At the end of 2010, I moved from New York City to Austin, Texas with the vision of helping to grow the alternative education and homeschool movement. One year into it I was going to homeschool conferences, blogging, promoting alternative education on social media, getting teaching experience, giving speeches, and providing consulting to college applicants and parents of homeschoolers. Unfortunately, my life took a detour on New Year’s Day, 2012, and for over two years my education efforts got displaced by my fight for justice.
However, helping young people by way of educational opportunities was always my primary objective, and recognizing that I both needed to step away from the intense activism I had been engaged in and needed to give myself the time and resources necessary to start a new education venture, I chose to go to Harvard for another master’s degree. While there I was able to take the time to reflect on my efforts up to that point, as well as evaluate the education landscape and the effectiveness of alternative education and homeschooling.
While I thought that I could individually accelerate the move from traditional schools to alternative schools or homeschooling, I didn’t realize how conditioned society was in believing that traditional schools were the best option for most children. Despite the endless string of stories of schools failing children in virtually every way (e.g., testing, dropouts, literacy, bullying, sexual assaults), our society wasn’t standing up and singing the praises of alternatives to school. Instead, they were doubling down on the notion that the schools needed to implement even more destructive and restrictive practices, standards, testing and curriculum, and they made excuses about how not everyone can homeschool or send their kids to alternative schools. Additionally, they continued to perpetuate myths about how homeschoolers and alternative schoolers are unsocialized, unprepared for careers or college, and how homeschoolers are nothing but a bunch of religious fundamentalists. While I knew this was patently false, the stigma was there, and I wondered if homeschooling had hit a saturation point – while alternative schools priced out many of the students who were most harmed by traditional schools.
At Harvard, I met Mridul Batra, who shared with me a desire to help millions of children escape traditional schools and provide them with much richer educational experiences so that they could lead remarkable lives, while also changing the notion of education in the minds of the rest of society. After lots of reading, discussions and permutations of various models, we came up with Abrome, which I believe will achieve all of our goals; helping to emancipate millions of children from coercive, traditional schools, and providing the fuel necessary to blow up the false notion that traditional schools are good for children, or even necessary.
Abrome is different than many alternative school models we looked at because it incorporates none of the school structures that every other alternative school incorporates. We have no curriculum that limits a child’s list of options, or demands that they spend time on areas that are not of interest to them. We have no tests and no grade levels. We also have no hierarchies. For example, our Learning Coaches cannot dictate to a Learner what they will do, and in fact our Learning Coaches have to report to our Learners what they are working on and what their goals are. And just as importantly, we have no building or school hours that would suggest to the Learner that learning is meant to happen within the four walls of a building or within certain hours of the day and certain days of the year. At Abrome, learning happens everywhere a child is, and all the time.
Without the harmful school structures Learners will be free to play, explore, experiment, learn and grow, and their academic gains will vastly exceed that of their peers in traditional schools. However, Abrome is about much more than just taking away the destructive structures of school and doing well academically. We are relying heavily on reams of tremendous research that has been published over the past half century that education providers refuse to incorporate into their models – precisely because it is incompatible with their models.
Additionally, Abrome is not an online education provider. We are a learning community, where Learners collaborate with Learning Coaches and other Learners to identify their needs, goals and interests, and then identify learning experiences which help them move along their learning pathways toward fulfilling or satisfying those needs goals and interests. At Abrome, everything is of the volition of the Learner; they have full autonomy over their learning. Because of this, they are able to dive deep in the areas that are most meaningful to them, allowing them to gain a much more profound understanding of those areas of interests than they would if they were forced to engage in an area that held little interest. This deeper, interest led learning allows them to maintain and grow their inborn love of learning, and results in greater academic, emotional and social gains than they would achieve elsewhere. By surrounding themselves with other Learners and Learning Coaches that fully support their unique learning pathways, Abrome Learners are able to lead remarkable lives now, as opposed to waiting until they are 18, 22 or 27. Abrome Learners will become known for successfully launching businesses, starting social movements, creating works of art that move people, conducting world-class research, developing the skills that allow them to earn money in a profession or a trade, or earn admission into Harvard or Stanford, all before the age of 18. Even students in alternative schools or who are homeschooled would benefit greatly from Abrome.
While we are thrilled that we will be able to enable Abrome Learners to lead remarkable lives, literally saving lives in the process, we are also excited about how our success will be able to extend to millions, as opposed to the hundreds that most alternative education providers can hope for. Abrome can quickly scale without regard to geography. We are able to take in Learners anywhere in the English speaking world, so long as they have access to an internet connection. In America, that means the overwhelming majority of children. Essentially, every Abrome Learner will become a part of a greater education revolution wherein society will be provided with both the qualitative and quantitative data that renders the traditional school model irrelevant. And because Abrome is an online platform, freed of curriculum and inefficient and ineffective instruction, we are able to provide the Abrome experience at a fraction of the cost of private, alternative or public school. And as Abrome grows, we will be able to provide the financial aid necessary for families who are unable to pay the cost of our much cheaper alternative to schools.
As I move forward with Abrome, I encourage you to support me by supporting all children ages 10-18 that you may know. Abrome can change the course of their lives, providing them with the dignity and respect all humans deserve, and allowing them to have autonomy over their lives. And in doing so, you will help improve society, because if Abrome is successful, coercive schooling will become a relic of the past.