Small group learning | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Small group learning

EDUCATION | Families looking for flexible education options turn to “microschooling”

Adriane Thompson/Prenda

Small group learning
You have {{ remainingArticles }} free {{ counterWords }} remaining. You've read all of your free articles.

Full access isn’t far.

We can’t release more of our sound journalism without a subscription, but we can make it easy for you to come aboard.

Get started for as low as $3.99 per month.

Current WORLD subscribers can log in to access content. Just go to "SIGN IN" at the top right.


Already a member? Sign in.

On a school day in late August, Jackie Almeida supervised 11 students in second to seventh grade as they ­completed their assignments. In an adjoining room, seven or so kindergartners and first graders worked with their teacher, Petr Grigorev.

These classes weren’t in a brick school building, though. They were in the basement apartment attached to Almeida’s home. Some of her students sat on plush or beanbag chairs, working on computers connected to Bluetooth headphones. Others worked at a table while munching popcorn. One student repeatedly interrupted Almeida with questions about a math concept. “Give your brain a break,” she told him, encouraging him to work on his PE goals before returning to math.

Almeida started Prism Microschool two years ago in North Newton, Kan. The tiny school participates in a ­virtual learning program at a nearby district, which arranges a contracted educator to be Prism’s teacher of record. “They’re public school students,” Almeida explained. “They have to be treated just like all the other students of Buhler [school ­district].” Almeida, whose background is in early childhood education, refers to her role with the students as a “learning guide.”

Prism is part of a new trend of “microschools,” small schools that often have five to 15 students, though some may have more than 100. Many parents choose microschools because of their flexibility and diversification, according to Don Soifer, CEO of the National Microschooling Center.

Soifer said the microschooling movement is still changing rapidly and remains in the “early adoption phase.” Without a uniform definition of what, exactly, a microschool is and no nationwide data tracking their enrollment, it’s difficult to know how many students attend these smaller schools. One EdChoice estimate last year, though, put the number at roughly 1 million to 2 million.

“We did see a lot of additional interest in [microschooling] as a result of the pandemic,” said Amber Northern, senior vice president for research at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. She added that students who went to private schools during the pandemic largely stayed there, while many students who temporarily transitioned to homeschooling eventually returned to public schools.

As with any educational model, microschools have pros and cons. Northern said that many parents choose the model due to its flexibility and smaller class sizes. Microschools can foster a closer school community than typically found in larger schools. But funding can be a problem for many microschools, forcing them to raise tuition or reduce the number of programs and extracurricular offerings for students. Northern added that students in microschools are limited in the number of peers they interact with. “It really is more of a boutique kind of innovation,” she said.

At Prism, Almeida said the school focuses on meeting children’s individual needs. During the recent August school day, students worked mostly independently, with at least one working ahead on the next day’s assignments. While listening to a school video on his headphones, one student built domino towers—an activity that helps him pay attention.

“We don’t look at, ‘Oh, you were born this year, so this is where you should be,’” Almeida said. “Each child is working with what they’ve got, with their talents, with their interests, with their—sometimes—struggles, but also sometimes, that’s the place where they’re really great.”

Lauren Dunn

Lauren covers education for WORLD’s digital, print, and podcast platforms. She is a graduate of Thomas Edison State University and World Journalism Institute, and she lives in Wichita, Kan.


Please wait while we load the latest comments...