Our Expression of the Self Directed Education Model

The world our children are inheriting is full of change and opportunity. With technological changes, it seems impossible to predict what kind of specific information or skills children “should” learn. So we aim to support learners so that they can be the kind of person that will be happy and successful in the 21st Century world, in whatever ways they define happiness and success. We do this by offering the following:

Learners create their own learning path!

We encourage learners to pick and choose which classes, clubs, and offerings are most aligned with their interests and needs. Self-Directed learners need ample time to pursue their own interests, discover their world, and a slower pace to reflect and make sense of what they are observing and feeling. We know that learning is happening all the time and that the process of learning varies from person to person. Discovering how to learn and the joy of self-defined accomplishments internally motivate life-long learners.

We encourage play!

How children play and the themes they choose to explore are expressions of their needs and reflections of the world around them.  They build empathy and understand social nuances by acting out different characters in imaginative role play.  They negotiate rules, navigate disagreements, and discussion topics such as fairness and inclusion.  They play with various technologies to discover the power behind the tools of our culture. 

As 21st Century Learners, spending time in play is valuable work!  As facilitators, we do our best to drop our own fears around roughhousing, gunplay, technology, and other play themes so children can do the hard work of play without our adult fears creating interference. 


We believe it is important to give children the time and space to discover their talents, interest, values, and passions.  They drive their education and make their own decisions so that they can discover for themselves how best to navigate the 21st Century world of options.  We also believe in creating a space that gives learners time to experience their full range of emotions so that they can be in tune with their needs and the effects of their choices.

Nonviolent Communication, Consensus Building, and Restorative Justice!

In an effort to build a community of learners, nonviolent communication is the glue that binds us. Learners are given support by facilitators in learning how to identify their feelings and needs and develop their self awareness. They are given support to communicate their ideas to others in ways that identify areas of consensus and restore a sense of fairness and respect when relationships feel strained. These skills often fall under the name “Emotional Intelligence” and are highly valued but take time to develop. We’re proud of our commitment to invest time in these skills.

Free mixing of ages and abilities!

At the Barn School, learners are not segregated. Siblings are free to interact, friendships develop across ages and abilities, and learning is shared according to skill and interest, not in a “power over” dynamic that creates competition. With free age-mixing, children learn when they are ready and motivated and their methods of learning are as unique as the children themselves. Knowledge hoarding feels unnecessary with free age mixing. Learning becomes an empowering process driven by the individual.

Immersion in the broader culture!

In order to stay at the leading edge of change, we need to be involved in our world in a variety of ways. Getting involved in our community, bringing community experts into our space, using technology to makes our lives better, and enjoying a connection to the natural world are ways that help children understand the world and their fit in it.

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A Message from Erin