Something is missing in the education of our children today, and parents everywhere are scrambling for answers. Are public schools letting students down academically? Do current curriculums or grade-based learning leave children who progress at different rates behind? Public schools today don’t seem sufficiently able to prepare tomorrow’s innovators and leaders for the jobs of the future (maybe they never were), and if you are like me, you considered alternatives. Private school? Homeschool? Unschool?
New ways of learning at Synthesis
Many people work in jobs today that may not exist in ten or twenty years, and Synthesis in on a mission to prepare children for the future. I only recently learned about Synthesis, an online enrichment program that follows the same aspects Elon Musk incorporated into his own underground school at SpaceX. Josh Dahn, a cofounder of Synthesis, was tasked with creating an experimental school that would teach young minds to solve complex problems with excitement, and he is now bringing the same principals he used to build up Ad Astra to creating Synthesis. For parents who are struggling to fill in the gaps in their children’s learning, to kindle a desire in them to pursue their passions and learn new skills, Synthesis may be the solution.
My sons have both participated in weekly Synthesis cohorts for two months, and love collaborating with peers to come up with ways to solve challenges together. They love feeling challenged to think outside the box, look at the puzzle or game in a new way, and brainstorm ideas together, and look forward to their weekly sessions so much I wanted to share our Synthesis Review.
From the Synthesis site:
The world is changing fast. In the coming years, our kids will face dwindling resources, rising geopolitical tensions, the expansion of AI, and more. Two-thirds will work in jobs that don’t exist yet. They may even have to settle other worlds. As the stakes get higher for people, we can prepare our kids for the future by ensuring they are comfortable making decisions and finding solutions that benefit the greatest number of people. And they can do so working with others.
How mysterious and exciting does that sound? Yet it’s very likely our children will be tasked with coming up with solutions to worldwide conundrums that will affect many people, and to even think beyond out world. At Synthesis, kids practice ethical decision-making, working together as a team, and listening to all members of the cohort to consider all the different ideas for solutions. Synthesis teaches the children to synthesize the information into new knowledge and learn to stay ahead of changes in the world.
Synthesis teaches kids how to approach complex challenges according to Five Axioms:
Embrace the chaos.
Test your assumptions.
Seek good explanations.
Expect course corrections.
Contribute to the good.
…and how to relate to each other as they work together by keeping in mind these four qualities:
Grasp- how well they understand the assignment
Voice- how they communicate, listen, and lead
Ownership- how they handle outcomes and responsibility
Flow- how they discover information with others
The goal is not to create leaders who achieve more, or followers who understand orders and follow them, but rather children (who become adults) who see the entire picture and how different aspects work together. They train to integrate moving parts into one whole, comprehensive solution, while working with others to come up with ethical choices. Children advance through the Foundation stage as they sharpen these skills, then move into Progression, the broader Synthesis universe where they play and compete with kids at all the levels for a more diversified and real-world experience of how to cooperate and
What to expect from Synthesis.is
Synthesis weekly cohort sessions are about one hour long, and include a handful of children working together. I try to give them space so they feel free to engage without worry that I’m listening in or “grading” them, but I hear them sometimes shouting or cheering enthusiastically, so I know they are having fun. It’s important that children feel some ownership over their own learning, and excited to try new things without fear of judgement or being corrected for “mistakes”. There are no mistakes… when they don’t win, they learn. This is a safe space to learn, make mistakes and try again, and have a lot of fun. Your children don’t need anything other than good internet connection and a comfortable seat to join in each week for an hour that is so fun, they won’t know they are learning new skills. There are extra sessions for children who’d like to engage more, as well as speaker events, and recently chess games were added to children can play against others who aren’t necessarily in the same cohort. As my sons progress, I plan to update with my own persona Synthesis Review from the perspective of a parent watching how participation affects them outside of their weekly sessions.
After each week’s session, I receive a video from the teacher with a sort of review of the session, discussing how the group is progressing, and sometimes even an individual video for my child specifically, keeping my updated and a little in the loop (but from a distance). My children love those, and they love feeling free to try new things with their new online friends in a space that encourages them to try new ideas out and test out their own assumptions. If they make a mistake, they make a correction and try again- just like in life.
The children don’t make decisions alone, instead they discuss ideas with their cohort. They share their own hypothetical strategy to win, and consider the ideas of others, and together they make a final decision, without one person leading or another being excluded. Comments from children who participate include “We learn to lead with kindness”, “You have to strategize and cooperate”, and my favorite, as one participant succinctly and beautifully stated, “You either win, or you learn. You never really lose”.
So are you raising a future resident of Mars? Are you raising a kid who help humanity get there? Maybe, and giving our kids tools to think outside the box, look at challenges from different angles, and learn to work collaboratively with like-minded peers at Synthesis.is may help them rise to the challenges of the future.