Is Attendance Flexible?
This is a question we are asked frequently and the simple answer is: "No".
Children registered in our program are expected to attend regularly and can not miss days on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to attend other programs. Older children and teens registered in our program may arrange and organize specific courses or opportunities in the community that align with their learning goals, these may be on coop days and we will support them in creating and accessing these opportunities. Some examples might be music lessons, sports classes, specific academic courses the child wants to take, etc.
We understand that children are sometimes sick and will miss days due to illness.
We also understand that travel can be an important family opportunity and that children can learn much from these experiences, if this is the case for your family, please speak with us. We want to support families in taking these opportunities when they arise while still maintaining the culture and connection within their group. If it is agreed that a travel absence will benefit the child and that the connection and commitment to our program can be maintained, full tuition will still be required.
At the start of each year we do ask that families adhere to drop off and pick up times closely and that they discuss any needed adjustments with a facilitator. Overall, we insist that children attend regularly and adhere to start and end times closely.
Why Can't My Child Attend Your Program Part Time and Another Simultaneously?
Our program operates largely through a carefully grown and cultivated group culture. Within this culture, each child has an individual role, a voice and a responsibility towards the group as a whole. Through problem solving together, setting group goals, working on projects together and sharing responsibilities for our space and the people in it, our kids gain a true sense of autonomy and personal responsibility while also forming a strong community in which they become crucial members. Their absence is felt, especially if it is consistent or prolonged. It greatly affects the group dynamics, our conflict resolution process, the ability to work towards shared goals and the individual roles and responsibilities the children choose to take on.
For this reason, we ask that all our families understand the importance of consistent, regular attendance. Our kids do not simply attend a program, they create the program, they fill administration roles, they form committees and make policies for the group as a whole. They need to be present to contribute to these decisions, to exercise their voices and to help form policies and plans for the group and their community.
Our facilitators work hard to establish this culture, to model conflict resolution, to help support the kids as they problem solve policies and committees. Each child ends up having a distinct, individual role within the group and each child receives lots of individualized support, problem solving and modelling as they develop their own individual place within the group. This process takes time and can be messy. It is greatly affected by regular or prolonged absence and causes great difficulty for that child in forming their roles, meeting their goals and helping to create the overall culture.
However, as a child-directed program, part of what we want our kids to learn is how to manage their own time. Especially when they hit older ages our expectations for regular attendance are more flexible. We appreciate the various ways that a child can be an active member in our program while also benefiting from a larger community and range of opportunities. We do expect all students, regardless of age, to attend regular meetings and to participate in the overall culture and operation of the group as a whole, but we recognize that their individual goals and responsibilities do not necessarily require they attend on a set in stone basis. Their commitments, ideas, goals and responsibilities would need to be discussed and agreed upon with the facilitators and the group as a whole, together we will adapt their learning plan and attendance requirements to meet their needs.
But What If I Want to Make Sure My Child Doesn't Fall Behind Their Peers in School?
We want to emphasize the importance of truly committing to this form of education. It works amazingly well, but it does take a great amount of support and a willingness to "think outside the box". It is not intended to be simply a place for kids to "socialize", although true socialization (as in learning to make a place for oneself in a larger society) is one of the goals, it is also a place for children to genuinely explore educational ideas and concepts without the associated pressures and external motivation that so often ends with a child forming a dislike for any (or all) more academic subjects. We want all our children to feel comfortable progressing at their own pace, in their own way and using the materials and supports they choose. They need to see this as valid and "true" education. This is severely impacted when a family wants to provide more typical school-based instruction alongside our program. The child ends up struggling to transition between these methods and is not served well by either. In the past we have had families wanting to place their children in our program part time and in a more structured school environment part time and we want to emphasize that this will directly and severely impact your child's ability to thrive, grow and develop here.
Our method is based deeply in creating a culture that embraces education, ideas, personal responsibility, autonomy and community. Within this culture, there is no stigma attached to progressing at whatever individual pace each child works at. They are not graded or compared to their peers. There are no external pressures on them to achieve certain goals or learn specific information. Rather, they are exposed to a variety of ideas, concepts, interests and subjects and show the joy that learning can bring without being pressured to do so. Children love to learn, when it is on their own terms, and subjects that adults typically worry about (such as math) do not carry the same instinctual dislike that they carry for so many of us raised through the school system. That pressure needs to be lifted, in all areas of the child's life, for them to truly feel comfortable exploring concepts and ideas, and tackling challenges without any fear of failing. This is why we ask that our families do not try and "balance" their child's education between these two worlds. They rely on intrinsically different base motivations and can negatively impact each other, decreasing the success of both.
For all the above listed reasons we do not offer part time placement, or accept part time students or any students that will be registered in secondary education programs during the school year. We find that it creates too many struggles for the group as a whole and causes a lot of stress on children in those dynamics.