An article in MindShift, “Is School for Everyone?” discusses a concept that allows teens to fully direct their own learning, with appropriate adult mentorship and support.
Ken Danford founded North Star, a center that enrolls teens and allows them to learn on their own. A former middle school teacher, he saw too many kids damaged, disengaged and unable to learn. He has seen some amazing success stories out of North Star. There are apparently a few other places like this around the country. Students do have to take a GED or something in order to officially get a high school diploma. Many of these students do very successfully go on to college.
This would’ve been an ideal option for my daughter. Like the students in the story, she has significant anxiety around school and basically shut down. It would’ve taken her a few months to destress and come out, but I think she would’ve flown if given the proper adult mentorship and guidance, and allowed to learn at her own pace about things that inspired passion.
Would she have learned high level chemistry? Nope. Would she, perhaps, have explored a Mozart opera in depth? Probably. She may have learned to make films, done ceramics, listened to some great literature, taken tons of pictures, written some scripts, done some professional theater. This list could’ve been long. Instead, she was forced into classrooms with 30 kids, filled out worksheets and taken bubble tests.
We are hopeful that while college is still “formal” academic experiences, the fact that it is more self directed will allow her some more positive learning opportunities. Keep your fingers crossed.
And watch Ken’s TED Talk: