Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are The Barn School structure and Self-Directed Education (SDE) similar to Montessori style of learning?

Answer: Montessori allows children to choose their activities from a selection prepared by the teacher/directrice. There is a curriculum in Montessori, whereas learners at The Barn School SDE Center follow their own learning path as their curiosity leads them. Depending how strictly the Montessori school follows the philosophy and curriculum, the children are often learning independently though they also learn through observation of other children. At The Barn School, learners may learn independently, through observation, through play and conversations with multi-age learners, through mentors and community knowledge experts, through online resources…you get the idea.

2. Will the Barn School be outdoor, nature-based similar to Learning in the Woods or is this something totally different?

Answer: Learning in the Woods is a different location and program but the foundations are the same because both are Self-Directed Education environments. Especially if children are taking part in our “Playborhood” offering, they can choose to spend their time as they wish, just like Learning in the Woods. The “play ground” will be among raised planter beds and in ground garden plots. Access to the playground will not be scheduled, so kids can spend as much or as little time engaged in outdoor activities as they wish, so long as they have supervision. 

3. I like this style of learning but what happens if our child wishes to pursue post-secondary education? Would they be at a disadvantage due to lack of testing/grading?

Answer: In terms of university, kids make this transition fairly easily. There are different routes to get into Canadian universities and most US universities prefer students who have a history of self direction in their learning. (In the US, Harvard, Stanford, and MIT all tend to favor applications from this type of learner). Each school has a different alternative education admittance process and if your child indicates that they would like to pursue college or university without obtaining their high school diploma, it is certainly possible.  Deb Kierstead, one of our facilitators, offers workshops and private support with this if you wish.

4. Will you have before-and-after care available?

Answer: If you require care that is outside of our hours, let us know what you are looking for.  We are a community that works together to try to meet the needs of our members.  We might be able to come up with a creative solution if we know what you need!

5. What is your philosophy and approach for children with Neural Differences or Special Needs?

Answer: The Self-Directed Education model is built on the way humans, and all mammals for that matter, naturally learn; through play, social interaction, curiosity, and pursuing interests. Through these pursuits, children pick up the skills they need so that they can have a fulfilling, contributing role in our society. We prefer not to assign labels within this educational model, but sometimes they serve a purpose. If your child arrives with a label or exhibits behavior that fits a diagnosis or label, so long as they feel this is a good learning environment for them, we’re happy to give it a try.  If your child’s needs feel outside of our skill set and capacity to support, we’ll say so.


6. Wait a minute, so are you a school?

Answer: No, we are a learning community that is an alternative to school.  We do not offer full time learning or curriculum or transcripts.  We are happy to serve families who homeschool, unschool, attend public school but need a regular alternative to classroom learning, and families outside of traditional school hours.  We are truly trying to blur the lines, show that learning happens outside of the traditional school mindset, and support families as they discover their best fit while respectfully holding the needs of all families members with care.

7. Does The Barn School provide sports, physical education, and extra-curricular opportunities for the students?

Answer: Some of our facilitators offer recreational sports programs at local community facilities.  If there is something you are looking for, feel free to send us a message and we will do our best to point you in the right direction!

8. So is this just for homeschoolers?

Answer: Not necessarily! If your child is under the age of 6, school attendance is not mandatory and you are free to participate in other programs as it suits your child.  Parents of children over the age of 6 are required to make a choice to have their child educated in a school (public, catholic, or private) or make a commitment to provide an education for their child themselves.  You renew this commitment with your school board annually and if at some point you change your mind, you are always free to make a different choice.  If your child is attending a school of some sort and you would like them to join us during school hours on a regular basis, you may need to make an agreement with the principal.  This is not a typical request and some principals respond more favorably than others.  Especially if your child has some sort of diagnosis that makes traditional school environments challenging, this alternative to school learning environment could be a nice bridge to meet their learning needs without being overwhelmed with a traditional school schedule.  Learners sign up for classes and clubs each season, so a family can decide what to participate in depending on their changing needs. Families who travel or children who are working as models, actors, or training in athletics can decide if it makes sense to sign up or take a break to pursue other valuable learning. Some of our classes happen in the evenings or on the weekend, so you are welcome to join if that makes sense for you.

9. Is there financial assistance available?

Answer: It is our hope to offer mini learning scholarships in the future.  Please let us know if you need scholarship assistance.

10. Do you offer transportation?
Answer: This is something we would be willing to consider exploring further. Please let us know if this is something you would be interested in.
11. What makes The Barn School unique?

Answer: We are a community interested in creating a paradigm shift. We believe strongly in the values of freedom, trust, community, and love. That may sound cheesy but those are the tenets that guide us! We are committed to a culture of peace, where the adults in particular, are consciously working towards an environment of “power with” as opposed to “power over”. That is unique considering that we live in a culture with many layers of hierarchy. We do our best to offer The Barn School as a space that values young people as *people* to the fullest extent possible. It is our belief that our safe space encourages young people to be self-aware, confident to voice their requests in the world, and respectful in their interactions with others. We like to think of ourselves as offering young people a think tank environment where they can hone their skills, explore the world, and then, when they are ready to leave our learning community, they do so with passion and confidence.

12. For younger children, do you do time out? How do you handle discipline during Playborhood?
Answer: To us, time outs represent leaving a child without the support to move forward in a positive way. Time-outs often involve shame and judgement and we’re not about that. Nor do we have time-ins actually. To us that is an adult deciding where a child will be and what they need in a moment when they are in pain. If a child is struggling to express their feelings, needs, and requests in ways that others cannot understand, we offer to step in and help using Nonviolent Communication techniques. We stay with feelings as long as the person feels like expressing them. We celebrate those feelings actually, as they give us clues so that we can better understand our needs and help us figure out what we really want. We believe solutions to problems emerge when opposing parties connect, so we spend our time helping learners to connect with themselves, communicate their thoughts to others, and trust that they will find a solution.
13. What is your take on technology?

Answer: This is a hot topic for many families and I can understand why, but we make a concerted effort to give children the opportunity to explore the technology that interests them without being fearful of it. Technology also includes hand tools, sewing machines, rock tumblers, kitchen tools but I have a feeling you are referring to computers, tablets, and phones. These devices help us connect, learn, and provide joyful entertainment. There can be negative aspects too, which provide useful opportunities for in-depth discussions about values and critical thinking. We love those conversations! Bring ‘em on! We refrain from making technology a reward or a scarce commodity, to avoid a heightened desire to use it. We keep it neutral and offer options, flexibility, and time for reflection so that learners can make choices around technology that work well for them. We encourage everyone to find their individual balance.  We are developing an ongoing list of technology “rules”.  This list is posted in the main area and we revisit it once a season.  If you are a member of our community, we will invite you take part decision-making meetings on this topic and other things that affect us all.