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Alternative Schooling Models

Updated: Feb 6, 2019

With back to school around the corner, education must be on top of many parent's mind now. But how satisfied are they with our education system?

The overall education spending in the US tops other OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) nations.  Total education expenditures amounts to 7.3% of our gross domestic product, 1% higher than the OECD average, according to the 2013 Education At A Glance survey. However, money spent doesn't necessarily translate into performance, as indicated in the 2009 PISA competency assessment. 15-year-olds in the US ranked 14 in reading, 25 in math and 17 in science performance among OECD countries. What went wrong?

There are certainly many arguments to explain the mismatch between spending and performance. The tiger mom discussion is just one of such debates, raising the issue about our approach to education. This week, we are going to explore this topic further. We have a panel of three dedicated educators to discuss about alternative schooling models, such as Montessori, and Waldorf.

These alternative models put the focus of education on the children and how they learn. Teachers often stay with the children for years which allow them the opportunity to understand the children's learning habits. Rather than teaching the curriculum based on a set schedule, teachers using alternative models have more freedom in determining how and when to teach the curriculum. According to our panelists, they often evaluate the children's interest and let the children's motivation drive the learning. Don't we all learn better when we want to know the answers?

On the other hand, alternative education models focus on the holistic development of the children. Besides the academics, these programs care about the development of the children from a physical, emotional, social and spiritual perspective. As life is unpredictable, a main goal of a good education is to teach children how to make good decisions, says our panelists. The holistic education approaches teach children to experience life themselves and learn to use their senses to help make decisions.

As Oscar Wilde once said, "Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught". Let our children do their learning. Teach them how to learn for life.

Is alternative schooling a good fit for your children?

A discussion of the alternative approaches to education and how they affect childhood development.

Listen to broadcast 08/13/13

Peter Berner-Hays, Headmaster, The Little School

Berton Herrlinger, Program Director, Living Montessori

Kim Holscher, Teacher, Three Cedars Waldorf School


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