Frequently asked questions

General

Why “Prisma?”
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If you hit a prism with light at exactly the right angle, it makes a rainbow. We believe that, like a prism, every child is multidimensional and has the ability to shine. But just as it takes the right environment for a prism to create a rainbow, it takes the right learning environment for a child to show their true abilities. This is why we named our company Prisma (aside from the fact that we think it sounds cool).

What is our vision?
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Every child deserves to have an education that is personalized to their interests and tailored to their learning needs within a small enough peer group that a supportive adult can truly get to know each kid and facilitate learning in a way that prepares kids for life beyond formal schooling, not just for passing tests. Scattered around the world are a few brick-and-mortar schools that deliver this kind of experience, but they are often available to only the most privileged families. Our vision is to use live online video and curated online educational products to deliver a personalized, interests-based, and relevant home-based educational experience to millions of students while fostering positive and meaningful socialization and peer-to-peer learning that is so critical to youth.

Who is Prisma for?
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Prisma is designed for all kinds of families! Families join Prisma for a wide range of reasons. A few that we most frequently hear are enhanced educational and life outcomes; a modern, research-driven way of learning; our focus on community and connection; and a desire for increased safety for their child.

We think our approach will offer a more fulfilling, stimulating, and well-rounded education for any young person. We’re likely to be of special interest to kids who find school boring, unstimulating, or irrelevant. Kids wishing for a more supportive social environment. Kids looking for an easier, more networked way to homeschool. Kids wishing for more flexibility (geographic or time-wise). Those living in a zip code that doesn’t offer quality public schooling. And, of course, those who are concerned about sending their child back to school this fall as a result of COVID. 

What is the age range of learners who choose Prisma?
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Initially, Prisma will accommodate kids going into grades 4-8. We plan to expand to other grades as future interest and capacity allow.

Why are you starting with grades 4-8?
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For many kids, these years of early adolescence represent a turning point in terms of happiness and wellbeing, both at school and more broadly. Along with more focus on peer relationships and belonging, social pressures increase. Kids at this age may begin to question “Am I normal?” and “How do I fit in?” Meanwhile, their brains and bodies are experiencing tremendous growth and change. As they simultaneously are building high-level deductive reasoning, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, this can become a cataclysmic time (mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially). In the midst of this, standardized testing, homework requirements, and workload increase while connections with teacher mentors decline when kids start to have multiple teachers, losing the relationship quality that continuity can provide. Because of these factors, we think this age is a critical time to offer a supportive alternative to typical school.

Will you offer grades 9-12?
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We are currently focused on grades 4-8, but if existing members express a lot of interest in us expanding into grades 9-12 we will strongly consider doing so.

What is a co-learning network?
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At the heart of a co-learning network are two things: (1) a small cohort of geographically clustered students learning together with the support and guidance of a dedicated Learning coach and (2) a network of these cohorts spread around the world where students can make friendships, work on projects, form clubs, and share ideas. Our vision is that learners who choose Prisma get the best of both worlds: the intimacy and support of a virtual “one-room schoolhouse” (the cohort) and the breadth and diversity of the world’s largest kid-focused learning community (the network). Rather than being the heart of our model, the ability to learn from home and the use of technology and online tools enhance it.

Does Prisma replace “regular” school?
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Yes, but we aren’t technically a “school.” Prisma is the world’s first co-learning network. Locally-rooted and globally connected, we give kids the tools to live their most remarkable lives, starting today. Prisma provides families everything they need to no longer send their kids to school - think home-based learning on autopilot. We offer all the benefits of learning from home (a flexible, self-paced, learner-centric education) without the usual frustrations (sourcing curriculum, finding socialization opportunities, evaluating your child's progress, etc.).

Is Prisma an accredited school?
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No. The families who partner with Prisma are technically choosing to ‘homeschool’ in a modern, technology-enabled, and socially connected way. Registering as a homeschooler is a straight-forward process in most states, and we will help you along. Prisma is not presently seeking accreditation or status as a ‘school’ but will reassess if we think this will enhance our model.

Tell me more about Prisma’s philosophy.
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Prisma’s educational philosophy is inspired by progressive education and, to a lesser but still important extent, by self-directed learning. Our philosophy includes:

  • Holistic approach to education that includes academics, life skills, and social skills
  • Personalized learning that accounts for each child's personal goals
  • Strong focus on learner choice and autonomy
  • Strong focus on group work and group discussions
  • Emphasis on hands-on projects and experiential learning
  • Focus on Interdisciplinary learning and projects
  • Focus on understanding concepts as opposed to rote learning
  • Education for social responsibility and purpose
  • Integration of service learning and community service into our curriculum
  • Emphasis on lifelong learning and learning for learning’s sake (rather than for external validation, like grades)
  • Belief in teachers who facilitate and guide rather than lecture and impart knowledge (i.e. the “guide on the side” instead of the “sage on the stage”)
  • Assessment based on a kid’s projects and contributions, not tests
  • Absence of textbooks in favor of varied learning resources
  • Belief in the importance of deliberate practice and developing a passion
What are the outcomes of a Prisma education?
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By engaging Prisma's curriculum and approach, we believe every learner will move on from Prisma ready for rigorous high school academics, having mastered 8th grade Math, Science, Social Studies, and more. But we believe that high school readiness is the bare minimum goal, so we go further. Learners who choose Prisma will become: 

  • Voracious readers. Challenging reading is blended into all Prisma learning experiences, so kids can practice reading by learning about the topics that most interest them. 
  • Formidable writers. At Prisma, we encourage kids to write every day, for a variety of purposes and audiences. We ask them to write about things they care about, so they learn to love writing, not dread it. 
  • Thorough researchers. Research skills are more important than ever in the age of Google and are also the key to success in many advanced academic disciplines. Learners who utilize our curriculum will become adept at designing their own research questions and engaging in investigation and analysis. 
  • Clear communicators. Although written communication is important, we recognize that verbal and social communication skills are absolutely necessary for success. A large focus of our curriculum and coaching is to help learners become better speakers, conversationalists, and presenters.
  • Confident leaders. Prisma asks learners to make a lot of choices for a reason: we want learners to become the kind of kids who relish the opportunity to make decisions, forge their own paths, and design their own destinies. 
  • Compassionate helpers. We ask learners to think deeply about the world’s problems and imagine how they can be part of the solution, through service learning, community partnerships, and more. 
  • Effective collaborators. Learners work in groups on projects every day, develop strong social-emotional skills, and are encouraged to form clubs, give peer feedback, and plan social events. 
  • Lifelong learners. We believe that learning is supposed to be fun—‘hard fun.’ We encourage kids to be curious, enjoy learning, and follow their passions wherever they lead, in hopes that they will want to keep learning for life.
What about college?
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Kids who learn with Prisma will be prepared with all the prerequisite reading, writing, math, and research skills to be successful in any rigorous, high-quality academic program, including those at the most competitive high schools and colleges. The self-paced and self-directed nature of our academic model allows learners to move through content more quickly and at a deeper level than their peers in conventional schools. We also help learners develop impressive resumes that include expertise in technology, design, arts, and culture, well-developed verbal communication skills, and significant community impact and internship experience.

How is Prisma different from other online schools?
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First, we’re not an online school, we’re a co-learning network. Many online schools simply transfer textbook material and testing to a digital format and then expect students to successfully learn. Prisma’s approach is entirely different and also offers so much more. 


  • Virtually powered, locally rooted - Bringing together 12-20 kids who live near one another to learn, grow, play, and experience their local communities together for the duration of their Prisma journeys gives our online, home-based learning model soul.
  • Whole-person development - We equip kids with life-skills and habits that prepare them for the real world, foster wellbeing, and contribute to lifelong happiness.
  • Empowerment, not ‘teaching’ - Prisma’s cohorts are facilitated by Learning Coaches whose passion is to see kids light up. At Prisma, there are no boring lectures, no teacher-dominated discussions, and no pointless busywork. 
  • Relevancy - At Prisma, learning occurs within real-world contexts. Kids know why what they’re learning is important and how it impacts them, their communities, and the world. 
  • Curated curriculum - We source and create world-class curriculum to give kids options for learning using the most innovative and effective resources available.
  • Informed by the end-user (i.e. kids themselves) - We are committed to continually refining our model according to the experiences and preferences of kids and their families. 
  • Mastery - We give learners the opportunity to dive deep into their interest areas and experience the many benefits of being really, really good at something.
  • Connection and support paired with independence and self-direction - Prisma learners split their time between collaborative live group experiences and independent, self-directed learning. Each child has dedicated 1-on-1 time with their coach regularly.
  • Not only online - We facilitate dynamic in-person cohort bonding through a kickoff orientation and experiential learning trips as well as service learning and family meetup opportunities. (These in-person components will be delivered in innovative virtual ways until COVID-19 risks diminish.)
Does Prisma have any in-person components?
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Yes! Kids who partner with Prisma participate in cohorts which are grouped according to both geographic proximity and learner needs. Our goal is for each cohort to be unique (guided by the interests and preferences of its members) and to include a diverse range of personalities and backgrounds. This grouping allows each cohort (and individuals within cohorts) to get together in person periodically to work on projects, connect socially, invest in their local communities, and experience learning together in an enriched way, adding tremendous social value beyond what online programs typically provide. Our Learning coaches also facilitate dynamic in-person cohort bonding through a kickoff orientation and experiential learning trips as well as service learning and family meetup opportunities in each cohort’s local area.

Prisma’s in-person components will be delivered in innovative virtual ways until COVID-19 risks diminish.

How will Prisma's in-person meetups be handled during COVID-19?
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We so wish that we could implement the in-person elements of Prisma from the get go, but unfortunately COVID-19 limits our ability to do so. The health and wellbeing of learners and their families is a top priority for us, so we are continuously designing fun, meaningful, and interactive virtual opportunities for learners and their families to get to know each other and form meaningful connections until COVID-19 concerns have sufficiently subsided. We will continue to assess the impacts of COVID-19 over the coming months to determine the right time to responsibly offer in-person meetups. To the extent that we do begin to offer in-person opportunities, we will involve families in our decision making, and these will of course be optional.

Why choose learning with Prisma over any other option?
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If you’re choosing between learning with Prisma and a conventional public or private school you’d choose us for:

  • Our more flexible schedule: no more early mornings or late nights doing homework
  • Our small, supportive social experience: no more cliques, bullying, or getting lost in the crowd
  • Our focus on holistic learning that includes core academics and the development of life skills, social-emotional skills, and global citizenship
  • The freedom we afford learners to follow their interests, learn at their own pace, and manage their schedules 
  • Our focus on project-based learning and experiential learning (including service projects, internships, and more)
  • Our focus on mastery and qualitative feedback rather than tests, grades, and standards
  • The quality of our coaches and the ability of learners to form lasting and meaningful connections with them 
  • Relative to most private schools, you’d also choose us because we are much more affordable


If you’re choosing between learning with Prisma and an online school you’d choose us for:

  • The depth of social experience that we provide: most online schools offer limited opportunities for consistent bonding and interactions between learners
  • The richness of our in-person opportunities: most online schools do not group learners by geographic areas, so opportunities for in-person interactions are more limited
  • The quality of our experiential learning: from Camp Prisma (our week-long in-person orientation) to our service learning month and our summer internship session, we offer a depth of experiences that easily surpass most online schools
  • The value of the coach relationship: our learners have the same coach for all their middle school years and interact with their coach for several hours each day; most online schools do not provide this frequency or depth of interaction between students and teachers
  • The importance of our synchronous time: learners spend considerable time every day together via live video engaging in meaningful discussions and activities; most online schools have much more limited synchronous time that is often dominated by lectures, not student interactions
  • You’d also choose us for all the reasons listed under “why choose Prisma over a traditional school” because most online schools adhere closely to traditional public school curriculums and pedagogical methods, whereas Prisma is inspired by progressive education and self-directed learning

Program

What's the curriculum?
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The Prisma curriculum has two core components: Knowledge and Real world learning. Each is equally important and learners spend about half of their time each week on each component. Knowledge badges incorporate study of seven academic disciplines (English, Math, Social Studies, History, Arts & Culture, Tech & Design, and Self & Wellness), and Real world learning is comprised of Mastery, Life skills, Worldview, and Experiential learning. 

  • Learners earn ten Knowledge badges each year. Badges cover a diverse range of engaging topics that are more like specialized college courses than regular school subjects, from “Pleasure Reading” to “Digital Art” to “Futurology” to “Brains.” Learners complete Knowledge badges at their own pace using high-quality resources vetted, curated and designed by the Prisma team. All badges allow students to dive as deep as they want into content they’re interested in and to select or create their own tasks and projects to demonstrate their learning. The last three weeks of each learning cycle is spent working on an interdisciplinary project completely designed by the learner, incorporating what they’ve learned from their Knowledge badges. 
  • Mastery badges: Learners earn one Mastery badge per year by engaging in deliberate practice to develop a skill of their choice—anything from Italian cooking to classical piano to basketball free-throws. 
  • Life skills & Worldview badges: Learners meet virtually with their learning coach and the other members of their cohort on Monday-Thursday mornings to work toward Worldview and Life skills badges. To earn Worldview badges, learners dive deep into a challenge or question affecting society—from school reform to factual and unbiased news—and debate, discuss, and propose solutions. To earn Life skills badges, learners participate in twice-weekly workshops, lessons, and expert Q&As to gain real-world skills they need to be successful, like oral and written communication, developing good habits, becoming a leader, and project design & management. 
  • Experiential learning badges: Learners earn three Experiential learning badges per year, one for completing a local service learning project with their cohort during the month of December, one for engaging in one of our many social clubs, and the other for pursuing a summer learning opportunity, such as volunteer work, a youth leadership program, a part-time job, or an internship/apprenticeship. Learning coaches help connect learners with appropriate summer learning opportunities and mentor them before, during, and after the experience.
How is educational content delivered?
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Educational content is delivered via a variety of resources and mediums. Group time is primarily facilitated by live video, and we use a wide selection of apps and websites for uniquely paced, self-directed, and collaborative learning, as curated by our curriculum team. We also offer in-person components that both reinforce and enhance the online portion of our program (once it is safe to do so respective to COVID-19).

How do Prisma learners spend their time together?
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We believe that time is precious, so we don’t ask kids to get together without a valuable purpose. Thankfully, fantastic resources exist for learning math, languages, and all sorts of topics independently. As such, learners’ time together focuses on collaborative experiences that are enriched by a community environment, such as current events discussions, presentations of individual passion projects, debates ranging from ethics and history to politics and philosophy, experiential, multi-month group projects, community service learning, and more.

How do learners experience socialization and community outside of a brick-and-mortar school environment?
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At Prisma, we leverage modern technology to facilitate meaningful, rich social connections, and our network of Prisma cohorts allows learners to to form social clubs and plan virtual activities to make new friends around the country based on common interests. We are also committed to frequently getting kids away from their screens and out in their communities. Part of what makes Prisma exceptional are the local and community-focused elements of our program. We are global and local citizens who create, debate, problem-solve, and play together.


What evidence suggests that Prisma’s model is effective?
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Prisma’s model draws inspiration from project-based learning, inquiry and problem-based learning, interest-driven learning, social-emotional learning, and deeper learning theory. Each of these approaches has empirically proven positive results for learners including increased academic performance, critical thinking, creativity, long-term motivation, and love of learning.

What makes an interactive, experiential online learning environment better than a traditional classroom?
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Our flexible, online learning environment allows learners to deepen their understanding of content that interests them by learning to be independent researchers, confident digital citizens, and skilled project and time managers. Instead of being limited to the resources available inside four school walls, learners have the freedom and guidance to follow their curiosity wherever it leads, to destinations virtual and physical. Our interactive components allow learners to collaborate authentically with their peers, rather than listening to dry online lectures or conversing in dull discussion forums. Our coaches are highly trained in using technology to enhance their ability to educate, rather than trying to poorly reproduce traditional classroom methods online.

How much is Prisma focused on academics?
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Academic rigor is highly prioritized at Prisma. Learning just happens differently here, for the better! Instead of checking boxes to meet externally derived educational standards, we encourage learners to follow their curiosity to excavate their interests and passions. This fuels learning that’s fun and engaging while facilitating whole-person development. Learning this way, along with the skillful support of our Learning coaches, enables the achievement of academic mastery while allowing the love of learning to flourish. Much of the recent wave of innovation in education focused on acceptance to highly ranked colleges and high test scores as the gold standards of success. We believe that mastery of ‘core’ content and exceptional educational outcomes can be achieved without test anxiety, without dry lectures delivered to students, and without adults directing a child’s every move. We also know that now more than ever, top colleges are looking for well-rounded students with a rich portfolio of projects, a resume of real-world experiences, and the ability to express themselves with originality and confidence. Learners who partner with Prisma will be far ahead of their traditionally-educated peers in this respect.

What is the yearly schedule?
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Prisma operates on a year-round schedule, with several breaks ranging in length from two to four weeks. Learners spend September through June working on Knowledge, Life Skills, Worldview, and Mastery badges during three twelve-week learning cycles. Each cycle ends with an expo day, where families come together to celebrate students’ hard work on their self-directed projects. In July and August, learners pursue an Experience badge by completing a summer opportunity of their choice. The summer cycle schedule is highly flexible, to accommodate family travel and other summer fun.

What does a typical day look like?
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Learners who choose Prisma generally expect to spend 5-6 hours per day learning. Each day starts with a 10 am Stand up meeting with other members of their cohort and their Learning coach. Learners then participate in working toward either their Life skills or Worldview badge, during which they debate, discuss, and work in small teams to solve problems and create solutions to real-world problems. Learners are then free to structure their time in the way that works best for them, be it working on Knowledge badges, practicing for their Mastery badge, joining one of our clubs or social groups, or working with other Prisma learners on a group project. Check out our sample week in the life of a learner.

How flexible is Prisma with regard to scheduling?
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Prisma cohorts generally engage in morning live group learning with afternoons reserved for independent work (offering greater flexibility later in the day). Because our goal is for your child to have a rich educational experience, including contributing to a collaborative group environment, we ask learners to consistently participate in synchronous group time. That being said, we're willing to consider your family's flexibility needs, and missing a day here and there is totally fine!

What is Prisma's annual calendar for 2020-2021?
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Prisma cohorts start on September 8, 2020. Check out our 2020-2021 calendar.

Does Prisma do any kind of testing?
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We believe that learners are more than a test score and that depth of knowledge cannot be assessed via traditional assessments. Learners are given rich written and verbal feedback on their contributions to their cohort in Worldview and Life skills badges, on their improvement in their Mastery badge, and on their self-selected projects in Knowledge badges. 

That said, we perform a small amount of pre-testing in Reading and Math to understand where each learner is coming from in terms of academic skills. We also administer regular survey-style assessments (not like traditional school tests) to measure learner well-being, skill acquisition, and achievement.

Are there grades?
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No, kids who learn with Prisma earn badges that represent their mastery of content. They also receive frequent written and verbal feedback from their Learning coach and peers.

Does Prisma provide a transcript?
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Prisma’s badges can be translated to create a mastery-based transcript that would be recognized by any traditional school. We help each learner maintain a cumulative portfolio containing their Prisma documentation, writing, projects, and coach feedback that families can include when applying for admission to selective schools and programs.

What technology requirements does Prisma have?
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In order to participate in Prisma, learners need a strong internet connection and consistent access to a computer with a camera and a microphone - which can be built-in, like on a laptop. We also strongly recommend that learners have access to a quiet and private learning space that’s free from distraction. 

If your family doesn’t have a computer that can be designated to your child’s primary use, please contact your local school district to see whether your child’s local school allows ‘homeschoolers’ to check out laptops (one-to-one laptop programs), access the school library, etc. While we are investigating how to connect learners with technology resources, we are not presently able to include a technology bundle within Prisma’s pricing.

What computer and technology skills are needed to navigate Prisma’s learning platform?
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Learners who partner with Prisma should be able to independently navigate online resources such as live video, learning websites, Google Docs and PowerPoint, etc. While we provide each new learner with the tools to navigate the platforms that everyone at Prisma uses, if your child does not yet know how to type or independently navigate online resources, we may ask your child to complete a digital literacy orientation before starting Prisma.

Coaches

Who are your Learning coaches?
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Prisma Learning coaches are caring, inspiring individuals who love kids and are deeply motivated to facilitate their growth. From a diverse range of backgrounds, Prisma coaches have been top-rated public and private school teachers, counselors, youth mentors, and more. 

Common qualities that all of our Learning coaches possess are a love for learning, a passion for working with―and facilitating the holistic development of―kids, high social, emotional, and analytical intelligence, and a curious and courageous approach to life. All Learning coaches go through a rigorous selection process that includes multiple interviews, a written assignment, sample lesson plans, a video of them teaching/facilitating a class, extensive reference checking, and a thorough background check.

What are Prisma’s Learning coaches like?
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Prisma Learning coaches are: 

  • Facilitators who provide daily opportunities for thoughtful, intellectual discussions among learners
  • Connectors who build strong relationships with learners and encourage lifelong relationships within cohorts 
  • Developers who identify each learner’s individual strengths and areas for growth, give honest and thoughtful feedback, and bring out the best in each learner 
  • Communicators who know families on a deep level and are clear, organized, and responsive to feedback and concerns
  • Dreamers who believe in a bright future for every learner and support kids in building the skills they need to be their best selves


Prisma Learning coaches are not: 

  • Taskmasters: Learners manage their own academic journeys, going at the pace and depth that is most suited to their needs. 
  • Graders: Learners don’t earn traditional grades; they get detailed and authentic feedback that motivates them to do their personal best. 
  • Judgers: Each child is unique, talented, and gifted in their  own way. Learning coaches see learners as individuals and know that one size does not fit all. 
  • Punishers: If a learner is struggling with material, coaches connect them with help and support. If a learner isn’t trying their best, coaches have a conversation.
  • Test Score Obsessed: Learners are more than a test score, so we don’t measure coach effectiveness by testing. Learning coaches focus on depth of learning over multiple-choice mastery.
What is the role of a Prisma Learning coach?
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  • Create and foster an environment of engagement, collaboration, feedback, and intellectual curiosity amongst learners
  • Meet with each learner one-on-one at least every other week to check-in, discuss progress toward goals, and give feedback 
  • Facilitate daily Life skills and Worldview badges, during which learners discuss, debate, and create 
  • Work with learners to select the badges that are most aligned with their interests and to develop learning plans each cycle 
  • Provide mentorship and guidance, support learners when they face challenges, and celebrate academic and personal successes 
  • Plan and supervise social meetings of the cohort, including team building activities, experiential service learning opportunities, and celebrations of learning
  • Conference with learners and families at the end of each cycle to discuss progress toward goals, strengths, and growth areas
What training and ongoing mentorship do Learning coaches receive?
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Prisma Learning coaches engage in a robust on-boarding process that provides comprehensive training for implementing our model and facilitating high-quality, effective, and joy-filled experiences for learners. In addition to already having lots of experience and cultivated skills working with youth before they join Prisma, coaches are trained in academic methodologies such as the Socratic method and equipped with tools for navigating difficult conversations that they may need to successfully support learners within our co-learning network.

Learning coaches are themselves coached and supported by our learning experience design team and senior leadership, who have experience mentoring and leading teachers as well as cultivating an exceptional work environment for teams. We work to ensure that each coach feels connected and supported with a wide network of resources from which to draw. Just like we curate the best, world-class curriculum for our learners, we also curate the best resources for our Learning coaches to continually grow their skills and effectiveness in communication, leadership, facilitation, and beyond. Additionally, all of our coaches are in part selected for their individual love of learning and growth mindset, so you’ll find they’re  incredibly motivated to continually refine and enhance their craft!

How will experiential and service learning be handled for fully virtual families?
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A key responsibility of Prisma coaches is to develop extraordinary experiential learning experiences. Coaches work alongside learners to plan service learning opportunities and connect learners with internships, apprenticeships, or volunteer opportunities of interest. This year, due to COVID, we are building service and experiential learning opportunities that are fully virtual for all learners, and fully virtual families will be part of this network. Prisma prepares kids to become well-rounded, confident, capable individuals ready to tackle high school and beyond, and we believe the experience of making a positive impact in their own communities is a key part of that journey. Learners gain experience collaborating effectively as a team and solving complex problems with creativity and curiosity. Prisma’s experiential and service learning components offer kids a sense of personal agency—we believe in empowering kids to help them discover that they can change the world.

When will my family meet our child’s Learning coach?
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In light of COVID-19, we will offer virtual opportunities to get to know your child’s Learning coach. Prisma hosts Live Q&As, which help you learn more about your child’s coach as well as Prisma’s model.  Your child’s coach will also connect with your family directly to learn more about your child’s learning needs and interest areas before the start of the learning cycle. Once your family, your child’s coach, and Prisma’s leadership team all feel comfortable with meeting in person as COVID risks decline, we’ll encourage each cohort to plan in-person opportunities to enhance and strengthen their connections with one another and their coach! If you elect to join totally virtually, opportunities to learn in person may develop as Prisma grows, depending on where you live.

How can I contact my child’s coach?
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In addition to scheduled virtual meetings with your family, Prisma provides coaches time in their schedules to talk with parents more informally and without a lengthy wait. You’ll have direct contact information for your child’s coach and are invited to reach out at any time. Our coaches view connecting with parents as a chance to collaborate in supporting each learner on the path to becoming their best self.

If my child needs additional support or challenges arise, what can I expect from their coach?
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A wealth of encouragement, guidance, and well-matched challenges to grow them, of course! One of our coaches’ primary roles is to provide proactive, caring mentorship, accountability, motivation, and support to your child and other learners in their cohort. Whether connecting your child with a different learning resource to better match how they learn best, unpacking roadblocks in moments of strain when they feel mentally stuck, empowering them to shoot for a wild goal that is achievable with diligent effort, or just supporting them during a hard day, your child’s coach is here for learning and more and is eager to lend a hand where beneficial!

How do Prisma coaches ensure positive, safe experiences when learners are interacting online?
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A positive, safe, mutually respectful learning environment is baked into the culture of Prisma at an elemental level. We intentionally build a strong base of trust and esteem within each cohort and across our co-learning network so that every learner feels a sense of safety, belonging, and freedom to be themselves. Bullying and other detrimental means of interacting are not tolerated at Prisma. Because we heavily emphasize the creation of shared group norms through a collaboratively-built Cohort contract early in the year, learners are able to enjoy a great deal of freedom to collaborate together on projects, form interest-based clubs, etc. via online break-out groups. Any time learners are in a peer-only online environment, the cohort’s coach and members of our leadership team may check the tenor of the conversation to make sure that it’s both uplifting and, when relevant, productive. Prisma doesn’t monitor external interactions (such as via social media) that learners chose to engage in outside of official Prisma channels.

Join

Who is Prisma a good fit for?
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Learners who choose Prisma may be extroverted, introverted, funny, opinionated, pensive, gregarious, eager, reserved, a little bit rebellious, and everything in between! A bit of curiosity and adaptability goes a long way in enabling learners to flourish in our community, and basic digital skills for navigating online learning are important too (We can help with this). Our goal is to see every child who learns with Prisma brimming with self-esteem, the confidence to be their authentic selves, a strong sense of personal agency, and passion for at least one thing that deeply excites them. We also are committed to fostering a collaborative and community-oriented environment that encourages kids to thrive.

How do families apply to Prisma?
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We are full for our Fall 2020 pilot cohort; however, we plan to accept a small number of learners for our Spring 2021 term (which begins in January 2021). Learn about the application process here.

I have more than one child. Can I enroll all my children?
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Yes. (We recommend that your children each have access to a computer rather than sharing one.)

Pricing

What does Prisma cost?
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Pricing information can be found here.

What if I can't afford Prisma?
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Because we believe that your ability to receive a phenomenal education shouldn’t depend on your ability to pay, we offer financial support for families who cannot afford our standard pricing. Our goal is that at least 40% of learners in each cohort receive financial support, so please don't let your ability to pay stop you from applying.

How do I request financial support?
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You can request financial support within your child’s application.

How much financial support can I expect?
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Within your child’s application you will be asked to state your income along with what you can afford to pay for Prisma. Given this information and any other factors that you wish to share, we’ll evaluate your request for support. We have limited spots available at various pricing levels for our founding cohorts, so we recommend that you apply as soon as possible to increase the likelihood of support being available.


Parents

How involved do parents need to be?
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The level of involvement expected by parents will vary depending upon the needs of each child. Some children will be able to navigate Prisma nearly fully independently. Others will need a lot more support and aren’t yet ready for total learning autonomy. We expect parents—together with their child’s Learning coach—to periodically evaluate how much independence, autonomy, and support is right for their child. This is an evolving process with learners progressing toward greater independence and self-direction as they move through their Prisma journey.

In addition to supporting your child, you will be responsible for registering your child as a homeschooler (Some states require this; others do not.) and meeting the homeschooling requirements in your state (This varies by state. In some states there are little to no requirements; in others there are more, though none are overly burdensome.). If your child is accepted to Prisma we will support you in this simple process; however, the ultimate responsibility will lie with each family. If you are curious to learn more about homeschooling requirements in your state, this website is very helpful.

How is child safety prioritized at Prisma?
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Child safety is our utmost priority. We address safety in the following ways: 

Technology: All of the platforms that power Prisma are password protected to ensure only learners, coaches, and parents can access them. 

Content: We endeavor for our content to be objective and age-appropriate. Needless to say, discrimination, hate speech, and violence are strictly prohibited.

Peer interactions: A key focus at Prisma is developing a culture within our cohorts that is supportive, respectful, inclusive, and kind. Each cohort develops its own code of conduct, to which they must hold themselves accountable. Continued membership in the group will depend on learners meeting the requirements of the code of conduct. Learning Coaches are also responsible for ensuring that peer interactions are respectful, but we think that peers holding peers accountable can be even more powerful. 

Learning coach: Our Learning coaches go through a rigorous selection process that includes multiple interviews, a written assignment, sample lesson plans, a video of them teaching/facilitating a class, extensive reference checking, and a thorough background check. Synchronous sessions between the learning coach and their cohort are recorded and are monitored for quality and training. 

At home: Parents are responsible for ensuring that all learners are supervised by a trusted adult while they are working on Prisma at home to ensure their safety.

Will Prisma prepare my child to be successful in high school and college?
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One of the most integral commitments within Prisma’s model is preparing learners for life ahead. Preparation for success in high school and college is part of this vision; however, we don’t stop there. To us, the scope of holistically successful outcomes extends to interpersonal relationships, financial literacy, global citizenry, stewardship of natural resources, and more. Learners will be prepared both for education beyond Prisma and for life beyond formal learning.

Is Prisma a good fit for parents who want to facilitate some of the learning themselves?
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Although Prisma is striving to create a cohesive community of learners, we recognize that some families who are used to homeschooling may want to handle some academic topics themselves. Learners have the option to “opt out” of completing Knowledge badges in some disciplines if their parent is willing to teach them a comparable topic instead. However, we do not typically offer exemptions from our Life skills and Worldview badges that are completed synchronously to ensure that kids bond with their coach and their cohort.

If we aren’t happy with Prisma's services, how do you make sure that my child can transfer to another school or learning program (whether public, private, charter, or non-traditional)?
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Our hope is that Prisma works exceptionally well for all learners, and we will continue to refine the design of Prisma so that it serves a continually broader and more diverse group of learners as we grow. If families choose to no longer partner with Prisma, we will provide them with a learner portfolio (documenting all key learning milestones and developed competencies), which we can help you to convert to a "transcript" that captures all the courses (i.e. badges) your child has done at Prisma. This serves to translate their work at Prisma to a conventional school’s equivalent requirements and would be yours to edit and add to as you see fit. 

Support

What happens if my child needs extra help or support?
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Our Learning coaches are multi-talented guides who come alongside learners to offer an individually appropriate type and amount of guidance and support in challenging moments. Prisma also encourages learners to support one another in their educational journeys. Often one child is currently struggling where another has achieved mastery. We are building the capacity for learners to reach out to one another for support and peer-tutoring. In addition to cultivating a mutually supportive community, ‘teaching back’ to a peer offers proven cognitive benefits to the learner who’s achieved mastery as well.


Is Prisma a good fit for learners with disabilities?
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Yes. Prisma may be a fit for learners of many different abilities. For more about the accommodations we are able to offer, please read our Inclusion Vision Statement.

What accommodations are available if my child misses live learning time?
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We believe the live group aspects of our program are integral to offering your child an exceptional experience at Prisma. At the same time, we also recognize that flexibility is one of the biggest reasons why families choose to stop sending their children to a typical school. If your child needs to miss live learning times on occasion, they can easily catch up! We record all group sessions and make them available to cohort members for a period of time. Recording live sessions also helps us with ongoing training and accountability for our Learning coaches.

What happens when my child’s Learning coach takes time off or is sick?
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We have experienced educators on staff who are eager to lead a cohort when needed! 

Company

Why did you start Prisma?
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Victoria and Alain, founders of Prisma, are serial entrepreneurs who’ve spent most of their careers in technology. Like so many parents, our worldview changed upon the birth of our three children. Suddenly the world’s challenges and the rapidly changing future felt very urgent and very personal. How, we wondered, could we prepare our young children to thrive in a tumultuous, ever-changing world where we can’t even begin to imagine the careers that will exist? We saw our young children’s passion for learning, joy for life, and supreme confidence and felt sure they’d be ok. But then we heard about older children who hate school, who struggle with anxiety, depression, or bullying, who hardly resemble their former happy selves. Might this one day be our kids? This was the beginning of our quest to completely reimagine school. Prisma is for our children and, hopefully, for yours too.

I want to work at Prisma!
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We are looking for ambitious, passionate people to join our team. Have a look at our hiring needs.

Where is Prisma located?
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We have chosen to enjoy the flexibility of our digitally interconnected world by not having a physical location. Our fully dispersed team is located all over the US and internationally. For record-keeping purposes, we are headquartered in California, USA.

What countries does Prisma operate in?
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Prisma is currently focused on the United States. As we grow, we plan to offer our model internationally. If you are located outside of the US and are interested in joining Prisma, please complete this brief survey to express interest so that we may start to think about launching a cohort in your area or let you know about initiatives in your area that are already underway. Since each nation has different requirements for ‘homeschooling,’ our ability to create a Prisma cohort in your area may be affected by homeschooling regulations where you live.

Still have unanswered questions?
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