Personalized education is the basic tenet behind Deep Root Center and the other organizations within the Liberated Learners Network. I believe those simple words profess to the world that we are in the business of educating one kid at a time, in the real world, according to their individual needs and desires.
But what does that really mean? We have all heard the phrases individualized and student centered education. Those pedagogies, in my opinion, are an effort to bring out each students interests within a formalized and structured classroom or school setting. The schools who utilize these philosophies, however, offer some form of coercion (albeit subtle), and are not able to sincerely look at each student as a unique being, because their internal structure is governed by the requirements set forth by the state or the administration of private learning institutions.
A truly personalized education provides open options and free choice for each learner, by listening and utilizing the information gathered through multiple conversations and mentoring sessions to create a personalized learning plan. These plans often include: group classes, online classes, and one-on-one tutorials, independent research and hands on projects, and even internships or apprenticeships in the community.
The beauty of this process is that the student and the mentor both understand the plan is completely organic and alive; they are both entirely willing to scrap the original, at any time, because life happens, interests change, and new experiences and explorations may expose new learning opportunities.
Some students thrive in an academically demanding situation, others are looking for a relaxed ---go with the flow--- learning experience. These two contrasting styles and personalities mesh perfectly in the self-directed learning environment, because of the fluidity, malleability, and non-coercive nature of the education.
Everyone understands that they have options and no one is being forced to do anything they do not want to do. The staff is never worried that one student who is engaged in a rigorous lesson will be influenced to leave the class, simply because another is sitting at the next table surrounded by his latest project and rocking out with head phones firmly attached to his ears.
A personalized education simply requires an open and welcoming environment, supportive teachers and facilitators, positive relationships, mutual respect, and the intrinsic desire to learn.