DENVER, Colo. — The pandemic showed a lot of families that typical schooling doesn’t work for many students across the country. Now, there’s a growing wave of support for microschools— smaller unique school settings that redefine education.
Heartland Academy in Denver, Colorado, is a microschool giving students the chance to control their own education and study from home on Mondays and Fridays.
The students have goals for physical education, math, science, and writing, but that’s where the similarities stop between this micro-school and traditional schools.
“We're all self-educated here,” said student Aiden Hentrich.
“They agree together on the rules that they want to follow this year and they agree to abide by them. Can you imagine what kind of social-emotional learning skills that takes?” said Adonia Hentrich, who runs the school.
The two days a week the students work from home, they focus on projects they are interested in, and many are practicing running a business. Each year, the students have a business fair where they sell their products, and it's open to the public.
“I’m sticking with the same business I did last year, which is cotton candy,” said Aiden. “And now, we're making a blog for it, and also a mock website.”
“My product is an iced mocha, and I'm working on a blog to help sell that product,” said student Tykus Martinez.
During the three days per week in school, students choose what subjects they focus on and how long they will focus on each. Hentrich said there is also a lot of social-emotional learning going on as well.
“We do peace table talks. We have town meetings where they bring up new ideas; they vote on them. It's really kind of an experience in, ‘What is civil, civic responsibility? What does it mean to be part of a community?’ It's very democratic and a lot of ways,” said Hentrich.
Adonia Hentrich said this hybrid homeschool model ignites her student’s curiosities about school and their community.
“Our whole perspective is that kids are already geniuses, and they can find a calling that will change the world,” said Hentrich “And our mission in this school is to create an environment where they are able to do that.”
“It makes it a lot easier to do work and makes it a lot easier because of less stress. So yes, it actually helps you get more work done,” said Martinez.
This microschool style of learning focusing on student emotional growth is exploding in popularity across the United States. The Heartland Academy is part of the Acton Network of Schools, a community of 300 microschools. The demand for this unique education is only growing.
“I think our school is really preparing people to be owners of their life,” said Hentrich.
This school welcomes all. They’ve created scholarships, child care options for working parents, and doors are open for all ages. Tuition is $600 per month, but Hentrich is collecting grants to cover scholarships for students in need. You can also help contribute to scholarships through this GoFundMe.
This year, scholarships helped several Ukrainian refugees enroll.
“Our school is self-paced, so they're not just being thrown into environment where they're they're receiving information; they have to test on it and then move on the next week. They can take the time to learn,” said Hentrich of the Ukrainian students.
She’s also seen how these new students have taught their American peers something too.
“Our learners that we've had here for a long time have to learn the patience to ask a question or type it on Google Translate, and then, and wait to get the answer. It's helping to develop some compassion and empathy as well,” said Hentrich.
Hentrich said the microschool environment is going to help our next generation be deeper thinkers and different thinkers.
“It's not so much about learning particular facts and then regurgitating them, because these days, facts are available online. It's really more about knowing how to find what you need to know in order to accomplish something that you want to accomplish,” said Hentrich. “Our whole system is set up for us to step back, let them have their experiences, let them fail early, often and cheaply, and then learn from those and become much stronger for it.”
“I do believe that the school will definitely help me in the future,” said Martinez.
Hentrich only hopes more families will soon experience this for themselves.
The Children's Business Fair is open to the public and happening on December 17th at 1371 N. Julian St. (Colorado Family Church) from 10 a.m.-12 p.m.