5 microschool founders on their vision for the new school year
These “schools” are proving there is no one answer when it comes to education.
As a new school year starts up again, many families are returning to the classrooms and institutions they’ve grown accustomed to. But for some, a new school year is an opportunity to try something different, something like a microschool.
So, what is a microschool, anyway?
The definition of a microschool can vary. Most are active learning environments, where it’s easy for students to collaborate in a hands-on way. Microschools vary in their approach. That’s exactly the point. Individualized education. From schools designed to bring out confidence through the performing arts, to classrooms geared at equipping students with real-world skills, K-12 education expands when education meets students where they are.
In honor of the start of the new school year, here are some recently profiled microschool founders who shared their vision for the students educated in their program. May it inspire continued innovation in K-12 education.
1.Positively Arts: Pilita Simpson
Perfect is never the answer. Creativity is.
That’s the message Positively Arts educators use to encourage confidence, self-esteem, and individual thought. The belief here is this: performing arts can enhance them all.
“The goal is never to turn out perfect pieces, perfect songs, perfect dances,” founder Pilita Simpson says. “The goal is to turn out students who now have new habits of thinking, who are creating work. We’re creating opportunities for kids to use their voice in a world where a kid can go a whole day in a public school system and never speak … Some of our biggest feedback is, ‘My child never used to talk to me in the car. And now my kid is just so expressive and tells us all these dreams that they didn’t even know.’”
The goal of school is to prepare a child to succeed all their life, not just inside the classroom. But focusing on academics alone leaves out the most crucial tools necessary to tackle the real world.
That’s why Life Skills Academy doesn’t just want to prepare students to chase A’s. Instead, they want to incorporate pragmatic, “real world” skills alongside traditional academic curriculum, to prepare students to take on life’s challenges.
“If I go to a traditional school, I know how to take tests,” founder James Lomax says. “Nobody takes tests in the real world.” Instead, through pragmatic, real-life educational experiences, students “can actually rise to occasion and think through it, problem solve. They have the ability to communicate, they know how to problem solve, they have practical life skills.”
Not every child learns best through reading and writing, but so much of traditional academics utilize those skills above others. Not only can employing different learning techniques help each student shine, it can also give them an opportunity to discover new passions.
The Learning Outpost uses project-based learning to explore students’ various interests. This keeps them engaged and excited about education, no matter where their curiosity lies.
“We talk about their interests frequently,” explains founder Felicia Wright. “If we can foster those interests early, maybe that’s the path that they’re supposed to be on, and that’s the path that they’re gonna go on. I feel like a lot of kids miss that boat. They can say, ‘Oh I love this,’ but they never had the opportunity to learn about or explore it. So giving kids those opportunities is super important.”
4. Bloom Academy: Sarah Tavernetti and Yamila De Leon
The ultimate beneficiaries of school are the students. So shouldn’t they have a say in shaping their academic journey and goals?
At Bloom Academy, students practice self-directed education, which allows them to design their own curriculum that plays to their unique strengths and interests. This looks different depending on each student and increases the chance of success for everyone—in the classroom and beyond.
“They will learn what they need to learn when it’s relevant to them, when it’s important to them,” co-founder Sarah Tavernetti says.
5. The National Microschooling Center: Ashley and Don Soifer
“What is a microschool, anyway?” is just the first question. A long list of others can follow: which one is best for my child? Can it be combined with other forms of schooling? Where do I begin?
The National Microschooling Center isn’t a school itself, but a nonprofit movement-builder offering a collection of resources and support for those looking to start a microschool or enroll their children in one. Founders Ashley and Don Soifer help connect parents and educators, building a community that everyone can grow within.
“It really is about permissionless education,” Ashley says. “It really is about these local leaders saying, ‘I see a problem in my community, I’m not going to wait for permission to fix it. I’m going to step in and create a solution for these children.’ It also allows microschool leaders to be able to tailor education for a child in a way that oftentimes larger school systems cannot.”