How It Works

Here's an overview of education at Alcove.  The three main ingredients of our approach: mentoring, inquiry, and community.  The basic mechanics for fitting them together.  Accommodations we offer.  And how Alcove differs from a traditional school.


At the heart of our program is regular one-on-one guidance.  When a young person joins Alcove, they'll be paired with one of our core staff members.  About once a week, kids and their mentors will talk about everything from long-term academic and career goals, recent challenges and triumphs, ongoing creative projects, apprenticeship opportunities, and most importantly, what they're getting curious about right now.


When a critical mass of members want to start a course at Alcove, we find the faculty to teach it.  Our staff can cover a lot of ground themselves.  And when a topic falls outside our areas of expertise, we recruit specialists from our professional networks to lead the way.  We also offer a number of other ways to learn: independent study, workshops, co-learning, individual tutoring, and test prep.  


We keep Alcove small to foster a sense of community and belonging.  This gives our common area the feel of a shared workspace.  We've broken down artificial walls between grades, letting kids of all ages interact and learn from each other.  And every year we try to launch a long-term project that everyone can get involved with; like a theater production or a short-story collection.


Alcove isn't a magnet or a charter or a private school.  We're an education non-profit; a kind of community center for unschoolers.  Which means the official way to join our program is to file a "private school affidavit" with the state of California.  We can help you fill out the paperwork.  And bear in mind that there's no set cost for membership at Alcove.  Our families just contribute what they can to keep the program running.  


Alcove is meant to be a completely accessible and inclusive space.  We offer help with lunch, transportation, books, materials, and technology whenever possible.  No one's learning should be limited by practical considerations.  So if Alcove seems out of reach for any reason, let us know and we'll find a way to work around it!


Here's what you won't find at Alcove.  Tests.  Grades.  Obligatory homework.  School bells.  Attendance records.  Anything you haven't opted into.  Of course, meaningful learning calls for dedication and periodic evaluation.  But dedication has to come from within.  And evaluation doesn't have to be rigid or judgmental.  Our mentors offer qualitative feedback and help members assess their own progress.