As the parent of a talented, gifted or at-risk child you may be wondering what the best route to take is when it comes to schooling. These kids tend not to do very well in public schools – they are too structured to encourage learning for children who think outside the box. Alternative schooling emerged in the United States in the 1960’s and has continued to grow since then. Today, it is estimated that at least 15% of school children in America attend alternative schools. There is no particular form of learning adopted by these schools – each has a curriculum structured to encourage maximum learning in a relaxed environment. Here are some of the most popular alternatives to traditional public schools.
If you have a child who is naturally curious you should consider enrolling them in a Montessori school. These were established based on the Maria Montessori philosophy – she believed that the best way for children to learn is through exploration. The teachers provide materials and through exploration, your child is able to gain knowledge, improve their senses and also their motor skills. There is a lot of emphasis on individuality – the teacher will take your child at their own pace and even test them according to their ability. Classes don’t have fixed ages – each one has children within a 3-year range and older children are encouraged to teach younger ones. The Montessori school system is great for gifted children but also for children who are slow learners.
There are some schools that offer purely Montessori education and there are some that integrate into existing learning systems. Currently, it has been integrated into about 8,000 private and public schools. Students who learn through the Montessori system tend to do better both educationally and socially.
The Waldorf System
This one emphasizes creativity and imagination. Classrooms are structured to look and feel like home and there are lots of space and learning materials. Children learn not just through instruction from their teachers but also through play and creativity. There is a lot of emphasis on art in the earlier years while sciences are introduced in later years. Teachers stay with their students throughout the first 8 grades in order to avoid disruption. Unlike in traditional schools where a teacher introduces a concept and teaches it over the course of several lessons, in Waldorf they can take as long as a full term – the concept is introduced gradually and then the class goes slowly into the most complex aspects of the topic.
There are about 125 Waldorf schools in the United States with many of them in California – about 20. Some private and public schools have incorporated the system into their curriculum.
This one is best for students who are preparing to get into top colleges and its main emphasis is on high academic performance. Students will mainly learn about international issues and citizenship. Up to the age of 12 students study reflective thinking, language, and communication and after that, they go on to do 8 subjects. They also participate in community activities and they are each required to complete a long-term personal project.
These are not the only alternatives to public schools in the United States. There are much more, include home schooling.