Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes Nantucket Lighthouse School Unique?

The Lighthouse curriculum is founded in developmental educational theory. It reflects the fact that children grow according to predictable patterns, physically, emotionally, morally, and cognitively. Lighthouse fosters creative thinking, initiative, and responsibility. Children learn through experience and within context. Learning is project based, and art and writing integrated throughout the curriculum. Through creative projects, assigned tasks, and imaginative problem solving, children practice and apply academic and social skills in the classroom and across the island. Each student is a valued member of the class and of the Lighthouse School community. This creates an environment in which children learn to respect themselves and others, and grow to recognize the relationship between freedom and responsibility. At Lighthouse, children are encouraged and expected to discover the confidence, creativity, and capability within themselves. Because we nurture and respect each child’s individual growth, our children openly accept differences in thought and experience and recognize their responsibility for themselves and the world around them.

The breadth of academic, social, and creative experiences we provide fosters a joy in learning while engendering social and ethical awareness in each child. Our educational program is firmly rooted in a strong sense of family and community, and respect for the unique talents, creative expression and academic accomplishment of each individual.

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Why do you begin formal reading instruction later than the public school?

A distinctive strength of the Lighthouse educational program is its approach to Language Arts. In the early years, the curriculum differs most from conventional schools, public and otherwise. In particular, parents of 6 – 8 year olds will note that a child’s public school peers are expected to read at an earlier age. Why?

Children who are encouraged to be active, playful, and creative in early childhood are often the most enthusiastic learners during the elementary years. Traditionally, Kindergarten was intended to serve as a gentle introduction to school for young children and in first grade children began more formal learning to read activities. Kindergartners engaged in play, cooperative activity, arts and crafts, and experiential learning. Social development was the primary focus as children grew accustomed to working and playing together as a group and away from home. In first grade, children were more formally engaged in reading and writing lessons and acivities. This has changed. In the ‘race to nowhere,’ Kindergarten has become the new first grade with many preschools now striving to ‘prepare’ children for the more academic Kindergarten. At the same time Kindergarten entry age has dropped to accommodate the increased economic need and desire for childcare. Despite societal changes and requirements regarding accelerated academic expectations and curricular goals for young children, the development and needs of a healthy and whole child will not be ‘hurried.’

Jean Piaget and Rudolf Steiner both point to the seventh year as a watershed age, in that a child enters into a new and critical stage of development in which new faculties emerge. The seven-year-old has a new sense of self as an individual and thus can start to consider other points of view. At this age, the imagination and conscious memory arise, enabling the child to experience mental imagery and to recall information at will. There will always be children who demonstrate reading readiness at an earlier age and so each child needs to work at his/her own pace. A developmental approach combined with small class size enables Lighthouse teachers to meet children where they are, and to design age-appropriate lessons and expectations.

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How are students assessed?

The way in which children explore, communicate, encounter challenge, initiate follow through on tasks, and apply skills is best perceived in the context of a variety of work and play situations. Thus, a teacher assesses the resources, competencies and strategies a child applies to any given task on a daily basis. Progress is more formally assessed periodically by subject area and is considered both in the context of individual growth as well as in relation to the child’s developmental age group. Teachers meet with parents for conferences at the beginning of the year, and again at the end of the year, to share information and to reflect upon a child’s learning and growth. Teachers write comprehensive reports concerning each child’s social, emotional and academic development, as well as his/her individual strengths and challenges. These Mid-Winter Reports are sent home with parents at the end of February, just before the winter break.

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How do students transition into mainstream schools?

Our older students who move on to public and private schools are often noted as being confident, well-rounded, academically prepared, socially adept, and enthusiastic learners. Many can be found on the CPS and NHS honor rolls, as well as on athletic teams and in artistic/theatrical productions.

Where Lighthouse differs most from conventional schools is in the early classes, especially for 5-8 year olds. The Lighthouse curriculum is designed to coincide with the developmental stages of childhood so that we are introducing information when children are developmentally ‘ready’ to make sense of it. We are committed to providing young children the time they require to develop fundamental language skills and to fully immerse themselves in the playful ‘work’ of childhood. While Lighthouse classrooms are rich in language art experiences and stories, books, poems, songs, and writing are primary features of every classroom, more formal academic lessons begin in the Primary Class, once a child is around seven years old. By the time a child is 9 or 10, curricular expectations are more in line with those set by the public schools. Today many Kindergartens and first and second grade classrooms impose academic demands and expectations for young children which contradict what developmental research tells us about how children grow, learn, and make sense of information in their early years. Since Lighthouse is committed to honoring the child with a developmentally appropriate education, our academic expectations differ for these younger students and so a transition in these early years can present challenges.

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How do you address Physical Education?

Our goals are for children to develop a healthy integration of body and self, to play cooperatively, to handle competition in a positive spirit, and to have fun. At Lighthouse School, children participate in both structured games and unstructured physical play. On weekly field trips, students explore our island and utilize the community’s parks and playing fields. Children work to develop fine motor skill and strength through handwork activities. Children are outside playing twice a day. Older students often take part in organized group games at recess. In addition, Primary and Upper Primary Classes take part in more formal activities such as Soccer, Ice Skating and Fitness Building. Lighthouse Downtown classes have P.E. units throughout the year including Rock Climbing with Strong Wings, Soccer, Health and Wellbeing, Yoga, Ice Skating, Dance/Hip Hop, and Fitness. Many Lighthouse students also take part in extracurricular activities such as soccer, hockey, ballet, and swimming.

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Is Financial Aid available and how much?

Yes, the Lighthouse School does offer Financial Aid to families who demonstrate need. The School’s Financial Aid Literature outlines the criteria by which award decisions are made, including:

  • Information provided by School and Student Services (SSS) from the Parent's Financial Statement (PFS)
  • Information provided in the “Letter of Need” and tax records
  • Adherence to all application deadlines
  • Inclusion of all elements required: PFS form, Letter of Need, signed federal tax form

For Existing Families, the following conditions are also considered:

  • Financial standing with the school
  • Participation in fundraising activities

Financial aid awards typically range between 5% – 35% of tuition, never exceeding 50% of tuition. Admissions decisions are made independent of Financial Aid decisions.

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Do you have any after school programs?

Yes. We have an Extended Day program that runs through 5:10 p.m. The Extended Day program is simply structured to include hands-on activities, artistic projects and imaginative play indoors and out. Small, often multi-age groups provide intimate and trusting settings and enable instructors to work and spend time with individual children. The social curriculum of Lighthouse School is actively utilized to teach valuable lessons in empathy, cooperation, and conflict resolution. The warm and inviting Lighthouse classrooms provide children with a comfortable and supportive environment and a lively extension of home.

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What role do parents have?

A trusting and communicative partnership between teacher and parent is essential. Parental observations and insights are an invaluable source of information. We expect that, throughout the course of a child’s years at Lighthouse, both teachers and parents will approach this challenging and rewarding partnership wholeheartedly; with honesty, patience, receptivity and humor.

As part of the Lighthouse School commitment, parents are expected to actively participate in Parent Discussion and Administrative Meetings as well as Parent/Teacher Conferences and school events. Parents are asked to contribute their time and talent toward fundraising efforts and events throughout the year. In the interest of keeping tuition as affordable as possible, the school relies upon fundraising to meet the annual operating budget.

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How are children evaluated for acceptance?

Nantucket Lighthouse School does not select children on the basis of arbitrary measures of ability. In making admissions decisions, we take into consideration observations from the interview, past school records and history, and information provided by parents on the application. We seek to create balanced classes in age and gender and to promote diversity in the student body in terms of learning style and cognitive development. We look for indications that a child can benefit from the experience of attending our school and can contribute to our school community. An important criterion is that parents understand and value the Lighthouse School philosophy and mission.

Non-Discrimination Statement:

Nantucket Lighthouse School admits qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, religion, mental or physical ability, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to its students.  The School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, religion, mental or physical ability, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or any other status protected by applicable law, in the administration of its educational, admissions, scholarships and loans, athletic, and other policies and programs.

General Admissions Policy:

Nantucket Lighthouse School strives to build a diverse student body that reflects the School’s mission and values. The School further strives to ensure an appropriate match between a prospective student/family and the mission and philosophy of the School.  In doing so, the School maintains an admissions process that affirms the dignity and worth of each individual and respects the needs of students and families to learn about the School’s programs and activities.  We encourage families to learn more about our School, and to take advantage of our Open Houses, Observation Days, tours, and knowledgeable Admissions staff.

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