In 2005, Manhattan-based mother Melissa Meyer, a record company executive turned teacher, and her husband took a spontaneous leave of absence. They brought their three children — twins Hannah and Eli, now 14, and Jona, 12 — to live in Paris. There, Meyer homeschooled the kids, and saw how their love for learning flourished as they read, wrote, traveled and explored.
“They were so engaged that when we came back to New York, we said, ‘Let’s keep doing this,’” says Meyer of their unique regimen.
After returning, Meyer felt it in her children’s best interest to focus on being their mother, so she hired a private tutor, Teri Flemel, to be their teacher. Flemel, a New Jersey transplant and award-winning educator, is mother to Benjamin, a 24-year-old law student, and Allison, 22, an education major. Flemel understood perfectly how to blend Meyer’s family’s need for flexibility with strong academics.
Together, Meyer and Flemel created a comprehensive program that followed both the curriculum guidelines of the New York City Board of Education and those of the best private schools. Additional specialists were enlisted to teach honors level academics, French, piano, and art history. The program, combined with course-related family travel to Europe and Africa, challenged and enriched Meyer’s children for three years.
When the twins approached adolescence, the family decided to reenter the private school system. During the application process, while Meyer waited with other parents in admissions offices, they would discuss where their children were currently enrolled.
As Meyer explained her family’s homeschooling/travel program, parents repeatedly said, “Wow, that sounds fantastic! I wish I could do that.” Meyer, recognizing the need for more educational options in the New York City area, thought, “I can do that for you.”
Meyer spoke to Flemel about expanding their model to serve other families. Flemel agreed to sign on as head teacher, and in 2008, their educational consulting company, Quality Education by Design (QED), was born. As co-directors of QED, Meyer, who serves as the principal overseeing administrative duties, and Flemel work closely with their clients to create an individualized and rigorous curriculum within a flexible schedule and to oversee every aspect of what they call an “education by design.”
Meyer and Flemel ensure that each child’s educational goals are established and that excellent teachers are provided. Extensive documentation, including report cards, teacher evaluations, and student portfolios, are provided so that students may return or apply to traditional schools. The QED curriculum also includes trips planned around academic studies that include nearby Manhattan museums and historic neighborhoods, and places as far away as Egypt and the Galapagos Islands.
Flemel stresses that they are able to look at each child closely every day, and get to know their unique abilities and learning styles. “We ask not only what does each child need, but what has she brought in? If a child excels in a particular subject, we can teach one and a half, two, even three years worth of coursework in that area. There is no limit.”
For families who express concern about socializing and making friends, Meyer reassures them that, “The children really are engaged during the school day, and the social piece is not an issue because the kids love what they are doing and they see their friends after school at activities like Hebrew school and soccer.”
Meyer and Flemel use the same thoughtful approach to running their company as they do in designing each child’s curriculum. Though QED has grown from the kitchen table to serving families through out the tri-state region, Meyers explains, “Our clients are happy. We don’t take on more than we can handle.”
Meyer’s three children, after an intense but validating application process, received 10 New York City private school acceptances, and have reentered the system. Says Meyer, “There are many different reasons for stepping off the private school track. Getting a little perspective does wonders for your life.”
To learn more about QED and to contact the directors, visit their website at www.qedny.us.
JESSICA FEDER-BIRNBAUM has written for stage, screen and numerous periodicals. She lives in New York City with her husband, son, daughter, dog, and cat.