Top Chicago Private Schools and Tutoring Companies Answer Your Questions About Curriculum and Learning Approaches

Parents in Chicago and the neighboring suburbs are fortunate to have an abundance of top-notch schools and tutoring options for their kids, but this wealth of choices can make the decision-making process overwhelming. We reached out to some of Chicago’s premier private schools and tutoring services to delve deeper into what they provide and how they support children’s education. In our discussions, we probed further into their stance on a significant educational subject—Social-Emotional Learning. This involves equipping students with skills to handle their emotions, make informed decisions, foster teamwork, and gain insight into themselves and their peers. Here are their insights.

North Shore Country Day

Please tell us about your school:

NSCD is a co-ed JK-12 day school located in Winnetka, Illinois. Our college-prep program balances rigorous academics, arts and athletics. We develop critical thinkers, collaborative problem solvers and caring citizens of the world. 

  • Founded in 1919
  • Located on a beautiful 16 acres campus just north of Chicago; our facilities were intentionally designed to foster community building, collaboration and student learning. In addition to the lower school, middle school and upper school buildings, our facilities include a dedicated arts center, science center, athletic facilities, mission-focused maker space and state-of-the-art library.
  • 540 students total; 190 in lower school, 135 in middle school, 215 in upper school
  • 48% female, 52% male; 43% students of color
  • 85 teaching faculty; 15 years average teaching experience; 52% hold advanced degrees
  • 8:1 student-teacher ratio; 54:2 student-college counselor ratio
  • $2.5 million in financial aid allocated annually to 20% of the student body

How is your school supporting social-emotional learning (SEL)?

Our students are continually learning about self-awareness, relationship-building, resilience and decision-making.

In junior and senior kindergarten, students explore academics and social-emotional learning through guided play. Our Responsive Classroom approach creates a safe, joyful and engaging classroom environment that is developmentally responsive to the strengths and needs of each student.

As they continue in lower school, students grow in knowledge and character through exposure to an engaging and challenging curriculum that helps them see the world through multiple lenses and understand the needs of others. Our lower school curriculum focuses on themes of inclusion, respect, integrity, kindness and compassion during homeroom and community time, and elements of social-emotional learning are woven into students’ everyday routines.

Middle and upper schoolers utilize Advisory, community time and service learning opportunities to develop empathy, establish and maintain positive peer relationships, set and achieve goals, and make responsible decisions.

Do you have any exciting new plans or developments for the 2023-2024 school year?

As JK-12 wellness becomes ever more central to our educational approach, our learning spaces must also evolve. When students feel included, engaged and healthy, both physically and emotionally, they learn more effectively, resulting in higher levels of achievement and satisfaction. We are well on our way to reimagining our current gymnasium into a state-of-the-art athletics and wellness facility. We anticipate breaking ground in February 2024.

This facility will transform major elements of our JK-12 physical fitness, wellness and interscholastic athletic programs and impact every member of our community by:

  • Embodying the importance of active, lifelong learning
  • Creating an athletic and social hub, bringing our community together
  • Multiplying the potential offerings of our PE and health and wellness programs
  • Broadening the types of spaces and equipment available to our students
  • Supporting the athletic training needs of our athletes
  • Providing additional spaces for community gatherings
  • Offering modern, inspiring venues for interscholastic athletics

310 Green Bay Road, Winnetka, IL, 60093

Alliance Française de Chicago

Please tell us about your school:

Our school is a unique place where everyone can learn French and explore the Francophone world by engaging in immersive and fun activities all year round, in the heart of Chicago! With people from different parts of France, Algeria, Morocco, Belgium, Canada and of course the US, our team serves an equally diverse student body in terms of age, gender, race, ethnicity, and orientation. All levels are welcome, and it is a true pleasure and an honor to be working with and to be connecting such a vast array of people (1500 members and 500 students) through our mutual passion for French. Having seen students go from zero French to moving to France, witnessing a child be able to finally communicate with a French speaking grandparent, or even to see students send their first text message in French, are special moments we are proud to be a part of.

How is your school supporting social-emotional learning (SEL)?

While SEL is fairly new to some educational settings, we are pleased to say that we have always put a strong emphasis on the social aspects of learning. Actually, social awareness is an integral part of our approach with both kids and adults’ classes. Developing empathy (towards others and yourself) and self-awareness are essential parts of language learning, and they are at the heart of the cultural exchange dynamic that defines our mission. Mentoring or “buddy” system, as well as group work to achieve concrete tasks (for instance create a poster for your neighborhood association) are some of the tools and strategies we use to ensure students participation, progress, and well-being.

Do you have any exciting new plans or developments for the 2023-2024 school year?

Yes! We have had a very successful 2023 and are gearing up for 2024 with some exciting projects including redecorating our adult classrooms, revamping our curriculum with new and improved textbooks, hiring new talent, offering a new cooking workshop series in partnership with the Hogsalt restaurant group, and going back to more onsite events.

810 N Dearborn Ave 
Chicago, Illinois 60610

(312) 337-1070

Saint Clement School

Please tell us about your school:

We are an engaged community of leaders and learners bringing together Catholic-based values and modern academic practices to educate the spirit, mind, and body of children from PreKindergarten 3 to Grade Eight. Guided by our five anchors.

Belong, Learn, Pray, Share, & Give 

Our curriculum of interdisciplinary studies is designed to promote character development, intellectual curiosity, and critical thinking in a supportive and inclusive environment. A Saint Clement National Blue Ribbon school education gives students the academic and social-emotional tools they need to thrive at Chicago’s top high schools, and the compassion, courage, and confidence it takes to make a difference in our ever-changing world. Our greatest legacy is our alumni, and we receive testaments of their distinction every day.

How is your school supporting social-emotional learning (SEL)?

Saint Clement School places a big importance on social-emotional learning. Our faculty and staff in grades Pk3- 8th use the Responsive Classroom approach. Responsive Classroom fosters students’ belonging, engagement, and helps them become socially and emotionally competent learners and school community members. In addition to RC, Saint Clement delivers social/emotional learning through classroom learning and a variety of different school programs. In homerooms and Anchor Families, students discuss and explore topics such as mindfulness, growth mindsets, emotion identification and regulation, bullying prevention, self-care, empathy, and many more. In addition, student groups such as Hope Squad and Junior Hope Squad meet weekly to learn about mental health and then educate their peers and classmates.

Do you have any exciting new plans or developments for the 2023-2024 school year?

Saint Clement School implemented Anchor Families for Kindergarten through eighth grade. These families are made up of fifteen to seventeen students across grade levels. They meet twice a month for forty minutes and work on team building, service and worship. The goal is to build a wider sense of community among the students.

2524 N Orchard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614

St John’s Northwestern Academies

Please tell us about your school:

St John’s Northwestern Academies is a private independent school offering progressive education from grades 6 to 12. Our over 100 year old academy in Delafield, Wisconsin accepts both day and boarding students and with national and international transport links nearby, we are also a popular choice with international families. Our multi-cultural, multinational student population ensures that your child will live and and learn in a truly global academy. Our exceptional and diverse academic program (which includes an aviation program as well as a bagpipes and drums program) has seen our students attending top universities both in the USA and overseas when they matriculate. We pride ourselves on developing confident, well rounded students that will contribute positively as global citizens once they graduate. Our beautiful campus includes residence halls, two academic buildings, a student center, dining hall, chapel, and infirmary whilst our athletic amenities include a fieldhouse and weight training center, football stadium, Olympic-size pool, track, baseball and soccer fields, and an obstacle course.

How is your school supporting social-emotional learning (SEL)?

At St John’s developing an all round student is our number one priority and social and emotional learning is an integral part of that development. Our curriculum also includes leadership classes as a subject. Taken every year that students attend the academy, these classes focus heavily on developing our students’ social-emotional skills from relationship building to self management and decision making. What is unique about our academy is that the students are able to put into practice the skills they have learnt in real life as they develop as leaders in either our military academy or our prefect academy. In addition, our extremely qualified teachers and residential life staff are available 24/7 to support our students in whatever areas they need.

1101 Genesee Street, Delafield, Wisconsin, 5301

Academic Approach

Please tell us about your company:

Academic Approach is an award-winning education company focused on Teaching Beyond the Test™ through skills-based preparation™. Whether it’s preparing students for college entrance exams like the ACT or SAT or providing supplemental education through one-on-one tutoring or school programs, Academic Approach develops high-impact, customized education programs that not only raise tests scores but also grow vital college and career readiness skills.

How does your program support social-emotional learning (SEL)?

Academic Approach programs prioritize the individual needs of each student, which includes their academic strengths and weaknesses, learning styles, educational goals, and social-emotional learning (SEL) needs. Our mission of Teaching Beyond the Test™ means that we work to instill students with the necessary skills to be successful in college, skills that are both academic and SEL in nature. Yes, we teach students how to solve for x, but we also teach students how to creatively problem solve, how to self-manage time, how to discern when their anxiety is clouding their critical thinking, and how to find the resilience to handle setbacks and the grit to overcome challenges. Academic Approach students are successful on and beyond standardized tests because of this holistic, relationship-driven program design.

Want to read more about the relationship between social-emotional learning and college entrance exams? Check out our blog here.  

Do you have any exciting new plans or developments for the 2023-2024 year?

First and foremost, we are looking forward to another great school year working with our incredible students and teachers! 2022-2023 is shaping up to be a particularly busy year, though, due to the forthcoming changes to the PSAT and SAT.

While College Board’s announcement that they are moving their tests to a digital platform in 2023-2024 is still sending ripples throughout the education community, Academic Approach already has new curriculum and trainings on the revised tests underway, allowing us to once again be educational leaders during a time of transition.

To learn more about the digital SAT and what it means for your student, check out our comprehensive guide here.

342 West Armitage Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 348-8914

144 Green Bay Road
Winnetka, IL 60093
(847) 521-4956

JCC Chicago Early Childhood

Please tell us about your school:

Our discovery-based program provides the foundation for children to develop and grow while bringing Jewish values to life. We offer preschool, daycare and more for children 6 weeks to 5 years. Our professional, nurturing educators help your family feel that Florence G. Heller JCC in Lakeview is your home away from home. From incredible classrooms to our beautiful outdoor space, your child will have endless opportunities to learn, play, grow and make friends that last a lifetime.

How does your program support social-emotional learning (SEL)?

Our educators and full-time social services team are focused on social-emotional
learning to build resiliency and help students adjust to our new world. Helping children
understand and manage their emotions, feel, and show empathy for others, establish
healthy relationships, and make responsible decisions are the cornerstones of growing
good kids. The development of these essential skills helps build the foundations for
future academic success.

Do you have any exciting new plans or developments for the 2023-2024 year?

For the 2024-2025 school year, full-day, year-round rising 3’s & 4’s will be eligible for
FREE Apachi Day Camp. This Scholarship is intended to bring the joys of Apachi to our
littlest learners while providing significant financial relief for families against the costs of
full day Early Childhood. Half-day students will continue to receive a 20% discount off
the camp fee on their final payment.

Florence G. Heller JCC
524 W. Melrose St. Chicago, IL

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