Top Chicago Private Schools and Tutoring Companies Answer Your Questions: Learn About Their Curriculums, Social-Emotional Learning Approach and More

Parents in Chicago and the suburbs are fortunate to have a wealth of excellent schools and tutoring resources to choose to send their children to — but this also makes the choice daunting. We asked some of Chicago’s best private schools and tutoring companies to tell us more about what they offer and how they can help your kids learn. As part of our conversations, we asked each organization to tell us more about their approach to a hot educational topic — Social-Emotional Learning, which refers to helping train students to manage their emotions, make good choices, learn to collaborate and better understand themselves and others. Here’s what they had to say:

North Shore Country Day

Courtesy of 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 focus on what matters most by developing critical thinkers, collaborative problem solvers and caring citizens of the world. Families of every background from across Chicagoland entrust us with their children’s education because here, every student is known, valued and empowered to become the amazing people they’re meant to be.

  • 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.
  • 547 students total; 196 in Lower School, 133 in Middle School, 218 in Upper School
  • 48% female, 52% male; 30% students of color
  • 85 teaching faculty; 15 years average teaching experience; 63% hold advanced degrees
  • 8:1 student-teacher ratio; 60:2 student-college counselor ratio
  • $2.5 million in financial aid allocated annually

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

Across all NSCD programs, our students are learning about self-awareness, relationship-building, resilience and decision-making.

Students in our Early Childhood programs (JK and SK) participate in an academic play-based curriculum that allows them to 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.

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 the everyday routines of our students.

Students in Middle and Upper School 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 2022-2023 school year?

In an increasingly complex and technological world, a robust curriculum in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) is an essential incubator for crucial 21st century skills. Through hands-on projects, students JK-12 learn to confidently ideate and solve real-world problems while they become more creative, critical, collaborative thinkers.

As course offerings in science, math, coding, and art expand and evolve, NSCD is committed to integrating STEAM principles into all disciplines. Right now, STEAM and computer science curricula in all three divisions engage students with hands-on opportunities to build, create and innovate, and offer students multiple pathways for pursuing interests and passions in engineering, design and programming through both coursework and expanded co-curricular opportunities.

In lower school, our STEAM integrator brings a wealth of experience in technology, and works closely with the lower school science, art and homeroom teachers in each grade level to create project-based learning to introduce basic coding and robotics, but also more advanced concepts like artificial intelligence.

The skills NSCD students are learning as they come up with inventions, tinker with robots, bring business ideas to life—in science, technology, engineering, art and math classes, but also in extracurriculars like Science Olympiad, Math Circles, AI and coding club, Invention Convention and more—are preparing them to contribute in an increasingly technological and interconnected world.

310 Green Bay Road, Winnetka, IL, 60093

Countryside Day School

Courtesy of Countryside Day School

Please tell us about your school:

Founded in 1967 and located in Northbrook, Countryside Day School offers a continuous Montessori program from 16 months through 8th grade including year-round school programs for preschool and elementary students. Academic excellence is at the core of everything we do, but we aim to develop character traits and skills students need to succeed beyond the classroom.

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

Countryside’s mission is to help students develop the qualities of respect, responsibility and resourcefulness. As a result, we are accustomed to being focused on character and well being. The school day had activities already built in to allow students to rest, unwind, explore personal interests, move around, and talk. Teachers are careful observers and are always attentive to students who may be struggling emotionally. Conversations about well being can be heard on most any day.

Do you have any exciting new plans or developments for the 2022-2023 school year?

CDS recently completed a Strategic Vision process which culminated in critical initiatives:

CDS classrooms emulate “real life,” giving children the opportunity to turn obstacles into opportunities, resulting in the development of strong character. It is like an “internship to adulthood.” The challenges and successes they experience every day in the classroom help them develop grit, agency, empathy, honesty, initiative, resourcefulness, and respect.

Our Montessori philosophy and mission motivate children to take responsibility for their own education, involve them as caretakers of their school environment, and engage them daily as both students and teachers. Every class is filled with teachers, because we understand the importance of our students seeing themselves not only as learners but also as contributors to the body of academic knowledge in their classrooms.

Because of mixed-age Montessori student groupings, faculty come to know and support students and families in unique and impactful ways. Older children become mentors and leaders to their younger classmates and come to see themselves as essential stewards of their community.

1985 Pfingsten Rd, Northbrook, IL, 60062

Fusion Academy

Courtesy of Fusion Academy

Please tell us about your school:

Fusion Academy is an accredited private middle and high school where classes are one-to-one: one student and one teacher per classroom. Our Teacher/Mentors personalize curriculum and pacing for their students’ strengths, interests, and learning style. Students may attend full-time for middle and high school or part-time with classes for credit, tutoring and mentoring, post-secondary counseling, and more. We offer rolling enrollment so students can start any time of the year.

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

Fusion Academy’s educational philosophy is Love, Motivate, Teach. This thoughtfully designed approach prioritizes SEL by making the student-teacher relationship foundational. Through our balanced one-to-one teaching and mentoring approach, and our Homework Café, teachers spend time getting to know each student and design a learning experience based on the student’s strengths, interests, and goals. Teachers see each student as an individual capable of succeeding, and when a student feels safe and cared for, they are more engaged in the learning process. At Fusion, students don’t just learn academics, they also learn about themselves.

Do you have any exciting new plans or developments for the 2022-2023 school year?

There are four campuses in the Chicagoland area: Evanston, Lake Forest, Lincoln Park, and Oak Brook. Visit to learn more and connect with your nearest campus to learn about upcoming events or to take a personalized tour.

Fusion Academy Evanston
847 Chicago Avenue, Suite 200, Evanston, IL 60202

Fusion Academy Lake Forest
840 S. Waukegan Road, Suite 224, Lake Forest, IL 60045

Fusion Academy Lincoln Park
1440 N. Dayton Street, Suite 104, Chicago, IL 60642

Fusion Academy Oak Brook
3041 Butterfield Road, Suite 200, Oak Brook, IL 60523

Hyde Park Day School

Courtesy of Hyde Park Day School

Please tell us about your school:

The mission of Hyde Park Day School is to provide students of average-to-superior intelligence who have learning disabilities with an innovative and comprehensive educational model that will help prepare them for a successful transition to public or private schools in their home community. We believe that the complex nature of significant learning disabilities requires a program that focuses on the remediation of fundamental skills, the development of strategies to compensate for learning challenges and the use of appropriate accommodations. This is accomplished through:

  • A low student-to-teacher ratio
  • A state-of-the-art technology program
  • An integrated services approach
  • Highly talented staff, all with a comprehensive professional development program
  • A safe, nurturing environment designed to build self-esteem, self-confidence, and a genuine interest in learning

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

At Hyde Park Day School, we help students to examine their own learning, interaction, and coping styles through exploration of the Success Attributes, a research-based program focused on six critical attributes related to success:

  • Self-awareness
  • Perseverance
  • Pro-activity
  • Goal-setting
  • Emotional coping strategies
  • The effective use of support systems

In addition, this year we are utilizing Responsive Classroom, which is a student-centered, social and emotional learning approach aimed at creating safe, welcoming and engaging classrooms.

Do you have any exciting new plans or developments for the 2022-2023 school year?

Yes! As mentioned, we have added Responsive Classroom to our repertoire this year, and it’s off to a great start. We are also continuing our DEI initiative, training our teachers in anti-bias thinking. We have just completed our new strategic plan, which will take us into 2026 with a blueprint for maximizing our impact. Finally, we have just launched the Joanne Steinback Educator Training Institute, which will enable us to share our expertise with other educators in the Chicago metro community and beyond.

1980 Old Willow Road, Northfield, IL, 60093

Lake Forest Country Day School

Courtesy of Lake Forest Country Day School

Please tell us about your school:

LFCDS is a 130-year-old school founded with a forward-leaning orientation to learning. Many curricular and programmatic elements boast progressive, 21st century leaning components: a 2,8000-square-foot Innovation Lab, multiple outdoor classrooms and labs, a social-emotional learning framework adopted schoolwide, a 1:1 student device program in the Upper School. Those qualities are balanced with traditional characteristics, such as a liberal arts focus to integrate multiple disciplines into student learning as well as emphasis on executive functioning and public speaking skills. This approach creates a balanced, yet dynamic, learning environment. LFCDS enrolls over 400 students from age 2 throug Grade 8, representing over 35 zip codes across the greater Chicagoland area.

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

Social-emotional learning plays a significant role in the LFCDS approach to teaching our students. When we talk about teaching the whole child, we’re as invested in developing our students as people as much as we are focused on growing their ability as learners. Our small class sizes create the conditions in which our teachers “know and love each child”, a principle that lives at the core our teaching philosophy. Also, LFCDS uses a social-emotional learning framework called RULER, that helps develop the skills and confidence to identify, articulate, and regulate their emotions, as well as build a sense of empathy for their peers and teachers. From a staffing perspective, LFCDS has two school counselors on our Learning Development team, serving as point people for students, faculty, and parents on navigation any social considerations at school.

Do you have any exciting new plans or developments for the 2022-2023 school year?

The biggest new development for LFCDS this year is the arrival of our new Head of School, Mr. John Melton. To learn more about Mr. Melton, we invite families to visit this page:

145 South Green Bay Road, Lake Forest, Illinois, 60045

Rose Hall Montessori School

Please tell us about your school:

Rose Hall is a small, nurturing school founded on the principles of Dr. Montessori. We pride ourselves on knowing each student with depth and care and meeting them exactly where they are. Rose Hall strives for excellence in teaching the whole child – their intellectual, social, and emotional selves.

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

We believe that social-emotional learning happens everyday and through every interaction. When children are treated with care, respect, and kindness they learn to be caring, respectful, and kind humans. The children learn to identify their own emotions, have space to explore them, while also practicing empathy by learning about the world around them. This is the basis for Dr. Montessori’s Peace curriculum, which is core to her classrooms.

Do you have any exciting new plans or developments for the 2022-2023 school year?

Rose Hall is always looking for ways to better serve our community. For the pat 40 years, we have been fortunate to serve many families on the North Shore and we are excited to continue that tradition, while also looking forward.

1140 Wilmette Avenue, Wilmette, IL 60091

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, Serve, & 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 2022-2023 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.

Do you have any exciting new plans or developments for the 2022-2023 school year?

We will be offering a complete summer program in 2023. Offering a variety of camps for children age 10-18 unique opportunities to develop their minds, bodies and character in a nurturing setting, while experiencing camaraderie and recreational variety they will remember for a lifetime. We offer both day camp and boarding camp opportunities. We will also be offering an academic camp for students who would like to reinforce what they have learnt in past subjects or get ahead in subjects for the new academic year.

1101 Genesee Street, Delafield, Wisconsin, 5301

Academic Approach

Please tell us about your company:

Academic Approach is an award-winning educational company focused on Teaching Beyond the Test™ through a unique brand of skills-based test 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 college admissions 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 2022-2023 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

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