Forbes.com | May 18, 2023,02:39pm EDT | Mark Travers
A feature of Montessori education that plays an important role in helping children thrive as adults, in terms of psychological well-being, is the emphasis on students taking charge of their own learning in a welcoming, collaborative, and positive environment.
So, can going off the beaten track with non-traditional schooling really equip your child with the tools they need to deal with what comes after? Here are three things a non-traditional school can offer that can change the game when it comes to your child’s mental health.
#1. A focus on collaborative and holistic learning, mimicking the challenges of the real world
An important advantage of a non-traditional school over a conventional approach to education is that it can be tailored to the needs of students and is not restricted by the requirements of a centrally-prescribed curriculum.
“Our science and history curriculums are designed to be interactive,” explains Marlene Dandler, the founder and CEO of Seashore Academy, a group of custom schools offering a fresh take on what childhood education can be. “In history, students reenact lessons in skits and thus learn to interact, negotiate, communicate, and work in teams. In science, our hands-on laboratory exercises also promote collaboration and interactive discussions. These invaluable skills directly translate into enhanced relationships throughout life, which is linked to overall life satisfaction and success.”
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health found that people’s ability to socialize effectively at (and after) work is crucial to their life satisfaction. A non-traditional school that emphasizes the importance of interaction between students can be a place to familiarize children with an actual workplace environment, where your ability to collaborate and socialize is as important as your technical proficiency.
Students of non-traditional schools are taught to think critically at a very young age. At Seashore Academy, for instance, life-skill subjects like entrepreneurship, financial management, and public speaking are given the same importance as academic subjects like mathematics, science, and history.
These practical life-skills are important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to a child feeling independent and confident about navigating their life after school.
#2. A controlled approach to digitizing education by restricting students’ screen time
The biggest benefit to a non-traditional approach is the opportunity to be intentional about the values that a family holds most dear,” says Dandler.“
Dandler’s schools seem to attract parents who are rightfully concerned about the impact uncontrolled screen time can have on their children.
A 2020 study published in the Journal of Early Childhood Research found that children who were heavier screen users faced issues with regulating their emotions and also struggled with specific subjects like math and language.
A more recent study corroborated that children who were permitted to use screens without supervision tended to perform worse in terms of lexical and general language abilities compared to those who had restrictions on screen time.
“There is a linear relationship between an increase in screen time consumption and an increase in depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders,” Dandler claims.
A 2017 study published in BMC Public Health, which showed that spending more time using a computer during the week and on weekends exposes children to a higher risk of anxiety and depression, partially backs this up.
However, as our world becomes increasingly digital, a complete disconnection from screens and online learning is neither practical nor advisable. Instead, the emphasis should be on integrating young children into the digital world in a safe, gradual, and controlled manner. Trying to wean them off social media and screens once they are already deeply immersed can be a challenging task.
“We do recognize that it is important for children to learn to navigate the digital world, so we offer educational seminars for parents on how to monitor social-media consumption at home,” explains Dandler. “We also have our students upload work onto Google Classroom, so they learn to type, navigate email, and browse the web.”
#3. An emphasis on balancing flexibility with academic rigor
Our post-pandemic world is leaning towards increased flexibility. We see this in workplaces, where more employees are still choosing to work from home, but we also see this trend in education, where more parents are opting for their children to be homeschooled.
However, an important factor to consider about homeschooling is how taxing it can be on parents. This is why there has been a rise in hybrid homeschooling institutions.
Students of Dandler’s Seashore Academy, for instance, are offered a dual solution – while they are legally homeschooled, their curriculum offers the rigor, organization, and assessment methods that are available through a private school.
“Families who value a disciplined yet flexible environment and want top-notch academics and a device-free environment gravitate towards academies like Seashore,” says Dandler. “Other parents may prefer an unschooling approach, while others prefer a high-tech environment. Regardless of which option they choose, in non-traditional schooling, parents have the opportunity to choose an educational environment that best reflects their values.”
Your child’s schooling experience is an important part of their development. It is wise to choose a school that reflects your values as parents, be it in terms of your approach to your child’s screen use, the skills you want developed, or the level of involvement you would like to have in your child’s education.