DENVER, Colorado — The pandemic has shown many families that typical schooling isn’t working for many students across the country. Now there is a growing outpouring of support for microschools – smaller, unique school environments that are redefining education.
Heartland Academy in Denver, Colorado is a micro school that gives students the opportunity to take control of their own education and study from home on Mondays and Fridays.
Students have goals for physical education, math, science, and writing, but that’s where the similarities between this micro school and traditional schools end.
“We’re all self-taught here,” says student Aiden Hentrich.
“They agree together on the rules they want to follow this year and commit to sticking to them. Can you imagine what kind of social-emotional learning skills this requires?” said Adonia Hentrich, who runs the school.
Students work from home two days a week, concentrating on projects that interest them, and many practice running a business. Every year the students hold a business fair where they sell their products and it is open to the public.
“I’m sticking with the same business as last year, which is cotton candy,” Aiden said. “And now we’re going to create a blog for it and also a mock website.”
“My product is an iced moka and I’m working on a blog to help sell that product,” said student Tykus Martinez.
During the three days a week at school, students choose which subjects to focus on and how long to focus on each. Hentrich said that there is also a lot of social-emotional learning taking place.
“We are having peace table talks. We have town meetings where they bring new ideas; they vote on them. It’s really a kind of experience of asking, ‘What is civic responsibility? What does it mean to be part of a community?’ It’s very democratic and has a lot of options,” said Hentrich.
Adonia Hentrich said this hybrid homeschool model inspires her students’ curiosity about the school and its community.
“Our whole perspective is that children are already geniuses and can find a calling that will change the world,” Hentrich said. “And our mission at this school is to create an environment where they’re able to do that.”
“It makes it a lot easier to get the job done, and it makes it a lot easier because there’s less stress. So yeah, it actually helps you get more work done,” Martinez said.
This micro-school style of learning, which focuses on students’ emotional growth, is exploding in popularity in the United States. Heartland Academy is part of the Acton Network of Schools, a community of 300 micro schools. The demand for this unique training is constantly growing.
“I think our school really prepares people to be owners of their lives,” Hentrich said.
This school welcomes everyone. They have created scholarships, childcare options for working parents and doors are open to all ages. Tuition is $600 a month, but Hentrich raises grants to cover scholarships for students in need. You can also contribute to scholarships through this GoFundMe.
That year, grants helped several Ukrainian refugees enroll.
“Our school is self-governing, so they’re not just thrown into the environment where they get information; You need to test for it and then move on over the next week. You can take your time to study,” says Hentrich about the Ukrainian students.
She has also seen these new students teach their American peers as well.
“Our learners, who we’ve had here for a long time, have to acquire the patience to ask a question or type it into Google Translate and then wait for the answer. It also helps develop some compassion and empathy,” Hentrich said.
Hentrich said the micro school environment will help our next generation to think deeper and differently.
“It’s not so much about learning certain facts and then choking them out again, because these days facts are available online. Rather, it’s about knowing how to find what you need to know to achieve something you want to achieve,” said Hentrich. “Our whole system is designed around us stepping back, letting them have their experiences, letting them fail early, often, cheaply, and then learning from it and getting a lot stronger for it.”
“I think school will definitely help me in the future,” Martinez said.
Hentrich only hopes that soon more families will experience this for themselves.
If you would like more information about Heartland Academy or the Acton Network of Schools, click HERE. HERE you can support the school with a donation.
The Children’s Business Fair is open to the public and will be held December 17 at 1371 N. Julian St. (Colorado Family Church) from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m