Not Back to School

It’s “Back to School” time! For many young people this is exciting—reconnecting with friends, new classes, new teachers, new opportunities. For some though, as August fades into September the sweet feeling of freedom gives way to a rising sense of dread at the prospect of another school year: the homework, the boredom, the sound of the alarm at that ungodly hour, trudging through the hallways, the anxiety.

When I was young, I was one of the excited ones. When I became a teacher, I worked with a lot of the unexcited ones and by the time I left teaching, I dreaded walking back into the building to start a new school year.

So when we were creating Princeton Learning Cooperative, we very intentionally set out to NOT create a school. It seemed like a pretty simple choice. There are already so many “school” choices for people in this area. If a family wants a school, but just a different school, there are many to choose from. And if traditional schooling is not working for a young person, why would we try to recreate it at PLC? We needed to be something different, a new option, something a young person and their family would find exciting if they were fed up with the traditional way of learning.

There are a lot of “schoolish” things that happen at PLC (teens can do writing and math and history with us), but there is one critical difference between PLC and a school—every opportunity and resource we have is offered on a voluntary basis. Teens can choose to participate or not and we don’t judge their choices, but rather help them think about and reflect on the choices they make. It’s hard to overstate the difference this approach can make in the life of a young person who doesn’t like school.

People slip up and often call us a school—sometimes just out of habit and sometimes for convenience, because when your coworker asks you how your child is doing in school, you don’t always want to get into an hour long conversation about educational philosophy. We feel it is important to make the distinction, though.