Where is Skola located?
For the 2023-2024 school year, Skola will be located at 2105 Roselawn Ave W in Roseville, MN. We’ll be using facilities at Rose Hill Alliance Church, and spending lots of time near the adjoining pond and at Falcon Heights Community Park. Learn more about our campus here!
What is a Microschool?
While Skola is not the first Microschool in Minnesota, the concept is new to many parents. Microschools have grown in popularity across America in the last decade and are predominantly found in Texas, the North East, and California. Microschools tend to be grassroot organizations and are founded by parents and educators who have identified a learning need and/or educational services gap in educational opportunities in their community. Each microschool is unique in their educational philosophy, school culture, schedules, and student populations. Microschools typically serve 15 – 30 multi-age children but some larger established schools educate up to 150 children in small groupings.
How can one teacher teach multiple grade levels at the same time?
Skola Microschool is small on purpose, and this is one of the reasons why. We will employ what is called a blended classroom approach, where students are taught one-on-one, or in a small group with a teacher, and then continue the learning through innovative play and child-centered activities. Staying small allows the teacher to differentiate instruction in a more effective way than in a traditional classroom.
In reality, this is the hardest paradigm shift for adults who attended a traditional classroom. The model of education that most of us experienced was based on the assumption that all students should learn very specific items in a very specific order and at very specific ages. This old paradigm assumes that a group of 20 or so students, around the same age, are all in the same place to learn new content whether or not they are interested in it, or ready for it. This simply isn’t true. A traditional classroom teacher is faced with this exact same dilemma,
The constructivist approach challenges this by allowing the student to help design the course based upon readiness and interest. Students will be allowed to go faster or slower with the guide of a master teacher.
An old paradigm relies heavily on a teacher’s lecture. If you’re interested in how teachers are reversing the “lecture bottleneck” read this article.
This is also why we will work within large blocks of time rather than a more rigid subject approach. The blocks allow students to engage material in a full learning cycle, and to deeply immerse themselves in content they enjoy. There is more freedom to work at a pace that fits the child, and more time for teachers to guide and observe each student. Play and exploration is seen as part of the curriculum, not in opposition to it.
How do I know if my child is a good fit for microschooling?
Students who excel in the small multi-age classroom at Skola are independent learners who are curious about the world around them. They thrive when given the time and space to take deep dives into topics that intrigue them, working collaboratively with a team or by themselves. They persevere through difficult tasks and are excited about demonstrating their expertise in creative ways. They encourage and mentor their peers. They are bright, creative and playful. They are relieved to learn, to really learn, unburdened from the pressure of busy work or the need to cram for tests that don’t serve them long-term. They are students who love movement, the outdoors, and not afraid to make mistakes or work through questions. They love making connections, and see their learning connected to real life experiences.
How do I know if my educational goals for my children align with Skola?
Parents who recognize that education is a lifelong process and not a destination are well aligned with our educational philosophy.
Parents who understand there is an important difference between learning and schoolwork are well aligned with our educational philosophy.
If you have multiple children, you know that even though they rolled-over, walked, and slept through the night at different times, they each mastered it. Why do we think that all children become standardized at age 5 and begin to learn everything at the same time? That educational paradigm is incorrect.
Individual development and learning timelines still exist. Ignoring that truth results in frustrated kids who tolerate school, and who feel stuck in a system that doesn’t awaken or capture their creativity. At Skola, instruction is based on each child’s development and readiness. We continually assess skills and plan instruction appropriately. We evaluate based on mastery, not standardized assessments, because every learner is unique, not standard. We build trust and willingness to learn new skills with a combination of 1:1 instruction and multi-age small group instruction.
Parents naturally want their child to master real-life skills, to develop healthy learning habits, and have meaningful educational experiences. At Skola we prioritize all of these and intentionally make space for mastery, healthy habits, and really fun, cool learning experiences.
At Skola, we are grounded in the posture of culture care, seeing the people and setting around us as a gift from God. We don’t operate our Christian school as a means to avoid or “protect our children from” public or secular spaces. As a group we will notice our community, find ways to care for our neighbors, see and appreciate the creation and the neighborhood where we play and learn. We are pro-education, and we want all forms of schooling to be accessible, healthy options for our children. Skola is unique in its approach, but is one of many forms to help bring out the full potential naturally embedded in our kids.
How is this model different from homeschooling?
We will be asking each family to register as a homeschool family within their school district. On this form, you will designate that you have hired a licensed teacher to be the primary instructor in your homeschool plan, and also report our use of the Iowa Basics standardized test. This is the only part of Skola that is connected to, or resembles, the home education model.
In summary, the term “microschool” is relatively new and sits in a gray space between the idea of homeschooling and a small private school. We will use the flexible scheduling and personalized approach of homeschooling, but with licensed teachers who are committed to a reimagined way of teaching and learning.
How does Skola differ from other private schools in the Twin Cities?
Skola Microschool provides a truly personalized educational setting for your child. The multi-age small group “one-room schoolhouse” setting allows for student teacher ratios ranging from 1:1 instruction to 12:1 group activities. Students learn at their own developmental rate and learn in fluid groups that are determined by mastery not standardized age-based grades. Students have time each school day to play and explore, and are not confined to fast constricting schedules or rigid curriculum. Children have choice and responsibility for their learning which develops executive functioning.
Can students arrive late and leave early? How flexible is the school day?
Absolutely! One priority of this model is to allow flexibility for your family.
Students can arrive as early as 8:30 am with the official morning meeting at 9:30 am. Our closing meeting will end at 3:15 pm and students will have additional flex time in the afternoon. We ask for all students to be picked up by 4:30 pm each day.
We will tailor education to your child and so if school days are missed, there is no absent work required out of school. You get to decide when, and how many days of school, your family attends.
Are there attendance requirements? How flexible is the school year?
No. As homeschool parents, you are responsible for your children’s education. If you choose to take a vacation or attend a special event on a school day, that’s great! We will want to see pictures!
However, tuition will not be refunded for days your child does not come to school.
Will my child have homework?
We do not assign homework. If a child has not mastered a skill at school, why would we ask them to practice it at home with minimal support? Conversely, if a child has mastered a skill, why would they need to practice it some more? It is always wonderful when a child chooses to immerse themselves in a good book, or write independently, but we don’t believe that busy work is necessary. The low teacher student ratios and individualized learning allow us to pack a lot of learning in each day and we want kids to go home and enjoy activities, after school classes, and informal learning through play with peers and family members.
What materials will you use to teach the curriculum?
We are in a remarkable age with an enormous amount of accessible content. The problem is no longer “is there a good resource for that?” but instead “which one should we use?”
We will create a curriculum pathway for students in math, writing and reading — charting a course that keeps them at grade level but allowing them to go above or beyond. (For curriculum specific to science or history please see question #13)
We will collect and use hands-on tools and innovative and interactive materials as students travel down their learning pathway. We will have an innovative, eco-friendly “materials library” that will give students ideas and supplies to do amazing projects. We will use online sources to help bring more depth to lessons and activities. We plan to actively keep these two types of materials (physical and digital) in balance.
How will feedback work without report cards?
A typical report card makes sense within the confines of a traditional classroom but not when a child is allowed to explore, create, problem-solve, and go faster or slower based upon readiness and interest. Grading on the typical A-to-F scale doesn’t match the style of learning that we expect or want to happen during a Skola day.
However, feedback and reporting are still incredibly valuable to help guide the teacher, inform the parent, and inspire the child. The State of Minnesota also expects a certain level of reporting for homeschool families, and we will honor the State requirements, and even go above the amount of communication received in a traditional school setting. Every day, teachers in the microschool will take detailed but succinct notes on each student; cataloging skills, growth, levels of questioning, interests, and mastery.
Our goal is to help students become entirely ready for high school. Most importantly, they will be excited to learn, and confident in their abilities to problem solve, write, read, create and communicate. There will be large amounts of reporting along the way, it will just be mostly between teachers and parents, and not used as the primary motivator for learning. The natural, innate spark of learning, and the joy and growth that accompanies it, will be front and center, without report cards standing in the way.
Can you describe the “Literacy” Block?
Literacy is way more than just the mechanics of reading and writing. A literate child will be able to take in and absorb all types of text, process and wrestle with it, and then be able to contribute their own ideas back into the world.
Reading and Writing are foundational subjects, and skills that are not usually given enough time or depth in a traditional classroom. Using the workshop model, connecting to a student’s interests, and taking much of the pressure off, will allow students to flourish as readers and writers.
The workshop model needs time, and large blocks of time both indoors and outdoors.
What is the “Environment” Block?
In short, the traditional “History” and “Science” subjects would fit within this learning space. But, in thinking about these subjects differently, we focus on the idea that the environment is, in itself, a “teacher.” The setting, both indoors and outdoors, provides hundreds, if not thousands, of learning opportunities in the context of History, Social Studies, and Science. We will start with a focus on noticing the space, caring for the space, and using the space in the most vibrant way. Students will have access to history projects, science labs, reference books, experiments, engineering, robotics, coding and design. The majority of lessons will be taught through projects – both large scale and individualized. We will have a materials library where students will be able to design beautiful projects using really interesting supplies. Teachers will make sure that students work out of personal passions and interests, but that they are also introduced to fascinating stories and new scientific topics along the way.
What about specialist classes like Art, Music, PE, or Languages?
This model challenges the paradigm of individual and compartmentalized subjects. All subjects will simply be more intertwined and intersecting, including topics around music, the arts, languages and physical education. Again, in our effort to reimagine a school day that focuses on learning, and begins with the natural curiosities and interests of the child, there will be many times where the arts and physical education will be so intertwined it will be difficult to notice when they start and stop within a project.
Part of our hope is that by rethinking how a school day is scheduled, we can also encourage families to explore and have the time to participate in clubs, sports, and activities without the burden of homework or academic pressure.
What will J-term days look like?
J-term days will give teachers a chance for longer periods of rest and professional development. Only one teacher will be present during J-term and will lead the entire group through a focused project. Some examples of project ideas might be designing and conducting a field day; tapping maple trees and creating a syrup business; writing a play, practicing and showcasing it in a performance; and bringing in special experts, scientists and authors.
What will the posture be for COVID-related issues?
We will use mitigation strategies that are reasonable and researched. We will comply with the protocols of our rented space along with consulting Skola’s governing and advisory boards.
We believe that the Department of Education in Minnesota does consider the balance between child development and public health concerns. We will regularly check and align with the Department of Education’s COVID policies for schools, while also considering that our student body is smaller and can adjust some policies in a more tailored way. A smaller school community can pivot quickly and fluidly if another surge arises.
Above all, we plan on communicating well, and often, about COVID policies, positive cases, and our posture and stance of why and how policies are decided.