Your Frequently Asked Questions.


How can my child benefit from attending a pre-K–8 school?

At Breakwater, we believe that 11-13-year-olds are still children, and we are committed to preserving the childhoods of our middle school students. Studies suggest that pre-K-8 schools provide many of the same benefits that small school schools offer. Pre-K-8 schools have been found to enhance students’ social capital and create greater opportunities for success by building relationships with staff and peers over a period of up to ten or more years. Overall, students in pre-K-8 programs demonstrate higher academic achievement, increased levels of participation in extracurricular activities, and greater leadership skills than students in traditional elementary or middle school settings. Students in pre-K-8 settings tend to experience less bullying, and the middle schoolers often take on the roles of mentor and role model to younger students.

Breakwater is described as a "progressive" school. What does that mean?

It means we love learning. We see teachers, parents and children as partners in a celebration of learning. And we believe that learning is the most powerful when it is integrated and authentic, personalized and active, challenging and inclusive. Read more about the Breakwater Way.


How will my child benefit from a multi-age classroom?

Multi-age learning environments expose younger students to the lessons and expectations of older students. Such glimpses into the future broaden younger students’ frames of reference and prepare them for the next developmental stage. Older students, in turn, are empowered to take on leadership and mentoring roles, which enhances their sense of purpose and belonging. Studies on the benefits of cooperative learning show that students often learn best from one another. At Breakwater, even our Kindergarteners have opportunities to share their important discoveries with their preschool peers. We frequently observe and monitor students' work to ensure that we provide learning activities that meet each student's needs and challenges him/her at the appropriate skill level.

How does Breakwater assess student progress?

Research suggests that the more kids are pushed to focus on how they are doing, the more they tend to become disengaged from what they are doing. At Breakwater, we have high academic expectations of our students. We challenge them to do their best work, and we incorporate key national educational standards into our curricula. However, rather than strictly “teaching to the standards,” we immerse our students in an integrated curriculum that gives a meaningful context to their learning.

Instead of letter grades, we use multiple forms of assessment to inform our instructional planning and to keep students–and their parents–aware of their progress. Through formal and informal observations and assessments, parent-teacher conferences, student portfolios, and other evaluation methods, we provide a well-balanced picture of each student’s growth, development, strengths, and learning style.

Tell me more about these 'essentialists'.

At Breakwater, we believe that immersion in art, music and performing arts, world languages, physical education (Outdoor Adventure), science, and nature is essential to the development of each child’s body, mind and spirit. That’s why we refer to the teachers who lead these areas Essentialists. Our Essentialists work together with classroom teachers to integrate disciplines and give context and relevance to the total learning experience.


What is the purpose or value of the Social/Emotional curriculum approach?

Our Social-Emotional curriculum begins in our toddler classroom and continues to build students’ self-confidence and self-awareness throughout the middle school years. It is designed to help students of all ages to develop and hone the skills they need to negotiate the social maze of daily school life on their journey toward independence. Because any given school day naturally requires students to solve problems, resolve conflicts, deal with disappointments, and manage their feelings and behavior, we begin early in the year to develop a common set of skills, rules, and language for students to use in their interactions with others.

We construct daily opportunities for students to work individually, with partners, and with small and large groups on such skills as: playing cooperatively, advocating for oneself or a friend, appropriately demonstrating emotions, and learning to interpret the behaviors of others. Through modeling and role playing in both structured and unstructured activities, children develop self-control and gain competence in their ability to make friends, resolve conflicts, express feelings, cope with stress, and choose appropriate alternatives to aggressive behavior.


How do you teach all these essential skills in a play-based environment (in EC)?

At Breakwater we believe that children best acquire skills when they are ready to do so, and that what children learn from early play experiences becomes the foundation for all academic learning. Through their exploration of materials and relationships, our early childhood students begin to construct a basic understanding of the world and learn how to solve problems, communicate, and make their own choices. At the same time, embedded in our daily activities are guided opportunities for students to practice essential foundational skills, such as language acquisition, math and reading readiness, and small and large motor skills.

How does Breakwater connect with the larger local and global community?

Our goal at Breakwater is to support students in a safe, engaging environment that encourages them to discover their passions and build upon their capabilities as they grow into intelligent, self-aware, and conscientious world citizens. World languages are integrated into the curricula at every level, and many classroom projects and school-wide traditions encourage students to develop empathy and social responsibility and to make connections across cultures and time.

In the educational community, Breakwater serves as a teaching practicum site for early childhood education students at Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) and for art education students at the Maine College of Art (MECA). The School also plays a leadership role in the Portland Area Reggio Collaborative (PARC) and is a founding partner for the collaborative Nasons Corner Park Greening Project. Our teachers are experts in their fields who facilitate our Parent Education Series and other workshops in the community. Many of our faculty also actively work as artists, craftsmen, and musicians outside of Breakwater, and we invite experts from local organizations and universities to teach some of our Enrichment classes, such as theater arts, martial arts, aerial trapeze, and LEGO robotics.

Let's Cut To The Chase.

Why should I choose Breakwater for Early Childhood?

The Breakwater Way is a mindset....Students experiencing Breakwater throughout the early childhood years develop values and friendships that will define and benefit them throughout their lives.

Why should I choose Breakwater for Elementary School for my child?

Research shows that keeping children in a consistent and familial educational environment through the elementary and middle school years is ideal, before allowing them the freedom of a change of venue, new friends, and new challenges for high school. 

Why should I choose Breakwater for Middle School for my child?

Young adolescence is a time for students to test assumptions, make mistakes and try on various identities. They need a safe and supportive environment in which teachers who know and care deeply for them can challenge them to take risks, think critically, explore new concepts, and try out leadership roles. Our middle school teachers are trained to understand the unique emotional and academic needs of young adolescents and are committed to helping them develop self-awareness and self-advocacy as they enter the years when peer pressure is most powerful.

Our Middle School curriculum is academically challenging, integrated, and relevant to our students’ interests and lives. 

Where do Breakwater students go from here?

After Breakwater, many of our graduates attend local public and private schools, including: Falmouth High School, Thornton Academy, Cheverus, North Yarmouth Academy, Waynflete, and others. What remains most important-and consistent-is that our students emerge from Breakwater as independent thinkers, compassionate world citizens, and lifelong learners who possess the academic and interpersonal skills they need to succeed wherever their choices and circumstances take them.

Let's Talk Beyond the Bell.

Does Breakwater offer before or after school care?

Yes! Breakwater offers supervised BeforeCare for preschool through eighth grade from 7:30am to the the start of the school day. Toddlers and preschoolers can enroll in our Enrichment AfterCare program from dismissal to 5:30pm, and a full array of Enrichment classes and AfterCare options are available until 6:00pm for kindergarten to eighth grade through the Breakwater Enrichment Center. Click here to learn more about these offerings and to register.

Does Breakwater offer a summer program?

Breakwater runs two fun and engaging summer programs: Our Toddler Program and Summer at Breakwater for children ages 3-5 (Discoverers), 6–7 (Explorers) and 8-14 (Ramblers and Adventurers). Our summer sessions, Enrichment classes, and AfterCare program are all open to non-Breakwater students. Click here to learn more about summer offerings at Breakwater.

Does Breakwater have a lunch program?

Yes! Breakwater currently offers two community supported lunch options for your child. On alternating Fridays our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Café offers locally sourced student prepared meals for our school community. Monday through Wednesday we offer home made lunches with a rotating menu of sandwiches, soups, paninis, and home style comfort foods. On Thursday, we offer pizza by the slice through Portland House of Pizza. Parents can choose to opt in for as many days as needed across the semester, or opt-out completely. More information about our lunch program can be found here. For those packing lunch-boxes, please note- Breakwater is a nut-free campus.

Why does Breakwater do recess BEFORE lunch?

According to recent studies and current best practice in education, when recess comes before lunchtime, students:

  • Consume more nutrients and waste less food

  • Eat at a more leisurely pace

  • Behave better on the playground, in the cafeteria, and in the classroom

  • Are more ready to learn upon returning to the classroom immediately after lunch

  • Perform better in the classroom because of increased nutrient intake and focused attention

Let's Talk Shop.

How old must my child be for your Toddler and Preschool programs?

Breakwater’s Toddler Program serves children from 18-36 months old. Children must be at least 18 months by the start of their first session. Our Preschool Program is designed for children 3, 4, or 5 years of age. Children do not need to be toilet trained when they begin as toddlers or preschoolers. We will work with your family to align our plan at school with the procedure you have adopted at home.

How and when can I apply for admission to Breakwater?

Breakwater welcomes families who value education and childhood equally. The application process typically begins mid-October and continues throughout the spring. Applications for our first round of admissions are due by February 15. After this date, we continue to accept applications on a rolling basis. To learn more about our admissions process, visit Apply to Breakwater. To find out if a spot is available for the current school year, contact Moriah Perry, Director of Enrollment and Advancement, at or 207-772-4295, x243.

Is financial aid available?

Financial aid is available for families who qualify. Approximately 40% of Breakwater families receive financial assistance from the School. At Breakwater, we value diversity and equity, and financial aid enables us to create a learning environment in which all members respect and learn from one another’s differences. Click here to learn more about applying for financial aid at Breakwater.