Insight Colearning Center takes the best parts of a four year, liberal arts college experience, and calibrates it to the needs and abilities of teens so that when they complete “high school” they are prepared to take advantage of a college experience or, if they have a different path to adulthood, they have learned to think critically, with independence and accountability to a community, in a rich and supportive learning environment.
We accomplish this task using a three phase model education. If students spend four years at Insight, their first year is devoted to the development of the Conduct necessary to participate in and benefit from seminar style courses that ask students to take responsibility for their own learning, be accountable for their own homework, and engage with their peers in a way that traditional K-12 classrooms rarely require. Once students have acquired these skills, they spend the next two years developing their Focus. When students have the ability to engage in seminar style courses and have critical conversations with their peers about their academic subjects, they can begin to do deeper work on those subjects, supplementing the core course materials with independent research that can speak to the learning of their classmates and extend the conversation in the classroom beyond the core materials. Students in this phase of their education are encouraged to draw connections across disciplines, and they increasingly use the course materials as a starting point, rather than a comprehensive guide, of their learning. In their final year, students develop Insight, the capacity to apply interdisciplinary learning to their life and their community. In this year, students reduce their coursework and take on a large-scale independent project with the support and guidance of caregivers, faculty, and members of their community. This project might be a larger research project resulting in a report; a work of creative writing or an art-piece accompanied by an interpretive statement; a community initiative like service work, beautification, or community garden; or much more.
We understand that some students will come to us already having completed some high school, or may not plan to stay with Insight for four years for other reasons. As part of the application process, students and caregivers are interviewed to assess their prior learning and development, and are placed into the level that is most appropriate for them and their aspirations. We work with each family to map out a trajectory through our learning model that meets their needs. Some students may skip a phase. Other students may not move through all three phases during their time at Insight. But the key is that each of these phases is designed to do more to prepare your teen to engage in collegiate learning environments or to pursue professional or creative work in their chosen field than a tradition high school environment. A student who only spends only one year at Insight, learning through our Conduct phase for example, will come out of that year knowing how to read a syllabus and keep track of their own homework; how to choose classes from a catalog, manage a course schedule, and engage in critical, constructive learning with peers and teachers; and how to take advantage of academic advising and mentorship opportunities. These crucial skills are rarely developed in a traditional high school and can be difficult to replicate for homeschoolers without external support. A full, four year path through Insight should be seen as only one of the possible routes, neither better nor worse than a path that takes one, two, or three years.
Throughout a student’s time at Insight, they are supported in their learning through seminar-style courses taught by experts in the subject matter. The courses themselves are multi-level, so that students who are still perfecting Conduct learn next to students who are developing their Focus as well as students who are putting their Insight into practice with independent projects. All students use the same material as a centerpiece for their coursework, but each students brings something unique to the table.
In addition to seminar-style courses, students meet with a faculty advisor every other week for half an hour. In these meetings, faculty develop a student’s capacity to set goals and monitor their progress on them, give them feedback about how the content of their courses can relate to their own individual interests, help students face their own unique challenges and cultivate their own unique strengths.
Outside of contact with the faculty, students are provided with a shared social study hall where they can work together on homework, but where they are also encourages to begin socializing around their learning, building or extending their friendships to include intellectual conversations that connect to students’ current interests and hobbies.
Finally, caregivers are supported in this endeavor through their participation in three workshops per semester, where they will receive guidance from faculty and staff on a range of topics from the administrative hurdles of establishing and keeping records for their student, to troubleshooting the common challenges that can arise when a student is brought into a more collegiate learning environment from a less structured homeschool or a more structured, traditional K-12 environment.