Is a charter school a public school?
Yes. Charter schools are public schools of choice open to anyone committed to being a part of the educational community.


So how is a charter school different from a traditional public school?
A charter school IS a public school that operates independently from its local school district, yet which is still accountable for student achievement and operational performance. Just like all public schools, a charter school is funded on a per-student basis from state tax funds, and is bound by a legal contract (charter) with its sponsoring district. However, it is exempt from many elements of state education regulations and is governed as an independent non-profit, with its own board of directors.  Charter schools were developed to encourage educators to try different approaches in the public sector since children do not all learn in the same manner.

Who is eligible to attend Willow Tree?
s a non-tuition based government-funded public learning center, we are open to anyone residing in the state of California. If more students apply than there are spaces available, admission is decided by lottery. Priority is given to siblings of currently enrolled students.  Age restrictions on public school students also apply to us. Students must be 5 years old by September 1st. 


Do you charge tuition?
No. Charter schools receive funding from the state of California. However, this funding is insufficient to provide the level of education offered. We have a separate, non-profit foundation called the Friends of Willow Tree that is solely dedicated to supporting our school. We hope everyone participates by volunteering and giving in various ways.


Do you follow a traditional curriculum?
Yes.  In the grades, academic subjects are presented in a pictorial and dynamic manner that uses storytelling and images that motivate the child intrinsically. This motivation helps engender the capacity for joyful lifelong learning. The curriculum includes Language Arts, Math, Science, Ecology, Social Science, Foreign Language, Singing, Music, Dance, Movement, Handwork and Performing Arts.


Do the students take standardized tests?

Like all public school students, our students take the standardized tests required by the California Department of Education. While we understand the importance of standardized testing, we do not explicitly teach to the tests. In addition to our general curriculum, our students are taught basic test-taking skills. Our students in grades 3-6 participate in a Paper-Pencil version of the Smarter Balanced Assessment System, required in all California public schools. Our 5th grade students take the State Science assessment, this is an online assessment.


Why do you discourage media for children?
The reasons for this has as much to do with the physical effects of the medium on the developing child as with the (to say the least) questionable content of much of the programming. Electronic media is believed to seriously hamper the development of the child’s imagination – a faculty which is believed to be central to the healthy development of the individual. Computer use by young children is also discouraged.


Who is eligible to attend Willow Tree?
Charter schools, as non-tuition based government-funded public schools, are open to anyone residing in the state of California. If more students apply than there are spaces available, admission is decided by lottery. Once a student is enrolled, priority is also given to siblings. Age restrictions on public school students also apply to us.


How is your educational approach different?

Our educational approaches is designed to be developmentally appropriate. The method is partly based on the question: what is the best thing to teach a child at each age? Rather than the question: how early can a child be taught each subject? Children are given tasks according to their readiness, and not pushed towards the earliest possible achievement.

Our educational approach is also multidisciplinary, centered on a 3-4 week thematic block. At Willow Tree, academic studies are integrated across disciplines such as art, science, math, and history.


Does your school have a music program?
Yes. All students study music at our school. In fact, it is a requirement for students to play an instrument throughout their time with us and we ask that families take this commitment seriously.

How does Willow Tree serve English Language Learners (English as a Second language)?

Willow Tree’s language-rich curriculum supports English language learners as they become proficient in English. The use of vocabulary and imagery, as well as the social-emotional conversations, help students become proficient in a supportive environment. Willow Tree conducts annual testing for English language learners and supports students at whatever level of English acquisition they are.


How are special education students (those with IEPs and 504 Plans) served at Willow Tree?

At Willow Tree, we are committed to serving all students, including those with special needs.  Special education and related services are available at no cost.  We partner with the Sonoma County Charter SELPA, and for students without identified special needs who are experiencing academic challenges, Willow Tree implements a multi-tiered approach to supporting students through the SST (Student Success Team) process by providing research-based supports/interventions at various levels based on each student’s needs within the general education environment. At any point, if parents/guardians or the school team have concerns regarding a student’s academic progress or suspect that a disability is impacting a student’s ability to adequately progress within the general education environment, they can contact Willow Tree at


What kind of child benefits from your school?
Many different types of children benefit from our methods. Because the lessons involve multiple intelligences (movement, language, drawing, etc.) children can enter into learning in several ways. Because the teaching style and curriculum are centered around a child’s development needs, children tend to be heavily engaged in their individual learning.

One of the major strengths of this type of instruction is the sense of community and cooperation that develops within the class — an open community that invites children in rather than closing out new kids. That said, it isn’t right for everyone. The beauty of parent choice in education is having different models to choose from so that you can find the perfect fit for your family.


What credentials are required of Willow Tree teachers?

All Willow Tree teachers hold a California teaching credential.


Does Willow Tree have a dress code?

Yes. All students should be dressed in clothing that is free of media. This includes backpacks and lunch boxes. Children at school should be dressed comfortably and ready to participate in the full school day. Students should attend school dressed in play clothes that are suitable for the weather and fit comfortably without requiring the child’s attention.


How can I reserve a spot for my child in your school?
We encourage you to contact us to learn if our program is right for your family – email: or call: 760-260-3155