As the school year begins, several Edmond-area students will be the first to embark on a new “microschool” that will be a hybrid between homeschooling and a traditional brick-and-mortar school.
The Beacon School, 18800 N. Western Ave., will open its doors for the first time Aug. 5 to welcome 17 students from pre-kindergarten to fourth grade from 11 local families.
Edmond resident Emily Jensen, founder and head of school, said the idea for The Beacon School was conceived two years ago when she was looking at local schools for her children. She found many schools that had interesting and successful programs, but what she was looking for was particularly unique and difficult to find, she said.
Jensen said she was looking for a school that would allow her to homeschool part-time and send her children to school part-time for additional learning opportunities like project-based learning, field trips, leadership training, group activities and positive peer interactions.
The students will learn in a multi-age model, with all students in the same class learning at their own, unique pace.
“On any given day, we can only accommodate 15 students in the classroom,” Jensen said.
Several students will attend part time, either Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday. Others will attend full-time, Monday through Thursday.
The students come from Edmond, Oklahoma City, Luther and Piedmont, and most were homeschooled before coming to Beacon, she said.
Jensen was a teacher and worked in administration at private schools in Texas before moving to Oklahoma about five years ago.
“I got a sense for what happens in the classroom and for what happens in administration,” she said. “I would never have dared to tackle this without the experience I’ve had. It’s a daunting task even with that experience.”
She began by calling and visiting microschools in Oklahoma and out of state to talk with their leadership teams.
“I just started dreaming about it and told my husband one day, ‘Honey, I think I’m going to start a school.’ He looked at me like I was crazy, and it probably was.”
She said it’s been an amazing, exciting journey.
Beacon will have two “school guides,” one full-time and one part-time. Jensen said school guides are very different from a standard, lecture-oriented teacher.
“They work with students on an individual basis, kind of like a tutor,” she said.
At Beacon, students have specific daily goals and longer-term projects, and it’s the guide’s responsibility to assist and answer questions.
“What we’re trying to do is put the responsibility for learning on the shoulders of the student,” Jensen said. “We don’t want them absorbing information. We want them proactively seeking understanding and trying to figure out answers to questions.”
Beacon will be much more learner-driven rather than teacher-driven, she said.
Jensen said microschools are small schools started by parents who are unsatisfied by public school options.
“It used to be that parents wouldn't really question the process of education, and would just leave the process up to the ‘experts’ within the government,” she said.
“But within the past 10 years or so, more and more parents have begun questioning the processes we have in place as a country to educate our children, and are seeking for different models that allow children to be more engaged in the learning process through hands-on, project-based learning experiences.”
The concept is slowly catching on across the globe, she said, but the hybrid model of incorporating homeschooling is much less common.
“The biggest difference in the hybrid model is we’re trying to engage families who want to be engaged in the learning process with their children,” she said. “It’s a new concept that many people have not heard of. I think over the next 10 to 15 years we’ll see it really explode.”
Jensen said the future of Beacon will be a learning process.
“We want to grow organically,” she said. “We’re not numbers-driven. It’s about providing the best quality education we can for our families. We want to find families who are willing to think outside the box and don’t want what’s been prescribed for 150 years by the government.
“I’d love to see it where we have small Beacon campuses all over the state and beyond, but for now we’re focused on quality and growing and educating students the best we can.”
Part-time tuition is $350 a month, full-time tuition is $700 a month, and the school is still accepting students for the 2019-20 school year.
For information about the Beacon School, email email@example.com.