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Extra pickles, no mayo, add avocado, gluten-free bun please … how can it be that you can customize your burger, but not your education?
We would agree that people should be able to pick their own meal at a restaurant. Restaurants in the United States also have gone the extra mile to allow anyone to customize their order even after picking the meal or drink that they want. Any special dietary restrictions are accommodated. Any changes to an order? The answer is almost always, “Sure! No problem!” There are restaurants to pick from for every taste bud out there and I am so happy to live in a country where that is the case!
However, when it comes to education, we are so used to the standard recipe. Customization is rarely even considered! Public schools are overcrowded and everyone attending, no matter what they would like to study, will be made to study the exact same thing, predetermined by higher ups in the policy making offices. I call this cookie-cutter education, one-size-fits-all. Only problem… one size does not fit all, as is clearly evident from our food orders alone. Every student learns differently and are interested in different topics, so the only education model that truly makes sense is student-centered education where students have a say in what they study, as well as when, where, why, and how!
Not only do students learn in many different ways and are interested in many different topics, but the typical information fed to students in a steady stream with daily instruction and ridiculous amounts of homework, is mostly irrelevant to what they need to be focusing on in our changing world where it will be much more important for students to know how to solve problems and come up with creative solutions than memorizing a bunch of facts! Critical thinking, emotional resiliency tools, and other life skills are sorely lacking from curriculum and might be some of the most important skills to ever learn!
We are very aware of all of these issues and we have come up with a new hybrid school solution that could easily scale into a full-time school at our learning center, Learn Beyond The Book. Classes are created by subject specialist teachers who are passionate about their field. They have control over what they teach and how with minimal admin responsibilities. They instruct small groups of students with a class size of maximum 12 students and the students are only there if they chose that class. The classes include interesting and creative combinations like The History of Astronomy through Minecraft or Reader’s Theater combined with Shakespeare. Core subjects are seamlessly woven together with other things and sometimes core subjects are combined in classes like Math and Movement or Science through Art. Real life skills are taught in classes such as Adulting 101, Cooking Workshops, Entrepreneurship, and Economics/Personal Finance to name just a few!
Every semester students and their parents look through a list of over 200 courses, some in-person in Los Angeles area and some via Zoom with live teachers. They pick the courses that they are interested in. Sometimes it could be something as simple as Video Game Design, Python Computer Programming or Minecraft Mods, which most parents don’t have much knowledge about or it could involve a class in Beginning Guitar or Sound Design. High school classes are also part of the menu as well as Dual Enrollment Community College Courses.
Sometimes parents don’t want to deal with the mess of a science class, so they outsource that and for the rest of the time they homeschool or maybe the parent just really struggles with math so they sign up for someone else to teach their child. Often, these students are under the umbrella of virtual homeschool charter schools where families are provided with some funding to use for educational services at approved vendors, such as Learn Beyond The Book, but others pay out of pocket. Students then meet with their credentialed teacher at the charter school on a regular basis and discuss educational goals and progress. This outsourcing takes the burden of teaching all subjects at all different levels away from parents and especially when families have multiple age groups of children, it is helpful to have outside help from teachers they can trust. All the teachers are background checked and carefully selected not only based on subject knowledge but also character and care for students. Learn Beyond The Book is all about community and belonging, a safe learning environment where students are nurtured to love learning for life!
Learning centers, like Learn Beyond The Book, are springing up across the country and the world and provide the added benefit of a social environment for students, who are homeschooled, to learn with peers and make friends. In addition, it provides some time for parents to take care of their own needs while their children are learning. Often parents pick classes back to back so they can drop off the children and come back a few hours later so they can work part-time or just get the week’s shopping done. It is an all-round win-win situation for everyone involved. The centers also provide a potential for someone who wants to just earn a little extra cash at a good rate by teaching an interesting class. Often these centers also organize social events and field trips to fascinating places and even organize events such as homeschool proms or dances! Fun holidays are also celebrated by e.g. dressing up for Halloween or having a holiday party!
Learning centers, such as Learn Beyond The Book, often provide the best of both worlds… the flexibility and customization of education that homeschooling offers while still having access to the fun events of traditional school with friends and community. We hope you will join us soon for something you want to learn about!