Chagrin Valley Learning Collective is a self-directed learning program for ages 5-18 that balances freedom and responsibility in a self-directed community in a farm setting.
Children are always free to choose their own activities, but also share with staff the responsibility for the day-to-day management of all aspects of the community, from creating and enforcing program rules to overseeing an annual budget. Staff serve as mentors and models of contributing community members.
See Sudbury Valley School or other “democratic” schools or programs for examples. Here is a helpful introduction to self-directed education from The Alliance of Self-Directed Education, a great organization for more resources and information on this model.
Because children have such different interests and are able to decide how to spend their own time, there is no single “typical day”. Children work on projects of their own choosing, such as art, cooking, or fort building. They participate in committees that plan activities and determine certain policies. For example members of the kitchen committee design and administer the certification process for use of the kitchen, are in charge of the kitchen budget and plan cooking projects. Many spend a good part of their day in free play, which we believe is really the most effective and efficient mode of learning for kids of all ages!
Just as everyone learns to walk & talk on their own, programs following this model have proven that in the right, supportive environment one also learns reading, writing and practical math by participating in everyday self chosen activities such as board games and cooking, as well as party planning and construction projects. There are hundreds of schools and programs around the world following this model, it is based on the way human children have learned and developed in society for hundreds of thousands of years, growing up in a supportive community and learning through living.
Please see this article, “But What About Academics?” by Hudson Valley Sudbury School staff member, Matthew Goia, or “Kids Learn Academic Subjects Without Being Taught” by Open School staff member Cassi Clausen for more addressing this frequently asked question.
Sudbury Valley School and The Circle School, two of the largest and oldest self-directed democratic schools in the US that our program models, do not encourage or discourage college education and have a 85% college placement rate, from elite to community colleges. Many colleges are eager to enroll self-motivated learners who know why they want to go to college. Children from self-directed programs like this tend to be very impressive in an interview situation because they have had so much practice socializing, talking with people of all ages, and developing their own interests, skills, etc.
Children “graduating” from Chagrin Valley Learning Collective will not have grades or a transcript; however there are many ways to demonstrate their readiness for the college of their choice. They can decide to study for and take the SAT or ACT, construct a portfolio, and write a convincing personal essay. Most graduates of Sudbury schools go on to college, and have pursued higher education at a variety of institutions including: state universities, liberal arts colleges, art schools, cooking schools, Ivy League schools, and community colleges.
The program is financed through tuition, and rates can be found on the “Registration” page. Financial aid is available.
CVLC does not claim, and staff will not instruct participants in any subject at the expectation or request of a parent, guardian or anyone other than the participant themself. Any teaching or instruction that occurs (other than that required in order to meet community norms such as cleaning up after oneself, or maintenance of community resources) between and among participants and/or staff will be the result of casual, uncoerced conversation, engagement in mutually chosen activities, or upon the explicit request of a participant.