Choosing The Family Matters School

Imagine your first experience of school as a place that ignites your imagination, invites you to follow your curiosity, and encourages you to learn from mistakes and see missteps as opportunities for discovery. Imagine school as a place where you are confident in your own abilities as a learner and where you are part of a learning family that supports, affirms, and celebrates you.

The Family Matters School offers a safe, affirming, and nurturing environment for children in Kindergarten through 4th grade. In our decades of working with youth in an after-school environment, we have continually heard from families that this is what they seek in a school. We believe that a family’s access to a community school where children learn and thrive is a fundamental right. It is essential to the neighborhood’s health and must be available to all, regardless of socioeconomic status. 

Our Approach

We believe that the goal of education is to fuel the innate desire to learn by offering engaging, cooperative, and meaningful experiences. At The Family Matters School, we 

  • encourage curiosity,
  • give freedom to explore questions, and
  • realize the power in gaining knowledge.

This approach equips students to view the world as a place of opportunity where change is possible. Through a deep commitment to social-emotional support, The Family Matters School invites children to become courageous learners who understand that they grow by trying new things, experimenting, and making mistakes.

Our Classroom

The Family Matters School offers two small blended-grade, multi-age classrooms for children in Kindergarten through 4th grade: the Kindergarten/1st grade class and the 2nd/3rd/4th grade class. The maximum enrollment is 12 children per class. 

Each class is taught by a dedicated lead teacher who has many years of experience in classroom teaching, developmentally appropriate social-emotional learning, and healing-centered approaches to trauma. Additional support is provided by other members of our staff team, including a social worker and classroom aides. 

We find that blended classrooms support children as they learn at their own pace, regardless of age or traditional grade placement, and offer important opportunities for peer leadership.

Our Commitments

Commitment to Diversity

We believe that it is critical to ask questions and to communicate openly about issues in our neighborhood, city, and the larger world. This means freedom to discuss the topics of race, gender, socio-economics, faith, and other aspects of identity as they arise. Teachers and staff work intentionally to avoid stereotypes and take an anti-bias approach. The learning community at Family Matters is a safe place for discussions where:

  • all voices are equally valued and respected.
  • all people have the right to express who they are and what they believe while respecting other people’s rights to express and hold different beliefs.
  • empathy and understanding are cultivated.

Commitment to Social-Emotional Well-Being

At The Family Matters School, we believe that social-emotional health is as important as academic or critical-thinking skills. In order to use our intellect to its fullest, it is essential to know how to communicate and interact with others in the world. Likewise, it is essential to have an understanding and appreciation for ourselves as individuals. Reflecting on our interactions with others and developing the ability to communicate honestly, directly, and free of blame, shame, judgment, ridicule, and fear are woven into our learning environment. We use the Family Matters Principles of Leadership as our guiding philosophy for social-emotional learning.

Daily Schedule and Learning Components

Arrival and Dismissal

At The Family Matters School, we offer a relaxed entry and exit to and from the school day, inviting parents to play with the children or talk with other parents and staff team members for the time before the school day structure begins and after school ends.

Arrival:

Monday-Friday: breakfast 8:30-9:00 a.m. with classes beginning at 9:00 a.m.

Dismissal:

School ends at 3:15 p.m., pickup by 3:30 p.m.

Curriculum

The Family Matters School fills each day with read-alouds from a variety of fiction, non-fiction, and news materials. Movement and hands-on activities enhance literacy work while daily math lessons utilize real-world situations to illustrate key concepts.

The School creates space for independent work at learning centers and offers supplemental support through one-to-one sessions with specialized educators. 

Inquiry Time allows the classes to explore topics of interest in a deep and meaningful way: the inquiry approach asks the children to develop ideas and then use research and experimentation to discover whether or how their theories bear out. 

The learning week is rounded out by “specials” in STEM, Spanish, Time Travelers social studies, visual art, drama, and gymnastics/circus arts guided by artist-facilitators from the community and local universities.

Choice Time

Offering time for self-selected activities gives children ownership of how they spend their time. Short breaks of 10-15 minutes allow the children to determine what their immediate needs are. One child may decide to relax on some pillows or with a book while another child may choose to participate in movement to expend pent-up energy. Within each classroom, there are a variety of activities available for longer choice times including dramatic play, building materials, art materials, books, and other activities recommended by the class.

Social-Emotional Learning

We devote time for “check-ins” at multiple points during the day, providing opportunities for the children to voice concerns, share joys, and discuss ways to work and play cooperatively. These moments build communication skills and test strategies for constructive conflict resolution that strengthen the community and deepen relationships.

At least once per semester, and up to multiple times weekly as needed, the children have the opportunity to spend time with The School’s social worker. These private sessions provide a safe space for the children to share information with a trusted adult and practice conflict resolution strategies.

Enrollment Information

Annual tuition is based on a sliding scale and families have the opportunity to discuss a different agreement based on individual circumstances. Discounts are offered to families enrolling more than one child. Tuition may be paid in a lump sum, by semester, or monthly.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does TFMS team teaching approach work?

TFMS is committed to providing a team teaching approach with our learners. In building the teaching team, we look for a balance of voices that includes teachers of different backgrounds, genders, ethnicities, languages, and experiences. The Lead Teacher facilitates the major flow of the day and other team members support segments of the day such as literacy, math, STEM Lab, Spanish Lab, inquiry, and arts activities.

How will my child be assessed?

TFMS provides youth feedback on their work and encourages learners to continue with a task until they master it. We avoid grades and instead offer constructive comments. We encourage youth to name the value in their own work. We use Teaching Strategies Gold and the Phonemic Awareness and Literacy Screening to formally document a learner’s progress. At the end of each semester we offer families a report on their child’s learning.

Will my child get physical education and arts education opportunities?

TFMS offers a variety of movement and arts activities woven into the fabric of our everyday routine. The approach we take to literacy, math and inquiry all involve the arts, movement, and emotional well-being. Additionally, artists work with the class on a regular basis, some weekly and some monthly, in the areas of movement, music and drama.

Is there a hot lunch program at TFMS?

We are partnering with A Just Harvest for meal service. Parents are welcome to send there child/ren to school with lunch. We request that all lunches contain a healthy mix of fruit, dairy, protein, and grains.

What happens when my child finishes at TFMS?

TFMS team will assist families in finding a match-fit school for their children when they graduate. The foundational experiences children receive at TFMS will equip them to adapt to a new environment.

How does the multi-age classroom work?

Children develop in ways that are complex, uneven, and unique. Multi-age classrooms allow children to stay with the same teacher and learning cohort over time. This offers an extended opportunity for the teacher to monitor and support skill development and design increasingly complex learning experiences for learners. This approach allows older children to be mentors to support and model for their younger classmates.

If you have questions, contact Patty Granados at 773.465.6011 x1118 or fmschool@familymatterschicago.org.

Si tiene preguntas en Español contacte a Patty Granados at 773.465.6011 x1118 or fmschool@familymatterschicago.org.

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