The longer we educate children in the United States, the less motivated and engaged they become. A recent Gallup poll found student engagement in U.S. public schools going from 80% in 5th grade to 40% in 12th grade.
This should come as no surprise considering today’s public schools were designed in and for an industrialized age, affording too little individualization and inspiration. Most focus on learning to know (basic academic skills) in an age when learning to be (finding a passion that ignites motivation) and learning to do (real world skills aligned with one’s passions) are of greater value.
Though the 53% of Americans who report dissatisfaction with public schools may not be surprised, many are most certainly frustrated.
Some private schools provide greater individualization and inspired mentoring that fuel motivation and engagement. In fact, 78% of Americans say children educated in private schools receive an excellent or good education.
However, access is problematic considering the average tuition rates at U.S. private schools have increased 82 percent over the last decade alone, shrinking enrollments by nearly 13 percent from 2000 to 2010.
That said, schools alone cannot do it all. In fact, trying to be all things to all people is what gets schools—like any organization for that matter—into trouble. In the words of Rick Hess, “the ‘whole-school’ assumption that every school must find ways to serve every academic need of every individual student has overburdened educators and institutions. As a result, they have trouble doing anything especially well.”
Education is shifting from the institutional delivery model of the industrialized age to an individual model for the information age. Thus, rather than look to traditional educators to develop new 21st century institutions, families must become education entrepreneurs themselves and take charge of their own individual learning needs.
This is my call to action to you today. Will you answer it?
Many already have. It is estimated that roughly two million U.S. families are homeschooling, a number that has grown at an annual rate of 7% to 15% over the last decade. While the largest single reason for doing so remains providing “religious and moral instruction” (36% of a recent survey), dissatisfaction with instruction and unique family situations account for a combined 38%.
However, homeschooling remains a daunting undertaking that relatively few feel that they have the organizational capabilities and scheduling flexibility to orchestrate.
The $6 billion for-profit, supplemental education market in the U.S. is led by companies like Kumon that focus exclusively on math and reading through brick-and-mortar afterschool learning centers. As such, I would argue they have largely adopted the public system’s myopic focus on core academic skills and testing.
Furthermore, these models are threatened as many core academics are going online. In 2010, more than four million preK-12 U.S. students were participating in some kind of formal online-learning program. By 2015 it is estimated that number will grow to more than 17 million (29 percent of all students).
Though online learning is great for learning to know a lot of things, in a world where knowledge is available on every internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do and become with that which you know. Moreover, the more online learning grows, the more imperative it is that children develop mentoring relationships with those who can help them figure out who they are and where they are going, so they can then effectively navigate the growing sea of supplemental online learning resources to devise an individualized learning plan to get where they are going.
In short, there is a deep need for a logical intermediary between private schooling that relatively few can afford, and homeschooling that relatively few can orchestrate, that unlike other brick-and-mortar and online supplemental models, provides individualized learning and inspired mentoring.
The WonderLab Solution
WonderLab was created to bridge the gaps between public and private institutions, homeschooling, and conventional online and brick-and-mortar resources that simply deliver more ”learning to know” subject matter.
More specifically, WonderLab is a membership-based, supplemental learning lab in Austin, TX for children ages 9 to 13. We provide individualized learning and inspired mentoring that challenges students not just to learn to know facts and figures, but to learn to be curious, lifelong learners and learn to do skills aligned with their passions. All while celebrating the exploration, wonder, and fun of learning. We are humble proponents of a radical, old idea—that inspired learners love learning.
Our approach to guiding and inspiring learners comprises three key components:
Lighting the Path, A Guided Journey and Constant Navigation.
Lighting the Path
Our diagnostics and curriculum help you discover your unique interests, gifts and passions—who you are and where you’re going.
A Guided Journey
Our Mentor Guides help identify skills to develop and master, and curate the best online tools and offline projects to get you there.
Our personalized learning plan and playlist either confirms your interests and passions, or leads you in a new, exciting direction.
Our goal is that through their participation in the WonderLab community, children become more deliberate, inspired, and effective students:
- Deliberate: WonderLab students learn to seek out and evaluate their educational resources in and out of the classroom, making intentional choices with their time in order to achieve their own learning goals.
- Inspired: WonderLab students learn to explore their curiosity in order to discover their strengths and passions, drawing inspiration from their environment and the people in it.
- Effective: WonderLab students learn to seek feedback and reflect on their learning process, applying their unique set of strengths and passions to progress in specific areas of study, and to continuously refine how they approach their learning journey.
- Learners will develop and defend their Inspired Hypothesis.
- Learners will choose and complete a Personalized Learning Playlist that tests their Inspired Hypothesis.
- Learners will master a specific activity, course of study, and/or begin to explore various career paths.
The Call to Action
So will you look to traditional educators to develop new 21st century institutions? Or will you join us and become an education entrepreneur yourself—taking charge of your own individual learning needs?
Please schedule your free 20-minute consultation now.
So much appreciated, and so looking forward to hearing from you,
Founder and President, WonderLab