It’s easy to get lost in the day to day. When we started this journey, we always said we wanted to open a full day school for gifted students. It was frustrating to realize that NJ charter school regulations made it impossible for us to open a tuition free option. It was heartbreaking when we were unable to put together a board of five parents to work with Rutgers University to open our school. In 2013, we finally took the plunge to open HEROES Academy.
We didn’t have the resources or the know-how to open a full day program. We didn’t want to bite off more than we could chew, making ourselves solely responsible for the education of numerous children right off the bat. We have spent the last ten years writing and revising standards, curriculum, and materials for our classrooms, and I now realize that this will be a never ending process. There’s always room for improvement, and I learn new things every day.
But, it’s easy to get lost in the day to day. In the firestorm of building our “new” location during COVID shutdown, trudging through pregnancy, and trying to enjoy every minute of my baby boy’s life, I almost nearly lost sight of that goal.
In some ways, it’d be nice to *just* run our weekend programs and some after-school classes, but I know that’s not enough. And as I watch my little boy grow and learn, I know that I want more for him too.
It’s early, but I’ve already taken to investigating the homeschool co-ops in our area, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious to me that I don’t want my child to *just* have our classes on the weekends with a homeschool approach during the week. I want the school I’ve always dreamed of – a place where he can learn and grow with other kids throughout the week — a place where students can learn at a pace suitable to them, receive an academically rigorous education, explore the things they’re passionate about, collaborate, and more.
And no, I don’t *know* that he is gifted, and it doesn’t quite matter. I do already know – and see– that he’s different – we are different. He’s the happiest little boy I’ve ever met. His smile lights up my whole world. And, in many ways, he’s right on track. He’s five months old, starting solids, learning to roll and sit up, and trying to crawl. But he’s also one of the most tenacious babies I’ve ever met. His desire to learn is admirable. He wants independence.
He crosses his hands across his lap, observes the world around him, and gets lost in deep thought before erupting into an excited babble about his latest discovery, frustrated that I cannot understand what he’s trying to say. He intently inspects each page in the book before carefully turning the page. He gets frustrated when I turn the page for him before he’s ready. I will turn the page when I’m ready, he glares at me.
I’m determined to keep the “baby junk” at bay, but he exhausts his new toys quickly. Was that supposed to be challenging? He looks at me sideways as I watch him in awe. He loved his magic tissue box for a day or so, and it still provides him with unlimited tissues to wipe his face after eating, but the excitement quickly faded. Some toys — his chew toys, remain long term favorites as teethes, determined to one day be allowed to gnaw down on all the foods I tell him, ‘when you have teeth…” He is still determined to figure out what makes the sound in his spinning rainbow, and I think he will one day, much to my dismay, find a way to take the entire toy apart to figure it out. It took him awhile, but I think he’s finally concluded that the ball won’t come out of his favorite rattle. He tried. He made valiant efforts, but nonetheless, the ball remained inside.
He wants to socialize. Grandma taught him to wave while I was teaching last week, and he couldn’t wait to show off his new skill to me. He smiles widely at anyone who passes by, chattering up a storm. He’s figured out that adults make better conversationalists. He’s only found one baby interested in his conversation so far.
It’s not so much what he does but how he does it that amazes me. Everything he does is filled with intention. It’s as if he sets his own goals, puts a plan together, and then walks himself through each step. He doesn’t want to bang a rattle around for kicks and giggles. He wants to – and does – use it as a tool to hit or grab other things. He wants a burp cloth in hand to clean up the mess on his own face. He needs a blanket to turn the sun off when he’s trying to nap on-the-go.
Maybe he’s gifted. Maybe I’m just a proud mom. Either way, he amazes me everyday, and I know that I need to build the school I’ve been dreaming of to not only give him the education he deserves, but an environment he will thrive in – one that doesn’t just satiate his curiosity but embraces it and nurtures it – one that ensures learning and growing always brings him so much joy – one that let’s him to explore his interests, to move at whatever pace is suitable for him, and to collaborate with his peers.
I envision a three day per week microschool environment with pull-out instruction for the core curricular subjects – math, reading, and writing, and a combination of project based and literature based studies for history, and science, engineering.
Students would participate in “pull-out” math for a total of two hours per week and “pull-out” language arts for a total of 2 hours per week. These subjects would be covered through small group instruction and/or tutoring depending upon the various levels of enrolled students.
Each morning, students would participate in a morning meeting to set goals for the week and evaluate their progress on their current goals. After meeting with their advisor (me!), they’d have time to work independently on math “homework” or language arts “homework.” I use the term homework loosely because these students wouldn’t be at home.
Students would have time throughout the day to work on group and individual projects to fulfill science, history, and engineering standards. These projects would be cross-curricular, and students at a range of levels would work together.
I hope that I’m able to find 6 to 10 students to join Noah and I in our microschool when the time comes. This would be an addition to our weekend accelerated math and language arts classes — for those students and their parents looking to replace the traditional public or private school.