Biggest Surprise about NorthStar So Far, and how Max Reacted

Max and I had a call with Ken, the director of NorthStar program for “self-directed learning” (i.e. homeschooling) today. I was surprised at how often he talked about parents giving direction to their “self-directed” kids. I mentioned this to Max and he said, “Yeah, I noticed it and thought it was weird too, but I just figured he’s used to talking to parents, and most parents are more normal, Not like us.”

So there’s a few things that I found fascinating about this statement:

  1. It’s cool that he picked up on that, and deciphered the reasoning behind it (I did ask Ken and confirm that it’s just a habitual twitch for him that he’s developed to manage parents emotions and support them in helping their kids be more independent).
  2. It’s interesting that he finds us not to be normal.
  3. It’s hilarious that he said “most parents are more normal, not like us.” I did point out to him while he helps out a lot around the house he’s not actually a parent, but I’m also excited by how empowered he is in the family.

As many of you know, Max has declared that after LOVING for the past two months at school he’s not going to return to public schools unless they can challenge him. We’re looking at a lot of options including NorthStar “home schooling”. At first Max was very resistant to “home school” but then he watched the video (which you should check out, it’s attached below), and it’s now one of his top two choices (Montessori being the other one).

Some of my favorite things about NorthStar:

  • It’s a place with people. There are 60 students aged 11 to 18. There are (optional) classes and meeting-spaces.
  • There are advisors who are familiar with the laws and the steps necessary to be in compliance.
  • They have lots of connections. If a child expresses an interest in something they work to set up internships, or find a student volunteer from UMass to come in and teach a class.
  • Kids can create their own “classes”. Adults are optional… we saw one of these in action on our “Skype tour”.
  • No set enrollment.
  • Really no pressure. Ken talked very openly about kids who have done a year at NorthStar and didn’t like it, so they left for “regular” school. There’s no “enrollment deadline”, so you can come in any time, check it out, and if you like it try it for a while. If you don’t like it… well you can leave. It’s not free, but it’s pretty damn cheep.
  • But best of all, I like that there’s a choice. There are options. Studies have shown that where you study matters very little in terms of academic performance BUT students how actively make a choice always outperform their peers. Because they’re empowered. They’re in control. They CHOSE to be wherever they are, so *of course* they are more invested in succeeding.

The only thing I *don’t* like about it is they recently moved from downtown Hadley to Sunderland. I’m sure there’s good reasons, but one of my eco-geek favorite things about them was they used to be right on the public bus line, so Max could have gotten there in 30m from our house with public transportation.

If you have a kid in school, even if you’re 100% sure that home school isn’t for your family, you should check out this video. Because remember choice is good, and if all this video does is makes you recommit to your current school, that’s a win too!

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