For many kids, school can be tough. Beyond regular student drama and social media cliques, if your child doesn’t easily understand or adapt to traditional teaching practices, they’re often left behind. While some school districts offer specialized instruction, it’s tough for parents to find it or get their child enrolled due to space limitations — and for many families, private school is just too expensive.
However, an innovative new virtual online school named Expanse is changing that status quo, and both parents and students are flocking to it.
What Is Expanse?
Expanse is the brainchild of Michael Strong, who founded a successful charter school in New Mexico and a system of high schools around the country known as the Academy of Thought and Industry. As someone who “hated school” growing up, Strong has spent his career finding new and innovative ways to help young people learn.
This online school offers a full middle school program for children ages 10-14 (they have a high school option expected later this year).
But what sets Expanse apart — from both traditional schools and virtual online learning — is that it uses Socratic practice. This is a form of text-based intellectual dialogue, and it’s the cornerstone of Expanse’s educational experience.
How does it work?
Teachers don’t lead students to a particular understanding of a text or idea. Rather, students have a mentor who provides encouragement, fosters discussion among peers, and provides insight — but the learning is student-led.
This allows them to seek out answers, have a deeper understanding of the material, and develop strong critical thinking and language skills that are vital to every career path. There is equal weight given to STEM topics as well as liberal arts, making sure all subjects are covered.
While this Socratic approach may seem radical to some, versions of it have been around for centuries (it came from the Greek philosopher Socrates) and most law schools use it to this day. What’s more, research shows that students exposed to Socratic questioning and instruction in elementary or middle school greatly benefit from it.
- Keeps students engaged and accountable
- Encourages students to be thoughtful and take their time when developing answers
- Works best in a smaller group — which is the setting of Expanse’s classes
Affordable Alternative Education
Private schools can be pricey, but because Expanse is an online school the company can offer the education and mentorship at a fraction of the price you’d pay for a traditional institution. What’s more, many states offer vouchers that help parents pay for the school of their choice.
But, ultimately, the only way to see if this works is for you and your child to learn more about Expanse. That's why the school is offering free orientation webinars with Michael Strong. This gives parents the opportunity to feel out the program, see how it works, learn what happens in a typical class day, and how to enroll.
While many students struggle at school, sometimes it’s the system that’s really failing. Expanse can give kids another shot — and possibly change their lives forever.