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 return 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.
Do I have to attend full-time?
No. Beacon offers memberships for one, two, three, or four days a week. Tuesdays and Thursdays are for ages 12 and up and Wednesdays and Fridays are for ages 9 and up. So, members can sign up for specific days based on age, schedule, and needs.
Who attends Beacon?
Here are a few profiles of members:
1. 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 plans to apply to very competitive colleges for the following academic year.
2. Alex, 12, came out of middle school last year and was at Beacon four days a week. 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 was engaged in many classes, highly verbal, happy with a great sense of humor. We never witnessed any 'bad' behaviors. In fact, he is a sweet, kind and gentle young person. He loved the classes, made many friends and had time to delve into the things he loved and found all kinds of new interests. Alex told us he "had the best year of his life".
3. Sam, 16, has never been in traditional school and Beacon is one of his favorite places. He loves learning, takes community college classes and comes to Beacon one day a week to take a few classes and share time with friends.