5th graders that graduate have a good deal of struggle in their new schools, both public and private with homework, behaving appropriately in class, math and organization according to their peers and past parent's reports. Some have had to hire tutors to get their children at grade level in the new school. The private high schools in the area seem to have a connection or historical understanding that Free Union students are not high achiever students, but are eager to learn and just have been accepting them under these old terms. School standards have changed and this is a wonderful little school has not. It stuck in the past and is having trouble preparing today's students for real challenges in a testing and competitive world. The new director was hired to improve the standards but has been met with great resistance from within. Many fear that change will take away some of the charms of this little school that is like a home to so many. A great place for preschool (my kids loved it). Stay if it works for your needs.
- submitted by a
September 09, 2013
Fun because it is very easy academically and unchallenging. No idea how students transfer smoothly to other schools that test and give real grades. A few kids (and parents) present with an attitude of "entitled" to fun. They are disruptive to the overall atmosphere of learning. This has not been handled well over the years, upper school notably. "Happy" for them tends to rank higher than the other children's and parent's rights. A good place for a student with disabilities or needs a small environment. Not for gifted students or sports & after school clubs families- this is truly an "old fashioned" school, which may or may not be good for today's standards. No proof about that "inner circle" comment, but do get it. All schools have their own social politics. This one isn't any different . FUCS is different in that every teacher is engaged and cares for each child... perhaps priceless in 2013? Zero diversity, low academics if you need them to compare to other schools, rely on test results, need to transfer to other schools, or think that reading, math and spelling need to be solid in elementary school by second grade (it's so not here). Terrific for preschool and kindergarten.
- submitted by a
June 03, 2013
I have mixed feelings about Free Union. I am a believer in progressive education, but believe it should be balanced with an emphasis on safety and some rigor; I'm not sure those elements are fully present (even the smallest kids aren't always well supervised outdoors, safety is a concern). I do believe the teachers and most of the administrators really love the kids and get to know them. My child was bored here, though, and wanted more challenge than was available there; never looked forward to going. No school is right for everyone -- and this sweet little place was not right for us.
- submitted by a
May 16, 2013
My child is excited to go to school everyday, engaged academically and socially, and honored as an individual. The environment is rich with multisensory and interdisciplinary learning. Thankfully, the school is free from sectarian or pedagocially-restricted influences. The staff and parent body welcomed us warmly and continually reach out in myriad ways to support us and our child. One day, in a mix-up with pick-up, a parent offered to help provide a ride. There is a true community feel to the place. I also appreciate the way the teachers handle conflict within the student population. Students are held responsible for their actions without shame and with an emphasis on mutuality and compassion. I trust that this type of progressive education bodes well for my child's future engagement with the world -- intellectually, emotionally and socially. I wish I had spent my elementary years at Free Union!
- submitted by a
April 12, 2013
The Sept 2011 review is very fair and accurate. The new director has a challenge of blending the old free union (hippy?) culture to meet the academic challenges of today's school system. Hopefully, she will elevate the academic bar and discipline needed. The "inner circle" is still there. This is a small group of moms that remain at school or in the front office for socializing and helping. They are essential help, but also create an atmosphere that is reminiscent of high school cliques- false smiles, not welcome to new ideas, exclusivity, and even elitish snobbery- yes- all carefully hidden under the granola bar clothing. The school is progressive only in theory and it's future progess is being slowed by the very people that seek to preserve it. Cultural diversity is zero- all white. That said, focus on the pros from first review. I agree with all of them. Teachers are terrific and nuturing, just too relaxed in academics and correcting inappropriate student behaviors.
- submitted by a
September 09, 2011
Pros 1. Atmosphere: children always seem happy, they socialize with each other and teachers, they are respectful of others. 2. Free play time, especially outdoors. 3. Naturalistic grounds (stream, fields, nice play structures, gardens etc). 4. Nice facilities: cozy and functional. 5. Approachable teachers. 6. Sense of community 7. Small class sizes. Cons: 1. inner circle of 'friends' making key decisions such as faculty hires, sometimes flawed ones 2. Uninvolved playground supervision: 'let them figure it out on their own' undermining safety. 3. Academics not as good as they could be: no grades; no recognition of individual achievement; 'challenge' is a dirty word. 4. Lack of diversity: no scholarships based on ethnicity; financial assistance typically goes to white families (99%); little concern for the working/traveling parent (last minute trip notifications, mid-day teacher meetings etc). 5. No transportation for events: conflicts by not caring for the random volunteer driver. In sum, great school for very young kids: cozy atmosphere, emphasis on social development. Note: the former director of the school tended to be abrasive to parents. No longer an issue.
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