By Wendy Wisner
Max Montgomery has attended more schools than he can even count. He’s attended public schools, private schools, and gifted schools. His schooling has taken him across the globe to Singapore, and he’s attended school up and down the U.S coasts. So by the time he was in 11th grade, he had a pretty solid idea of what he liked—and what he disliked—about school.
Rigid schedules, lack of class discussion, “teaching to the test”? No thank you. Max was looking for a school that was meaningful—that centered on the student, dove deep into each subject matter, and taught subjects that mattered in real life. Enter Sora Schools, a mastery school for grades 7-12, taught completely online.
Why Mastery School?
Mastery schools focus on project based learning rather than exams, and there are no grades. These schools are heavily student focused, allowing students to structure their own academic projects. And they allow flexibility in terms of how student work is completed.
Max ended up enrolling at Sora School, billed as “a high school built for you,” where students begin by broadly exploring their interests. Sora is fully accredited, covers the core curriculum areas of a traditional school, and confers a high school diploma. However, students also have the freedom to explore other aspects of arts and engineering that are considered outside of the “core” subject areas.
Sora’s faculty-led courses, called expeditions, run on six-week cycles. Max is currently enrolled in expeditions covering computer science, coding, cryptocurrency, and philosophy of anime. In a few weeks, he will choose a few key subjects that he wants to explore in greater depth, and then begin working on projects based on those interests.
Projects are the meat of a school like Sora. Students work collaboratively with faculty to create hands-on projects based on their interests, which typically run alongside the six-week expedition cycles. This allows students to take a deeper dive into subjects they are passionate about—which can make it easier to stand out as a college applicant when the time comes.
Finding a Community: Traditional School vs Online School
Parents whose children struggled with remote learning last year may have reservations about whether their student could enjoy this format, or if they would feel isolated in a virtual environment. But what stands out about Sora is the strong sense of community it offers their students, even though the school is completely online.
How do they make connections with their peers? The students are divided up into “Houses,” says Max, and these groups become their social network during school. Kids are constantly corresponding with one another through platforms like Discord, collaborating on group projects, and “hanging out” at afterschool clubs. In just six weeks, Max said he found a stronger sense of togetherness than when he attended in-person schools with thousands of other kids. “It’s much more like a community than other schools are,” says Max.
If traditional school is just not cutting it for your middle or high schooler, and you think a school like Sora might be a good match, you can attend a coffee chat with the admissions team.