Micro schools: What we are, and what we are not
When board secretary Megan Corvus started looking into other, comparable, schools to Peace Valley online, she couldn’t find any. If any of you know Megan, you understand that this is due to an absence of similar schools and not to a lack of research savvy. The truth is that most micro-schools are privately owned (not non-profit) or charter (state-funded with the requisite testing that entails). Also barely any teach beyond 8th grade. So I am loath to post a bunch of reference articles (like this one from EdWeek) which, in turn, reference schools that share only a few characteristics with Peace Valley.
Wikipedia (which nowadays tends to be right more than it is wrong) has a short and lacking article on the subject of micro schools which describes them as meeting two days a week or less (which few in the US do) and sounds a lot more like a homeschool coop blended with a mainstream education corporation like Connections Education, Odesseyware, or Edgenuity). So I wouldn’t really suggest reading it if you want to know what Peace Valley is like. Here is how the definition of micro schools breaks down (including a few caveats about Peace Valley School):
- They are tiny (by modern education standards):
- They are integrated:
- They use technology:
- They don’t meet as often as traditional public or private schools:
A broad definition of micro-schools is that they are fewer than 150 students (though the most common definition is fewer than 30). Peace Valley has 12.
Many articles about micro-schools get giggly over the fact that they are bringing the one-room school house back…with technology! I would post the silliest of these articles, but it just references the Education Week article I posted a link to above, and there were several typos, so I won’t. For the most part, this is consistent with the research I have done. I honestly didn’t know that my obsession with the one-room age- and content-integrated model was actually a burgeoning educational trend until after I had most of it developed. But I do like that a lot of other educators are getting the idea that integration is possible thanks to technology.
However, a lot of the micro schools out there use full online curriculum (like homeschooler/high-schoolers tend to, in a homeschool mash-up͟) with teachers as guides. That is not at all what Peace Valley does. Here, I develop lessons, like the sample Storycorps Generations lesson here, that fully integrate curriculum and student’s individual work is entirely developed by me and a group of amazing educators/editors/consultants to whom I am eternally grateful. If there is an online course here or there, it is of the student’s choosing and my vetting (which means Peace Valley won’t subscribe to a particular for-profit company like Odesseyware or Edgenuity). When it comes to making education real, I always choose a mentor relationship and a college syllabus over an online class if I can. That being said, I have a lot of experience with basically every online curriculum available out there (I’ve even written some of it) and can make the best choice among them for the students’ individual needs.
While the public high school calendar is around 180 days (with half days counting sometimes but not always, and instructional hours measured in sometimes incomprehensible ways), the traditional school schedule is usually 5 days a week (Monday through Friday) from around 8 to around 3…it is hardly a set-in-stone calendar. Private schools (day and boarding) are all over the place in terms of model, but still pretty much stick to the same fall-spring, 8-3. Micro schools can stick to this too, and tend to. Some have drop-in programs; some only meet once or twice a week with much of the work happening individually at home.
Peace Valley aligns more with the traditional school year. Here is how and why: Peace Valley School will meet all of the curricular needs of students so that they are college- (or travel-the-world-, or other life journey-) ready. We will keep them learning, but plan on jumping into the van for un-planned field trips often. We also hope that we can meet the needs of parents who have children in more traditional schools. However, yeah, we will have more time off, we’ll have some shorter days, and we won’t be tied to the Oregon DOE’s needs for in-service, snow, and other days missed. We will mostly meet 5 days a week.
In contrast to some other “micro-schools”, a few notes on what Peace Valley School is not:
It is not a business: Peace Valley School is applying for non-profit status because the responsibility of education is to students, and not to share-holders and certainly not to the almighty dollar.
It is not a franchise: The model was developed to multiply. This means that we are documenting our process very carefully so that if somebody out there, someday, would like to use the Peace Valley model to build their own non-profit, private, micro school steeped in community and directed by one dedicated teacher, we are here to help. You might even be charged a travel or consulting fee if you live really far away. But in the end, we are one school on one farm and hope to inspire a small educational revolution which is a big enough goal without bringing an expansive business model into it.
It is not a homeschool program:Peace Valley is another educational option in a variety of options that might be right for any learner. I am a certified, experienced high-school teacher and curriculum writer who has been both AP and IB trained. I developed a formal schooling model that meets what I think the needs of young adult learners in this era are. That means integrating technology and the ever elusive real-life skills of growing and cooking food, mending clothes, and changing tires. This also means making sure graduates have a real transcript to send to colleges from an accredited secondary school as well as the opportunities to learn abroad, have internships set to curriculum standards, and opportunities to earn credit for work they do in the world. This is a school, and one I am very proud of.