#1: Is Open Doors a school?
Open Doors is a Center for teens who find themselves dissatisfied with their school experience. We are an alternative to school: a progressive, secular learning community where teens feel valued, respected and inspired to explore and develop their own natural learning experiences.
We work closely with each student and his or her family to develop a personalized academic plan. Our small size, close relationships and high expectations for our members make success, however a family chooses to define it, the most likely outcome of a teen’s participation in our program.
#2: Why do families choose Open Doors?
Some come from a traditional schooling experience and some are home schoolers. Some arrive with honor roll grades and excellent school records, but feel bored and limited in school. Others have serious passions, such as art, music, or computer programming and feel that school is an obstacle to the progress they really want to make. Some come for the social experience. Still others have been doing well through 7th, 8th or 9th grade but now dislike conforming to the requirements of school. Some arrive with diagnosed learning disabilities. What each new member has in common is the willingness to take responsibility for their own learning.
#3: What about college and the future?
Most Open Doors students choose to go on to college. They submit transcripts, SAT or ACT scores, college essays and applications. Today more and more colleges are actively recruiting self-directed learners in an effort to add diversity and students with passion for their learning and their communities. Nearly all college websites include information on accepting applications from homeschooled teens, who are accepted into college at the same rate as their public school peers. Diversified applications featuring video, audio, portfolios demonstrating artistic or scientific achievement, community service, and writing skills in addition to test scores tend to be the most successful. Open Doors supports families as they move through the application process. We also offer workshops to those parents seeking support in developing transcripts or portfolios.
When a teen chooses not to attend college, Open Doors is available to assist preparation for earning a GED and entrance into other certified trade programs and internships.
#4. What kind of a social life does Open Doors foster?
Open Doors members usually have a rich and varied social life. Many members maintain friendships with peers at other schools. Some enroll in non-core elective classes such as band, physical education, music and driver’s ed in their own district school. Our regular programming, student-created events, as well as our efforts to encourage student participation with other organizations open up a wide variety of social environments. Our lack of age segregation in the classroom leads to an even more diverse social experience.
#5. Does Open Doors have requirements?
We expect members to be trustworthy and to respect the efforts of those around them. The center must remain a safe and welcoming place for everyone present. We have a set of expectations and recommendations for members. All members must also sign a community agreement outlining their commitment to a drug-free and safe environment.
- A commitment to actively participate in their own education and life and a plan to use Open Doors in a purposeful way.
- A commitment to making the Open Doors community a safe, healthy, and comfortable space for everyone.
- Committed attendance 1-4 days per week.
- After a two-week trial period for each Open Doors class, committed participation in those classes.
- A discussion with an Open Doors advisor at the outset of each year from each teen and from his or her parents.
- Weekly advisory meetings with an Open Doors staff member.
- One or more independent projects.
- Attendance at weekly Open Doors community meetings if present on day of meeting.
- Payment of membership fees in a timely manner.
- One or more tutorials with an Open Doors staff member, as available.
- Four to sixteen hours each week participating in real world experiences such as internship, volunteer work, or money-making work.
- Attendance at Open Doors community events.
- Participation in the end-of-the-year Presentation Week.
#6. What is the transition to self-directed education like?
We are all natural learners, but taking responsibility for our own learning can be a long-term process. Some students leave school and jump right into a busy and productive life, but others may take months or even a year to appreciate the opportunities available to them. Teens who have not explored their interests or passions fully may need time and space to consider this question. Our findings indicate our environment fosters remarkable maturation in terms of self-discipline between ages 13 – 16, at a much quicker rate than would be expected of students in public school.
Open Doors helps teens identify and build on their strengths at their own pace. Challenges are addressed as the teen is ready. It is not necessary to arrive at Open Doors as a self-directed learner. We support each teen as they grow into their natural potential.
#7. Is there a support system for parents at Open Doors?
Open Doors can help by providing a place for your teen to discover what ignites his/her natural curiosity within a community of caring adults and teens. At Open Doors, your teen will have access to classes, staff mentors, tutors and other teens who trust and respect his/her self-directed journey. Open Doors will also be a place for parents to meet other parents who are discovering self-directed learning, some for the first time and some who have been traveling this path for years. We put together potlucks and community gatherings, but we are always looking for parents who are looking to take leadership roles in organizing these sorts of events.
#8. What about team sports?
Open Doors offers a variety of movement classes according to student interest, which have included tennis, taekwondo, and yoga. But there are also options available to self-directed learners who want to participate in team sports. There are local competitive teams for virtually all sports. For those seeking non-competitive options, local parks, recreation departments and the YMCA offer great opportunities.
#9. What are your hours?
Open Doors is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9:00 – 4:00.
We run on an academic year, opening early September and closing for the summer in early June. We take breaks in December and April. See our calendar for specifics.
#10. Does Open Doors host informational meetings?
Open Doors hosts open houses, regular parent meetings and other events. Please see our events page or give us a call at 616-550-0371. We are happy to meet with any family anytime.