What did you feel when you heard your child would finally be able to return to school after months of studying from home?
If you’re like most parents, there’s a good chance you felt relieved to be done with online learning, but if that was followed by anxiety, uncertainty, and even disappointment. Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone.
Depending on where you live and what schools are in your area, you may be wondering if returning to school really is the best option.
For many parents, homeschooling during the pandemic brought hidden education challenges into clear view. From falling behind in reading to not being challenged in math to struggling with unchecked issues like bullying, thousands of students are being underserved by school systems that just aren’t set up to meet the needs of every individual.
In some areas, known as “school deserts,” there simply aren’t any schools that you can count on to set students up for success.
The Microschool Movement
If you feel like you’re living in a school desert, or if you don’t have access to the kind of school that you know your child needs to thrive, you don’t have to settle. You don’t have to move to a new district or send your kids off to boarding school either!
Instead, you can bring your dream school to your own neighborhood.
Microschools are home-based schools, typically made up of 6-8 similar-aged students from a small group of families. Unlike a homeschool, students are led by a real, in-person teacher, and lessons take place in a social group setting–much like a traditional classroom but with a much lower teacher-student ratio.
You may have heard of “learning pods” or microschools over the past year, but did you know that this way of learning wasn’t just developed in the face of the pandemic?
Inspired by the concept of the one-room school house, my team has been working to give families everywhere the ability to learn from great teachers, in small classes. Our company, SchoolHouse, matches groups of families with teachers and provides the tools to create a real school, at home.
Parents can work closely with the teacher to customize the curriculum to meet the students’ needs, interests, and values. This means if you always wanted to send your child to a Montessori school, integrate time in nature, or add lessons in religion, arts or advanced sciences, now you can.
Is a Microschool Right for You?
The true magic of microschools is in the personalized attention that teachers provide when they don’t have to teach 15-30 students at once.
This should come as no surprise. The power of small class sizes was first popularized by educational researcher Benjamin Bloom who found that reducing class size creates dramatically better learning outcomes. Bloom’s research showed that with one on one attention, an average student could perform above 98% of the control class.
In line with this, SchoolHouse has seen remarkable results in students so far, including those who have learning deficiencies, behavioral issues or are simply bored in traditional school settings and need to be challenged.
Because teachers move at the pace of the students rather than catering to the mandates of the school administration, we’ve found students typically progress through materials 50-100% faster than they would in a regular school. This leaves more time for teachers to work through a challenge one student may be having, or go further in-depth on topics of interest.
Brian Tobal is a former teacher turned educational technologist who is obsessed with ensuring quality and improving learning outcomes for students. He started his career as a science and technology teacher at the Harlem Children’s Zone, then worked as an educational researcher and has spent the last 10 years building a dozen different learning apps and over 50 educational programs for schools, universities and the enterprise. You can follow him at @briantobal on Twitter.