As states and school districts continue to change their back-to-school policies due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the national debate rages over in-person or virtual learning for instruction, some parents have taken their children’s education into their own hands.
A new form of quasi-homeschooling, called micro-schooling, is emerging. In this not-so-new format, neighboring families have decided to educate their children in a modern version of the 19th century era one-room schoolhouse.
But there’s a difference, Matt Candler, founder of 4.0 Schools, notes.
“What makes a modern micro-school different from a 19th century, one-room schoolhouse is that old school schools only had a few ways to teach — certainly no software, no tutors, and probably less structure around student to student learning,” Chandler says. “In a modern micro-school, there are ways to get good data from each of these venues. And the great micro-school of the future will lean on well-designed software to help adults evaluate where each kid is learning.”
Micro-schooling can involve 10 students or less, all at varying ages. The structure allows for extreme flexibility, proponents argue, and the content and approach to learning is determined by the parents.
“The model of a micro school is evolving,” the Micro School Network states. “Most are characterized by small learning communities made up of students working in mixed age groups. Teachers in micro schools do more guiding and less lecturing, and there is extensive use of digital and online resources to create personalized learning paths. Micro schools tend to emphasize project-based learning and community involvement.”
The network provides a platform for families to locate the right school for their children, as well as educational resources. Its “school finder” tool helps parents locate the best microschool for their child’s needs. They can search according to a student’s age, type of school, school attributes, and zip code.
Microschooling allows for personalized learning and individual attention with teachers, while also enabling students to learn in a multiage environment, Nevada Action for School Options explains. Instruction includes core classes of English language arts, math, science, and social studies, but also includes outdoor and other activities tailored to meet the students’ needs.
Nevada Action recently launched MicroschoolingNV in June and created a survey to help match parents and families with schooling options that best fit their needs.
“Families can do this, parents can lead microschools,” says Ashley Campbell, chief of staff at Nevada Action for School Options. “While opening up a schooling group might seem intimidating, parents leading these groups are doing amazing things all over the country, and it really is easier than you might think.”
Campbell says that while there are many licensed teachers opening micro-schools this fall, parents don’t have to be licensed teachers to lead or participate in one.
Micro-schooling takes different forms in different states depending on state laws. In Arizona, they operate as charter schools, in other states, as private schools.
Some families view micro-schooling as a permanent solution to their ongoing frustration with traditional schools not meeting their children’s needs. Others see it as a flexible, temporary solution to an immediate problem.
A recent Ipsos poll found that more than half of the respondents who are parents with a school-aged child said they were very or somewhat likely to switch to at-home learning.