Four-Day Week & Shorter Days
All students at Arborbrook in grades K-12 have a four-day week with no school on Fridays. Fridays are used for: outdoor education days (high school graduation requirement), field trips (approximately 1 parent-led field trip planned each month as well as 2 per year per class that relate to the curriculum in that class), at-home study time to work on projects and papers, sports and drama practices, time to pursue other interests, and more. Our hours are 8:45-2:20 for K-6 (drop off at 8:30 and pick up until 2:45), 8:45-2:45 for grades 7-8, and 8:30-2:45 for high school.
Students in grades K-8 have nature study class at least one period per week and work in the gardens, cultivating edible plants and also cultivating a sense of wonder and worship of our Creator. Students in high school have the opportunity to take a Permaculture elective and plan the school gardenscape. Teachers in all grades are encouraged to bring their students outdoors as much as possible. We have longer recesses in the younger grades, and we eat outside almost all year long (aside from a few very cold weeks in February or on rainy days).
Gradual Introduction of Technology
We purposefully do not introduce technology in grades K-6 so that students may focus on time outdoors, time spent with one another, and time reading books, without the lure and distraction that technology provides. We want students to learn to be entertained by what is true and beautiful, not merely by what is bright and shiny. Starting in grades 7-8, students use school-owned iPads and we are working towards a 1:1 program in those grades once funding is in place. In high school, students purchase a MacBook which they use for all four years of high school and also take a technology course one day a week for two years. We have also begun using Google Classroom and students in grades 7-12 are given Arborbrook email addresses.
Milestone Memories & Special Trips
In grades 3, 6, and 8- there are special “milestone memories” trips that students look forward to that represent a celebration of a milestone in that child’s life. We chose those grades because they are the end of primary and start of intermediate grades, the end of elementary school and the start of junior high, and the end of junior high and the start of high school. Third graders and their parents spend the night at the zoo, sixth graders and their parents go to Great Wolf Lodge (an indoor waterpark), and eighth graders (with a few parent and staff chaperones) go to Camp Lurecrest overnight in the mountains. We also do a yearly two-night, three-day trip to Fort Caswell (beach/estuary) with our 7th-8th graders for a hands-on science experience, and to Windy Gap or Crowders Ridge with our high schoolers for a time of bonding and enjoying the great outdoors. In addition, our junior high students go once every other year to Washington, D.C. to complement their history study. Also, all families are invited on a yearly trip to the Creeper Trail in September, a 17-mile, downhill “rails to trails” bike path in Virginia.
Daily Alpha & Omega Time
Students in grades K-6 start and end every day with worship and Bible study. We have a school-wide 10-minute Assembly every morning for our K-6 students (junior and senior high students attend on Thursdays which run 30-minutes) which includes a short lesson and time of worship through song. At the end of the day, students in grades K-6 have a time of Bible with their homeroom class. Teachers and junior/senior high Bible classes take turns leading these Assemblies (one week in the fall and one in the spring). Students in junior high have started having their own Assembly time in the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays, and high schoolers have their small group Bible study groups these same days. 7th-12th graders have club time on Tuesdays and an hour of Bible during the week.
Emphasis on the Fine Arts
Students in grades K-8 do regular picture study and composer study, learning to appreciate the work of a single artist and composer each year. They study and describe great works of art (using individual prints) and also sometimes recreate these masterworks using dry brush technique. Students in grade K-4 have art and music once per week and students in grade 5 have a longer music class once a week and learn to play chimes (similar to handbells); students in grade 6 are required to take band two days a week and learn one of four instruments: trombone, trumpet, clarinet, or flute. Students in junior high may continue to take band or they may opt to begin Spanish early (they may complete Spanish I in two years). We offer many fine arts electives also including dance, choir, musical theatre, and drama. This year we are producing a fall production for students in grades 4-7 and a spring production for students in grades 8-12. This latter production will be entered into the Blumeys, a scholarship awards program for the fine arts in Charlotte held at the Blumenthal Center.
Faculty Chairs & Mentors
We have four faculty members who are paid to be department chairs for our major academic areas in addition to teaching (math, science, English, and history). They help evaluate curriculum in the summer, add new books, answer questions about their area, and sometimes observe teachers in that area. We also have master teachers who are partnered with new teachers for two years as mentors, receiving a stipend to meet with them weekly, go over their plans, and answer their questions. Finally, all new families receive a “mentor family” who helps acclimate them to our school.
Helping Each Child Discover Their Gifts & Calling
We provide numerous opportunities for students to explore areas of interest and potential calling on their lives. These include: a) electives, b) clubs for grades 7-12, c) missions trips, d) service projects, e) internships (high school) and more. We also offer Challenge Academy classes after school for students in grades 5-8 specifically gifted in math, science, art, or writing to push them further and put them in an environment with other gifted students. In the late spring, we have a Career Day (grades 7-12) where we invite parents and community members to speak about their jobs and where students may ask questions.
All families give the school 45 hours per year serving in an area of gifting (half that for single-parent families or families with an infant). They may help plan field trips with the field trips team, serve as an assistant coach, serve on the safety and security team, plan outreach events with the outreach team, bake cookies for a hospitality event, or help the school with technology or catered lunch amongst many other teams. In addition, parents of student athletes or kids in drama put in an additional 5 hours serving (as line judges, taking tickets at the gate, or helping with rehearsals). All families also give 4 hours in the summer called “Facility Hours” where they can come to help do projects on campus to spruce up the school before the start of the new year and get to know other families in the process.
Student Leadership Opportunities
Students at all grades have the opportunity to help lead Assembly when it is their teacher’s turn to lead. They write and perform skits, pray, read Scripture, and give testimonies during these Assembly weeks. Students beginning in grade 7 may run for junior high or high school student council. Student athletes have the opportunity to become Team Captains. Students may also be nominated as an ambassador, speaking at open house and giving tours to visiting families. In high school, students who demonstrate academic excellence, leadership, service, and character are invited to join the honor society.
We partner with several outreach organizations to provide supplies, volunteers, and contributions. We hold “dollar dress days” about once a month and those funds go to various outreach organizations and missions groups. Grades K-2 are involved with Bright Blessings (a ministry providing birthdays and presents for homeless children), grades 3-4 partner with Common Heart (including packing snack bags for needy children), grades 5-6 are involved with Samaritan’s Feet, grades 7-8 visit Brookdale Weddington Park Assisted Living, and our high school comes alongside One7 Academy, a school for refugee children. The goal is for children to have a personal experience serving in outreach, through a longer term partnership with a particular ministry that is being the hands and feet of Jesus to children and families in need. We want our students to serve and grow through these experiences.
We care about creating a family atmosphere and strive to increase connections across grades. Some of the ways we do this include a coffee shop the high school holds once a month in lieu of Assembly, Club Protocol (manners) that we do with our eighth and ninth graders ending in a catered freshman formal and a character sketch project where our sophomores interview and observe a kindergartner and write a character sketch which they then give to the kindergartner’s parents in a scrapbooked format. Some of our students choose to be teacher’s aides during their club period or even complete internships in our classrooms, engaging with younger students (always under teacher supervision). We encourage intergenerational impact by holding a Grandparent’s Day once per year and we plan activities such as the yearly trip to the Creeper Trail (overnight bicycle trip) that involve all our families and all ages of children. In addition some of the sports teams have “big sisters” and “little sisters” where a junior high student player will be partnered with a varsity player to encourage and cheer for them.