MARCH 27, 2020

Micro-School: A Trending Homeschool Option


With the increase of school closures, thousands of children are now learning from home. Many families have turned to homeschooling or helping their children work on assignments through distance learning. Are these families considered homeschoolers since their children are learning from home? If not, what is the difference? The terminology may seem unimportant, but it can be helpful to know your responsibilities and available resources.

As far as public school-at-home goes, these students are usually completing work assigned by a certified teacher from a school district, private school, or virtual academy. In these situations, the parent is not responsible for reporting to the state or keeping records, and is officially considered the “learning coach.” Public school-at-home can be a wonderful option for children who need the atmosphere of home to focus and the one-on-one help from the teacher. However, it does not legally qualify as “homeschooling.”

When getting started with homeschooling, the difference comes down to which party is legally responsible for reporting to the state. Is a certified teacher working on behalf of your child’s education, or are you as the parent responsible for submitting an affidavit of Intent to Homeschool, sign up for standardized testing, and submit portfolios as requested? If you, as the parent, can answer yes to be accountable for these items, then congratulations, you have entered into official homeschooling. With the benefits of homeschooling, parents have the flexibility to select curriculum, assign lessons, control the daily schedule, take vacation breaks, and so on.

However, there is another realm of homeschooling that swings to the opposite standards of public school at home, called unschooling. While homeschooling is more flexible than public school at home with giving parents the choice in curriculum and schedule, unschooling is a different approach entirely. By unschooling, many parents avoid textbooks and standard curriculum as a whole, preferring to “lifeschool” as they call it. These families often look for learning opportunities in every area of daily life and let their child take the lead by learning from whatever interests them. As you can see, from public school-at-home, to homeschooling, and finally unschooling, the level of flexibility has increased per tier and the level of structure has dissipated. 

All that to say, the options families employ when their child is educated at home can vary greatly and fall within different categories other than homeschooling. Have you found yourself wondering in recent weeks, “Can I homeschool my child?” Our answer is YES, but you will want to determine your particular goals and vision for your preferred style of home education before getting started with homeschooling. In recent years, there is a new trend called “micro-schooling,” which is gaining popularity. Let’s discuss what it means!

What is Micro-School and How to Micro-School?

Micro-schools are a fairly new choice among homeschooling options for students. These schools operate as a hybrid of traditional schools and public schools. In short, micro-schools are led by teacher guides, usually in a home setting, for multiple grade levels of very small class sizes, typically only 8-10 students. Micro-schools may use a mix of online homeschooling curriculum, cutting-edge educational technology, and traditional funding resources. Micro-schools offer the comfort and freedom of homeschooling while relieving parents of the sometimes intimidating responsibility for their child’s education, especially if both parents work full-time.

Virtual homeschooling often involves an online platform and instructor, while still leaving the parent as the official teacher responsible to the state for legalities. However, micro-schools allow students to learn at their own pace, while following their interests, without putting the parents completely behind the driver’s wheel. If you have considered your homeschooling options and you’re unsure whether taking on the full weight of your child’s education is right for your family, a micro-school may be the perfect middle ground between traditional school, homeschooling, and unschooling.

How do micro-schools even work, though, and where can parents find them? Due to micro-schools being a new trend, the number of micro-schools in the U.S. is fairly limited. Micro-schools began in Arizona when the founder, Kelly Smith, noticed the stark difference between a child being told to sit and learn, and children learning freely from their ambitions. He started Prenda micro-schools, which have expanded throughout Arizona and even to a few other states. The Prenda website offers a wealth of information about how the micro-school approach works, what to expect from it, and where to find Prenda micro-schools. However, there are other micro-schools in addition to Prenda schools popping up throughout the United States — parents should research within their community for options.

When considering your homeschooling options, it’s good to know a synopsis of each style. Here is a summary of the main aspects of micro-schools:

  • Informal academic settings. Most micro-schools meet in the teacher guide’s home, an office, or a studio. This choice of a small learning space is to eliminate the typical classroom environment and invite creativity into academic work.
  • Students learn core academic skills at their own pace. The students will make their own academic goals for the core subjects: math, reading, writing, social studies, science, etc, and are assisted in these choices by the teacher guide. Students will then explore these goals, find their own answers, and reach their objectives on their own, at their own pace, and prompted by their own interests.
  • Testing is administered as required. Prenda micro-schools are partially or completely funded and therefore must comply with testing requirements as needed.
  • A micro-school features small classes of only 5-10 students. Small class sizes mean more one-on-one instruction from the teacher guide, greater understanding, and individualized education.
  • Various grades are welcomed to attend the same micro-school. Picture micro-schools somewhat like a pioneer schoolhouse in regards to the grade levels. Multiple grades are welcome in a micro-school since each child learns individually.

Micro-School Resources for Quarantined Families

Whether you are more interested in virtual homeschooling, public school-at-home, unschooling, or online homeschooling, it’s fascinating to learn about the new education hybrid known as micro-schools. Further, the mere existence of these schools reveals that parents are looking for an educational method more efficient for their children than a traditional school. Micro-schools may be the perfect choice for some families, and what matters most is the educational success of their children!

Here are a few links with more information about the micro-school movement and the process of transitioning away from public school. Enjoy!

Courtney Newman

Courtney Newman is a homeschool graduate, a writer, and a content marketer. Other than writing, her favorite hobbies include reading, visiting the beach, and spending time with her husband and pets.