Space of Mind School introduced updated kindergarten and elementary curricula this year. Photo provided
Related Story: How other private schools are coping in face of unpredictable virus
By Janis Fontaine
As their children close in on winter break, some parents are taking time to evaluate the first half of the 2020-21 school year and contemplate changes.
Private schools are an appealing, but often an expensive option. But there are lots of private choices: big schools, small schools, old schools and new.
Space of Mind Schoolhouse, whose flagship site is in the historic Clark building at 102 N. Swinton Ave. in downtown Delray Beach, is one of the newest kids on the block. The school started in a living room in 2004 with a few students. This year, SOM introduced updated kindergarten and elementary curricula that Ali Kaufman is excited about.
Space of Mind is “a hybrid school program founded on the principles of homeschooling, but delivered in a social environment, which allows for students to learn in small groups and tailored to their needs and interests,” said Kaufman, the founder and CEO of the school.
It’s school the way you might imagine it in a perfect world where each child has unlimited access to teachers and resources, project-based learning where a student is encouraged to learn in his preferred way, studying subjects that he’s naturally curious about, in a place that nurtures the whole child — mentally, physically and emotionally.
SOM places emphasis on life skills, becoming collaborative partners in learning and problem solving, and growing solid citizens of the global community. It also has an in-house chef for fresh, organic meals and a meditation session to start the day.
“We want to teach kids to adjust to the rhythms of the real world,” Kaufman says.
Children saw a huge change in that rhythm with COVID-19, and the size of the school made it easier for everyone to adapt.
Kids learn to adapt and mature without losing the essence of who they are.
Kaufman says “a brain under stress cannot learn,” so meditation and low-stress teaching methods help. In the reinvented classroom, each child has an individualized student coaching road map that includes assessments, goals and learning plans for his personalized curriculum. There are creative arts programs, social and emotional skill development, and exposure to wellness activities like scuba and martial arts.
Space of Mind was more prepared than a lot of other schools when things shut down in the spring. The school already had strong a strong virtual learning curriculum (based on gifted programs), small class sizes (a 4-to-1 ratio) and intimate relationships with the parents.
“We could anticipate a lot of problems,” Kaufman said, “because we know our families so well.”
When children returned to school in September, the “flexible structure” made it easier to adjust. Kids don’t change classes when a bell rings or mix with new kids each class.
“We didn’t have the big obstacles. There were just a lot of issues we didn’t have to deal with because they didn’t exist,” Kaufman said.
The 10,000-square-foot campus provides plenty of room for social distancing, and wearing masks hasn’t been an issue with kids at all, she says.
The school’s team of medical advisers recommended a $20,000 air purification system and the addition of a full-time registered nurse, which makes everyone breathe easier.
Space of Mind serves fewer than 100 students in grades K through 12, including some out-of-state virtual students. The campus recently added a new 6,400-square-foot community center called the Hub, where Kaufman says the school will offer adult, family and community programming.
Kaufman says the school also plans to add a nationally available parent-led pre-K program for at-home learning, which will give parents of preschoolers coaching to get their kids ready for kindergarten and a place to turn for virtual support.
Although the school is well prepared to help the “outside-the-box students” — kids with ADHD, on the spectrum, with visual and auditory processing challenges, anxiety, dyslexia or giftedness — it welcomes any student who wants to try learning in a more kid-centric and less cookie-cutter way.
Kaufman stresses that one goal is to destigmatize learning challenges and level the playing field, but she encourages parents to think of SOM as “the first, best choice, not a last resort.”
It’s sometimes hard to quantify success so Kaufman looks at student behavior: “Are they motivated intrinsically?” she asks.
But the litmus test for school success may be much simpler, she says. “Are they happy?”
For more information, call 877-407-1122 or visit www.findspaceofmind.com