Bigger isn’t always better

Microschools are catching on as more Minnesota families look for public school alternatives. 

Home education has become the fastest-growing form of education in America, with its explosion during the onset of COVID-19 largely sustained despite predictions that families would return to their neighborhood school once classrooms were opened and mask mandates were removed. In Minnesota, homeschool enrollment increased 10 percent in the last school year. (Public school enrollment decreased for the fourth consecutive year.) 

Microschools are also growing and are adding innovation and customization to the education space.  

While each microschool is unique in educational philosophy and school culture, they typically include small class sizes, multiple ages learning together (as a modern ancestor of the one-room schoolhouse), and personalized, project-based educational plans for a variety of learners.  

For Amy Marotz, founder and director of Awakening Spirit Homeschool Collaborative in Stillwater, Minn., her microschool comprises a community of homeschooling families who attend Marotz’s school under flexible schedules. Set on 15 acres, the microschool includes an outdoor forest school classroom, nature-based learning, and a setting for sensitive and gifted children to thrive under individualized and personal learning plans. Students use the Scouts BSA Handbook — published by the Boy Scouts of America — to learn outdoor skills, knot tying, and other naturalist-type activities. Individualized math and reading lessons ensure each student is getting a challenging level of work.  

“Microschools have been around in some name, shape, or form since the beginning of education. The one-room schoolhouses were very local — communities would band together, pool their resources, hire a teacher to come in, and that teacher would be a part of the community,” Martoz shared with American Experiment. “So, we are really reclaiming some of those old ways in a 21st-century tech type of environment.”  

As students learn skills in their respective areas of study, they prove mastery by teaching another child. “It’s a wonderful way to learn and cement things,” said Marotz.  

For Alfrieda Baldwin, her St. Paul=based microschool Laurel Community School operates as a private school, while still maintaining small class sizes and a mixed-age environment. The school’s vision is inspired by the Charlotte Mason method of educating students, rooted in three types of knowledge: knowledge of God, knowledge of man, and knowledge of the universe. Lessons are teacher-guided and student-directed.  

In Roseville, the microschool Skola focuses on project-based learning in a multi-age small group setting. Through a blended classroom approach, students are taught one-on-one or in a small group with a teacher and then continue learning through innovative play and child-centered activities.  

There is a clear revolution underway in education, and it is for the better (and one could argue, overdue). Families are pursuing alternative learning environments for a variety of reasons — perhaps they want a setting that will honor their perspectives and values, perhaps their child is unhappy, feels unsafe, or is academically struggling and they want the child to regain a love for learning.  

As education entrepreneurs continue to introduce tailored, flexible learning models, and as more families are empowered to pursue alternatives to the conventional education system, more students will have an educational experience that resonates with their strengths and talents and opens doors to a limitless future. 

Interested in learning more about microschools near you? Check out the National Microschooling Center’s directory, the Meridian Learning’s directory, or simply search Google for “microschools near me” to get started.