How do students at Liberty learn without a teacher, class, or curriculum?

Students learn by pursuing their chosen activities. Of course, they often choose to play! During play, children hone their negotiation and problem solving skills. They naturally push their own limits and are always working in what Vygotsky called their zone of proximal development: they are building on what they already know and can do to reach new skills or understanding. Facilitators (adults or students) share knowledge or activities with others who are interested, which may sometimes take the form of a class. A curriculum is not followed because it would limit and interfere with the natural process of learning. Deeper, more effective learning happens when guided and motivated by the student's own curiosity and enjoyment.

What does a typical day look like?

8:30 Optional before-care begins

9:15 Student drop-off

8:30 - 9:30 : Students pursue their chosen activities, including technology use.

9:30 Morning meeting: Facilitators and students work together to generate the day's schedule of optional pursuits, ranging from spontaneous activities to planned-in-advance offerings. Any important announcements will be shared. Sometimes a quick game helps our community work and learn better together.

9:45 - 2:30 Chosen activities and offerings, excluding technology use.

11:30 Lunch: Students are free to eat from their lunch box any time they are hungry, but will be reminded and encouraged to eat at this time.

2:30 Clean-up: Students clean their assigned area.

2:45 Closing meeting: Students and facilitators share their reflections on the day. Important announcements will be shared. Sometimes a quick game helps our community work and learn better together.

3:00 Student pick-up

3:15 Optional after-care begins: Students pursue their chosen activities, including technology use. (Note that painting, gluing, mixing, cooking, and fort-building end at 2:30.)

4:30 School closes

How will students learn basic skills like reading and math?

Children naturally become curious about reading and math as they pursue their interests. They want to bake a cake, build something, sell a craft, plan a party, or repair something. They see others around them use reading and math to accomplish their goals and naturally follow suit. Adults offer help or classes upon student request.

What if my student wants to go to college?

As students identify their interests and pursue their passions, they eventually begin to think about what they would like to do as adults. SDE schools like Liberty allow students more freedom to prepare and reflect on this transition than conventional schools. Older students work on credentials or skills they will need for their approaching adult years. Facilitators at Liberty support students in accessing resources or classes they need for this preparation.

Colleges and universities regularly accept students from SDE schools who may not have traditional grades or test scores. SDE candidates stand out because they can articulate their goals and are already focused on their chosen fields, having had time for deep exploration during their school years.

How do I know if my student is on level?

Because learning is a natural process, your student will always be on the correct level for their own development. At any given time, your student may or may not be on the level dictated by conventional schools for particular skills and knowledge, and that's okay! Much harm can be done to a child's confidence, curiosity, and initiative when they are expected to reach certain benchmarks by a certain age. Because each child is unique, their learning unfolds at their own unique pace in our Self-Directed Education environment. The process is less painful and more joyful than in a conventional setting, and learning is deeper, more efficient, and long lasting.

Do Liberty students really do what they want to do all day?

Mostly, yes. They are mostly free to choose how they spend their time as long as it is legal and reasonably safe. However, they must respect others by following our community agreements: treat others well, clean up after yourself, run and scream outside, take care of stuff, and remain on campus. The community agreements were proposed and agreed upon by students and facilitators at the start of our school. They may be modified as needed by majority vote or concensus.

What about discipline and bullying?

Relationship building games and culture committee (CC) meetings are part of Liberty's proactive approach to building a positive atmosphere and reducing broken community agreements. At CC meetings, students and facilitators share any problems they see and think together about how to solve them.

Students or adults who break community agreements may be summoned to a judicial committee (JC) meeting. A rotating committee of students and facilitators describe problems they see, hear evidence, and vote on any consequences at their discretion. For example, a consequence could involve temporary forfeit of a resource or activity, or it could mean the perpetrator performs a service to the plaintiff or to the school. More serious or repeated agreement-breaking may result in suspension or expulsion.

Facilitators immediately interrupt any harassment or exclusion without grounds that they witness. Students are encouraged to do the same and to ask adults for help as needed. Students who violate our agreement to treat others well may be summoned to JC as explained above. Bullying, or the repeated harassment or exclusion of others, results in suspension or expulsion.

What about physical safety and supervision at Liberty?

We all want children to grow into adults with strong, active bodies and good citizenship skills. Because being a successful adult requires practice, we must grant children the space and trust to make decisions on how they interact and to challenge themselves physically. While they will sometimes make mistakes (don't we all?), children in community actually do a pretty good job of regulating their behavior.

Adult facilitators periodically circulate to supervise students and assist them as needed. However, students enrolled at Liberty should be capable of functioning as independent, autonomous learners. We trust them to work together to follow civic laws and ordinances as well as our community agreements, which include remaining on campus, watching age-appropriate videos, displaying affection in ways appropriate for a public setting, etc. We give them the opportunity to practice these skills for adulthood.

As part of their healthy development, children are naturally active and have good instincts about their physical limitations. They progressively take on slightly greater challenges, wanting to run faster, jump farther, or climb higher. Running, screaming, jumping, and climbing rails or trees are encouraged outside. Indoors, our students love climbing on the sofas to play the Floor is Lava. If the weather keeps us indoors, we schedule special times during the day for running and screaming inside! Children and adults alike grow stronger are less prone to injury when they gradually challenge themselves physically. In doing so, they gain valuable wisdom as to how to move their bodies safely and effectively.

What about age-mixing? Is it safe?

It is not unusual for students of different ages to enjoy spending time together at Liberty. Not only is it safe, but age-mixing is natural and necessary for optimum human development. Only in recent history have children been isolated into single family homes and warehoused into large, age-segregated schools. Younger students naturally learn best from slightly older children, while older students solidify and synthesize their knowledge when assisting younger children. Most of our older students have younger siblings who also attend.

What about students coming from conventional schools or homeschools?

Children coming from other schools usually love the freedom to be had at an SDE facility like Liberty. Students who previously had someone else decide what they learn or how they spend their time may experience a period of adjustment known as deschooling. They may test limits, be more emotional, or feel bored. A period of decompression is needed to reconnect with their natural curiosity and drive. It is said that a rough estimate of the time needed for deschooling is one month for every year of conventional schooling. Homeschool students whose activities are chosen for them may also experience a deschooling period. Facilitators do check in with students who appear to be emotional or withdrawn, and will notify parents if something seems amiss. Facilitators will not cajole students into particular activities or interfere with the deschooling process.

Can students with special needs attend Liberty?

Students with special needs are welcome at Liberty, so long as, with the available resources, they can uphold our community agreements and function as autonomous, independent participants in our school.

Are meetings and chores required?

Students are required to participate in morning and closing meetings, attend occasional culture committee meetings, and serve their turn on occasional judicial committee meetings. Meetings are necessary for our community to grow and function well, but are kept short so that students can maximize time spent on their chosen activities. All students share in basic housekeeping duties of our school

What is the difference between Liberty School and other alternative schools?

Liberty School is a school for Self-Directed Education (SDE). It is an Agile Learning Center that also draws inspiration from the Sudbury model of education.

Here is an article that explains similarities and differences between Agile and Sudbury, which are both forms of SDE:

Here is a comparison of Sudbury schools (and by extension, Agile and SDE in general) with other types of schools, like Montessori and Waldorf: