Updated: Nov 23
In this blog post, we delve into the inspiring story of Elizabeth McNeans, an educator and entrepreneur, as she shares her transition from a background in human resources and organizational development to becoming a proponent of alternative education. Elizabeth's journey begins with her search for educational options for her son, who was nearing kindergarten age. We follow her path from considering traditional schooling to discovering a hybrid homeschooling model and ultimately finding her place as a learning pod guide. Throughout her story, Elizabeth highlights the importance of flexibility, a growth mindset, and the value of community support in shaping her educational choices.
Discovering the Hybrid Homeschooling Model
Elizabeth's journey into alternative education began when she hesitated to enroll her intellectually ready but wiggly son in a traditional school. Uncertain about homeschooling, she sought a middle ground that provided structure, rigor, and the involvement of a certified teacher. This led her to discover a hybrid school in Kansas, offering a blend of at-home learning, in-class opportunities, and teacher guidance. This model allowed her son to thrive intellectually while accommodating his need for physical activity and ensuring the support of a teacher.
Recognizing the Importance of Social Interaction
As time went on, Elizabeth realized that her son was lacking sufficient social interaction. It was during the COVID-19 pandemic that she started contemplating alternatives once again. She wanted an educational environment that fostered collaboration, individuality, and a growth mindset. It was at this point that she stumbled upon Prenda, a national microschool network that aligned perfectly with her educational values. The Prenda model provided access to certified teachers, a personalized curriculum, project-based learning, and a small co-learning community.
The Kansas Public Schools Partnership
Elizabeth's Prenda learning pod benefited from a public-private partnership between Prenda and a small school district in Kansas. This collaboration allowed her to serve as a guide while certified teachers oversaw academic aspects such as testing and curriculum development. Additionally, this partnership enabled more students to access the Prenda model tuition-free, making alternative education accessible to a broader audience.
Embracing Community and Collaboration
In Wichita, Kansas, Elizabeth found herself surrounded by a vibrant community of education entrepreneurs through the WISE (Wichita Innovative Schools and Educators) group. This parent-driven and entrepreneur-focused community provided a platform for sharing ideas, collaborating, and planning for the growth and exposure of alternative schooling options. Elizabeth highlights the diversity and energy within this community, emphasizing the importance of resources and collective support for expanding education options.
As Elizabeth's son enters the next phase of his education, she envisions a future where he may never have to attend a traditional school. With the rise of alternative education models and the changing landscape of education, she sees a wealth of options available to cater to different learning styles and needs. Elizabeth believes that empowering students with a growth mindset, responsibility for their education, and personalized learning experiences will lead to their success. With high school options emerging within the alternative education space, she is excited about the prospects of her son's continued growth and development.
Elizabeth McNeans' journey from hybrid learning to becoming a Prenda learning pod guide showcases the transformative power of alternative education. Her story highlights the importance of flexibility, personalized learning, community support, and the pursuit of innovative approaches to education. As the landscape of education continues to evolve, Elizabeth's optimism and belief in empowering students to take ownership of their learning serve as an inspiration for parents and educators alike. Listen to the Podcast here.