Two Schools In The North State Provide Students Unique Educational Opportunities

These days, parents have multiple options for choosing the best educational path for their children. In the past, choices for educating children were primarily public or religious schools. Alternatives now include publicly funded charter schools and private non-sectarian schools, and home-schooling is more popular than ever. When choosing the best school for an individual child, parents should assess their child’s unique learning styles, academic interests and personal needs in order to choose a school that’s the best match for their child.

Two small private schools in Northern California, the Whittenberg Country School in Tehama County and the Progressive Schoolhouse in Butte County, provide children with an enriching education and are models for other schools that want to provide individualized instruction in a nurturing environment.

Photos courtesy of Whittenberg Country School.

Whittenberg Country School (WCS) is a small private school in Red Bluff for grades 1-8. It was established by Zachary Whitten, the school’s director and teacher. After teaching at schools in the area, he founded WCS in 2011 as an alternative educational choice for parents looking for a private education, with a focus on individualized learning in a multi-grade classroom, similar to the tradition of the one-room schoolhouse.

As a School of Mastery, WCS is student-centered; students learn at their own pace, moving ahead through the curriculum, mastering the material unit by unit. As they complete each lesson, their knowledge is assessed, giving them immediate feedback and discerning whether the student has mastered the material.

In addition to core subjects like English, math, science and history, art is taught on a daily basis by the classroom teacher. Specialist teachers offer further enrichment, such as in visual arts and music, on a weekly basis.

Whittenberg Country School is located on the 50-acre Whitten family ranch, owned by the family since 1919. The ranch has a creek, ponds, open farm fields and wild areas, providing children a rich environment for experiencing outdoor life. Cattle, sheep, pigs and turkeys are raised on the ranch, and students learn to work with the animals.

WCS emphasizes the importance of exposing children to a broad range of experiences, from climbing trees and wading in creeks to cooking a meal. Students grow their own vegetables in the school’s garden and have witnessed the birth of a lamb. Whitten states: “Part of growing up is acquiring a large group of experiences. Children need experiences that are rich and broad.”

Field trips are important components of the WCS. Two trips are scheduled each month, one outside and one within the ranch. Trips away include visits to Lassen Volcanic National Park, Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Vina Plains Preserve and the California Academy of Sciences.

Whittenberg Country School will be hosting the Pumpkinhead Family Bike Ride on October 12 at Red Bluff’s Ridgeway Park. Partnering with the Sacramento River Discovery Center, the event will raise funds for outdoor education and recreational programs. The school’s annual Almond Blossom Ball fundraiser is being held February 8, also in Red Bluff.

Photos courtesy of  The Progressive Schoolhouse

Another private school in the North State providing a unique educational choice is The Progressive Schoolhouse in Chico. Founded by Director Lori Tennant in 1985, Tennant’s vision for the school has been to create a model school where a developmental philosophy would be exemplified. “It is an intentional model for educational reform,” states Tennant.

The developmental philosophy is based on studies showing that children think and learn at different developmental stages corresponding to their ages. The school also recognizes that each child’s learning process is unique, so instruction is tailored to each child’s individual needs and learning style. Tennant says, “To individualize is to honor and respect each individual’s unique inherent learning potential.”

In addition to serving as director and administrator, Tennant is one of the school’s two full-time teachers. Throughout her many years of teaching, she has developed extensive materials to create the school’s curriculum, which includes traditional classroom subjects: core skills such as mathematics, reading, writing, science and humanities, as well as other important skills such as note taking, critical thinking and leadership.

Students of The Progressive Schoolhouse come together as a group to apply what they are learning by creating projects using research, writing, timelines and other tools. Last spring, some of the students’ projects included creating three-dimensional maps of geologic features and three-dimensional environmental drawings. Every project includes creative writing and presentation components.

Students begin acquiring foundational skills in the early grades; their skills and knowledge are enhanced through related learning activities and concepts that are taught as they progress through grade levels. The younger children, kindergarten through grade 3, have their own classrooms, providing opportunities for hands-on learning and preporation for their work at upper grade levels. The rooms for students in grades 4–12 have large tables where students can spread out their projects and work on individualized programs.

Art is an integral component of The Progressive Schoolhouse – all the arts are represented through the school year. Since 1995, the school has been recognized as a model school for The International Institute of Education Through the Arts. The school offers the Artist’s Playground, a year-round after-school art program for children and families, as well as an eight-week summer arts program.

Both The Progressive Schoolhouse and Whittenberg Country School are exceptional private schools. “The educational experience should meet the needs of every student,” Tennant states. Both schools strive to achieve that goal.

For more information about the Whittenberg Country School, contact Director Zach Whitten at (530) 526-7649 or visit the school’s website at For information about The Progressive Schoolhouse, contact Director Lori Tennant at (530) 345-5665 or visit 

Darla Greb Mazariegos
About Darla Mazariegos

Writer Darla Greb Mazariegos is a mother of three and part of the North State Parent staff.

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