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LEARNING IS NATURAL.


 School is optional.

 

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LEARNING IS NATURAL.


 School is optional.

 

If you choose to leave school, you can go to college, find meaningful work, fulfill your dreams and have a great life.

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NORTh star is


a small, safe and welcoming community of learners.

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NORTh star is


a small, safe and welcoming community of learners.

North Star teens are individuals moving forward in unique directions at a pace that is right for them. North Star is not a school. We do not offer diplomas, credits, or grades. Rather, North Star offers an alternative to school where teens learn in the way that suits them best.

Most North Star members are between the ages of 13 and 19. We consider younger members on a case-by-case basis.

We have been supporting teens to find and pursue their passions since 1996. Most North Star teens choose to go on to college and do so successfully.

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Who Chooses North Star?


Teens and families come to North Star because they are looking for a different way forward.

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Who Chooses North Star?


Teens and families come to North Star because they are looking for a different way forward.

Teens choose North Star for a wide variety of reasons.

The environment and instruction offered in school is not for everyone. Some North Star teens and families come from an alternative mindset. They are already comfortable with nontraditional choices. Others never planned to choose an alternate path. Many have tried to make school work for them in various ways and in various locations, with similar results. Do you hope to create a positive future? Do you want support in building a life that is relevant and specific to you? YES? Then North Star might be the right place for you.

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How it works


North Star offers teenagers a whole new way to approach their lives.

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How it works


North Star offers teenagers a whole new way to approach their lives.

A Customized Academic Plan

Together we envision and map a personal educational approach. The academic plan is based on the teen’s interests while also fulfilling the family’s needs. North Star facilitates this process through discussion and recommendations based on nearly two decades of experience.

If the teen is under age 16 we will help you prepare this plan as a homeschooling proposal for submission to your local superintendent. This is a very straightforward process. Your superintendent’s office will certify you as a homeschooler. This is the contract that makes leaving school legal for youth under age 16.

A Personal Advisor

Each teen is assigned a personal advisor. Through regular meetings we help imagine and realize goals, track progress, and facilitate tutorials and community connections. This relationship is at the core of the North Star experience.

Parent Conferences

Your advisor will meet with your family at least three times per year to envision possibilities and to review achievements. More meetings are scheduled as requested. Parental involvement is encouraged. There are many opportunities for parents to be a part of our community.

Classes, Workshops, and Tutorials

North Star offers classes, workshops, and tutorials between the hours of 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM, four days per week. Our classes represent the interests and passions of our current collection of staff and include a wide range of topics. Most classes have fewer than 10 students.

We have a core staff of caring professionals and a large, extended staff composed of work-study students from all of the Five Colleges, interns, and community volunteers.

North Star provides individual one-on-one meetings in a wide range of subjects, such as mathematics, foreign language, guitar, and computer programming, as available.

A New Way to Approach Learning, Education, and Life

Our focus is on individuals and their particular strengths, needs, and goals. We meet teens where they are and support them in becoming whomever they want to be. Rather than focusing on weaknesses, we ask: “What are you good at? What do you love to do?” and build from there.

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guiding Principles


The seven principles that inform our work at North Star

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guiding Principles


The seven principles that inform our work at North Star

1. Young people want to learn.

Human beings are learning creatures. We don’t have to persuade babies to be curious and to seek competence and understanding. The same can be true of teenagers. Rather than trying to motivate teenagers, we support their basic human drive to learn and grow. Where obstacles—internal or external—have gotten in the way of this intrinsic drive, we focus on helping teenagers overcome or remove these obstacles.

2. Learning happens everywhere.

Conventional wisdom says that children “go to school to learn,” as though learning can only occur in places specially designed for that purpose. We believe that people learn all the time and in all kinds of places. It doesn’t have to look like school or feel like school to be valuable, and it’s not necessary to make distinctions between “schoolwork” and “your own hobbies” or “for credit” and “not for credit.” As one teenager who had recently left school observed, “Everything I do counts now.”

3. It really is OK to leave school.

Many young people who are miserable in school—academically or socially—stay because they believe that leaving school will rule out (or at least diminish) the possibility of a successful future. We believe that young people can achieve a meaningful and successful adulthood without going to school. We’ve seen it happen, over and over again.

4. How people behave under one set of circumstances and assumptions does not predict how they will behave under a very different set of circumstances and assumptions.

School success or failure is not necessarily a predictor of a child’s potential for success or failure outside of school. An unmotivated student may become enthusiastic and committed after she’s left school. A student who doesn’t thrive in a classroom environment may become successful when allowed to learn through apprenticeships or in one-on-one tutorials. When we change the approach, the structure, and the assumptions, all kinds of other changes often follow.

5. Structure communicates as powerfully as words, and often more powerfully.

It’s not enough to tell kids that we want them to be self-motivated, or that we want them to value learning for its own sake, if the structure of their lives and their educations is actually communicating the opposite message. Voluntary (rather than compulsory) classes, the ability to choose what one studies rather than following a required curriculum, and the absence of tests and grades all contribute to a structure that supports and facilitates intrinsic motivation and self-directed learning.

6. As adults working with young people, we should mostly strive to “make possible” rather than “make sure.”

Most of the time, we can’t truly make sure that young people learn any particular thing—learning just doesn’t work that way. A group of adults can decide that all fifth graders should learn fractions, but when it comes to each individual child’s genuine understanding and retention, we can’t actually make it happen or guarantee that it will happen. As adults, what we can do, however, is try to make things possible for young people—provide access, offer opportunity, figure out what kind of support will be most helpful, do whatever we can to help navigate the challenges and problems that arise.

7. The best preparation for a meaningful and productive future is a meaningful and productive present.

Too often, education is thought of in terms of preparation: “Do this now, even if it doesn’t feel connected to your most pressing interests and concerns, because later on you’ll find it useful.” We believe that helping teenagers to figure out what seems interesting and worth doing right now, in their current lives, is also the best way to help them develop self-knowledge and experience at figuring out what kind of life they want and what they need to do or learn in order to create that life. In other words, it’s the best preparation for their futures.

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READY to learn more?


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READY to learn more?


Come to one of our Info Sessions! They're scheduled from 12-1 on Fridays, usually once a month. Check the calendar for details. No RSVP necessary.

Contact our Executive Director, Ken Danford, to schedule a time to talk further.

Watch videos of Ken's talks at TEDX and Thrive2020.