I agree that passion, interest and real life problem solving are key to learning. Many 'traditional' schools are beginning to facilitate education in this way. I think relationship is key. People are motivated to learn when they are inspired. Inspiration and passion can be cultivated through relationship.
Having parents involved is a good idea. An, if they do not have the required skills, why not have the parents and kids learn side by side. Create community of learning. I don't think that learning should just be for the children. Having parents involved would hopefully help the children feel safe and will provide meaningful relationships. It would also help cultivate community passion and mean that real life problems will be met by all people in the community, not just the children.
Start with a small, real issue. Something that they can be successful in solving. Create passion and interest and motivation through this.