Alternatives to public education
Alternative education is defined as schooling methods that deviate from traditional curricula or teaching techniques. While there were only a handful of alternative education schools in the United States as recently as three decades ago, there are now hundreds, with more and more popping up year by year.
Most alternative education programs are designed to meet the needs of specific types of students. Alternative education is available at the primary, secondary and postsecondary levels, so you have options no matter what the age of the student.
Who Is a Candidate for Alternative Education?
Though just about any student can be considered a candidate for alternative education at his or her parents' discretion, most programs are designed for at-risk, remedial or gifted students.
At-risk students are those who have some type of disability or disadvantage which heightens their chances of performing poorly in a traditional elementary school or high school. Students of low socioeconomic status and those with learning disabilities are considered to be at risk, as are those who are academically challenged for psychological, emotional or physical reasons.
Remedial students are those who have performed poorly in traditional classroom settings and need individualized attention and instruction to get them on the level of their peers. Often, the best way to do this is to immerse these students in segregated, specially designed programs.
Conversely, many gifted students find themselves bored or unchallenged by traditional curricula. Many of them find programs of study that promote independence and self-directed study highly beneficial. Alternative education loans are available to help parents fund the placement of a gifted child in an expensive private school.
Alternative Education Techniques
The Montessori method is one of the best-known alternative education techniques, and many cities have at least one Montessori institution for elementary school-aged children. It emphasizes self-directed learning, supervised by a teacher (called a "director") who oversees the child's adaptation to more challenging tasks and projects.
Alternately, some alternative education high schools use strictly codified and highly structured environments to encourage at-risk students to participate actively in learning. However, the exact teaching techniques and philosophies vary significantly from school to school.