Start an Educational Alternative

At a time when the U.S. education system is failing under the burden of the ill-conceived No Child Left Behind program, it is crucial that we create alternative school models, all across the country and around the world. AERO has decided to pour more of its energy into supporting the creation of a spectrum of new learner-centered alternative schools including home school resource centers. Join us in this campaign and start your own school! There is no better time than now!

The goal of our fifteen week school starters' course is to help educators assess the feasibility and find the resources required to turn the dream of a school into a sustainable and nurturing educational environment. The course will prepare students to undertake the planning necessary to open a learner-centered school. We procede at a pace that is comfortable for the group. 

The course is designed to address practical as well as philosophical issues pertinent to the process. This includes clarifying the educational vision, building a suitable educational model, mastering the governance techniques, fundraising, legal set up and student and staff recruitment.

Start date: October 7, 2013

Classes end: January 25, 2014


Click here to enroll.


Here are some recent comments from people who have taken the course:
I started Castle Island Bilingual Montessori in Albany, NY. The School Starters course was a valuable resource for me providing an international network of passionate, intelligent and hard-working educational innovators. My questions about HOW to get things going were answered by my new peers. Networking with people in same place I was offered the answers I needed. Thank you!
-Diane Nickerson de Feliz

I definitely sing AERO's praises everywhere I go. You opened my world through the course. Couldn't be happier with all that has transpired since then.
-Hancy Tilton, founder of Mosaic School in Charlotte, NC

I was in the Start Your Own School 101 last year. I have been going through the approval stages to open an Approved Special Education Provider. Rose Academy School of Experiential Learning is located at 125 Border City Road, Geneva, NY. This is a private school for students with anxiety disorders, autism, emotional disturbance, and other special needs. I have rented a church that ironically was first an elementary school. I have four classrooms, an office, conference room, cafeteria and gymnasium. I am waiting for lists of students from neighboring schools and then we can start. Hopefully in three weeks. Think good thoughts and whisper a prayer for us.
-Lorraine Williams

The school starters program changed the course of my educational career. This course offered a new paradigm on learning, which was for me a breakthrough in my personal, parental, and professional development. AERO's School Starter 101 lit the fuse of what I hope will be a lifelong personal experience of the dynamite power of democratic education. 
-P.N., AZ

I took the course in the fall of 2011. We are very close to opening our school – we have a preliminary permit from the Ministry of Education, and we expect to open next year, though it may take a year and a half according to the designer who we are about to hire to design the school. 
I feel like I got the most out of the course when I was half way to 3/4 way through. It suddenly clicked that the course was being run pretty much like a democratic school – that you could get as much as you want out of it, or nothing at all. This is the beauty of the course
-Nada Fakhro, Bahrain

All course materials (i.e. book chapters, articles…) are provided online free of charge. You will not need to purchase books. A free copy of How to Grow a School by Chris Mercogliano, Turning Points Ed. by Jerry Mintz & Carlo Ricci, will be mailed to you upon enrollment and receipt of payment. We will provide to you the link to our school starters website. 

Brief Summary of Topics

Unit 1: Different types of democratic schools and governance

Unit 2: Clarifying educational vision

Unit 3: Different kinds of governance

Unit 4: Building a community around the idea of starting a school

Unit 5: Legal requirements of a school

Unit 6: Finding or building a school environment

Unit 7: Financial basis of the school, including fundraising, budgeting and insurance issues

Unit 8: Recruiting teachers and students

Unit 9: The first days of school

Unit 10: Recap and Action Plan

What former participants have said

What an amazing, diverse group of people! I told my husband last night that I feel that I've found my tribe, in a way. It's really the first time in my life that I've been surrounded by people who are thinking about all of the things that I am, who are concerned about the same things that I am, who are passionate about the same things that I am, who are dedicated to putting their thoughts into action like I am. It is truly wonderful! –Mary

This class has helped me spell out my ideas and put them out there in a safe place that is supportive and helps me see what potential they have. This class has also inspired me to discuss my vision more with others (in person) and let people know not only what I feel is necessary in education, but WHY I feel it is so necessary. I have developed more confidence in articulating my vision and by doing so, have gotten lots of valuable feedback and support in surprising areas. It is quite an exciting time for me seeing all of the ideas I have been playing around with in my head for so long finally come out and take shape into something that seems a little more realistically feasible each day! –Katie

I do feel the course has assisted in getting closer to my goal of opening my school. I have learned a great deal from the topics and the questions/comments posted by the collective group. I have a new sense of confidence and peace about this process. I do not see it as such a big thing now. I am already open for school everyday for my children and now I am just including some others with a little different twist. –Marianne

This course has been spectacular– it really has opened many doors for me and made a *major* step in the right direction for me opening my school– both in what it has taught as well as in the people I have met. –Alex

This course has been immensely helpful. Among other things, I've discovered that there is a considerable body of literature on the subject of alternative education, but the literature is NOT readily available. You won't encounter it as required reading in teacher preparation courses. You won't find it in most public libraries. One thing I could do, I suppose, and it would be tax-deductible, would be to purchase the available materials from The Education Revolution website and DONATE them to the library. — Robert

Refund Policy

Course fees will be returned at a rate of 90% if withdrawn by 5:00pm eastern standard time September 30th, 50% if withdrawn by 5:00pm October 7th, and 0% after 5:00pm October 7th.

Withdrawal notice must be sent by United States Postal Service certified mail or you may contact us by e-mail or phone. Certified letter must include your full name and contact details, indicate your desire to withdraw, and must be post marked by the withdrawal deadline dates.

E-mails must be sent to and the phone number is 516-621-2195. If you elect to withdraw via these two methods, you must do so a full 48 hours prior to withdrawal deadlines.

If you have not received confirmation within 24 hours of cancellation, you must send the certified letter. If you are not a resident of the United States, your withdrawal notice should be sent by mail and e-mail. It must still be postmarked by the withdrawal deadline. Any questions regarding this policy should be sent to the above e-mail.

Jerry Mintz

Jerry established and for eighteen years ran Shaker Mountain School (VT) – free school based on the principles of Iroquois democracy. He is the author of No Homework and Recess All Day and is currently Director of Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO).

Chris Mercogliano

Chris is the author of How to Grow a School: Starting and Sustaining Schools That Work, In Defense of Childhood, Teaching the Restless, and Making It Up as We Go Along and long time director at The Free School in Albany. See for a complete bio.

Schools we have helped start

9th Street Schoolhouse, Austin, TX

Acheivement centerHorseheads, NY

Alternatif egitim dernegi, Turkey

A place to grow Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK

Ashuelot River Free School NH

Beacon Academy, Lafayette IN

Birch School Rock Tavern, NY

Borsodi's Bayou Learning Center, New Orleans, LA

Brooklyn Free School NY

Castle Island Bilingual Montessori, Albany, NY

Celebration Education CA

Central Coast Village School CA

Community Green Charter School Charter, FL

Discovery School ME

Elm International School Egypt

Espacio A  PR

First Nation School, Sandy Lake, ON, Canada

Forest School (ON, Canada)

Foundations School CA

Freedom To Grow Unschool  Athens, FL

Free-Range Learning Cooperative, NE, FL

Granada FreeWarsaw, Poland

Harriet Tubman Free School NY

Home Life Academy TN

IncitEdPortland, OR

Indian Way School Kahnawake, QC Canada

Journey School and Resource Center VT

Kavalkad, Eger, Hungary

Knowing GardenRedondo Beach, CA

L’Association québécoise pour l’éducation à domicile, Montreal, QC, Canada

Laura Austin Achievement Center NY

Liberty Learning Center Lubbock, TX

Little Lake Learning Community Ann Arbor, MI

Lifetime Learning, Coral Springs, FL

Le Réseau des écoles démocratiques au QuébecMontreal, QC, Canada

Lumiar School, Sao Paolo, Brazil

Manhattan Free School NY

Mindlife Success,  Malasyia 

Missoula Community School MT

Mosaic Free School, Charlotte, NC

Natural Learning SchoolMemphis, TN

NET High AcademyDes Moines, IA

North Fork Education InitiativeSouthold, NY

North Star, Hadley, MA

Open Path Homeschooling Resources, VT

Outside NowSan Luis Obispo, CA

Parts and CraftsSomerville, MA

Phoenix Rising School Scottsdale, AZ

Phoenix School, Finland

Pono Learning, New York, NY

Prairie Green School, Iowa

Prairie Sky SchoolRegina, SK, Canada

Queens Paideia SchoolLong Island City, NY

Raw LearningStaunton, VA

Ridge and Valley Charter School NJ

Rose Academy School of Experiential Learning, Geneva, NY

School Without Walls FL

Shenendoah Valley Community School VA

South Mountain Co-op Maplewood, NJ

Stork Family School, Vinnytsia, Vinnyts'ka oblast, Ukraine

Three RIvers Village School, Pittsburgh, PA

Treehouse Learning CentreMansons Landing, BC, Canada

Trillium Charter SchoolPortland, OR

Village Free School OR

Voyagers Learning Center NJ

Warsaw Free SchoolWarsaw, Poland

Watershed Learning Center, Circleville NY

Wheels of Life School WA

Whole Life Learning Center, Austin, TX

Whole School Limerick ME

Wildwood School BC, Canada

Yellow Wood Learning Community, Fort Lauderdale, FL


2 Responses to “Start an Educational Alternative”

  1. Wacango Kimani

    When is the next offering of your course "Start an Educational Alternative"?

  2. AERO

    In late September. we’re updating now.

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