FlexSchool—The Gifted & 2e Micro School
FlexSchool started to save one twelve-year-old girl. Jane loved to learn what she wanted to learn, and spent hours engrossed in videos and web pages about animals. She could tell you about muscle cells and animal anatomy. She researched American Indians and made all of the games and weapons used by the Lenni-Lenape out of found objects and craft supplies. She spent hours drawing and painting and could write fiction better than most college students.
Yet, she loathed school.
She rarely spoke in class, dropped out of the gifted and talented program, either didn’t do her homework or would forget to turn it in. She had As on the tests and Cs and Ds in the class. Jane’s academic future looked dismal.
- Poor grades and high test scores are not a winning combination for college admission.
- Public school was not the right place for her, but neither were the local private schools.
- Academically-oriented private schools do not accept students with poor grades.
- Schools that accept students with poor grades are not always academically rigorous.
- There are alternative boarding schools, but they are far away and she was too young.
Stalemate. Until we started FlexSchool, where Jane has been a student for two years.
What are FlexSchools?
Many highly creative and eager gifted students struggle to thrive in school. Some retain their drive and push through despite their academic failures. Others lose their confidence, their sense of purpose and finally their will to try. Whether they are impacted by a learning disability, ADHD, slow processing speed, anxiety, or even intense stubbornness to “do things their way,” they are stuck. It’s no wonder. Gifted kids can be a conundrum for schools.
FlexSchools are unique micro schools for gifted and twice exceptional (2e) middle and high school students. At this time two campuses serve the Tristate area, one in Fanwood, New Jersey and another opening in the fall of 2016 in New Haven, Connecticut. FlexSchools embrace students for who they are and support them to thrive. Small, ability-based discussion classes taught by subject experts ensure meaningful conversations and the opportunity to ask high-level questions. The faculty, trained and supported by learning specialists and mental health professionals, focuses on critical thinking in all areas of learning; a “toolbox” concept emphasizing how to learn rather than an “encyclopedia” concept emphasizing specific material (though all core bases are covered in depth). Block scheduling promotes in-depth discussions and extensive experiments. Students are supported and encouraged to study topics that interest them with faculty mentors. FlexSchools can also be a safe and fun environment for accelerated students who want to “join in” rather than “stand out.”
A hallmark of micro schools, FlexSchools are deliberately embedded in the community to use local resources. Examples of this include experiential learning in the local area every Friday (FlexFridays), meaningful community service, and opportunities for students to find local mentors and activities that both support and extend their interests.
Importantly, homework is relevant and minimized at FlexSchools. It is not seen as a gateway to a grade. Executive functioning, the process of mental control and self-regulation that helps us organize and plan, is explicitly taught and practiced. While not suitable for every 2e student, FlexSchools can support those who are socially-minded to enjoy a community of peers. At FlexSchool, students are safe: to have conversations with other students that they previously only had with adults and to accelerate or decelerate coursework as necessary.
Recognizing that many students live outside of our region, FlexSchools are designed to welcome them virtually into our classrooms through video conferencing technology. If private instruction is needed, students “remote in” with their teacher 1:1. FlexSchool has had great success with remote students from as far away as Florida, California and Switzerland!
FlexSchool in Action
- Subject experts with training in learning challenges, executive functioning skills, emotional support, and customizing curricula for individual students. All faculty trained by Stephen Chou Psy.D., Helen Waldron M.Ed., Heidi Molbak M.S. NCC, and a learning specialist on supporting students’ second exceptionalities.
- Student/faculty ratio of 4:1
- Classes feature:
- Ability-based suitable for acceleration
- Discussion-based for meaningful conversation and questions
- Optional customized 1:1 with Learning Specialist or LDTC 1-5 days/week (additional charge)
- Minimized, relevant homework
- Study hall & homework club after school so students leave school free to pursue other interests
- FlexFridays are a mix of hands-on learning, invited speakers, and school trips
- Year-long project on a topic of student’s choice addresses the question: What problem in the world do you want to address.
- An annual week-long trip to Hulbert Outdoor Center in Vermont for environmental science, group challenges, ropes course, and survival skills. Parents of anxious students are welcome.
- Teachers respect students’ abilities
- Time doesn’t loom over learning with modified block schedule
- Peers for students who previously spoke mostly to adults
- Questions welcomed (that’s why we have subject experts!)
- Welcoming and kind student population
- Safe atmosphere so students can take academic risks
- Provided by the expert counselors at Ivy Educational Services (ivyed.net).
Spotlight on Faculty
The most distinguishing characteristic that attracts students to FlexSchool is our top teaching staff of people who love to learn themselves and transmit that enthusiasm to the students.
Spotlight on Students
[dzs_videogallery id=”Student Spotlight” db=”main”]
What Parents Have to Say
“I haven’t seen this smile since kindergarten.”
“My son talks to me again.”
“My daughter told her therapist that she has friends for the first time in her life.”
“Since my son started FlexSchool, we’ve had a big change in the atmosphere at home. It’s hard to place a value on the rebuilding of trust between parent and child.”
“FlexSchool is like magic!”
What Our Students Have to Say
“Thank you so much. This is the first year I haven’t despised school.”
“There are no stupid worksheets here.”
“FlexSchool is a place of awesomeness.”