What does a typical day look like?
Because students follow their interests, it’s impossible to predict what a day will look like. At Glacier Lake School, ask a student what their passions are and they’ll be able to talk to you about them and how they intend to pursue those interests. Students immerse themselves in activities which engage them from inventing in the workshop, doing Science experiments in the lab area, playing soccer, impromptu computer or board games, reading, playing the piano, working on Math - the list of opportunities are only limited by the imagination and passion of the student.
How does my child learn the basics of reading, writing & math?
Learning is most effective when a child is ready to learn. Children learn to read when they are ready to read. Some children read as early as four and some much later than that. Some children ask for help from staff or peers, and others learn with absolutely no instruction. By the time children reach their teens it is impossible to tell the difference between a child who has learned to read at four and one at ten. Children learn to write in the same way. When they are ready they start to show interest in writing as another way of communicating with other human beings. Through the numerous activities, which students pursue at a deep level everyday, they experience math without any formal instruction.
Think about a child of five playing monopoly. For example, they are learning a huge amount about counting, adding, subtracting, finance, saving, spending, lending, mortgaging, and so on.
Research has shown that when a child is ready, they can learn large parts of a traditional content-based curriculum in a fraction of the time. The entire K-6th grade Math curriculum has been learned in 5 or 6 weeks when students are completely motivated and immersed in the topic.
Is your school like Unschooling, Motessori, or Waldorf?
Other alternative models, such as Montessori or Waldorf, are similar to our model in that they are established on the premise that the child needs to be at the center of the learning process and that children should be able to have choices in their education. Where they differ is that these choices are often driven by an adult, meaning they can choose within a group of choices; so the child is not completely free to follow their passions at their own pace.
Often, home-schooling parents tend to start out following a set curriculum at home that is similar to that which they might experience at school. For some parents they see that their child is able to learn more and more on their own through following their own interests, and so the method of Unschooling may become more dominant in their approach to learning. Unschooling, like our philosophy at Glacier Lake School, recognizes that children learn through their natural life experiences of play, travel, family, mentors, etc. Where we differ is that at our school children are away from their parents in an environment where they can be themselves with other children of all ages. Learning takes on a whole new meaning when children are exposed to other children of many ages on a regular basis and the children are free from any form (subtle or overt) of parental influence.
Will my child be able to get into college?
Schools who follow the democratic, free approach have shown consistently for decades that more than 85% of their graduates get into the college of their choice. Students from schools such as ours stand out because they acquire skills that college admissions are looking for such as agility, cooperation, leadership, and imagination. As students become teenagers they tend to start thinking about the path they would like to take after school, and when they are ready, they do what is required to follow their interests. If that means studying for the SAT test, because the student needs this for the college of their choice, then they do so.
What "type" of student is best-suited for your school?
We welcome all students to Glacier Lake School, whether they are considered “high academic” or “struggling” in a traditional environment. All kids flourish when they are given the time and space to learn at their own pace and what they want to learn. The traditional system of education is a “one-size fits all” approach that tends to put kids into boxes, moving them from class to class and requiring them to “sit still and listen”. Our kids are free to explore and learn at the level that they are most comfortable with. We know from research that students want to push themselves to achieve more, and when they are left to do this they thrive.
What is the role of the Staff/Teachers at Glacier Lake School?
We prefer to call the adults at our school “staff members”. There is no hierarchy as in other schools such as department chairs, principals, etc. Our staff members, unlike in more traditional schools, step back and allow students to explore, and are on-hand when students ask for help. This is the reverse of what happens in many other schools where the teacher is the “giver of knowledge” and the kids are asked to regurgitate what the curriculum dictates. Because there is no set curriculum at our school, our staff members are always available to support when requested
What about discipline - can children just run wild all day?
There are rules, which are created by the community at the School Meeting, that broadly fall into two categories - care of property and care for each other. These rules are enforced through our Judicial Committee that is made up of a rotating group of students and staff members. Our school’s democratic approach ensures that issues which arise are handled by peers (students and staff members alike) in a fair way. Cooperation and understanding are reached when all members of the community work together to create an environment of trust and supportiveness.