About ten, maybe twelve, years ago people began announcing that something was wrong with public education in America. The testimonials piled up; Johnny couldn’t read, he had to face knifings on the way to school and heroin in the bathrooms. The students rioted. The teachers struck. The educators finally admitted that something was amiss, and they rushed out to find The Answer. Now, I stopped talking to educators years ago (for the sake of my education, you understand) but by all the accounts of friends and relatives, it appears that they haven't found The Answer yet. I suspect they never will.
Schools contain people, and people as even the most over-educated among us should be able to determine are an erratic, inconsistent species. Not everyone learns the same way or thrives in the same atmosphere. There are people who need the freedom of a Summerhill and others who need the discipline of a Jesuit monastery. No matter what kind of school one comes up with, there will always be characters that don't fit in.
San Diego offers an amazing variety of alternatives for those who don't “fit in.” The schools listed here are not only alternatives to the traditional forms of education. they are also alternatives to each other. They all possess their own character and their own approach to teaching. When school shopping, it is best to visit each place and spend a day or so talking to teachers and students and sniffing around. Some of the schools encourage (or demand) parent participation. It's a good idea to talk to the "strong parents” in these operations since their opinions can have a real effect on the direction the school is moving. Also, please remember that no philosophy or official policy or anything else on earth can replace good teaching. Sit in a few classes and try them on for size.
- Our School
- 4190 Front St. (Unitarian church)
- age range: 4-6
- size: 29 students
- tuition: $50 per month, and two mornings a month parent work
A parent co-op, the adults meet regularly to set school policy. Plant consists of two well stocked classrooms and a play yard. The curriculum includes reading and reading readiness. Utilizes British open classroom techniques and some Montessori equipment.
- Yellow Submarine
- 906 North 47th St.
- age range: 2-5
- size: 20 students
- tuition: $50 per month and two or three mornings a month parent work.
- scholarships available in cases of need
A parent-run co-op. It is an attempt to form an extended family situation. Plant consists of four large rooms which hold learning centers (in art, media, house keeping, etc). There a re also a large yard, mud, water and the other necessities of childhood. Curriculum includes lots of physical education and movement/music classes. There is a reading readiness program, and another designed to acquaint children with the neighborhood, southeast San Diego.
- The Children's School
- 3234 Canon St., Point Loma
- 4050 A Sorrento Valley Blvd..
- Sorrento Valley
- age range: Point Loma, 3-7
- Sorrento Valley, 3-14
- size: 120 students
- average class size: twenty students with two teachers per room
- tuition: between $1225 and $1425 per year depending on age.
- Diegueno Country School
- RFD Box 113 B Del Mar
- age range: 5-11
- size: 30 students
- average class size: 5
- tuition: $110 per month first child.
- $85 per month for every child thereafter
Plant includes two acres of country, undeveloped land. Separate program for 5 year olds with reading readiness and mathematic manipulative games. The older children, 8-11, work on a contract method. Every morning they are given a number of activities (math exercises, books to read, educational games) to choose from a master list. The students write a contract to complete a certain amount of the work by the end of the day. Late afternoon the children sit down alone with a teacher and evaluate their performance. Emphasis on experiential aspect of learning, and a creative individual approach. Other courses offered are photography, music, ballet, pottery, and woodshop.
- 8834 Dallas, La Mesa (a new branch opening soon in El Cajon)
- age range: 2-12
- size: 44 students
- average class size: 8
- tuition: $105 per month for school hours (9-3).
- $115 per month for full day care (7-6)
Plant consists of a medium size building surrounded by rough open land. The school has a creative non-rigid Montessori approach, utilizing British open classroom techniques. There is a pre-school for ages 2-6 and a multi-graded elementary school for 6 on up. The program aims to develop a sense of responsibility in the child and to treat every student as a unique individual. Academic curriculum includes foreign languages as well as reading and math. There is gardening, folk dancing, crafts, pottery, and also non-competitive sports trampoline, judo and running (some of the students are up to a mile a day).
- Good Friends
- 5445 Kiowa Dr., La Mesa
- age range: 6-14
- size: 45 students
- average class size: 5
- tuition: $100 per month
Plant consists of a large house and 1 1/2 acres of farm land which holds garden and animals. Separate program for 5-8 year olds.and for the junior high age students a module approach, set periods of time for study on a particular subject beginning with three weeks and building in three week increments. There is much mixing of ages, and the sight of a 5 year old reading for a 13 year old is not uncommon. There are .full-time teachers in the areas of science, math, primary education, art and the language arts. Other people are brought - in to teach specialty courses, among them economics, sewing, and dance. It is an open classroom approach, providing students with freedom by offering them a wide variety of daily activities to chose from.
- Abraxas Experimental High School
- 2420 52nd St.
- age range: 10-18
- size: 70 students
- average class size: 8-10
- tuition: sliding scale based on ability to pay $89 - $221 per month
- Plant consists of fifteen teaching areas.
There is a separate junior high program. Students work 1/2 day with two full-time teachers in an “integrated day" situation; math, reading and other basic skills are worked on through a variety of techniques including film, guest speakers, demonstrations, experiments, field trips and reading materials. The students are free in the afternoon to participate in the high school program.
Courses in the high school are taught on three levels which correspond to increasing independence on the part of the student. Level one courses, for example, are almost entirely structured by the teacher, while level three requires a great deal of student input and self-motivation.
There are forty courses to choose from, credit in the areas of English, history/government, math, science and the social sciences is expected for graduation. The exact requirements for a diploma are determined with reference to an individual’s goals and background. The speed with which students fulfill requirements is left up to them. Special electives include a well established women's studies program, courses in the literature of racism, Afro-american literature and studies, human sexuality, psychology, history and culture of Mexico, foreign languages, music notation, sculpture and drama.
There is a full-time counselor who deals with vocational, academic and personal problems. The student body is also divided into "advisory groups”, small collections of people who meet regularly with a staff member and talk. Three times a year the students are given ^written evaluations by the teacher in their advisory.
- Exploring Family School
- 2735 Broadway
- 234-0078. 234-6493
- age range: 5-18
- size: 55 Students
- average class size: 7
- tuition: $65 per month, scholarships available in cases of need
Plant consists of a large split level house and four outside play/classroom areas. There is a separate program for the 5-7 year olds. Two full-time teachers work with each child on an individual basis and make use of learning centers. The emphasis is on basic skills.
Students from 7-18 may select their classes although some courses are restricted to particular age groupings. Many courses are offered with varying levels of difficulty. The students contract for each class specifying attendance . requirements, the content of the course, the manner in which it is to be studied and the method of evaluation to be used when the class is over. .
In order to graduate, coursework is required in the areas of social science, history, math, science, professional and vocational training, and the arts. The school year is divided into seven week terms so that no one is locked into a class for a long period of time; the contract goals can frequently be adjusted and new classes can be added to the curriculum.
There is a strong impetus to develop social skills; students are encouraged to express themselves verbally and to relate well to the other age groups in the school. Some of the older students spend time helping to teach the younger one as part of their, normal school routine.
The school requires that the family become involved in the process of education. Parents are asked to attend school meetings on a regular basis and many volunteer time, working there during the day.
- Muir Alternative School
- 6880 Mohawk
- age range: 5-18
- size: 300 students average class size: variable
- tuition: non-existent, Muir Alternative is an experiment in education conducted by the San Diego City Schools
Plant consists of seven classrooms and an auditorium. Although the elementary grades do have separate activities, there is a lot of multi-grade teaching. There is a practical approach to the hard core courses, one government class is taught by examining the local elections, trigonometry is seen in relation to surveying, English is studied via the school newspaper. The teachers are all credentialed to teach in the academic disciplines, but they also have outside interests which have been brought to the classroom. Thus, there are courses in auto mechanics, sewing, •woodworking, machinery, drama and speech. Students are advised to take courses in view of their future goals.
Each student spends half an hour a day with an advisor discussing progress and problems of self motivation. Credit for course work is assigned when teacher, advisor and student all feel that enough material has been covered.
Entrance is determined by lottery; the school is open to the entire school-going public.
- Ocean Beach Community School
- 4859 Voltaire St., Ocean Beach
- age range: 5-18
- size: 43 students
- average class size: varies, usually between 15 and 18
- tuition: $20-$70 per month depending on income
The school is divided into three age groups; 5-7, 8-11, II and up. Each group meets in the morning at a separate location in the community (the In-Between, the Recreation Center and the library are typical meeting places). Mornings are devoted to teaching academic and survival skills; English/communications, math, science and history are taught at the three different levels. The whole school meets at the beach for lunch, and in the afternoons all the students work together in drama, chorus, music, arts and crafts, physical education, photography/film, and carpentry. An effort is made to acquaint students with the Ocean Beach community and to provide them with jobs there, however enrollment is not limited to Ocean Beach residents.