Alternatives to Tradition
Traditional learning really doesn’t work for everyone, and not always for the reasons one would think. Many have likened it to trying to fit square pegs into round holes. We know from study that humans learn by many different methods. As hard as they try, teachers cannot always create lesson plans that appeal to the types of learners they have in the classroom, and the traditional classroom setting simply cannot teach all lessons humans must learn throughout life. While many talk about changes necessary for our educational system, across the country, individuals are taking action to prevent students from not only falling through the huge cracks in the American educational system, but also to assist brilliant students in choosing their own educations and avoiding the nightmare of high school. One such group, Proprius, is a self-directed learning community doing exactly this, helping youth choose their own educations and life paths.
Proprius is an educational co-operative operating out of Colorado Springs, CO. The mentors and leaders at Proprius dedicate themselves to mentoring the youth members at their center. Parents who wish they could homeschool their kids but have work or other obligations can work with Proprius mentors to ensure their kids get the kind of education they want and need. Proprius began to support such parents, and the co-operative continues to evolve. The mentors at Proprius assist kids to discover their passions and guide their own learning objectives.
When they’re given the ability to follow their interests, students are more engaged with the learning, the lessons, and their subject. This is a far cry from being forced into math, English, and sciences when the arts might be the source of true passion for a student. As well, colleges often actively seek students who’ve been homeschooled and have the right criteria because such students often see the world differently than those who’ve gone through traditional schooling. As well, students homeschooled and taught to direct their own learning are more independent and often find the transition from homeschool to college less jarring than many in traditional school.
The “unschooling” option, as it is often called, gives students far more choice than traditional school. The students can complete the homeschool curriculum of their choice, adding in workshops held at the Proprius center, internships in their field of study, and even go to college directly as early as age 14. Students at Proprius can also choose their own path with no college. The myth that a college education equals a good-paying job busted during the recent economic downturn, and an entire generation of millennials who had a hard time finding jobs out of college will probably dissuade the next generation from leaping headlong into college education without a goal in mind. After all, degrees aren’t always necessary. If a given student dreams of being a master electrician or following a trade, the mentors act to discover appropriate apprenticeships or internships in the community.
Because homeschoolers don’t require the same tests as government-run schools, students at Proprius have discovered a lot more freedom and self-confidence when it comes to their educations. Many of the students at Proprius withdrew from regular school to be homeschoolers. Some of the students were featured in a local news story, and they truly enjoy the freedom and flexibility they now have in their learning environment. As well, Proprius has even helped students find jobs doing things that interest them. The students aren’t taught subjects devoid of context as is done in school. Instead, they get the chance to learn inside of life, gain real experience, and deal with obstacles and issues as they arise. The students get the chance to teach themselves and learn from their own mistakes. This seems a far more accurate training to be a functioning adult than taking state-mandated tests every year and memorizing math and science books.
Perhaps most kids enjoy high school, but I rarely hear them say they love it or that they’re particularly excited about it. More often, they complain about it, and I understand. I felt like I was in a prison during high school. Sure, it was a nice prison, but it was pretty boring, and I didn’t learn anything truly useful. I was a good student, got A’s and B’s, but I was miserable because it was too easy. If Proprius would have been around when I was a teenager, I would have mastered all the subjects as quickly as possible and moved onto college at 14 or 15 instead of suffering through three and a half of those terrible years of high school. I might have had my BA at 20 instead of deciding at 18 that I needed a break from school before college.
Self-directed and experiential learning isn’t something you get in a classroom. That’s why doctors and nurses have to spend so much time practicing before they’re licensed. This kind of education gives all kids the chance to follow their dreams and discover their passions, and that’s something that traditional schooling just cannot do.
At any rate, educators and others all admit that something’s not going well with the American Educational System. Maybe the fix for our system merely requires we creating more community around schooling. If so, then such centers as Proprius and those like it could be at the forefront of community-centered schooling that is linked directly into business, education, and the arts to provide many different paths for our young people to follow instead of trying to fit many-shaped pegs into those darn, round holes.