We give children the freedom to learn from Nature, guided primarily by their innate curiosity.
Our pedagogical philosophy most closely aligns with the “free school” or “self directed education” model. Other words that reflect what we practice are “unschooling”, “deschooling” and “play-based learning”.
Dr Peter Gray (UMass) is an evolutionary biologist who has done some of the best research on this style of schooling, and he has many clear videos and books on the subject (Freedom to Learn). He also directs the Alliance for Self Directed Education, which has an excellent website with many articles, chat groups, and resources that can help anyone who is interested learn more about this style of education.
Other local schools that are philosophically similar include Macomber Center, North Star Learning Center, Parts and Crafts, Bay State Learning Center. Because none of these schools are formally accredited, they serve homeschoolers, as do we.
- Our model entails a tolerance for risk and conflict. The primary work of learning is done by the children, with each other. Teachers mentor and facilitate, but are asked to allow children to lead with their curiosity. Social conflicts are presumed to be educational and we use restraint when managing them; adult input is given to help the kids resolve their issues when they appear to need it. Teachers and volunteers strive to model the overriding principles of kindness, empathy, and compassion.
- The day is less structured than it is most schools. We have a 90 minute lesson each morning, a work period after lunch, and the rest of the day is structured by the children themselves. The teachers and assistants offer options, and engage in activities themselves, which the children can always join.
- Our educational philosophy favors tangible, visceral engagement with the world over more abstract modes of learning. This is developmentally appropriate to the age group we teach (3-10yo). It is assumed that children learn primarily through their bodies. There are no screens used or allowed in the school. (Occasional exceptions can be made by a teacher using a video in a lesson.)
- Believing that children are often overscheduled and overworked in our culture today, and as a result feel tense much of the time, we cultivate an atmosphere of slowness and calm.
- Children enjoy the privilege of greater freedom here, but they also have significant responsibilities. They are expected to practice respect, kindness and nonviolence towards all beings human, plant and animal. They are expected to work and care for the school (garden and classroom) by gardening and cleaning.
- Instilling a love of nature (ecophilia) is a primary goal of our work. Note that this is not the same as “creating activists” or “teaching environmentalism”. We deliberately work to correct “nature deficit disorder”.
- A rich environment is fundamental to our practice. The garden provides the venue for most of our nature-based learning. The classroom is stocked with art supplies, science materials, books and games. We make full use of the kitchen on a regular basis. All spaces are kept clean and we set expectations for how the spaces are used and maintained by the children.
Play is nature’s way of educating us! We take play very seriously!