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New alternative education center opening in Canton

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CANTON — Maria L. Corse believes children learn best in a noncompetitive environment where they have input into what they learn and aren’t stressed out about taking so many tests.

That’s the atmosphere Mrs. Corse plans for a new nonprofit educational center that’s scheduled to open Jan. 6 in the upper floor of 17 Main St., above MacFadden-Dier-Leonard Insurance Co.

She describes Deep Root Center for Self-Directed Learning as an alternative to traditional public school education. It will be geared for home-schooled children ages 8 to 18 whose families have filed required home school documents with their school district. So far, one student has signed up, but many families have expressed interest.

“Kids will be given the tools to learn on their own terms and discover their passions with abundant support and mentoring from staff and other adults in the community,” Mrs. Corse said.

An open house at the center is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 8. A discussion will be followed by a question-and-answer period.

Some of the furniture at the center was donated by St. Lawrence University.

Mrs. Corse emphasized that the center is not a school, but a place where home-schooled children can access resources including books, art supplies and support for projects.

“The families come up with their own learning plan. I help them find the resources,” Mrs. Corse said.

For example, if a child is interested in taking apart a computer to figure out how it works, she’ll find someone in the community who can share his or her knowledge.

The center will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Each participant will pay an annual fee ranging from $1,600 to $5,000, depending on the number of days the student uses the center.

She said the center will provide classes, one-on-one tutoring, advising, college prep, space for independent learning and other resources. Unlike traditional schooling, there will not be a set curriculum for each student.

The new Common Core standards being implemented at public schools emphasize test scores and have generated a negative response from some parents and teachers across the country. Other parents are concerned about larger class sizes. Ms. Corse said she believes the center may be the alternative some families are looking for.

“The amount of testing kids have to go through is stressful for the kids, the teachers and the families. Teachers have to teach to the test,” Mrs. Corse said. ”A lot of families are concerned about that.”

Deep Roots will be staffed by paid educators as well as volunteers. It’s modeled after a center in Hadley, Mass., called North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens, which opened in 1996.

To offset the cost for participants, the center will offer a scholarship program, a monthly payment program and an in-kind services payment program.

Besides academic work, she envisions the center as a gathering place for social interaction.

Mrs. Corse said her center will be different from Little River Community School, County Route 25, an alternative school that serves about 34 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Instead of a set curriculum, she said, her center will offer completely individualized plans for each student. Each member creates his or her own plan with help and advice from parents and adviser.

Mrs. Corse resides in Pierrepont and spent the past 10 years teaching at an alternative school. She can be reached at 244-3034 or by email at deeprootcenter@gmail.com. Information about the center can be found at www.deeprootcenter.org.

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