This last September, our 13-year-old boy, Logan, rather than return to his San Francisco private school began taking lessons in a custom school his mother and I created around him. I don’t use the word “homeschooling” because that may conjure images of workbooks on the kitchen table with a parent being the major teacher. Logan, in contrast, is being taught one-on-one English and history by a former school teacher, learning Chinese language and culture from a young Taiwanese woman who has tutored before, Geometry from me three hours a week, in addition to a birding class taught mostly to adults, and a science class for homeschoolers at our local science museum, the Exploratorium.
I don’t know what to call this educational environment, but “homeschool” does not seem to describe it. In talking with other parents, we have found that this type of free-form schooling is not uncommon: one parent called himself a “general manager of education” as he explained that he did not teach so much as arrange, and in their case they leveraged the local community and junior colleges with one of their children taking their first college class at age 11. Whatever this school is, Logan is fully engaged, our family is closer than ever, and I am starting to think we are onto something. To put a name on Logan’s new school, I will call it a “custom school.”
While we just started this program with Logan, we are encouraged to continue and explore how schooling might be reorganized for some classes of students. This has gotten me thinking about how far this could spread and possibly leveraging the charter school system to build a new type of public school, one that has a class size of 4, but that is getting ahead of myself. Please allow me to explain how I have gotten here.