On the Verge of Educational Revolution.

There is a quiet storm brewing, and the rumble is going unnoticed by most Americans, mainly because we’re all distracted with larger, seemingly more pressing issues. Navigating the current insanity we’re all surrounded by leaves very little attention for noticing the shifting educational sands beneath us. This is especially true during the summer since most kids are out of school. August is swiftly approaching, however, and with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to make headlines along with harrowing memories of many families attempting distance learning this spring, parents are exploring new and innovative approaches to educating their children.

I recently read the book Rethinking School, by Susan Wise Bauer. I skipped reviewing it since there was little untilled ground. We’ve talked a lot about education here at Reading in Between the Life, and as difficult as it is not to be redundant on the subject, I make every effort not to. The thing is, if you parent school-aged children, you already know everyone is rethinking school this year. What began as a necessity is opening our collective consciousness to fresh ways of thinking about education that will revolutionize schooling in America.

Many states are announcing their plans for the fall, and for some families, this means no return to the classrooms. It was one thing to gut it out temporarily through the spring. It’s quite another to contemplate juggling work and school from home as a new school year dawns. Distance learning was roundly unsuccessful, so parents are considering alternatives. Homeschooling is one of those alternatives.

Distance learning using Zoom, prescribed curriculums, and constantly emailing and scanning in assignments isn’t really homeschooling. Homeschooling is altogether different from replicating traditional school at home. Some families may decide that if they can’t send their children to school, they’ll keep them at home on their own terms, which makes sense. There is another, more appealing option emerging in several communities, and this is the one I believe will transform the educational landscape.

Micro-schools are not new. I first read about this back in 2015, when it was mostly the domain of a few niche communities:

Some experts predict micro schools have the potential to not only revive the one-room school house idea of yore, but also shake up the private school sector by offering parents a highly personalized education for their children at lower cost than traditional private schools.

What is a micro-school?

After trying to answer that question for a recent article I wrote for Education Week, I can tell you there is no hard and fast definition for this relatively new phenomenon. But, at least among the people I spoke with, there seems to be a consensus forming around a few core traits:

  • Micro schools have no more than 150 students, but are often smaller—from around 10 to a few dozen students;
  • Multiple ages learn together in a single classroom;
  • Teachers act more as guides than lecturers;
  • There’s a heavy emphasis on digital and project-based learning; and
  • Education is highly personalized.

But if you’re looking for a quick and conversational way to explain what micro schools are, I’ve been going with “a mix between a lab school and a home school co-op with an emphasis on blended learning.” There’s also nothing written that micro schools have to be private school, they just mostly seem to be. 

Traditional schooling, whether public or private, is still the primary choice for most families, but in their absence, necessity’s offspring are filling in the gaps. Micro-schools are gathering steam again as schools hesitate to reopen and parents fear reliving the strains of spring 2020. It’s the best of both worlds: small classes that ease social distancing efforts combined with the educational support that kids and parents both need. It also affords parents the freedom to earn a living, even if they’re earning that living from home. The schools featured in the original stories were expensive, but it would be easy for highly motivated families to pool their resources for more affordable execution of a similar quality of education:

“When the pandemic hit, it was craziness, while at the same time finding out we needed to be doing this distance learning,” said Darcy Alkus-Barrow, a mother of two who works full-time, as does her husband.

Now, the family of four is turning to a growing trend called microschooling, a home-based learning center for younger children that house four to 12 at a time, in a garage or spare room.

It is poised to change the face of education:

According to the Microschool Coalition, the microschool model is “determined to transform education, creating more and better learning environments for our children” and “redesign the learning experience.”

The way it works is that microschools can employ an accredited teacher, or parents can even rotate as a teacher in more of a co-op mode.

By staying with the social pod or COVID-19 cluster idea, it also minimizes exposure between families, creates social stimulation for kids and provides some relief for parents.

It occurs that our children attend what could easily be classified as a micro-school. Fancy that!






13 thoughts on “On the Verge of Educational Revolution.

  1. no display name says:

    This sounds more like an attempt to rebrand away from the more currently used terms “university model” and “cooperative school” because those are now pretty connected with conservatives, Christians, classical school revival, homeschooling and all the combos thereof. Cooperative school also has some Waldorf type associations too. Point is, it looks like microschool is a marketing tactic. Maybe to get funded as a public school alternative school or set up a funding stream along those lines.

    It’s similar to how homeschooling itself increasingly has more homeschooling parents talking about how their schooling is secular, child-led, unschool, etc as it’s been taken up by more and more liberal, nonChristian parents.


  2. Crystal Keller says:

    Micro-schooling. Wow What fun. Love it. Been thinking about that as I seem to have three friends with boys of similar age. I’m asking all of them to consider homeschooling and was thinking of ways I could help them. This gives some food for thought.

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bike Bubba says:

    Linda Schrock Taylor, who used to write a lot for lewrockwell.com, noted that the huge downturn in educational achievement started with the abandonment of the one room schoolhouse and what some would now call the “microschool”. I’d also note that many successful homeschool families use that in effect, older kids bringing the younger ones along alongside Mom & Dad.

    And I must confess that Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” comes to mind in this situation. If you don’t like his version, AC/DC and the Chipmunks also did a version.


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elspeth says:

    @ no display name:

    I hadn’t thought of that, but I think you may be right, especially in the cases of the schools with 2 dozen kids or less. It’s more or less a co-op, albeit in some cases as expensive one.

    I think they may be trying to be a little more than a co-op, kind of like our school. I’ve been in a co-op, where the classes change from semester to semester based on which families show up and on the interests and specialties of the moms.

    We left in favor of what some people would call a co-op, except we have some (not all) professionally trained teachers (for whatever that is worth), we meet twice a week, and when we meet, we’re there all day. The curriculum is constant as well.

    So kind of a co-op, kind of a school? definitely more of an investment than the first co-op we were involved with.

    But yes, as more secular families jump into educational paradigms that have been viewed as the domain of conservatives and religious folk, a re-branding is necessary. Either way, I think this is a significant development. it takes the heat of religious and conservatives doing the same thing of more *normal* people are doing it too.

    This is definitely a case of “the more the merrier” so long as we can all continue to do it on our own terms.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Elspeth says:

    @ Bike:

    I’d also note that many successful homeschool families use that in effect, older kids bringing the younger ones along alongside Mom & Dad.

    You really need to keep up. If it’s just your kids, then the whole concept is null and void, and you’ re back to being just another backward right-wing homeschooler! ;P


  6. Krysta says:

    Sounds interesting! I definitely hadn’t heard of micro-schools before. I guess I am left wondering how they are more affordable. If you have fewer students, don’t the parents need to pick up more the costs? Would this be an option mainly for parents financially well off?


  7. Elspeth says:

    Good morning, Krysta.

    In some cases, yes. This would definitely be an option for families in more secure financial situations. Meaning it’s not something lower income or single parent families can easily do.

    But that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, especially if you have parents with specialized training and education in particular subjects. For example our kids attend a part time classical school and this is the case. We have a mom with a master’s in music who plays several instruments. We have a literature teacher who was an actual literature teacher, history, and so on. It’s not dirt cheap, but it’s not exorbitant either..

    That’s the thing about alternatives and family driven solutions. Resourceful parents can a la carte or carve out what works for them. Which in my opinion, is a great approach since parents understand best what their specific child needs.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Krysta says:

    I think I understand it better now! So you’re not just pooling financial resources but also people and their talents? That’s pretty cool! Thanks for explaining it more!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. hearthie says:

    I like this idea! Haven’t heard of it before but <3.

    I do know that as far as a la carte is concerned, you can get charter schools (aka the state) to pay for all kinds of classes since the bulk of student expense is taken on by the parent (aka the facilities themselves and the mass of the hourly teaching). If I'd had umbrella insurance, I could have taken a teaching gig for a friend teaching her boys how to cook….


  10. Bike Bubba says:

    Gracious hostess, I think I’m stuck with the label of “backward right-wing homeschooler” no matter what I do. :^)

    Seriously, we do a certain amount of outsourcing/sharing of resources, but hey, if the invective fits, wear it, no?

    Liked by 2 people

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