Frequently Asked Questions
What do you mean by “alternative”?
Nonstandardized. Learner-centered. Holistic. Relationship-based. Community-oriented. Sustainable. Small. Secular. Independent. Keeping Austin Weird—and well educated.
What don’t you mean by “alternative”?
Public schools, including charter schools, are not featured on this site, nor are parochial or other religiously affiliated schools. While there are innovative and praiseworthy programs among such schools, they are easier for families to find than are the small alternative schools because they are parts of larger systems and thus do not need Alt Ed Austin’s help to make them accessible to the general public. For similar reasons, we don’t include “official” Montessori schools, though several programs we feature are inspired and influenced by aspects of the Montessori tradition.
Although the Austin Independent School District (like many of its counterparts elsewhere) uses the term “alternative education” to refer to public school programs set up to serve specific populations (often students labeled “at risk” or in the juvenile justice system), this is not its meaning here or in most parents’ minds.
We also don’t use the term to mean “designed expressly to meet special needs.” While most of the schools in the main directory accept children with mild learning or behavioral differences on a case-by-case basis, they are primarily set up for the general population of students. However, in Alt Ed Austin’s Alternative School Directory under the tag “Specialty,” you will find programs that focus on specific needs, including multilingual learning, giftedness, high-energy learning styles, dyslexia, and more.
What do you mean by “school”?
The diverse schools profiled here are learning communities established to help school-aged children (K through 12th grades, or their equivalents) become thriving, fulfilled, responsible citizens while nurturing their individual identities and interests. Some are “one-room schoolhouses” in private homes; others occupy multiple buildings on sprawling campuses. Some have traditional five-day schedules; others offer part-time programs that mesh with families’ homeschooling activities or leave more time for children’s extracurricular pursuits.
Some alternative schools place stronger emphasis on academic achievement, grade levels, or skill mastery than others. Some encourage a high degree of student self-direction, while others place teachers in more central, guiding roles. Some follow well-known educational models, and others pursue more eclectic or flexible curricula.
The educators at all of these alternative schools share the conviction that relationships among learners are vitally important to the educational process (even when projects are conducted independently). Community matters.
What don’t you mean by “school”?
One-day programs primarily serving homeschoolers and unschoolers, as well as extracurricular programs and specialized instruction centers, are not included in the Alternative School Directory. Instead, you’ll find many wonderful and enriching examples of these on our curated Special Programs page.
What do you mean by “small”?
A “small” school by our criteria is one that is conducive to forging a community made up of stable, meaningful relationships, where it’s possible to know everyone. See my blog post on this topic. In a nutshell, a school that is small enough to be included in the Alternative School Directory has no more than 150 students. Many of the schools featured here are considerably smaller even than this.
For students who prefer larger programs that still educate in progressive and/or holistic ways and are free of high-stakes testing, Alt Ed Austin provides this short list of Other Recommended Schools.
Do you offer private consultation with parents?
Yes! If you’d like some help sorting through all the options, defining your family’s educational priorities, and figuring out your kid’s best fit, contact Teri to arrange private consultation at affordable rates. You can read more about Alt Ed Austin’s consulting services, including group workshops, here.
How do I go about getting my school listed here if it’s not already?
Do you accept advertising?
Yes, organizations and businesses whose missions and practices are in alignment with Alt Ed Austin’s values are welcomed and encouraged to place ads on this site as Sponsoring Partners. For more information, see our advertising policies, procedures, sizes, and current rates here.