3 Types of Public School Alternatives


Nothing has been more difficult for me as mother than deciding where my five-year-old will begin kindergarten. Before having children, I was dead set on putting kids in childcare so I could continue working to afford years of private school. When I was let go from my job after giving birth to my second child, my family lost half of the household income. I was unable to find competitive pay and reluctantly became a stay-at-home mom. It wasn’t until I fully embraced this new role that I realized how much I value the benefits of non-traditional learning.

My five-year-old thrives in play-based learning. He is a natural problem solver and loves the outdoors. He excels when given the chance to try and try again, building his own confidence. He is a sponge and loves working with tools and people of all ages. He is a critical thinker and an introvert. He knows he must move his body often to help control his mind. We are also bi-racial, which many people do not recognize until they see me with him.

I have led him to embrace learning in his own way while using his interests, our religious beliefs, diversity, and kindness as benchmarks. I struggled with sending him to our neighborhood public school. I’ve done some research and reached out to other metro Detroit moms and have found some exciting alternatives to mainstream public school education.

Hybrid Homeschool + Homeschool Co-ops

Traditional homeschool requires caregivers to build their own curriculum or monetarily invest in a program to follow, leaving the instruction solely on the person at home. Homeschooling seemed like to too much work until I found a collaborative community of parents and teachers working together to provide the best of both the school and at-home settings.

Co-ops are homeschooling families or groups who work cooperatively to provide additional academics, activities, or social time for the homeschooled child. Hybrid homeschool offers two days in a formal classroom with teachers, giving caregivers the comfort and control of at-home learning and the experience of traditional education.

Local Hybrid Homeschool + Homeschool Co-op Options

  • HighPoint Hybrid Academy | 8 Metro Detroit Locations | K-12
    Unlike co-ops, the curriculum is not only provided by HighPoint but also taught by HighPoint teachers. Education is split between the parent, or “co-teacher,” and the academic teacher children meet with twice a week in the classroom. The hybrid model is teachers and parents tag-teaming the provided curriculum throughout the entire school year.
  • Homeschool Connections | 6 Metro Detroit Locations | K-12
    This is a homeschool co-op with several locations in southeast Michigan. Each campus meets once a week to support homeschoolers in electives and core classes. An at-home curriculum is not provided, but a large range of electives are offered at each location.

Here’s What Moms Love About Hybrid Homeschooling:

“More hands-on learning, not a one size fits all learning style, smaller classes, so many amazing families, and caring teachers. Teachers and students don’t get burnt out because they’re only going in 2 days, so they look forward to it. Kids have more family time at home, parents get to be involved in their learning and growth, and you can take your schoolwork anywhere and make it fun, plus more time outside. My mama heart is so happy knowing he’s happy with his school.” –Nikki E. of Gibraltar, mother of Klark (7)

“We wanted more control over what they are learning, socially, religiously, and of course educationally. We wanted an education that taught life skills, not an education that was just about passing tests. [Hybrid homeschooling] is literally the best of both worlds. It’s a more personalized, hands-on learning experience. We love the staff and have quickly formed personal relationships with them and other families. You work together with them to fit your child’s personal needs.” –Lynsey D. of Allen Park, mother of Caeden (8) and Hank (3)

“[The hybrid homeschool path] will provide balance, guidance, community, and most importantly, time to families… Choosing to swim a different direction can look different for each family, but that’s the beauty of it. For us it is quality time together to pursue passions and to slow down and connect.” –Lindsey V. co-founder of HighPoint Hybrid Academy, mother of Trace (13), Marina (10), and Hazel (8)

“The hybrid model of education encourages parents to be directly involved with their child’s learning process, without having to prepare lessons and come up with creative projects. Families now can have the time to work, learn, and play together, with the freedom to discover each child’s strengths and passions.” –-A Metro Detroit Mom

Forest School

Outdoor schools are the new rage for preschool. Since the pandemic, getting outside has never been more important. These schools aren’t just playing outside, but they are educating children in all four seasons outdoors.

Local Forest School Options

  • Ann Arbor Forest School | Ann Arbor | Ages 3-7 years
    Under the direction of two teachers, 12 students meet twice a week for three hours a day building a curiosity for nature, community, music, and even food. Completely immersed in every season, the play-based curriculum supports the development of key early learning skills. 
  • Firefly Forest School | Royal Oak + Southfield | Ages 3-5 years
    A well-loved enrichment program for young learners, Firefly uses a Reggio Emilia-inspired curriculum to engage children in the great outdoors. Sessions are two days a week, three hours each day, and include exploration and project-based activities.
  • Southeast Michigan Forest School | Plymouth/Northville | Ages 3-8 years
    The founder, Sarah VanCleve says it the best, “Kids will get a chance to slow down, follow their curiosities, create a deep connection with nature, and build a community of peers in a wide age group. They will grow in confidence, resiliency, problem solving skills, and respect for all life.”

Here’s What Moms Love About Forest Schools:

“I feel passionate about alternatives to mainstream education because kids all learn in different ways. By taking an individual approach, kids can follow their interests and passions, and learn things when they are ready to learn them.” –Sarah V. of Canton, mother of 3- and 5-year-old girls

Private School (non-religious)

Making the decision to invest in your child’s education can be financially daunting for some. Outside of the traditional parochial and Montessori schools, metro Detroit has many unique private schools to consider alternative learning styles and atmospheres.

Local Private School Options (non-religious)

  • Detroit Waldorf School | Detroit | Early Childhood-8th grade
    In the heart of Detroit’s historic Indian Village, this Waldorf school incorporates the diversity of the city, world languages, life skills, and music within an enriching multi-cultural curriculum designed for young avid learners.
  • Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor | Ann Arbor | Early Childhood-12th grade The Steiner school provides a Waldorf education that inspires imagination and creative thinking with a focus on preparing students to enter adulthood with a powerful understanding and appreciation of the world around them.
  • The Roeper School | Birmingham + Bloomfield Hills | Early Childhood-12th grade
    Roeper welcomes the gifted student, better described as the curious learner. With a diverse and inclusive range of thinkers and risk takers, the school is packed with heart and understanding in students and teachers alike. Roeper lower school students advance in stages rather than grades, giving children the opportunity to learn and grow at their own pace.

Here’s What Moms Love About Private Schools:

“I was very conflicted about sending my kid to a private school. I’m a big supporter of public schools because they can provide quality education and make it accessible, which I see as a social justice issue. That said, I believe that deciding which kind of school to send your kid to–public or private–is very family-, kid-, and neighborhood-dependent.” –A Metro Detroit Mom

“My kids are benefiting by getting an education that fits them. The topics studied in 1st grade for one of them weren’t the same as the other because they are driven by the class’s interests. There is a focus on understanding racial injustices even at the early elementary level. The kids are able to have choice in their schedules, picking electives that interest them starting as early as 2nd grade. They get true small group instruction in math and reading (not just splitting the class into small groups and the teacher jumping back and forth).” –Sosha H. from Dearborn, mother of Addison (7), Jaxson (8), students at The Roeper School

“I believe all families should think about how to best meet their kids’ needs within their family dynamics. For me the financial sacrifice is worth it. We cut our budget in other areas that some families might want to/be able to. I know my children and after 17 years teaching in public school know the system fairly well and my kids would struggle (not academically) in that setting. And even if they could conform enough to fit in, I know they wouldn’t be living up to their potential.” –A Metro Detroit Mom

Whether you can afford private school or have always wanted to homeschool, having the ability to access these opportunities remains a privilege most families do not have. Relying on the public school system is ideal and affordable, but in some cities and towns, it is not always the best or safest option. Nor have some school systems stayed up to date on, or can afford, curriculum that includes the many varieties of arts and science modern education has to offer.

I am so thankful to the moms who provided their opinions for this article, you are all inspirational! It goes to show education and families are not one size fits all, and if we want something better, we have to make it happen.

Looking for more education inspiration? Check out Katie’s list of children’s authors your little learners can learn from!


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