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Why We Should Worry About Student BoredomWhy We Should Worry About Student Boredom - DCschoolHUB

by Dr. Neal Brown, Head of School, Green Acres School

Imagine that your work life entailed few opportunities to use your creativity or to follow through on an interest or pursue an initiative.

Imagine that you had few if any opportunities to collaborate with your co-workers, to express any control over how your day was spent, or to have any genuine feeling of purpose or motivation for your work or that of your organization.

Now imagine that you moved through this type of work each day in seven 45-minute periods, where what happened in each period was disconnected from the others. As soon as you began to accomplish something or to think about an issue in depth, you were whisked away to the next task. Imagine, finally, that your experience mirrored that of each of your classmates. You were treated no differently than anyone else, as your individual interests, strengths, and/or challenges were essentially ignored.

It’s perhaps an overstatement to say that this is what children and teens experience in schools—but not by much. If in the lower grades, the typical school experience begins to offer opportunities for creativity and inquiry, much of what students experience by middle and high school reflects a focus on regimentation, standardized testing, and rote learning that is mostly disconnected from what many students find interesting and relevant.

And not surprisingly, students on average become less engaged over time. Their lack of engagement, as we can see in this recent article from Harvard’s Ed. Magazine, has dire consequences for their future as both students and people. Boredom, according to Zachary Jason, isn’t just something students subjectively report that they experience: it’s a direct result of how many schools function—and it is a key predictor of how children will succeed in school and in life.

That’s why we should care deeply about how bored (or, more positively, how engaged) children and teens are in school. At Green Acres, one of our primary goals is for our 8th graders to be as engaged and excited about learning as are our kindergartners. We want them to develop a love of learning, because we know that this ultimately will be the best tool in their kits for learning and living. It’s not simply a “frill” to have an engaging education; it’s essential for one’s intellectual and overall development.

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post about how “engaged, resilient, and joyful” our Middle Schoolers are, attributing the fact that our students feel deeply known, cared for, and inspired by their teachers and peers as why they love coming to school. I also hinted at the inherently meaningful, challenging, project-based work our children get to do every day—and the lines of inquiry each student is encouraged to pursue according to his or her intellectual curiosity.

Children at Green Acres reap the benefits of this philosophy-in-practice on a daily basis. Projects, for example, are designed to allow students to delve deeply into a niche of a broader topic that their peers are studying from a different approach. As such, our students work collaboratively alongside each other, teaching and inspiring each other in a complementary way that rounds out and deepens their learning. It enables students to appreciate nuance, admire complexity, and boldly take on the multifaceted ways in which we can (and should) understand any given subject. It empowers students to take an interdisciplinary approach to learning—a way that reflects how we solve problems in “the real world.” And when students are not just permitted, but encouraged, to investigate their most interesting questions, we find that they create their most innovative solutions.

When compared with today’s models of education that result in bored (instead of buoyant) minds, this approach to learning feels like a breath of fresh air. And yet it’s nothing new—it’s called progressive education, a philosophy we’ve been practicing here at Green Acres since we opened our doors in 1934. Progressive education is not just an antidote to boredom—it’s the key for igniting in children the most important intellectual quality of all: a love of learning.

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Lending A Helping Hand Might Help When You’re Stressed

by Marissa Kushner, Ph.D., Georgetown Psychology Associates

For many of us, we strive for balance among the demands of multiple roles and responsibilities. Consequently, navigating life’s daily stress becomes a part of the routine. While our body’s response to acute stress can be adaptive (particularly when faced with actual threat), chronic activation of the stress response system results in increased risk for several negative physical and emotional outcomes. As such, identifying effective methods to reduce stress, and its associated consequences, is critical.  Interestingly, research has suggested that helping others and engaging in prosocial behavior may mitigate the negative impact of stress.

In a recent article in Clinical Psychological Science, Emily Ansell and colleagues published findings about how engaging in prosocial behavior (in naturalistic settings) impacted adults’ response to daily stressors. Interestingly, Ansell and colleagues found that engaging in prosocial behavior toward strangers and acquaintances (e.g., asking someone if they need help, helping someone with schoolwork) buffered the negative impact of stress on individuals’ mood and mental health.

Notably, the authors acknowledged that it currently is unknown how engagement in prosocial behavior decreases the negative outcomes associated with stress.  However, what is clear is that helping others, even those with whom we do not have a close relationship, is a way to protect ourselves from the adverse impacts of stress.  As we close the door on 2016, hopefully we can reflect on the year ahead and increase our efforts to take better care of ourselves and those around us by incorporating small acts of kindness into our 2017 daily routines.

How to Prepare Your Child for a Private School VisitHow to Prepare Your Child for a Private School Visit - DCschoolHUB

by Liz Yee, Director of Admission, Lowell SchoolPP-Visit.jpg

Congratulations! You’ve done your research, gotten testing and recommendations lined up, applied to a few schools, and maybe even identified a school that feels like the perfect fit for your child and family. Now it’s time for your child to visit the school. The school visit can create some anxiety for kids (and maybe for you, too!). Below are some suggestions to help your child make it through the visit and shine.

Plan your child’s applicant visit well in advance

If you are applying to multiple schools, chances are you will need to schedule your child to visit each school. Read the admissions pages on the school’s websites to get a sense of what is required. Will it include a play visit? A full day of visiting? A Saturday group? Then, get the visits scheduled. This will be tedious, but if you work in advance you’ll have the best choice of visit dates.

A few things to think about:

  • Know your family’s schedule before you book the visit. It’s important to know when there may be some disruptions in your household (Grandma is visiting, Dad is traveling, Mom has some late-night meetings, etc.) and work around those dates. If your child’s routine is in place prior to the visit, your child will be more emotionally prepared to participate.
  • Know your child’s schedule before you book the visit. Is there a field trip coming up? PARCC testing or an exam that your child can’t miss? A class performance? Get this information before you book the visit; it will save you time and hassle of changing times later.
  • It might be tempting to try and plan your child’s visit on a day when they are already off from school. Sometimes the timing works out, but many times it doesn’t. Schools have similar schedules, and if your child’s school is closed, most likely the school you are applying to will be as well.
  • Be flexible and responsive. Admissions visits usually take place in the winter. Unfortunately, this means that snow days and sickness may affect your child’s visit. If a visit date needs to changed, do your best to make the rescheduling process easy. In many cases, admissions offices are working with hundreds of applicants—a snow day means there may be dozens of students to reschedule.
Start to prepare your child for a possible school change

If your child is younger, the applicant visit might be the first clue that a change may be coming. I often get questions from parents about how they should prepare their child and how much information about a school change is best to share. If you are a parent of a young child, trust your gut about how much information is appropriate to communicate—you know your child best.

By the time your child is applying to high school, it is best to have an open dialogue about the change and allow your child to participate meaningfully in the application process. You can start by having your child look at high school brochures and think about what they value in a school.

For language you can use to explain a school change to younger children and more advice on involving your adolescent in the school search process, download “What to Say to Kids About School Visits.”

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Be sure your child gets a full night’s sleep before the school visit

This may seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating and vitally important. Whether the visit is an hour or a full day, having had a good night of sleep helps children present their best selves and gives them the cognitive and social stamina to navigate anything that comes their way. A warm bath for your young child, a few extra books before bed, their special stuffed animal—pull out all the tricks to get your child to bed on time!

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Have your child eat a healthy, protein-packed breakfast

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It can also be one of the trickiest if you have picky eaters or your mornings are rushed. Try to stick to your normal morning routine, and be sure your child is fueled up for the day. There are some studies that indicate eating a healthy breakfast supports improved cognition, improved academic performance, and longer attention spans. If you pack and snack or lunch for your child, make sure it’s a balanced meal with more protein, but full of yummy foods that are familiar and enjoyable.

Make sure you know the drop-off and pick-up details

No one wants to come to the visit running late, flustered, or stressed. Starting the visit off on the right foot is key—especially for your child.

  • Get all of your questions answered a few days in advance. Many admissions offices will call with details or send a reminder email. If you still have questions, don’t hesitate to follow up.
  • Know how to get to the school, where to park, and where to meet your point of contact.
  • Find out what your child needs to wear, whether or not you need to pack a snack/lunch, as well as time/location of pick-up.
  • Does your child have allergies or other medical conditions that the school should be aware of? Let the admissions office know well in advance so that they can be sure your child is safe while visiting.
  • For older applicants, a reminder about making eye contact, shaking hands, and trying to connect with classmates couldn’t hurt.
  • A quick goodbye and reassuring hug are all most older children need to get off and running!
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