The Princeton Learning Cooperative is a center that
helps teenagers live & learn without school by
supporting teens to create personalized educations
based on their interests, abilities and goals.
Princeton Learning cooperative supports teenagers to leave traditional public private schools and create a life and education for themselves based around what they're interested in what their abilities are and where they see themselves going in life one of the things that a lot of people don't sort of know about the u.s. educational system is that you don't need a high school diploma you don't need to attend traditional public and private middle school in high school in order to move on and have a successful life and including going to college including to do anything that you want to do in life and so if that's the case if you don't have to go to high school you know what can you do with your time you know if you're not sitting in school for seven hours a day there's just an unbelievable amount of resources and opportunities to create the kind of life that you want once you step outside of that traditional system and so kids at the Princeton learning cooperative have done you know almost anything you can manage and starting a business you know building computers you know learning pottery taking classes at the local community college writing their own novels I mean the really when you start to look at it just the possibilities are endless so PLC supports teenagers and their families to use this style of learning a number of ways the first thing is just help planning right if you're not going to be in school for seven hours a day what is it that you want to spend your time on and then we also have a lot of academic support so we have a full calendar of classes we have you know help kids set up one-on-one tutorials and various topics all of our full-time members have a staff mentor that they meet with individually each week where they plan and track progress we help our kids with college admissions down the road if that's where they're planning on going we help them find internship and volunteer and work opportunities in the community we also provide a safe and comfortable community where kids can come and work and socialize the social aspect of PLC is kind of the foundation for all of the work that we do here because it shows how we come together as people and not with any prescribed relationships ahead of time in terms of mentoring or teaching or working together on projects we just come together as ourselves to play games to hang out to chat about things and we're a group of people who just gets together on a regular basis to live life together we get to build trusting fun authentic relationships without any ulterior motive so that whenever we do get involved in a project or our class or a mentoring relationship we're building on top of something and that whenever we're doing any of those other things were doing them as whole people who choose to do those things together we found out about PLC at a farmers market I can't remember where the farmers market exactly was but uh Paul was there actually and when and we just stopped and asked and we found out there was an open house going on and so a few weeks later we went to the open house and so when we got there I met you and Allison and I think I saw Paul again and then we just learned all about you know seeing how it worked and I actually joined like a few days after I really didn't like the school environment like the public school environment from moving to from Princeton or moving to Princeton it was very difficult to find a school and so when we found this it I really like the idea of just getting to decide what you want to and study what you want to set up having to be stuck on a certain guideline one of the first things I was getting into some programming some history and some math and my mom really wanted me into English and writing so that was one of the early things I did in the beginning of the year math was it wasn't a strong suit of mine and and by the end of the first year that I was at PLC math was became one of my favorite classes to take during the week and we were able to get tutors to come in or college students actually who would come in and teach the classes to the students um I didn't really like the system of how they were forcing the math down your throat a little bit where you felt if you didn't do well enough you were gonna be made fun of or you were dumb or something like that I like that I was just able to kind of freely go through even though I'm in an advanced math now I still feel like if I do poorly in front of other people I feel like there's something wrong or you know it's bad but I I'm Matthew Stoll and I learned I mean even with English I just happened to start to like English writing and all that Monday's is a special day for PLC we tend to do outdoor activities or at least experiential activities such as we could go rock climbing we've done that quite a few times we could go down and do fossil hunting we can do rock scrambling or hiking we could also go to museums he even just visit a shopping center I have been to New York to the museum the mobile museum we're hoping to plan another New York trip it should just walk around New York and explore a little bit without actually visiting a museum basically the idea is that we should try and encourage students to learn while they're enjoying themselves apparently the brain is more receptive to new a new material new events when it's in a happy state so experiential learning is a big a big deal for PLC we're trying to work on that a lot rather than sitting in front of a blackboard and just trying to absorb information well high school I went to was an elementary school and everyone there didn't really understand the aspects of teaching correctly extra school was not the best not the teachers weren't that friendly people didn't really get along people weren't happy to go there that kind of stuff the basic of school stuff the experience at PLC it's uh it's interesting every day there's a lot of people everyone's nice no one's mean I wouldn't come if they were so the calendar of classes that we develop at PLC is really kind of unique and it's totally based on what our current members are interested in learning so we have very you know traditional kind of subjects in classes on like algebra 1 or biology but we also have really sort of eclectic classes as well they're just based on people's interests so for instance we have a class called into the woods where they go out and just learn survival techniques and fishing and these kind of things and also things you know like earth science and and some of these more you know everyday environmentalism some of these these classes are just based around our volunteers who come into works passions or kids interests the difficulties Cameron had with school impacted the whole family she first of all she was miserable a second she was ill she didn't feel well most of the time she was cranky she she didn't want to be with anyone she wanted she served just isolated herself and didn't really want to interact with with us with her friends she just you know it threw everything into a turmoil because our entire our entire family life was concerned with well what about Cameron how's Cameron gonna you know if we have to go here if we have this family event for the day is Cameron gonna go if she is not well enough to go can she stay home by herself we've seen Cameron grow so much since she's come to PLC she has really kind of taken control of her life I would say that I you know I I never recognized or see myself as much of a control freak but when Cameron the the more trouble she had in school the more I felt they need to step in and take control to the point where I was I felt like I was telling her what to do and and that probably contributed to her not taking control and not not feeling you know her the anxiety that she felt I think since coming to PLC she has recognized that she's in charge of her own life and she can make her own choices and she's demonstrated that by the things that she's that she's done since she's been at PLC she's you know she's taken advantage of an internship she's gotten a couple of part-time jobs she's taking classes at County College she's she's really sort of started to show an interest in sort of divergent areas where I don't think in high school she would have had you know that it would have that it would have been that obvious that she has these these different interests okay so I teach into the woods it's a wilderness survival class indigenous music class any kind of just anything in the woods I try and teach kids about what run a survival shelter building fishing any kind of primitive survival techniques any kind of just sustainable living anything that they can just eventually support themselves with if they wanted to just the skills and the craft of how to take what's provided for you already in nature's bounty and just I guess just sort of use it to your best advantage is the great learning experience for me to be at PLC I'm learning a lot more than I thought I would I've learned a lot about how to teach kids better how to relate to kids in different age groups from teaching the kids at PLC I wanted to join PLC because I wanted to be working with young people to help them do the things that they wanted to do I had a lot of success and a lot of fun working with young people in math classrooms sharing math with them helping them make projects and all kinds of cool stuff but it was always sort of constrained by the things that we were supposed to be doing and I was really interested in seeing what kinds of things I could help young people do whenever there weren't any constraints at all whenever we could just come up with great ideas and follow our passions and that's what I've been able to do so far here at the LC which is super exciting PLC is great and I feel really welcome here because it's less stressful and everybody's really willing to go the extra mile to really step out and give me a hand and what I need to learn for life I like PLC because it's fun and you know we're not forced to do classes that we don't want to you know take we can take what we want to take so way back in I think 2007 I managed to find on TED talks this great speaker called Sir Ken Robinson and it's still the most popular talk on TED Talks you know when you go to see what the most popular there is still the same talk from that he gave gave a long time ago about creativity as opposed to just remember I think the education system is broken basically throughout the world and he's wanting to spend more time on creating people who were creative rather than otherwise so eventually we met yeah I had read a book called the teenage deliberation handbook but Gracie Ellen which talks about kids you know leaving school and you know creating a life for themselves and through that book we found a organization of Massachusetts called North Star who are doing these you know great new things kids and so I sort of thought that's what it is I want to do and so Paul and I met through a mutual friend of ours it snipes farm and introduced us and so we met and we're like well let's let's do something you know let's create something new that's kind of just kind of work for those kids at the traditional school system didn't work for I guess we gathered together a whole bunch of friends and teachers and people who were interested in this kind of thing and started meeting I think once a month or so at my house and we just talked about what you think education is about and why do we need to do what we're doing and could we do something different and get the same results okay the results we want and out of that we developed a little group of I think five of us maybe and I became the the initial board I suppose of what was going to become Princeton learning cooperative ever since I came to PLC it's been a lot less stressful at home because I used to have a lot of homework and my mom and I would always fight about me doing it so now I don't have homework and I don't have to do it anymore we're not fighting at all anymore and I'm a lot more happy at home the mentoring program here at PLC is we offer all of the full-time PLC members a mentor a staff member who would serve as their mentor and that person would meet with them once a week and and other times if necessary and help them figure out their path through homeschooling through high school so what choices they want to make what's their long term goal and have that influences or impacts the kinds of things that they want to do right now so that they could also be enjoying life right now but also be leading in a direction that they're hoping to achieve later on we we work on both what classes the the teen is taking and how those classes are going and whether that sort of study works for them or if they'd like to try another method of study of a particular topic we also talk about work and internships what with what kinds of experiences what they like to be having right now and is there anything we could get set up there we talked about sort of being organized for applying to college later either a two-year Community College or a four-year college or what it is that they would like to do after after they're done they're sort of high school years of study on Wednesdays a lot of the members go out into the community and some of them will take classes at their community college some of them have jobs on Wednesdays internships and some of them also volunteer so with my time on Wednesdays what I usually do is I have worked in the morning which is a job that I got through PLC and then I also had an internship last year I volunteer at the animal shelter in Princeton near us I also added a class at Princeton University and I take a class at Mercer County Community College so PLC can be a life changing option for teenagers and their families and there's a lot of benefits that come from being involved at PLC one of them is just that the stress level for kids and their families comes way down when there's when there's not battles over sort of mandatory homework you know some kids come to us having three or four hours of homework at night at their school and then when that's not an issue anymore a lot of times relationships and families improve a lot a number of kids who were pretty shut down in school just because they did not know that system of learning didn't work for them being told what to do on a daily basis when they started to have more control over what they were learning and how they're learning and when you know when they're learning it just that their their whole attitude towards life and you know the excitement that they have around learning just comes back you know for more like when they were a little kid