Richard and April Johnson’s six-year-old son has grown right along with Bricolage. His first year in school was the school’s first year, too.
“We’ve been really pleased with everything about Bricolage,” April says.
“When people hear about how good it is, they usually ask if it’s a private school,” Richard says.
While the school was still in the idea phase, a mutual friend connected the Johnsons to founder Josh Densen. The couple helped out by hosting a neighborhood meeting to gauge parental interest in a school with Bricolage’s mission and values. They were sold on sending their son to Bricolage from their first meeting with Densen.
A promise of diversity and problem solving
“What was enticing to us, probably the number one thing, was the intentional diversity of the school,” April says. “Especially being a multiracial family, knowing that our son would have a diverse group of friends from different cultures and backgrounds, friends who looked like him and didn’t look like him—that was a big thing.”
Then there was the academic focus on learning how to think and problem solve versus pure memorization of facts or learning for a test. Although the Johnsons agree standardized testing has a purpose, they look more to the bigger picture of the future. “It’s hard to prepare kids for the unknown of the future, but we can prepare them with how to problem solve and how to face new circumstances,” April says. “A curriculum focused around teaching kids to be problem solvers and creative thinkers was really appealing to us.”
A child growing from outside-the-box learning
April says she can see how their son has grown at Bricolage. When he started kindergarten, he didn’t read. Now he flourishes as a reader. She’s impressed by how many opportunities her son, a shy child, has to practice being in front of people to present his ideas, work and ways of thinking. “I definitely never did that until middle or high school,” she says, “and they start in kindergarten!” The students often work and present on classroom tools like iPads and SMART boards. “He’s familiar with more things in technology than I’ve used myself,” she adds.
Richard says their son, more of detail-oriented, engineering-interested child from the start, loves the innovation class and his projects. “I’ve been so impressed with some of the physics terminology he comes home with,” he says. “I didn’t learn some of that until I was in high school, but they make the concepts simple enough for young kids to grasp.”
A rich education in a school that’s family
Overall, the Johnsons are pleased with how well-rounded their son’s education is at Bricolage, which includes music, movement and outdoor physical education classes. There wasn’t any homework in kindergarten, either. Now there’s no more than 15 minutes of homework every night and it’s often “interactive,” where their son explains or discusses a specific topic with them. April says she can’t think of a child who wouldn’t thrive at Bricolage. “The teachers are really caring and very focused on individual kids’ needs,”she says. “And in his class of 18 or 19 kids, they have a teacher and a teacher’s assistant in the class, so there’s a good ratio.”
From keeping in touch via email to offering plenty of volunteer opportunities for parents, they’re also impressed with how important community and a sense of belonging are to the staff. “They really do a great job of making everyone feel included, like they’re important and creating opportunities to spend time together,” April says. “They call it the Bricolage family.”
Is Bricolage really diverse?
It’s a great mix of kids from different ethnic and economic backgrounds—even a couple of kids from different countries. You’ll see in the carpool line or around town that some cars with Bricolage magnets are also sending their kids to elite high schools that cost the same as college tuition. And you have kids at Bricolage coming out of poverty. It really is as diverse as they said it would be. —April Johnson
What convinced you to join a school that was totally new?
What made us feel really confident about putting our son at Bricolage was that Josh [Densen, the CEO] and Michele [Murphey, the director of academics], were going to enroll their kids in the school. That really said to me that they were going to do the most excellent job they could because they were investing in their own children’s academic futures.—Richard Johnson, II
What advice would you give to prospective parents?
Visit. A lot of schools are kind of chaotic. At Bricolage, you see that kids are having fun, working together, lots of learning and discovery is taking place, and there are lots of positive interactions between the adults and the kids. I think if you were on the fence and you saw Bricolage in action, you’d definitely be excited about it.—April Johnson