While in Seattle a couple months ago, I had the opportunity to tour Chrysalis, an independent school that in essence brings a homeschooling bent to school. From their website: “Chrysalis builds a personalized program for your child that is centered around their interests, encourages their strengths, and provides the support of a larger community of learners.” There are group classes, but there are also one-on-one mentoring sessions, and the staff work with each student to figure out what combination will work best for that student.
At the high school level this reminded me a bit of community college — just a really caring, personal community college where every student has an adviser deeply invested in their well-being. I loved the flexibility, the lack of testing, and the emphasis on personal connection with the students. The woman who talked to me exuded a profound confidence in the capacity of her students and staff, a confidence that went beyond academic matters and had more to do with (for lack of a better word) their personhood.
Interestingly, at the grade school level I had more trouble getting an intuitive handle on things, although the system was essentially the same. I suspect it’s simply that I can entirely picture high school kids actively shaping their education, but I have trouble imagining that at a younger age — my own experience of grade school is too deeply ingrained. But when I look at Nathan and Ryan, of some of the other kids at Village Free School, I can certainly imagine it… I suppose this is a case of my conscious, rational beliefs running headlong into the unspoken beliefs I formulated as a child, and the two grinding against each other.
Also, if I’m honest, I had to fight some anxiety at the grade school facility. While at the high school campus I could mentally place the school as “like a community college,” at the grade school campus it looked like a school to me — not completely, but enough to trigger my old school anxiety. I know that impacted my ability to step back and think clearly.
But it was still a pleasure to talk with people who were passionate about individualized education, and familiar with concepts like autonomy and mastery (two of the primary human needs — see Drive if that sounds unfamiliar). And the biggest idea I took away with me, that I’ve been turning over in my head every since, is this focus on one-on-one mentoring. How could that fit in at Village Free School? How does it fit into our homeschooling? For that matter, how can I use it for myself?