A special-needs student was struggling to learn online. The whole neighborhood contributed to her schoolhouse.

That was not true just a few months earlier. Throughout the spring, Ixel struggled to learn online at a tiny kitchen table inside her parents’ 850-square-foot Northern Virginia home, while Mom and Dad worked nearby. The second-grader’s learning disability makes it difficult to focus, so she got almost nothing done, despite the best efforts of her Arlington Public Schools teachers — and neither did her parents.

But now, Ixel was sitting in a miniature green-and-white wooden schoolhouse, set on cinder blocks just to the side of the McIntires’ home. Her school-provided iPad rested on a desk painted hot pink.

Her long red hair, split into two high ponytails, glimmered in the light that filtered through the rainbow-colored, semitransparent ceiling. In one corner sat a child-sized stuffed teddy bear: Ixel’s reading nook.

The shed — which Ixel calls her “Rainbow Elementary School” — was the result of months of labor by

Read More