Is Beacon right for me and my family?
While some Beacon members and families come from an alternative mindset, and are already comfortable with nontraditional choices, many Beacon youth never planned to choose an alternate path. Most have tried to make school work for them in various ways and in various locations, with similar results. The environment and instruction typically offered in school is not for everyone, and Beacon offers a different way forward. Self-directed learning does not mean that you show up each day doing it all by yourself. At Beacon, it means that you decide the direction, the content, the route, the means, etc. in a supportive environment. If you are considering leaving school to try something different, then Beacon may be for you. We understand that leaving school raises all kinds of important questions, and we are happy to meet with you to discuss your particular situation and needs. Truly, one of the best ways to understand the Beacon environment is to visit, and even spend a day or two getting to know us. Call us at 203-747-8735. We'd love to hear from you.
How is Beacon different from a school?
Beacon has characteristics in common with schools, and aspects that set us apart. The first significant difference is that all classes, workshops, tutorials, trips and activities are voluntary. We highly recommend certain activities, but ultimately the decision to participate is up to the member and their family. Second, we do not require mandatory attendance at Beacon. Third, we do not have a curriculum that members must follow. We truly believe in helping people find their own passions and helping them set and achieve their own goals. Finally, we do not offer credits, graduations, or diplomas. However, if an academic transcript based on learning and activities while at Beacon is needed by a member for college or university applications, or for returning to any school setting, we are happy to work with the family and member to create this. Beacon's open structure of supported autonomy creates the space for life-changing transformations in kids who are looking for something different than what traditional schools can offer.
Can I go to college without a high school diploma?
Absolutely. Beacon, North Star, Princeton Learning Cooperative, and other Liberated Learners centers have all had teens go on to colleges and universities without a high school diploma. Depending on a teen's particular goals, there are a number of ways to do this, and Beacon can help you understand and choose the path that makes the most sense for you. Former Beacon members have gone on to attend colleges that include Ithaca College, Lawrence University, Hampshire College, Harvard University, University of the People, Art Institute of Chicago, and local community colleges as well.
Do I have to attend full-time?
No. We are a very flexible model. Beacon prorates for number of days attended. Most members attend at least two days per week, but it is possible to attend between one and five days per week, Monday through Friday, 9am to 3pm. Members can sign up for specific days based on what best fits their particular needs and circumstances.
Who attends Beacon?
Beacon is a diverse community of young people who enjoy being part of a happy, healthy learning community. Here are some member profiles:
Rosanna, 17, comes to Beacon on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She was in traditional school up until 5th grade. She is an accomplished musician and currently plays in several local orchestras during the school year and summers. She came to Beacon three years ago and finds the academic and social aspects of Beacon equally compelling. She attended two classes at Wesleyan last year. This fall, Rosanna was accepted by early action into an Ivy League university.
Alex, 12, came out of middle school last year and was at Beacon four days a week. At school, he was getting labeled by administrators as a troublemaker and was being bullied. He said he was "bored" and "miserable" in school where he did not like anyone, or enjoy learning. At Beacon, Alex is engaged in many classes, highly verbal, happy, and has a great sense of humor. In fact, he is a sweet, kind and gentle young person. He loves the classes, has made many friends, and with his newfound time to delve into the things he enjoys, has found all kinds of new interests. Alex frequently shares that with us that he has had "the best year of his life".
Sam, 17, has never been in traditional school and Beacon is one of his favorite places. He loves learning, takes community college classes and has been coming to Beacon one day a week for 3 years to take a few classes and see his friends. This year, he will begin applying to 4 year colleges, intending to major in science and engineering.