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Nine Unconventional Schools in Houston

Most of us are familiar with the expectations surrounded by the term ‘school.’ We picture a brick and mortar building, children sorted by age, a fair amount of seat work, a thirty-minute recess, a thirty-minute lunch, and homework. However, the landscape of education is changing and all of the major research supports anything but “regular” school. If you are looking for something a little different here are some Houston schools that are “off the beaten path.”

1. Homeschooling:

Yep, I know – that’s not a school! But, in Texas, it is. Each and everyone is its own private school. The knee-jerk response to homeschooling is generally somewhere between, “I can’t teach my kids!” to “How will those poor children ever make friends?” Good news, Houston, you live not only in a homeschool-friendly state but in a homeschool-friendly city. The opportunities for homeschoolers in Houston are bountiful. In fact, the real problem may be opting out of activities.

Homeschooling is not one size fits all. You can buy a complete box and follow scripted curriculum; you can pick and choose your own math, science, and arts. Additionally, classes, co-ops, and enrichment services are becoming available all over the city.

To get started homeschooling in Texas you merely need to send a letter to your school stating that you are doing so. That’s it! Once you are a homeschooler join our closed facebook group to connect with other homeschoolers across the city or join our public group to dip your toes in the water.

2. Hybrid Schools:

So you like the idea of homeschooling but it seems daunting. This is where the hybrid program comes into play. Hybrid programs choose the curriculum and provide a combination of campus and home days. These are much cheaper than full private schools and a bit more expensive than buying a boxed curriculum. If you like to pick and choose but still want someone to set up and teach look at the a la carte section below. You can create a robust academic schedule in that manner as well.

3. Acton Academy:

Have you heard of Elon Musk starting a school for his kids and some SpaceX employees’ children? This is that kind of school. Student-led is more than a philosophy at an Acton Academy. The students are called Heroes and the idea is that they are on their own journey and should be the hero of their story. The teachers are Guides. The guides are not there to teach the children but to facilitate their journey. The day starts with Socratic discussion. Then they use technology to spend time individually working on “core skills time” and every six weeks they focus on a project, concluding in an exhibition.

4. Waldorf Schools

Have you heard of Steve Jobs He and loads of Silicon Valley tech execs send their kids to low-tech/ no-tech schools like Waldorf. Waldorf schools are inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s educational philosophies. They strive to bring students to education in a beautiful, gentle natural way that works in pace with child developmental stages. Their methods include activity in learning, spending time outdoors, art, music, language, and movement as integral parts of education. Houston is home to two full-time Waldorf schools and several Waldorf programs for younger children.

5.  À La Carte Education

Imagine choosing the exact course load your kids are taking. That’s what these schools do. Some will utilize them for everything, but many might consider it as an accompaniment to homeschooling. So you cover the basics, they cover the electives or the courses you just don’t want to or feel qualified to teach. These arrangements are great for those needing a very flexible schedule.

6. One on One Education

This differs from the pick and choose method above because the curriculum is set and students attend daily like a regular school. ?The school day is a bit shorter, but otherwise a traditional set up. However, there is only one student for every single teacher. Yep, 1:1.

*Fusion is included in this option as well because they offer a complete curriculum as well as individual classes

7. Montessori Schools:

Montessori schools have become increasingly popular, particularly as an option for Pre-K and early elementary (schools that only offer PreK-K programs are not listed here). From the American Montessori Society: “Components necessary for a program to be considered authentically Montessori include multiage groupings that foster peer learning, uninterrupted blocks of work time, and guided choice of work activity. In addition, a full complement of specially designed Montessori learning materials are meticulously arranged and available for use in an aesthetically pleasing environment.”

Houston is home to one Montessori school that follows children all the way through high-school. (HISD does have a Montessori magnet school that goes through 8th grade, but you will need to apply and live in HISD’s attendance area).

8. Non-Conforming
Project-Based, Learner-Centered, Sudbury, Non-Hierarchical, etc.

Sudbury schools leave the complete responsibility of a child’s education up to that child. The schools themselves are run by direct democracy. There is no prescribed curriculum or instruction. “Teachers” are brought in to teach what children are interested in learning. The school relies on the inherent belief that people are naturally curious and the most profound learning comes from that which the learner seeks out.

9. Boarding Schools

Maybe they aren’t Hogwarts but Houston has two schools that are full boarding schools. Typically, they serve international communities. These are regular schools, not those that are meant to serve students with extreme disabilities or behavior problems.

Bonus: Online Schools

Online/ virtual schools are not exclusive to Houston, but they are also worth looking into. They vary wildly in price and offerings. Everything from live classes to pre-recorded. Some even offer official transcripts.

Bonus: Specialized Schools

Specialized schools will vary in their design. Please read individual descriptions to find your best fit.

  • Briarwood School (West Houston), K- 12th grade – “empower students with diagnosed learning differences or developmental disorders to reach their maximum potential through diagnostic-prescription instruction in a structured academic environment.”
  • The Bridge Preparatory Academy (Richmond), K – 12th grade – “a Christian private school for students who learn differently”
  • Elim Christian School (Far West Houston), K-12th grade – “primary focus is to serve students who do not fit into a “one-size-fits-all” educational system, we seek to serve all types of learners – from challenged to typical to gifted…. a non-graded school, serving students ages 6 through High School…. diagnoses as ADHD, mild Autism, Expressive/Receptive Speech Delay, Sensory Processing Disorder, Processing Delay, Cerebellar Ataxia, Dyslexia, hearing impairment and more.”
  • Excelsior Academy (Sugar Land & West Houston), K – 8th grade – ” provides individualized instruction, educational therapy, and small classroom sizes to students with learning disabilities. These disabilities include ADD/ADHD (trouble focusing, hyperactivity), Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, and other difficulties with regards to reading, writing and arithmetic. ”
  • Journey School (Spring), ages 3-21 – “aims to serve children with differing abilities in the Greater Houston area, Texas, and around the world! A place where children and families are loved and supported not because of their different needs but because of their amazing abilities!”
  • Kinder High School for the Performing Arts (Downtown) – HISD magnet school
  • Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School (SW Houston) – HISD magnet school
  • Rainard School for Gifted Children (West Houston), PreK – 8th grade
  • Rhodes School for the Performing Arts (Far NE Houston & Humble), PreK-8th – Public Charter school open to students residing in Aldine, Alief, Channelview, Crosby, Cy-Fair, Fort Bend, Galena Park, Goose Creek, Houston, Humble, Pasadena, Pearland, Sheldon, and Spring Independent School Districts.
  • Spring Branch Academic Institute (Spring Branch), K-12 – “provides individualized instruction at the appropriate pace, depth and complexity needed by highly gifted students in a multi-aged setting. By creating a school-within-a-school for this specific population, SBISD is filling a great need for students in Spring Branch ISD.”
  • The Williams School (Missouri City), K-12 – specialize in teaching students with learning differences such as Dyslexia, ADHD, and anxiety, grades K-12.

Bonus: Micro Schools

Micro Schools are a nice blend of private and homeschooling. Typically, they are no larger than 15 students. Often they are located in homes but do tend to offer the full curriculum of a traditional private school. Due to the small size individualized education is possible and many grade levels can be serviced at one school.

Bonus: Language Immersion

The schools in this section offer, at minimum, a Dual Language Education (Dual Immersion) or 50/50 instruction in English and another language as a primary learning model.

People should be free to find or make for themselves the kinds of educational experience they want their children to have.

John Holt

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  1. We learned of your website from a prospective parent and are amazed at the extensive content! We would like to add our school, PEAK Academy, to your list of micro school options in the area. Please visit http://www.peak-academy.org for more information. We are former public school teachers who decided to become educational entrepreneurs and reimagine education. Thank you for sharing so many wonderful alternatives to traditional education.

  2. I appreciate you sharing this list of schools. I recommend adding “Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart” to your list. My daughter graduated from this school and she said that she learned a lot from it. Houston’s best private schools.

  3. Do you happen too know if Ridgemont Academy closed? The website isn’t working and the phone number only gives a busy signal.

  4. The Saint Constantine School also has a hybrid program! M/W/F are dedicated to core subjects, and T/TR are dedicated to enrichment: music, gardening, art, creative writing, physical education, choir, and so forth. Parents can choose a full 5-day program, or core/enrichment only — whatever fits the family’s individual needs!

    1. Highlands Latin Cottage School in Nassau Bay should be added as well as a classical hybrid option.

  5. Acton Academy has no teachers, only guides. No report cards, only student-earned badges and portfolios to prove mastery of skills. No classrooms, only studios. No assigned homework, only what a child chooses to continue doing at home. No bureaucracy, only a lean machine that drives the cost of private schooling down to below that of any other model we’ve ever seen. You won’t hear an announcement over an intercom by a principal nor will you see a teacher overseeing recess. You won’t hear buzzers announcing the end of math period or science class.

    This radical power shift is not one of children running wild, although there are days when chaos reigns. The Acton story is most surprising in that it reveals children who care so deeply about their learning that they work hard, hold tight boundaries for each other, and rise to excellence in ways we never imagined.

    Acton Academy is grounded in a trusting of children and the belief that they must and can handle big responsibilities. Come see what a difference your child can make.

  6. Under Montessori schools you should also add The Post Oak School which also goes through 12th grade.

  7. This article talks about best educational options for homeschooling children and Language Arts Academy is in that list. We are so proud! We invite you to come in @ 5503 FM 2920 Rd. Spring TX 77388 832-458-2300 Contact@LanguageArtsAcademy.Com for class schedule and more information, we also provide special needs programs. We offer a la carte programs, private (one-on-one) tutoring; we will offer soon a Hybrid Classical program twice a week. We are one stop for all your educational needs.

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