Ditchschool in the Canyon

Haille TrimboliBy Haille Trimboli      July 23, 2021

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While many local high school juniors were finishing up their AP exams and readying to apply for college, there is a group of local Topanga teens who are skipping high school altogether (a decision their families made even before COVID-19 school closures). This group is known as Ditchschoolers. They intentionally made the decision to begin college early and find they do less busy work and experience deeper learning. They study with professors who hold doctorates in their content areas and engage with focused and engaged classmates. Typically, grade six is when students are taught how to write a proper five paragraph academic essay with a thesis statement and supporting evidence. This skill is taught again in seventh through twelfth grades and then again in college English 101. Local teacher, Sage Spencer, thought it would be smarter to learn that skill just once and well. Sage took English 101 at age 11 and graduated from UC Berkeley with his BA at age 16. His now 16-year-old brother, Kaien Orion, is in his senior year at UC San Diego earning a degree in Psychoanthropology while training elite level gymnastics and working at Topanga’s Canyon Gourmet. Another dozen Topanga teens are following in their footsteps. Odin Saric, previously struggling at a local high school, is now one class away from his Associate’s degree and has graduated high school a full year early. With all of the extra time on his hands, Odin is often found on his skateboard or teaching lessons to children. Ditchschool “sophomores,” Gabe Garcia, Asha Perry-Datt, and Oceana Bender are all on track to finish high school a year early, with their AA degrees, and ready to transfer as juniors to four year Universities. Mimosa Cafe’s Mia Mahoney is also graduating high school early and has nearly two years of college already done. Luka Booth will continue his third year of college and likely transfer to a UK university, something he qualifies for without having taken any AP exams thanks to his two years of tertiary studies. Ditchschool also works with middle school-aged learners and currently has 11-, 12-, and 13-year olds beginning their third college course this summer. The unschooling cooperative Petals Learning Community for children ages 5 to 10, works closely with the Ditchschoolers either virtually or at a family home in Old Canyon. Other Ditchschoolers work remotely and check in with one another at Zoom meetings that they schedule on their own. This allows students to work on passion projects. Some projects the Ditchschoolers are working to include farm-to- table business plans, film editing, childcare, work experience, equine therapy, gardening, innocence legal studies, arts and crafts, and more The local teens work with art and music specialists as well as five regular educator-mentors with multiple teaching credentials and advanced degrees. Ditchschool is a full-service educational consulting firm offering transcript evaluation and composition, alternative schooling support, private school entrance advising, test preparation, and proctoring, college application guidance, student advocacy, essay editing, studio teaching, and one-on-one tutoring. Our unique blend of unschooling and advanced scholarship is successfully challenging and surpassing the mainstream schooling paradigm. Please reach out for a personal learner consultation and program design. Learn more about our offerings so we can be of service to your family. Quillin School is a CA registered private school since 2010. See the curriculum tab for more information. quillineducation.com PETALS Unschooling Learning Cooperative is is a Learning Community in Topanga, CA, where a group of youth, their parents, and educators choose to “homeschool” as a collective inspired by the learning philosophies of Reggio Emilia, Waldorf, Montessori, Tinkering, Democratic, Big Picture, and Forest Schools. petalslearningcommunity.org/home. Petals is an acronym for the learning priorities of the families. We operate as an Agile Learning Center which practices self-directed education. Academics are offered and encouraged but never imposed or presented coercively. (Please see relevant links for more information.) P for Play since children are happiest and learn best while playing. E for Earth because we are committed to learning about, being connected to, and protecting our habitat. T for Tinkering. Children love to build, create, and experiment while working with tools, wood, metal, electronics, and their hands to learn how things work or are made. A for Arts as we encourage the youth to express themselves artistically, though music, visual arts, crafts, and performing arts. L for Language. We want children to be able to communicate in writing, enjoy reading, and speak a second language. S for Strength since we prioritize strength of mind and body, encouraging healthy eating, physical fitness, and mindfulness practices.
Haille Trimboli

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