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History of Family School

More than 20 years ago, in the basement of Monte Vista Elementary School, one teacher and six families launched an innovative educational program that has evolved into what we know today as Desert Willow Family School. From that basement classroom, Gael Keyes’ vision of integrative learning—in which teachers, students, and parents participate equally in the learning process—has grown and found a home in its current state-of-the-art, eco-friendly facility. Today, Family School’s unique combination of classroom- and home-based instruction provides both a curriculum and an educational philosophy to parents who want to actively participate in their children’s education.


Family School’s philosophy places critical thinking and problem solving at the core of its curriculum.

Critical thinking teaches students and parents how to learn, rather than simply what to learn. This approach asks students to question assumptions, consider different learning strategies, and determine whether a strategy suits a particular situation. Problem solving, particularly during group activities, teaches students how to approach a question and think through various ways of answering it. Focusing on these two methods of learning has allowed Desert Willow Family School to maintain one of the consistently highest educational ratings in the state