings about and we’re no different. We seek to move in the opposite direction of standardized testing and the measurement and evaluation of children, which research shows can undermine learning and motivation. Instead, we strive to be thoughtful in our assessment practices and to use them to promote learning rather than simply to evaluate it. To this end, our assessment practices will focus on communicating and promoting learning to the people who benefit most from it: the children themselves, their teachers, and their families. Our documentation process utilizes individual student portfolios, the documentation processes of Reggio Emilia, and Claire Warden's Talking and Thinking Floorbooks approach. These often include photos of children working on project work, samples of their work over time, transcriptions of their comments and conversations, and observations of children recorded by the teacher. These on-going consultative processes actively include children in their learning, give them opportunities for reflection and growth, and are used by teachers to plan individualized educational experiences that support learning for the unique children in their classroom. This approach allows for a child-led inquiry approach that can still be tracked back to state educational standards.
Why mixed age groups?
There are many benefits to mixed age groups. First, children are unique human beings who develop unevenly and at different rates. In a mixed age group, children can often find peers who are both ahead of and behind them in different domains of development, regardless of their age. For children who are advanced in some skills or domains, they will benefit from being around older kids who are at their level or even further advanced. Meanwhile, kids who are behind in certain skills will benefit both from learning with other peers at their skill and from the positive modeling other children can provide. Much like in a family or neighborhood environment, kids in mixed age groups can easily see and accept that there is a wide diversity of talent and ability, which can help bolster their sense of confidence.
Another educational concept that can be useful for thinking about the benefits of mixed age groupings is Lev Vygotsky's idea of the zone of proximal development. This zone is defined as the gap between what a child can do alone and what they're able to do in interaction with a more skilled peer or an adult. According to this theory, optimal learning happens in this zone as children are able to perform or participate beyond their individual ability with the support of a more-skilled peer or teacher. As an example of this process, imagine a child doing a puzzle. A child who is doing a puzzle with the help of an adult or skilled peer can complete a more difficult puzzle than they would be able to do if they were working entirely independently. According to Vygotsky's theory, the child learns skills from the experience of completing the more difficult puzzle with help and will later be able to to take on more challenging puzzles on their own. A mixed age environment gives children ample access to more skilled peers so that this process can happen naturally and frequently throughout the day as children play together and interact. More skilled peers also benefit from this type of interaction, as they are pushed to communicate and/or think through how they use a skill when working with their peer, which engages them in reflection on their learning and deepens their understanding of the skill or concept. Many teachers and parents have experienced the feeling that the best way to learn something well is to try and teach it to someone else. As the more skilled person is pushed to explain their thinking, they often discover gaps in their knowledge--valuable feedback about where to focus on learning more.
How will you support my child's social and emotional development?
One of the most important ways that children develop their social and emotional skills is through play. Cooperative and imaginary play supports children in developing empathy, impulse control, and communication and negotiation skills. It also allows them to take intellectual, creative, emotional, and physical risks. At Solid Ground School, we provide space and support for children's play to ensure that children have the time and freedom to blossom.
In addition to allowing children time to play, we also prioritize treating children with respect in our interactions with them. We believe that people deserve to be treated with respect and kindness—and children are people. This fundamental belief has wide ramifications that reverberate throughout our interactions with children and touches nearly every aspect of their educational experience. When children are treated with respect and empathy, they not only develop an image of themselves as someone worthy of respect and kindness, but they also develop their own capacity to treat others in kind. Of equal importance is our commitment to nurturing a respectful, supportive, and cooperative culture among students, teachers, and families in the school so that children can grow in the safety of a caring community.
We also believe in supporting children in developing important mindsets and orientations toward learning. For example, we support children in developing growth mindset, in developing perseverance, in taking risks, and in developing an image of themselves as competent and intelligent. To this end, we seek to provide opportunities for children to authentically experience themselves as capable, as curious, and as resilient.
Last, we support children in developing self-regulation skills and mindsight, or their ability to see inside their mind and understand their emotions and thoughts. We help children to learn these skills by using a common language to "name and tame" their emotions, by supporting them in developing awareness of their emotional state, and by collaborating with them to come up with individual and creative ways to bring themselves back to a regulated state.
Why is it important to support children in resolving their own conflicts?
Teaching children to resolve their own conflicts using conflict mediation strategies empowers children to learn and practice communicating effectively and respectfully with others. It helps children develop their ability to take another's perspective into account, gives them practice with problem-solving, and encourages them to communicate their needs assertively. This process empowers children to cooperate and work with others and teaches them crucial life skills that will impact them socially and academically for years to come. Each time an adult imposes a solution or solves a problem for children in conflict rather than supporting the children in solving it themselves, children miss a crucial opportunity to practice communication and problem-solving skills.
You mentioned risk-taking. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Being able to take risks is a critical part of healthy human development. It takes courage to show up in our lives, and children develop their sense of confidence, competence, and resilience from taking and learning to manage risks when they're young. Whether it's a creative endeavor, a bold idea, asking someone on a date, or taking on a physical challenge, some of the best things in life are inherently risky. In order to develop the confidence and wisdom they need to take appropriate risks, children need practice. At Solid Ground School, we support children in healthy risk-taking by encouraging them to experiment with new ideas and materials, teaching them to use real tools, letting them help build fires, and allowing them take on physical challenges they feel ready for. Teachers provide guidance by offering information as they're making decisions, helping them reflect on their choices, encouraging them to try new things, and helping them to discover that mistakes and failure are an expected part of the learning process. When children take on these challenges, they sometimes succeed and they sometimes fail, but with support, encouragement, and guidance, they come to discover that they are resilient. This process teaches them to assess risks and to weigh outcomes--and learn which risks are worth taking. In an age of increasing anxiety and fear, learning to manage risks helps children become confident, competent, and autonomous.