DALLAS (NewsNation) — As millions of students go back to school this fall, some are choosing not to return to the traditional classroom. Instead, parents are enrolling their children in “microschools.”
It’s similar to homeschooling, just with a small group of students.
The National Microschooling Center points to research that estimates between one and two million students are learning in this type of environment.
Data shows homeschooling has been on the rise since the pandemic and parents say they choose this option because they want that smaller class size, a flexible schedule and they want to be more involved or have more options for their child.
Critics say it’s too early to tell what the impact will be on a child’s learning.
Microschools are small learning environments outside of education systems, according to the National Microschooling Center.
Felicia Wright, a former public school teacher, started a microschooling program called The Learning Outpost in Las Vegas last year.
“Most of my families want their kids to be happy. That is the motivation for almost every kid that walks through, they have experienced some kind of trauma with school or they just completely hate it,” Wright said.
There are 24 students in her microschool, and Amanda McPherson’s 7-year-old is about to start her second year.
“She grew tremendously with reading, writing and comprehension. Everything really,” McPherson said.
Data from the National Microschooling Center revealed that nearly 50% of microschools emphasize specialized learning philosophies and another 26.7% offer faith-based instruction.
The remaining schools follow neither approach.
Alycia Wright founded Cultured Roots Homeschool Cooperative in Virginia in 2016 and largely serves students of color.
She enrolls 125 students, and there’s currently a waitlist to get in.
“I think parents are looking for a change. I think parents have a good idea of what happens in schools and they aren’t satisfied with the curriculum,” Alycia Wright said.
Not all lead instructors need to be licensed, but data shows the majority are or were previously.
Locations of the microschools vary from businesses and homes to houses of worship. All said, some educators express concerns about possible lack of oversight and how it impacts a student’s performance in the long run.
“We want to celebrate growth, but I have not seen any reports yet of proficiency to say that they are ensuring that students are reading at a higher level, that they are ensuring that the well being — the social, emotional well being — of that child supersedes and it’s sitting in a traditional school setting,” Dr. Karen Baptiste, an educational consultant and former teacher, said.
More than 88% of microschools rely on tuition and about 18% accept state-provided school choice money, the National Microschooling Center reported.