Desiderata School: A History of Innovation

  • 1985 -  Sunshine School Opens

Dori Spence began homeschooling her children when homeschooling was new to Colorado.  She quickly grew from homeschooling her five children to working with 11 additional children, from three other families, with the help of her sister in law.  Dori’s research revealed that starting a private school was an easier endeavor than the new homeschooling program introduced by the state.  She began the creation of what is now known as Desiderata School.

  • 1989 - Sunshine School Changes its Name to Desiderata School

Dori opted for the name change because of how well the Desiderata poem reflected her philosophy of education.  In particular the verse: “…you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here.”

  •  1990 - Desiderata Opens a Student Center in Longmont

With her children and those she began with graduating, and with increased demands for assistance, Dori located a space in Longmont that was donated for her to meet with students.  She contracted three additional sponsors to assist with instruction. 

  • 1994 - Desiderata School is Incorporated

Dori Spence incorporated the school, thus making it Desiderata School Inc.  Simultaneously she arranged for accreditation from the National Commission on Exceptional Schools.  Desiderata maintains its accrediation through the NCES to this day. 

  • 1996 - 501c(3) Established

Dori established the 501(c)(3) – Desiderata Educational Research and Resource Corporation (at the time it was known as the National Educational Research and Resource Corporation). She worked on the non-profit with the aid of Scott and Mary-Lou of Jesters Theater and School for the Performing Arts, with whom the school shared space.

  • 1998 - First Classes are Taught

At this time, sponsors created a class schedule, and two classes were being taught by the three sponsors, in the mornings four days a week. This allowed students to choose to take 2-4 classes in addition to their independent studies. The School moved to 21st and Main.  Jesters and Desiderata ceased sharing space; Desiderata acquired sole control of the previously shared non-profit

  • 2000 - Larame and Pandi Spence Purchase the School 

Upon acquiring the school it is significantly refined, the curriculum expanded, and program offerings updated and changed.  They introduced the Directed Study program, which moved students from “studying at home” to being able to study in an environment that allowed them access to teacher support.  If a number of students were in need of the same courses, then a classroom-like course could be taught.  

~ 2016 Desiderata School Changes Hands

In June of 2016, Desiderata was purchased by its current owners. In one way or another, the new owners have been connected with the school, its founder, and the previous owners for 17 years. It is their mission to stay true to Desiderata's roots and philosophy while working to continue the evolution of Desiderata School. They strive to stay relevant and effective in the ever changing world of education.

A Note From the Founder:

Desiderata began as a concept in the hearts of my husband and
I as we began a search for an
educational system that would provide
 5 children with more than just potentially useful information. We wanted our children to experience the innate joy that comes from learning and truly understand the personal value of education. More importantly, we wanted our children to see that the love of learning and the acceptance of one’s own natural growth process is what gives quality and meaning to life. We wanted to share with them our belief that there is no competition between individual potentials and that no one can be better than them at being themselves. We felt this could only happen if they were involved in an educational system where the focus was on their uniqueness and was structured to enhance and support their potential through self-awareness and personal discovery.

After trying a number of different educational systems with limited success, we began working with our children in our home, allowing us the freedom and flexibility to experiment with a variety of learning environments. Using conventional methods such as textbooks, practical methods such as cooking, Boy Scouts, sports teams, as well as personal experiences like family trips, we
were able to adapt the academic curriculum to include real life experiences. We discovered that individual learning patterns and personal potentials of our different children began to develop. As other parents witnessed the progressive learning pace and enthusiastic interest in learning expressed by our children, we began to receive requests to assist other students. 

After much soul searching, we began inviting students into our home and our hearts, applying the same principles and methods we had used in instructing our own children. As they started learning at their own natural pace and applying what they were learning to their own lives, these students began displaying the same faith in their potential and self-worth we had witnessed in our own children. Our one-on-one assistance program expanded rapidly and soon consumed more time and resources than could successfully be supplied by us personally. We discovered that while there were many students who just needed temporary support and personal attention, others immediately started to experience failure when they were returned prematurely to a system where the structure was extremely competitive, provided generalized knowledge, and was not self-paced. 

We wanted to continue to provide these students with an educational environment that supported the natural growth and personal development of their individual potential and met their present needs. Our goal was to combine our successful educational methods with a recognized, legal educational institution that could serve the public. In 1985, we made the decision to incorporate as a private school. In 1988, after 3 years of intense but rewarding labor, Desiderata School Inc., an independent, nonprofit, private school certified by the State of Colorado was born. 

Desiderata School now enjoys national attention and recognition for the success of its programs. Not just for the external academic success of its graduates, as evidenced by the acceptance of diplomas by major colleges and universities, but even more for the internal personal success experienced by each student demonstrated by a less than 1% senior drop out rate.

Dori Spence - School Founder
Desiderata School Inc.