Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do you offer middle school?
Yes! Please check out our middle-school program details here.
2. What does the RFC cooperative model look like?
RFC is fully owned and operated by our parent members, and different parents participate in school activities daily. You will find small, mixed-age classes (similar to a family) that offer the chance for plenty of individual attention; an emphasis on community building, movement, and nature; immersive, hands-on, theme-based learning; field trips that take advantage of both the natural and cultural resources in the Northern Virginia and DC communities; and, of course, incredible opportunities for parent and family involvement. We truly believe that children learn better when their families are involved and invested in their educations, and we see school as both a connection to, and a widening of, the child's home community and family experience.
You will also find a lead teacher in each classroom who creates daily lesson plans and facilitates student learning and personal academic growth through the study of math, literature, science, writing, history and cultural studies, and language. Our teachers are trained to assess our students to determine where their strengths and weaknesses lie. However, we do not use tests or grades to make these assessments; instead, our teachers use observation, interaction, and qualitative techniques to determine student progress. Likewise, our students are neither held back nor pressured to work ahead by the academic progress of their peers. With a focus on stimulating and educating the individual child, a student will be challenged to keep advancing in subjects in which they excel, and/or given extra time and attention to develop in subjects in which they need a little extra attention. The mixed-age classroom enables each child to work to their own ability. Learn more about the mixed-age classroom here.
3. Will my child have access to art, nature, and physical education?
Yes. We wholeheartedly believe that arts, nature, and movement are critical elements to educating the whole child. Arts are integrated holistically into the academic curriculum. Physical education takes place through outdoor play, movement classes, nature walks, and sports classes at the nearby recreation center (including swimming lessons). In addition, our curriculum is supplemented with frequent field trips to museums, theaters, and cultural centers.
4. Do you offer kindergarten?
Yes! RFC offers K – 8 education. We do not offer preschool.
5. Who will teach my child?
For the coming school year, River Farm will offer three mixed-age classes: the Middle School class, the Upper Elementary class, and the Lower Elementary class. The Middle School class roughly encompasses 6 – 8, the Upper Elementary class roughly encompasses grades 3 – 5, while the Lower Elementary class roughly encompasses grades K – 2. The academics for each class are taught by a lead teacher (learn more about our wonderful teaching team here), although there is much overlap and students will get to know both teachers, as well as students from both classes. In the spirit of fostering community bonding and the River Farm feeling of "family," the classes combine for certain subjects, including yoga, theme-based science, nature walks, sports, field trips, and more.
6. Are the children academically prepared for their next school?
Yes! River Farm students who have graduated or moved on now attend the entire spectrum of school choices, from their local public school to this region's most competitive private schools – and are thriving in their new schools. And since we conduct a single, end-of-year assessment that is nationally normed (more information below), parents have important quantitative information to share with new schools. Last year, our students scored an average of 1.8 GME (Grade Mean Equivalent) above their grade level. More information is available upon request.
7. How will we assess our child’s progress?
We believe that traditional schools have put too much emphasis on standardized testing, to the detriment of both the student and the educational experience. To assess progress, River Farm parents can expect to receive a qualitative progress report at the end of each semester. Parents can also expect an open and communicative relationship with our teacher.
We also conduct a single, end-of-year assessment to see where our students stand in relation to state and national averages. Parents who do not wish for their child to participate can opt out of this test. Students are not “taught” to take this test (beyond basic instructions on how to fill out answers). We currently use the TerraNova2, a nationally recognized, norm-referenced, standardized achievement test that evaluates math, reading, and language arts skills. Our students have consistently scored well above the national average. Last year, our students scored an average of 1.8 GME (Grade Mean Equivalent) above their grade level.
8. How will students learn in a mixed-age classroom?
There are multiple benefits to a mixed-age classroom, which are discussed in detail here. In general, our teacher will teach to the entire class, scaling the actual classwork to the abilities of the individual students. For example, an older child might write a page-long essay about a work of art, whereas a younger child might write a few sentences. Math is the only class where lessons will be differentiated by ability.
9. What attracts families to River Farm?
River Farm is an excellent fit for families who are concerned that their child's natural joy and enthusiasm in the learning process will be diminished in a more standard learning environment – one which emphasizes testing, a lot of time spent passively learning and sitting at a desk, and larger teacher-student ratios. Most of our families who started in other area schools felt that the experience left much to be desired. They believe a rigorous education can also be active, fun, individualized, and inspiring. As a progressive school, River Farm also seeks to prepare our children to be citizens of the world. We do this by exploring democracy and social-emotional learning; by interacting with our environment, hosting speakers, and going on many field trips (and field units, in Middle School); and by actively learning about social justice and current events. Many families are excited about a school that offers these opportunities for growth.
10. Is RFC a religious cooperative?
No, RFC is a secular cooperative that welcomes people from all backgrounds and belief systems. Our philosophy of exploration, open-mindedness, and cultural awareness means that our students may learn about a specific religion, holiday, or religious practice as part of their cultural and historical studies. Although we have no affiliation with the church in which we are housed, we enjoy a strong relationship with them and will continue to partner with them on certain service projects.
11. What if the teacher is sick?
Our director (formerly a teacher at RFC) will sub for sick teachers whenever possible.
12. Is the cost of classroom materials included in the tuition?
Because of our very low tuition, books, extracurriculars, and other materials are not covered by tuition. Learn more about tuition here.
13. Is there a tuition discount for enrolling more than one child? What about the co-op requirements?
Yes, for the coming school year, we are happy to offer a sibling discount for families with more than one child enrolled at RFC. A family with multiple children enrolled at RFC will pay the full tuition amount for their first child, and will pay full-time tuition minus a 10% reduction for any additional child enrolled. We have tried to keep tuition as low as possible in order to accommodate as many families as possible, and 100% of the tuition goes towards teacher salary, rent, and insurance. Parents with two children only need pay a single application fee, and they can expect to have double co-oping requirements (parents with three or more children will only be expected to fulfill double co-oping requirements).
14. What are the parental requirements of your co-op?
A parent-run cooperative depends on the efforts and energy of our membership. Please read more about our parental and/or guardian requirements here.
RFC meets Monday through Friday from 8:45 am - 3:00 pm.
15. May I bring other children on my parent helper days?
No. Siblings and other children are not permitted to come with you for a variety of important legal and educational reasons including classroom space; tuition; distraction to teacher, parent helper, and other students; age appropriateness of lessons and group; and insurance policies. This also applies to field trip days, unless it is an all-family field trip day. Please read more about our parental and/or guardian requirements here.
16. Is RFC a good fit for students with special needs?
In most cases, RFC is not a great fit for students with special needs. Our co-op is very small, with no extra resources beyond our classroom teachers; we are parent-run and have no access to tutors, learning specialists, school social workers, therapists, psychologists, or guidance counselors. In addition, our classroom is supported by a rotating schedule of parent helpers who come from a variety of backgrounds and are not trained for special needs.
17. Are the students at RFC vaccinated?
As a private school, RFC follows the same legal protocol as all schools in Virginia (public or private). Vaccine records and/or exemption paperwork will be required for the 2018-2019 school year. More information can be found here: http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/22.1-271.2/