An alternative middle school is a non-traditional school for children who are in the middle years of formal education. Usually, this includes students who are in the sixth through eighth grades, but it can include other grades, depending on the jurisdiction. These schools provide an alternative to mainstream schools that follow a traditional curriculum and method of teaching. There are different types of alternative middle school education choices, including charter schools, virtual schools, and religious schools. Homeschooling also represents a type of alternative education that some parents may choose for their middle school children.
One of the most common types of alternative middle schools is called a charter school. This type of school is a public school that is operated by an independent entity and provides an alternative to the traditional school most children attend. In some cases, these schools offer smaller classes and more personal attention from teachers. Often, they have a non-traditional focus, such as on computers, science, social awareness, or the environment, in addition to traditional academics. Usually, the entities that operate these schools have unique educational philosophies, and they often allow children more freedom and input in terms of how they learn.
Some alternative middle schools operate virtually and allow students to take all of their classes online. In such a case, a student may log on for instruction by a teacher as well as to access educational materials and complete assignments. In many cases, a student who is enrolled in one of these alternative middle schools also has to log in to the school's site to complete exams. This doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t have textbooks, however. In many cases, virtual schools also provide textbooks and other materials students use as part of the educational program.
Alternative middle schools also include those that are religion based. These schools provide a middle school education from the perspective of a particular religion. For example, this type of school may provide education from a Christian or Muslim perspective. Often, these schools also incorporate religious services and prayer into their school schedules, and curriculum materials may focus on religious beliefs as well. For example, teachers at a Christian school may teach creationism rather than evolution.
Though it doesn’t usually involve leaving home to learn, homeschooling also provides a type of alternative education for middle school students. Homeschool students learn under the supervision of their parents, and homeschool families often have a good deal of flexibility when it comes to scheduling learning time and the choice of learning materials. Depending on where homeschool families live, however, they may have to submit portfolios and other proof of educational progress to local school districts.