Frequently Asked Questions

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What is LightHouse?

LightHouse is a school alternative offering personalized learning for teens ages 13-18.

LightHouse is part of the Liberated Learners network of 11 programs across North America using the model pioneered at North Star in 1996.

We’re here to help teens develop passion and vision, and to learn to see themselves as change-makers- in their own lives and in the world.

Where is LightHouse located?

LightHouse is located in the STEAM building at 208 Race St, Holyoke, MA 01040, on the second floor in Suite 204.

We are very excited about our brand new space which includes a music studio and a Maker Space, as well as several classrooms, a kitchen, and a large, open, common area.  Thanks to a very generous gift we are able to build an entirely new, state-of-the-art facility in the Innovation District.

Who is LightHouse for?

We’re using the phrase, “for the most interesting teens in Hampden County.”  LightHouse is for teens who for one reason or another are dissatisfied with their current schooling experience and are bold enough to try to live their lives in a more empowered way.

In most Liberated Learner centers, teens tend to fall into one of a few wide categories.  The first group are the Inspired.  These are teens who have passions and interests and want to pursue them, or they believe in the possibility of having passions and interests and they want to have a life that prioritizes meaningful learning.  Teens like this tend to thrive in Liberated Learners settings with a relatively short transitional period.

Another type of teen our centers tend to attract are struggling in some way or another.  They’re oppositional, or anxious, depressed, bullied, ostracized, struggling academically, or managing some other challenges.  Often they used to be an inspired type, but somewhere their light started to go out.

Then there are teens who are somewhere in the middle- open to the possibility of being Inspired, but not really there yet.  They are often doing fine in whatever academic environment they find themselves in, but while it may be easy enough, it doesn’t feel rewarding or meaningful.  They suspect that there must be more to living than just getting through it, and they are ready to start now.

For everyone, LightHouse aims to:

1. Build strong, positive relationships between teens and adults that are based on collaboration and respect rather than assignments or requirements.

2. Offer an inspiring, enjoyable, non-compulsory curriculum both inside and outside the program and work individually with each teen to set and achieve their own goals.  We meet teens where they are, and over time help them envision and prepare for where they want to go.

3. Over a period of months or years, support the increase time that teens spend in real world activities like internships and college classes, and decrease the time in the supportive nest that is LightHouse.  Create bridges and two-way access, until eventually teens move beyond the program, and become successful alumni.

Do LightHouse teens go to college?

Absolutely.  In fact we expect that all of our students will go on to further education, training, or inspiring work.

LightHouse teens will present a varied  and compelling transcript of learning and experiences.  Colleges are very familiar with nontraditional and portfolio based transcripts.

LightHouse has partnerships with both Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College, and both institutions are eager to include LightHouse students through dual enrollment, and to support LightHouse alumni.

In addition, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire College and others of the Five Colleges are open to teens auditing classes while still high school age.

Just as if a teen were to continue to attend traditional school, substantial work is required to prepare for college and to be accepted to competitive universities.  However, pursuing your studies at LightHouse allows great flexibility and freedom in what you study and how.

Using North Star as an example, not only do the vast majority of North Star teens go on to college, North Star has three alumni who are now university professors, and one who is a superintendent, in addition to hundreds of successful professionals.

Do I have to come every day?

No.  Attending LightHouse is more like attending college than it is like attending high school.  We help teens create a schedule of classes and activities that is right for them.  Teens are expected to commit to their classes and schedule, but your own schedule is flexible and changeable, and non-compulsory.  It’s yours.

Your schedule will certainly change over time as your needs and interests grow and change.

We aim to create a center that you will enjoy spending time at, and you may choose to do so every day.  But the world is full of exciting opportunities, and we know that learning happens everywhere.  In fact, we are building partnerships with groups and organizations all over downtown Holyoke and hope that our teens will take advantage of the rich array of outside resources and connections available in our nearby community.

Are there rules?

Yes.  LightHouse does not have rigid or standardized academic requirements, but we do have behavior requirements.  LightHouse must be a safe and welcoming space for Everyone.  LightHouse members will sign a Community Agreement promising to participate in the creation of our safe and welcoming atmosphere, and to refrain from any behaviors or actions that would limit or inhibit that culture.  There will be no illegal substances or behaviors at LightHouse, nor violence of any kind.

How do you handle rule-breaking or misbehavior?

LightHouse uses Restorative Practices to manage any problems or problematic behaviors.  Restorative Practice involves lots of talking and a commitment to discussion of any and all issues.  All voices and opinions are heard and valued in Restorative Practices and solutions are co-created by the participants with a goal of compassion and understanding.

Learn more about Restorative Practices here: http://www.iirp.edu/

Do you have any successful examples of teens who have used this approach?

Yes, lots!  LightHouse is a new program, but it is using a tested approach.  North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens in Sunderland, MA has been supporting teens since 1996.  They have hundreds of successful alumni.  You can read many of their personal stories HERE.

In addition, there are now nine other programs in addition to North Star using this model, all with their own success stories.  You can connect with each of the centers through Liberated Learners.

Do you give grades?

No.  LightHouse does not use grades like freshman, sophmore, junior, and we do not use grades like A,B,C,D.

Rather, each teen follows a personalized path, and we help you keep a portfolio of work inside and outside LightHouse, and to set goals, plan strategies and projects, and to reflect on your work and progress.

Each teen meets weekly with an advisor and receives written and verbal feedback from their teachers and tutors.  Grades are both unnecessary and too limited to reflect the full scope of each individual’s work and effort.  Furthermore, our goal is to support teens to create their own high standards and rise to them.  Grades are detrimental to that process.

Do LightHouse teens take the MCAS?

No.  Attending LightHouse is like attending a private school.  The MCAS are neither required nor necessary for private school students.

Can I go back to public school?

Yes.  If you decide at a later point that you would prefer a more traditional environment, you can return to public school anytime.

Returning to public school in or before 9th grade is straightforward and easy.  Returning to public school after 9th grade can be more challenging, and the school will want to see that you’ve been doing grade level work in order to return you to your age-appropriate level.  It is a more involved process, but it is possible.

What times will the center be open?

LightHouse is open 8:30 am to 3:00 pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

What about students who have been on an IEP?

At LightHouse everyone will be on an IEP, so to speak.  Everything is individualized.  It’s personalized learning.  Since everyone is unique, there’s no stigma about learning in any particular way or pace.  Everyone is an individual, and it’s our job to help the learner find the right resources rather than the learner’s job to find a way to fit into the system.  Students will choose from group classes, and also have the support and time to work individually with a tutor and on independent projects.

Students need to be reasonably trustworthy and able to manage themselves in a group with minimal intervention.  Beyond that, we can work with anyone.

How are you funded?

LightHouse is an educational nonprofit.  Our budget is comprised of tuition paid by students and start-up philanthropy.  Philanthropy also funds tuition assistance.

What is covered by tuition?

Tuition covers everything LightHouse offers:

  • a personal advisory relationship including guidance, planning, feedback, portfolio support, and connections to outside resources
  • interesting and challenging courses
  • individual tutorials
  • support for independent study
  • college planning and applications
  • a safe, welcoming, and inspiring atmosphere and community
  • open use of our brand-new facility, computers, and other resources
  • LightHouse hopes to offer a healthy and delicious lunch to all students four days per week.  In development.

For more information on tuition, please see our admissions page.

Do you offer financial aid?

Yes.  LightHouse is committed to offering an accessible program and to serving students from all economic backgrounds.

For more information on tuition and financial aid, please see our admissions page.

What is your academic calendar for 2016-2017?

LightHouse will open on Tuesday, September 6 and follow a similar schedule to other local schools through early June of 2016.

Click to see our full calendar:

Wednesday, September 7, Block One begins and continues for eight weeks, through October 28.

Monday, October 10, closed for Columbus Day

Monday, October 31, Block Two begins and continues for seven weeks, through Tuesday, December 20

Friday, November 11, closed for Veteran’s Day

Wednesday/Thursday/Friday November 23-25, closed for Thanksgiving

Wednesday, December 21 through Monday, January 2, Closed for Winter Break.

Tuesday, January 3, Block Three begins and continues for seven weeks, through February 17

Monday January 16, closed for Martin Luther King Day

Monday, Feb 20 through Friday, February 24, closed for February Break

Monday, February 27, Block Four begins and continues for seven weeks, through April 14

Monday, April 17 through Friday, April 21, closed for April Break

Monday, April 24, Block Five begins and continues for six weeks, through June 2

Monday, May 29, Closed for Memorial Day

Monday, June 5 through Thursday, June 8- Presentations Week

Friday, June 9, Last day of programming

Monday, June 12 through Thursday, June 15, Individual end of year meetings with students and families.

What is your academic calendar for 2017-2018?

LightHouse will open on Tuesday, September 5 and follow a similar schedule to other local schools through early June of 2018.

Click to see our full calendar:

Wednesday, September 6, Block 1 begins and continues for seven weeks, through October 27.

Monday, October 9, closed for Columbus Day

Monday, October 30, teen workshop day 1

Tuesday, October 31, Block 2 begins and continues for seven weeks, through Wednesday, December 20

Monday, November 7, closed for Professional Development Day

Friday, November 10, closed for Veteran’s Day

Wednesday/Thursday/Friday November 22-24, closed for Thanksgiving

Thursday, December 21 through Tuesday, January 2, Closed for Winter Break.

Wednesday, January 3, Block 3 begins and continues for seven weeks, through February 16

Monday January 15, closed for Martin Luther King Day

Monday, Feb 19 through Friday, February 23, closed for February Break

Monday, February 26, teen workshop day 2

Tuesday, February 27, Block 4 begins and continues for seven weeks, through April 13

Monday, March 19, closed for Professional Development Day

Monday, April 16 through Friday, April 20, closed for April Break

Monday, April 23, teen workshop day 3

Tuesday, April 24, Block 5 begins and continues for six weeks, through June 1

Monday, May 28, Closed for Memorial Day

Monday, June 4 through Thursday, June 7- Presentations Week

Friday, June 8, Last day of programming & Graduation

Monday, June 11 through Thursday, June 14, Individual end of year meetings with students and families

How do you develop a personalized curriculum?

The LightHouse experience is individualized.  Some students will arrive with a sense of what they want to focus on or explore, and others will arrive knowing more about what they don’t like, and perhaps less about what they do like.

In either case, the advisory relationship is key, as well as trust, conversation, collaboration, and time.  Everyone wants to succeed and everyone wants to create a positive future for themselves.  Our job is to help each student find their way there, and luckily the program and the world are brimming with resources and opportunities.

Students will select the courses that seem interesting and accessible to them, and plan with their advisor on how they will spend the rest of their time.  Students will develop a vision of where they want to go, and work with staff to develop a realistic plan and timeline of how to get there.

LightHouse staff will meet with parents and affiliated adults as well, and facilitate meetings with adults and teens in order to ensure that this approach works for everyone.

What is your student-teacher ratio?

The student-teacher ration at LightHouse is impressive.

Most classes have less than 10 students.  In addition, many adults will be available at LightHouse all the time.  We expect at least five adults to be working with teens at any given point in the day, which is a staff-student ratio of about 1:6.

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LightHouse offers an innovative approach to education. Someone you know might appreciate learning about us.


“The job of a good ally is not to save anybody but rather to help create the conditions under which people can assert and grow their own power.”

~Rinku Sen