Making the brave leap from conventional school to a micro-school
Last month I shared the story of Joey, a ten-year-old girl who joined a micro-school of mine after a disastrous few years in conventional school. As a recap, Joey was quite advanced in math and language arts but struggled socially. Her WISC-V was scattered significantly but she still qualified as “gifted” according to most metrics. She was a very creative and non-linear student: she learned quickly but needed time to demonstrate her learning. More than anything, Joey needed to connect with teachers and peers who understood her unique perspective.
When Joey came to me, she felt terrible about herself and her abilities. It took time for her to settle into our routine and trust that her teachers and new friends wanted good things for her. Joining the micro-school when she did marked a pivot for Joey—one that would place her in the direction of true learning, safety, and belonging.
Leaving conventional school behind is not an easy decision for anyone involved. Often, for the caregivers, it means leaving the system that they grew up in, and that their caregivers grew up in, behind. So much of our adolescence is defined by school, and it’s nearly impossible to think about our childhood without also thinking about what it was like to go to school.
Public school, as we know it in America, is one of the only social safety nets our country provides, meaning it’s one of the only institutions where you’re supposed to be cared for and looked after regardless of ability to pay. School makes the rest of modern life possible. This was a hard lesson learned during the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic, in March 2020. When schools shut down, caregivers could not work. When caregivers could not work, our economy and infrastructure began to free-fall into failure. I write all of this to illustrate how the concept of conventional, public school is central to our worldview.
Leaving that behind takes guts and intentionality. Eyebrows will raise when you share that your family has decided to move on from one of modern society’s most beloved (in word, not in deed) central institutions. Who do you think you are? Who are you to want anything different? Do you think you’re better than us? Very few people will come out and ask those questions, but many will think them!
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