School Year FAQs


FAQs | GENERAL PROGRAM LOGISTICS

Can we observe program or try a day of class before we register?
We are happy to host you and your prospective student(s) for a ~30 minute site tour. We can try to schedule it during the class time in which you are interested in enrolling if the schedule allows, but we do not offer drop-in trial days.

Tours include a walk around the property to see program spaces including the garden, woodshop, horse zone, archery range, riding arena, animal areas and general meeting zones. Thanks for letting your students know that tours do not include animal interaction time or any hiking to areas like the Tree Fort.  To arrange a tour, please call or email the office.    

Do you offer an orientation day for students to meet their teacher before the school year begins?
We finalize instructor assignments about one week prior to the start of the school year so we do not have a meet and greet before the class starts. If your student is feeling nervous about the first day we recommend setting up a tour.

We do not have time to introduce students and instructors in person prior to the start of the year.  Instead, we have biographies of each of our staff on the website so that students can familiarize themselves with our staff when they meet them on the first day.  Parents/Guardians of groups that drop off in the front may escort their student to meet their child(ren)’s instructor the first day of class. If you are doing drive through and need to speak with an instructor we will have you talk with an admin team member first to see what we can accommodate. Please email the office if this is needed for your family.

What sort of interactions will I get to have with my student's instructor?
For groups who are doing walk in pick up and drop off you can expect to see your child’s instructor at the start and end of class and are welcome to say hi and chat for a minute or two while your child gets settled in their day.  Since Sienna Ranch is a fluid program with multiple classes each day, instructors will have only about five minutes at the end of each class to check in with parents before they must move on to their next obligation.  For this reason we ask that you call or email the office to setup a meeting outside of regular class time if you wish to have an extended one-on-one conversation, as our staff are often otherwise transitioning to their next teaching duty. If you have a kid who gets dropped off through the drive through we recommend calling the office to set up a time to chat.

If you have a concern that is time-sensitive and your instructor does not seem to have the availability to speak with you, please stop by the red shipping container office to speak with Julie the Business Director who can help by either answering your question or supporting the instructor to make time for them to speak with you.

What should I expect at drop off my first day at the ranch?
We offer many different programs, from caretaker and child classes, to drop off nature, woodshop, pottery, archery, riding lessons, and cooking classes.

Your registration paperwork should tell you more about the pick up and drop off procedures.  Instructors are either teaching another class or are preparing right up until the start of you scheduled program, so we appreciate your understanding in supervising your child(ren) until they are checked in and with their teacher.  When it is time for class to start, follow through the drive through or escort your student to their instructor so our staff can introduce themselves and answer any questions you have.

NOTE ABOUT PARKING: We do share the parking lot with the ILM Tree Homeschool Co-op during the school year, so we ask that you make sure to park in a spot designated for Sienna Ranch since the ILM Tree families need to be able to come and go from their parking spot throughout the day.  If you have concerns about parking, please let our Director know.

The first few minutes of each group class is reserved for student arrival.  Your student’s instructor will likely check them in on their roster, introduce some sort of arrival activity option for your child to do while the others arrive, and may check in to see that your child has all their required gear for the day.  If your child has health history that the instructor wants to know more detail about they might ask you a few follow up questions about relevant allergies, etc.  When your child seems settled and engaged with the group you can say goodbye and depart through the front gate.

What should I expect at pickup my first day at the ranch?
Expect to look for parking designated for Sienna Ranch or to go through the drive through line.  Please plan on getting out of the car so that you can escort your student(s) from the gate back to the car if you are picking up in the front.  There will be many people coming/going at the same time.  Thank you for your help keeping students safe!

Students are responsible for telling their instructor that they see their ride inside the gated area, at which time they are allowed to check themselves out with the staff and walk through the gate to you.  We ask that siblings wait with their parent/guardian outside the gate if there is another sibling en route for checkout.

If my child wants me to stay with their group for the day, am I allowed?
Parent/Guardians are always welcome to remain on site during program in the parking lot or family waiting area (the benches outside the front gate). Once a group transitions to their opening circle, we do ask that parent/guardians separate from the group at that time and say goodbye to their students.  For those who need extra support we are happy for you to bring your child with you to the Family Waiting area for an extra hug or talk.  We have chosen a drop-off style program for the majority of our classes in order to give students the chance to bond more closely with our staff (and to keep group sizes small.)  We ask for your help explaining to your student that you are never more than a phone call away and that you will see them soon but that they get to have this adventure away from you.  (Exceptions are made for students with one-on-one aides assigned with specific behavioral or medical duties.)
What is expected of my child for a drop off program?
Students who get dropped off for program are expected to be independent using the restroom, willing to have fun and follow Sienna Ranch safety rules, as well as be prepared with whatever gear is needed to keep them safe in their program.  Students who are dropped off without food, water bottles, gear like rain jackets or appropriate footwear, may be asked to wait at the office while parent/guardians bring essential items to the ranch for safe participation.  If you have concerns about where to source gear, please let us know ahead of time.  We’re happy to offer advice or answers to your questions.

Our goal is to offer a safe and fun program experience for everyone.

FAQs | SCHOOL YEAR REGISTRATION

When does School Year registration open online?
We usually open school year registration in May the year before the program starts (for example for 2022-2023 programming we opened registration in May of 2022).

We strive to offer families the chance to preview the options for the fall with a few weeks notice so that there is plenty of time to call/email the office before registration opens to get assistance making your family account, deciphering class options or payment methods.  The best way to be kept up-to-date about enrollment is to subscribe to our email newsletter, since that is the tool we use to contact prospective families about registration.

How old does my child need to be to attend Sienna Ranch?
School Year Classes and Camps are grade-based, so you choose any program that suits the grade level of your student that year.  For our youngest ranchers, we do offer one program for 3 & 4 year-olds with their caregivers.  For all drop off programs students must be 4 by the start of the Session 1 program. For the Ranch Play program (3 and 4 year olds and caregiver) they must be 3 by the start of the class.

We rely on families to accurately report student grades.  Please let us know if you would like help choosing which grade level to assign your student.  We will automatically graduate your student at the end of the school year.

How do I make sure my student is in the same group with their friend/buddy?
 It is up to families to enroll their friends/buddies in the same class/time and with the same class # or instructor at the time of registration.

NOTE ON GRADE DIFFERENCES: If you wish for an older and younger student to be together, you are welcome to enroll the older student into the younger program.  Please do not enroll younger students in older programs without a written age exception from the office.

For class periods with multiple sections, make sure to communicate with friends about which class you are choosing (the title of the class will say either class #1 or Class #2).  Thanks for your understanding, that the office cannot guarantee there will be space to rearrange students once class rosters are set.

Which classes tend to fill quickly?
From year to year it differs but our specialty classes like archery, foodie farmers, and woodshop fill up quickly as well as our K-2nd grade programs.

Register early by enrolling online when program goes live.  Interested in multiple sessions?  You can sign up for all the sessions and use the payment plan option at check out to just put down a deposit of 15% for each session rather than paying in full. Once the session starts the remaining amount will be charged to the card on file.

Why do I need to make a deposit with my credit card now if I'm planning to use charter funds?
Sienna Ranch requires a deposit so that we have a means of collecting tuition due, should your charter school choose not to cover program or to only cover part of your tuition. It also holds your spot if your funds are not available to use yet. Refunding a credit card does incur a 5% non-refundable processing fee.

FAQs | ENROLLMENT LOGISTICS

If I purchase a spot for my child and they do not like the class, may I have a refund?
If your child does not like a program, our hope is that you communicate any concerns to the office (as well as any ideas for what could make the situation better) and give us the chance to work with your student to help them feel safe, supported and heard. After collaborating, if the student does not wish to remain in the class we will explore options to transfer to another program the same session that does suit that student’s interest (space-dependent).

We do not offer refunds once programs are underway, but if we can fill the spot with someone from a waitlist we may be able to make an exception to our policy and offer a family credit instead.

Do you ever make exceptions to the refund, transfer and credit policy?
Yes.  Our Director makes exceptions on a case-by-case basis.  Please reach out to the office in writing if you wish to request an exception to our policy and the director will be in touch within a week to help resolve your concern. 
What are your student-to-teacher ratios?
  • PreK-Kindergarten group classes usually have a 8:1 student to teacher ratio.
  • 1st grade and up their class size increases to 10:1.
  • Nature Sage program has a 11:1 ratio when it is at capacity.  

WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE DAY LOOK LIKE?

Ranch Play
Children and their caretaker spend the hour an a half watering the garden and looking at the worms, visiting an animal each week, doing a craft, and reading a story. Crafts and projects are different each week of the school year, so you’re welcome to sign up for one session or all four, especially if you’re excited to see the change of seasons at the ranch.  Expect to wear rain jackets and boots in the winter, adventures go on rain or shine!

NOTE:  Ranch Play is a one year curriculum.  You’re welcome to take it two years in a row, but students who participate in Ranch Play as 3 year-olds often choose to come for the drop off program, Junior Ranchers, their second school year at Sienna Ranch.

Junior Ranchers
Junior Ranchers will meet at their circle and engage in an arrival activity. All classes start with  a gratitude circle and share the rules and or nature news. Our activities for this class include organized group nature games, nature based crafts, stories, naturalist skills, animal visits, and unstructured nature free play. 

One hallmark of the nature program is space for instructors to encourage students to take advantage of unstructured nature play and empowerment to be in charge of one’s own body, words, belongings and curiosity.  With supervision and safe boundaries, we get excited about following student interests, sometimes leading a group to the buckeye tree, up into the lookout tower or over to the swamp to search for wild plums.  We hope that when you ask your student what they did at Junior Ranchers that they say something like, ‘WE PLAYED!’ since that is one of the main curricular goals of this program.

NOTE:  We have a 2-year curriculum for Junior Ranchers, so while there may be annual or seasonal traditions students are familiarized with year after year, projects and take home items are different between Year A and Year B.

Explorers
Explorers classes get dropped off through the drive through. Once at their circle they will engage in an arrival activity. All classes start with  a gratitude circle and share the rules and or nature news. Our activities for this class include organized group nature games, nature based crafts, stories, naturalist skills, animal visits, and unstructured nature free play. Each session there is a different theme for the curriculum and all those activities surround the theme. Curriculum is only loosely set, so each instructor (and each week) will be full of teachable moments based on student discoveries.

NOTE:  Sienna Ranch has a 3-year curriculum for Explorers, so students can continue with our program and ‘graduate’ to an older age bracket (experiencing unique projects that are age-appropriate) by the time curriculum spirals back to a topic they’ve already experienced.  We strive to offer at least one of these unique projects so that students have something to look forward  to as they age through our program.

Explorers can expect a number of seasonal traditions to repeat annually, including the fall acorn harvest, trade blanket and our winter feast.  These highlights, mixed with different quarterly themes, help students learn a homesteading, survival and animal-themed skill each session.

Nature Sages
The Nature Sage class also follows a theme for the session. Sages might join in a  group game with the other groups and can model sportsmanship to younger students who naturally look up to these teens as peer leaders.

Nature Sages will spend their class time focusing on a project for the day that is likely to be homesteading or survival-themed.  Nature Sages should expect to do tasks that are more nuanced and challenging than what younger Explorers accomplish.  For example, one project may take 3-6 weeks to complete in Nature Sages (whereas younger Explorers projects usually only take 1-2 weeks to complete).  Students are encouraged to embrace the challenges of more demanding project work and to seek their own solutions, although assistance from instructors is always available for those who need it.

Each week will likely also include exploration time which may be structured as group teambuilding or just a fun hike.  Students should be comfortable hiking on uneven terrain 1-2 miles with a small backpack carrying their lunch and should be ready to be outside the full class period, rain or shine.

NOTE:  Nature Sages has a 3-year structure intended for 7th-9th graders.  Take home projects may vary year to year.

Woodshop Wonders
Woodshop classes will include a variety of hand-build take home projects and an increased body awareness with exposure to hand tools like hammers, files, hand drills, sanding blocks, clamps, screws, nails and paints.  There may be occasional days that include ‘free build’, but most weeks will have guided activities meant to focus on different hand tool techniques (hammering, sawing, etc.)

NOTE: Woodshop programming is new each week, as instructors strive to offer fresh projects for students who return session after session.  If you take part in multiple years of woodshop you might repeat a project or two, but for the most part we’re able to mix things up and give new students the support they need their first few weeks of class while challenging returning students to do more advanced work.

Archery Adventures
Group archery programs are designed for students who are in 3rd grade and up.Archery students are taught bow and arrow safety and then get to spend time practicing shooting on the range. We play archery themed games and might do a craft or two throughout the session. We will take breaks during the class to eat a snack or play a game so our shooting arms can rest.
Critters and Clay
Shaded from both rain or direct sunshine, students have all the essentials provided to do hand-building with clay to make, sculptures, wind chimes and so much more!

While we do not have wheels for throwing pottery, hand building allows students to experiment with texture and slip/score technique to create unique, beautiful art.  Our pottery instructor starts each session with a clay exploration activity. All our projects are nature inspired. The pottery classes will take breaks and play games as well as visit the animals.

Foodie Farmers
Our Foodie Farmers class spends their time learning about where our food comes from and creating delicious recipes. The foodie farmers class starts off each week with a recipe of the day sheet they get to color and will add to a cookbook for the session. The class then spends time taking care of the garden as well as making a recipe. They will learn safe cooking practices. If you have food allergies we recommend signing up for one of our other classes as this class does not have substitute recipes for allergies.

Trail Ramblers
Trail Ramblers is our more challenging active movement class. Most of the class is spent off site hiking in Briones and practicing safe hiking practices. Right after drop off they will make sure their waters are full and will head off site to different locations. The class might also talk about maps and orienteering, and play group games.