It's that time of year when we all get ready for the first day of school! At NorthPointe Christian Schools, carpets have been washed, floors waxed, windows shined, and teachers are organizing their classrooms, gearing up for a fabulous year! At home you are likely purchasing supplies and squeezing in the last summer adventures.
Preschool is a big step in your child’s life (and yours!). With this in mind, we want your child to have a positive transition into their new preschool experience!
Here are a few ideas to help ensure a smooth start to the year:
Establish a schedule
Preschoolers thrive on established routines. A regular, consistent daily schedule at home will help your child transition into the daily routines of the classroom.
Keep a consistent bedtime
Preschool is your child’s “work.” They will be extra tired, especially at the beginning of the school year. Getting a full night’s sleep is a vital part of a successful, happy day. Consider starting them on a bedtime routine the week leading up to the first day.
Establish a morning routine
A consistent morning routine provides your preschooler with a sense of reassurance and confidence. Morning time flies by when you need to be out the door by 8:00 a.m.! Plan ahead to make your mornings run smoothly. Consider laying out clothes and making lunches the night before.
Read, Read, Read!
There are many wonderful books with stories about the first day of school, what a school day looks like, and facing anxieties about this new experience. Reading these stories is a great way to spark conversations about going to school and gives your child the opportunity to talk about their fears and ask questions. At NorthPointe Christian Schools, we have some of these books in our school office available for you to borrow; just stop by and check them out!
Discuss What to Expect
Keep conversations about preschool honest and provide information. It is normal for children to be nervous about preschool. Acknowledge their fears about going to school: it is a new place with new people. But also reassure them with information about the positive things they can expect; discuss what they will bring to school each day, toys they will find in the classroom, and what they will do (gathering time, reading stories, snack, recess, etc.).
A Quick, Loving, and Confident Goodbye
Some children run into the classroom without looking back, but a lot of children have a tearful time at drop-off. It can be difficult to endure, even if you are anticipating a rough goodbye! Lots of preschoolers experience separation anxiety. You can help your child through this time with a quick hug and kiss along with a confident goodbye ("I love you, I’ll be back to pick you up, you can tell me all about your day.") Let your child borrow your confidence. And know that this anxiety is nothing new to your child’s teacher! They will provide your child with lots of loving reassurance!
Attend Preschool Orientation/Meet-the-Teacher Events
Transitions are much easier when a child is familiar with their school environment.
Teachers and staff are praying for your child too!
We are blessed to be part of your child's preschool adventure. Our NorthPointe Christian Preschool Philosophy is based on Luke 2:42, “And Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, and infavor with God and man,” and we are excited to see all the ways your child grows this school year!
My job at NorthPointe Christian is to help teachers carry out our mission of “equipping students to impact the world for Christ.” As part of the job, I wander and observe our preschool on up through high school classes.
Earlier this semester, a parent alerted me to a fascinating assignment taking place in Maria Joaquin’s second grade Spanish Immersion classroom. Maria’s letter home, as the parent showed me, explained that the class was about to begin a social studies unit on “Community and Citizenship.” She then set out the goals: (a) why people live in communities, (b) what is in them, and (c) how is one different from another.
Sounds heavy for children this young, right? Maria countered that question by adding that the project would “get real” by seeking to create “our own community in 2nd grade.”
Each student needed to create a cardboard box building at home - with the help of their families - that would contribute to the making of a community and improve the community. The student creations would be hung in the hallway. But prior to that, students would present their boxes to the class, with each maker answering three thought provoking questions about his/her building:
1. Why is this building important in our community?
2. How could this building be used to impact the world for Christ?
3. How might the Spanish language be used in this building?
The individual results were captivating, the buildings together even more so, as they so perfectly captured the imagination, inviting viewers into a vibrant community, just as the project intended.
I asked Maria why she chose to do this assignment. Her response:
“I wanted to make what they were talking about in class to come alive and be relatable to their lives.”
She mentioned that the students had talked about what it meant to be a good citizen; they talked about “how it begins in family, neighborhood, city, and goes out further into all the world.”
In that discussion Maria said the students “talked about what God expects of us as Christians and how to be a good citizen in all these communities” and “finding similarities and differences among these kinds of communities.”
The parent who gave me the heads-up on the assignment also expressed why she thought it worthwhile: “I thought I would pass along how much I love this assignment Maria is doing with the Spanish Immersion 2nd graders and the questions that go along with the project. Today, I am thankful for the education my girls are getting...that Jesus is the center, and they are having to think from a very young age how Jesus can impact our community.”
As I recall all aspects of this building assignment, I see the benefits of a Christian education in deed. Indeed!
“Equipping students to impact their world for Jesus Christ”
--NorthPointe Christian’s mission statement
I liked NorthPointe's mission statement 20 years ago and still do.
I frequently use it as a quick test of activities I plan in teaching young people to use technology. I ask myself, “Is this helping them to grow in a way that they can better impact their world for Jesus?” It has also guided us throughout the implementation of NPC’s one-to-one MacBook program as we consider how technology might or might not be helping us accomplish our mission.
In my role as NorthPointe’s Technology Integration Specialist, I have a front row seat to observe how young people use technology.
They are always connected: hanging out, doing homework, sitting in class. Their music, their photos, their friends--it seems as if their whole life is in“the cloud.” It’s not the device; it’s the connection that matters. The kids stay connected even when most of us are sleeping. I’m no longer surprised when I get an email sent at 3 AM from a student who wants access to a website from which they’ve been blocked. They just have to connect to their peers and what's out there. It’s their reality, their world.
As parents and teachers, we tend to see the device as a problem. Some of us want to control it: take it away, limit screen time, block access to apps and websites, etc. Others of us throw up our hands and are tempted to do nothing. We know we need to protect our kids, e.g., “Don’t touch the stove. Look before crossing the street.” But controlling devices seems harder, more confusing, and constantly changing.
Even though our children are skilled in using this digital world, we still need to help them navigate it. They need our help to figure out how to impact their world and how the virtual world is impacting them. They need our guidance in discerning right from wrong, good from bad, what builds up and what destroys. They need us to show them how to interact with others appropriately, how to protect themselves, and how to use their time wisely. Like most lessons in life, helping our kids navigate a digital world takes time and effort.
Start with prayer.
It seems like a Sunday School answer, but the Lord gives wisdom to those that ask.
Then set age appropriate boundaries. Internet filters are a wise place to start, but internet filters aren’t perfect, so I suggest having younger kids use their devices where you can occasionally look at the screen.
Like it or not, our children become older, more independent, and need to make wise choices with no teachers or parents around. We need to get them ready for those choices. You can use something like Covenant Eyes which is a great tool for Internet accountability.
Accountability needs to be a two-way street (otherwise it’s just spying), with sons accountable with their dads if possible. As they grow in maturity and in their ability to discern, you can give them more freedom. When they fail, we need to help them learn from their mistakes.
Talking with kids about relationships has never been easy, but the digital age makes it even more critical. Unfortunately, girls need to be told that they should not send nude pictures of themselves to boys; boys need to be told that it is not appropriate to ask for them. It’s good for all of us to remember that a thoughtless comment or an ill advised photo, once posted, is beyond our ability to control and could have consequences we never intended.
Help your children learn that not everything in the digital world is as it appears. That cute 17-year-old guy who just Snapchatted your daughter may really be a 40-year-old predator using a photo he scammed online. Online predators will use guilt and shame to pull your kids into deeper trouble. Build trust with your kids so that they can come to you even if they have made a mistake.
Lastly, model appropriate digital behavior for them. How much time do you spend in social media? Do you text while driving? Do you put your phone away when they need your attention? It’s knowing that what we practice is what students most imitate, which includes how we use our devices.
Parenting has never been easy; at the forefront of the digital age, it sometimes seems even more complex. Yet the digital world is a resource we have to steward.
Even though your kids may know more about the latest digital social trends, they still need so much that they can only get from you.
Fortunately, you don’t have to understand binary code to pass along what matters in life.
A year of NorthPointe Christian’s Makerspace has seen a positive shift in student learning and curiosity.
Last summer NPC transformed our middle and high school media center into a space that would allow increased hands-on learning by designing and making things. Increasingly, research demonstrates the need for project-based learning to teach creative, out-of-the-box thinking skills to adequately prepare students for the real world. Our Makerspace enables teachers to more easily implement this type of learning. This Makerspace has plenty of tools, materials, and wide open tables and we’ve seen it come alive this year with engaged students.
Throughout the year, students have pulled apart and then repaired instruments to discover how they work, worked as a team and problem solved to create marble roller coasters, and engaged in science experiments. Middle school Market Place groups also benefited from the makerspace in developing their businesses.
Most recently, middle school social studies teacher Jerry Duckworth used the Makerspace for his final exam. For the final project of his 8th grade class, he implemented a different kind of test. Mr. Duckworth asked students to choose a meaningful historic topic and create a scene, artifact, or hymn that represented a significant event or person in American history. He required students to consider the year of study, then plan and produce something that would make visible something of what they learned, and finally present their projects to the class.
NorthPointe eighth graders came up with a range of final projects including Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone, the Washington Monument, the pin-hole camera, and the battle sword of George Washington, to name a few.
Student Grace VandenBerg shared "I really enjoyed our history final project. I learned a lot about Lincoln's assassination, which is what I chose to do my project on. Creating the model really helped me visualize how the event actually happened. I knew a bit about the assassination, but this project pushed me to learn a lot more."
Beyond the created models, students were required to write answers to two questions:
1. So What? “Can you tell me the way this impacted, changed, or played an important role in America’s History?” and
2. Now What? “In what ways is this topic relevant for our life today?”
Mr. Duckworth weaved these critical thinking questions throughout his teaching all year. He emphasized not only the facts of history, but invited students to engage in critical thinking skills and consider the impact of history and the way in which it intersects with our Christian worldview and mandates.
You can bet this is one test students won’t forget the next day!
As parents start considering enrollment for next year, the big question for many becomes “Is my child ready for Kindergarten?” We recently interviewed veteran Kindergarten and Preschool teacher Julie Childers who offered her insight for parents entering this new, uncharted territory.
When parents ask you the big “Is my child ready?” question, where do you begin?
There are many factors for a parents to consider, but there are a few things I check to help determine students’ readiness:
Academic readiness signs:
Can he or she:
> Write their first name?
> Know their first and last name?
> Know all of the letters of the alphabet?
> Know the sounds all of the letters make?
> Recognize numbers to 10?
> Recognize colors and shapes?
Emotional readiness signs:
Can he or she:
> Sit through the reading of a book?
> Follow basic directions?
> Get along with peers?
Life readiness skills:
Can he or she:
> Zip their own coat?
> Take care of their own bathroom needs?
Is it as simple as checking off the list? What other things do you take into account?
It’s not as simple as checking things off a list, but the list will help pave the way for success. Kindergarten is quite rigorous now, and students really do need to know all of their letters and letter sounds before walking into kindergarten.
As far as other factors, I’ve noticed something as simple as where children fall in the birth order makes a difference. For example, the babies of the family tend to have been doted on more than the others, and sometimes they benefit from waiting a year and growing in independence.
You mentioned Kindergarten being more rigorous. How have you seen Kindergarten change over the years?
Yes, Kindergarten has changed quite a bit over years; reading is a huge focus now along with basic math skills that a decade ago were not the focus. It is definitely more rigorous than when I first started teaching, but I find that most children are able to rise to the occasion when we give them high expectations. Most kids desire a routine and schedule, so Kindergarten is great in providing that structure for students to learn.
If parents decide their child isn’t ready, do you recommend they stay in Preschool or enroll in a Young Fives Program?
Young Fives is a great option for the student that has been in preschool a couple of years but is not quite ready for Kindergarten. Young fives is a melding of Preschool and Kindergarten where students can ease into basic math and reading skills. This option is disappearing in many areas, which is unfortunate, as there are many children who benefit by spending an extra year preparing for Kindergarten.
What about Three-Day Kindergarten versus Five-Day Kindergarten?
Three-Day Kindergarten is another great option to ease students into the rigor of Kindergarten. This option is especially valuable for the child that shows academic readiness but may need more time to emotionally adjust to the long days of Kindergarten. If a parent is home, there is definitely value in the child continuing to be home with the parent a couple of days a week. If a parent works and utilizes daycare, I usually recommend the child shift from daycare to full time school.
What can a parent do to help ready their children?
There are rich benefits to the time parents spend with their children. Involving children in everyday activities such as going to the grocery store and counting the bananas as you buy them, visiting the library, reading together, or cooking together provide a huge benefit to learning that we too often dismiss. These real world experiences lay the groundwork for curiosity and a love of learning.
Julie Childers is currently a Kindergarten teacher at NorthPointe Christian Schools, where her own children attended. Click here for more on NPC’s options of Preschool, Kindergarten, or Young Fives or join us at our upcoming April 11th Kindergarten Round Up.
NorthPointe Christian School’s Spanish Immersion Program, currently Preschool to 5th grade, will expand next year with a Secondary Continuing Immersion Program at NorthPointe Middle School.
As with our current Spanish Immersion Program, NorthPointe’s Secondary Continuing Immersion Program has a strong commitment to excellence and best practices in immersion learning. NPC will continue to use the expertise of add.a.lingua, whose model of immersion is based on thorough research and proven student outcomes. We believe this third party accountability will help NPC reach our program goals of:
<> Academic achievement equal to or greater than monolingual peers
<> High degree of proficiency in both Spanish and English language
<> Increased cross-cultural sensitivity
Ultimately, NorthPointe looks forward to graduating fully bilingual students who are “equipped to impact their world for Jesus Christ.”
NorthPointe’s Secondary Continuing Immersion Program will build on the current PreK-5th immersion model in a move to an English/Spanish split. Students will be with their English language counterparts for the first part of the day; the second half of the day students will learn language arts, history, and Spanish academic enrichment with a Spanish-speaking teacher.
“NorthPointe Christian School is going to build on the solid foundation these immersion students have, and is really positioned to be a leader in the area. We’re thrilled to continue to link arms with them,” said add.a.lingua co-founder Lilah Ambrosi.
Continuing Immersion students will still participate in the other exciting initiatives that take place in NorthPointe’s middle school such as Middle School Marketplace (an intercurricular business creation), J-term, Empty Bowls, our school play, and other school-wide activities.
Middle school principal Megan Willink shared,“We believe adding Secondary Continuing Immersion Program to our middle school is going to not only enable fluency for our Spanish-speaking students but provide enrichment for our English students as the two groups of students merge and partner together in certain classes and school wide events.”
“It’s so encouraging when a leadership team and a learning community see and embrace the power of dual language immersion education—and then take on the challenge of secondary continuing immersion in a way that research shows is best for learners. Our hats are off to the NorthPointe Christian team,” added Stacey Vanden Bosch, add.a.lingua co-founder.
NorthPointe Christian 6th grader students recently hosted their 5th Annual Empty Bowls Fundraising Dinner. This dinner was part of a service-based learning project, in coordination with an interdisciplinary unit on Africa.
In the unit, students learn about the hunger issues that plague some people in Africa, underlying causes of poverty and disease, and the effects of malnutrition and hunger. That has led sixth grade classes each year to do their part to actually combat hunger both locally and abroad through the Empty Bowls dinner.
Sixth graders themselves plan the Empty Bowls dinner, calculate the costs of food and supplies needed, and create tickets and posters to promote the event. They also use skills learned in art class to design pottery bowls, representing all the empty bowls around the world; these bowls are sold by silent auction during the dinner. Proceeds from the sale of tickets and the silent auction are donated to two organizations that combat childhood hunger: Kids Food Basket in Grand Rapids and the Abandoned Children’s Foundation in Africa.
Josiah Lammers, on the serving committee, said, "I enjoyed Empty Bowls a lot. I loved how we were supporting kids in Africa and how all of the money went to kids who are hungry."
Students used reading, language, and technology skills to create Africa display boards. During the dinner, student presented a PowerPoint presentation to share their passion for the cause. Students set up and decorated, sold tickets, served food and beverages, shared their presentations, and helped with clean up.
Laila Bell noted, "I liked how we got to do different things in each class for this one project. It was really fun that I to work with all of my friends as part of the decorating committee. We were in charge of planning out how we would decorate and all of the set up the evening of the event"
This service-based learning project allows students hands-on experiences and gives them authentic reasons for learning important skills taught in 6th grade. It also helps NorthPointe 6th graders to develop a passion for those that are less fortunate than they are and gives them a genuine opportunity to make a difference in their community and world. Through this experience, students see the usefulness of these skills and grow and grow in greater motivation to use them in the real world. With this year’s Empty Bowls Dinner, students were able to raise over $1,400.
Empty Bowls allows NorthPointe students to put feet to their faith and allows NorthPointe to live out our mission of "equipping students to impact their world for Jesus Christ."
NorthPointe Christian Schools proudly recognizes the advancement of Ryan Fleetham to finalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Ryan is one of approximately 15,000 finalist selected through demonstration of distinguished performance and high potential for future academic accomplishment.
Ryan, along with other finalists, represent less than one percent of high school seniors in the country. National Merit Scholarship finalists must have an outstanding academic record, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, and earn SAT scores that confirm the qualifying test performance. In order to qualify, students are also asked to submit a detailed scholarship application, which includes an essay and providing information about extracurricular activities, awards, and leadership positions.
Ryan plans to attend Rose-Hulman, the #1 ranked undergraduate engineering college, to pursue electrical engineering, specializing in the renewable/sustainable energy sector.
Congratulations to Ryan for this outstanding achievement.
At NorthPointe Christian, we wholeheartedly believe that God has uniquely created each of our students with a variety of gifts and that we parents and teachers need to help nurture those gifts to shine brightly. To that end, NorthPointe is launching a unique and exciting new high school program next fall called NorthPointe Personalized Learning Community (NPLC); it will provide transformative learning opportunities for non-traditional learners.
NPLC--an interest-based, real world program--will meet the needs of a variety of learners on all points of the academic spectrum who would benefit from less time in a traditional classroom and more time with hands-on learning and out-of-the-box problem solving. Research shows students are more motivated when their education has real-world application; NPLC plans to capitalize on that motivation by providing real-world problem solving along with internships, service opportunities, micro-business creation, and even foreign travel.
Program Director Bill VanDyk shares his passion for this new program: “I believe this program is going to open incredible doors of learning for all types of students. We believe we can empower students and parents to make their own choices about their students’ education and guide families to learning opportunities that will build on students’ strengths and help them grow in the gifts God has given them.”
Launching this new program puts NPC is on the cutting edge of learning as the first Christian school in the nation to replicate what has been a highly successful educational model within the public schools. Big Picture Schools, on which NPLC has closely modeled its education program, has seen students succeed in amazing ways. One Big Picture educator said of the program, “I’m struggling to think of [any] other school model that I know of where the instructional approach and pedagogy can be adapted to meet the needs of literally ALL young people.”
At NorthPointe, we are able to incorporate the Big Picture education tenets into a Christian worldview within a deeply rooted biblical community. Ultimately NorthPointe plans to graduate self-directed, independent, and creative individuals who will have the critical thinking skills and core knowledge to be successful in college and in life, who are, true to our mission, “equipped to impact their world for Jesus Christ.”
Discipleship, individual advising, and relationship-building will be cornerstones in this new program. Students will develop their own academic goals, with direct one-on-one guidance from an advisor who is committed to “training up a child in the way he/she should go.”
We believe students shouldn’t have to wait until college to discover and hone the specific gifts God has given has given them. The time to do that is now!
If you think your student would benefit from an individualized learning experience at NorthPointe, we invite you to contact our Admissions Representative Brittany Noll with further questions. Phone: 616.942.0350 x276, email.
We'd love to have you join us for our NPLC Lunch FAQ on Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 or at any other future admissions events.
On an ordinary afternoon at NorthPointe Christian Elementary School, an unusual sound fills the air during students’ recess: rhythmic hammering. Among the traditional ways to fill a recess (football, swinging, tag), students can choose to take part in a unique building time called “Fort City.”
Equipped with nails, hammers, tarps, and plywood, students have free reign to put their creativity to work. Incredibly, with no teacher directives, students form groups, make plans, and work together to create a variety of establishments in Fort City. A Fort City "Sheriff" patrols the city as a safety officer.
A tour of the “city" showcases a spa, a science lab, a church, a candy store, and a 2 story hotel. As student Henry Nagle says, “I like to call our group ‘NBG - The Next Big Thing'.”
Henry just might be onto something. At NorthPointe, we are firm believers that creative and intentional play provide an opportunity for learning that teaching to the test simply can not provide. While we are certainly rigorous in our academics, we believe creativity and problem solving are vital keys to learning.
Fort City is just one of NorthPointe Christian’s many initiatives to provide hands-on, authentic problem solving opportunities. As NorthPointe prepares students for jobs that are yet to exist, Fort City provides a springboard for learning and problem solving that will launch students into the future.