FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What kind of school is this?
Chagrin Valley School is a self-directed learning school that balances freedom and responsibility in a self-directed, democratic community in a farm setting. Students 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 school, from creating and enforcing democratically adopted rules to overseeing an annual budget. Staff serve as mentors and models of contributing community members. See Sudbury Valley School or other “democratic” schools for examples. Here is a great introduction to self-directed education from The Alliance of Self-Directed Education, a great organization for more resources & info on this model.
What ages are the students?
The school is for kids from age 5 to 18, though initially we plan to enroll only up to around age 15 in order to give older students a chance to adjust to this different approach to learning. We also have an outdoor based preschool for ages 3-5.
What is a typical day like for a student at the school?
Because students have such different interests and are able to decide how to spend their own time, there is no single “typical day”. Students 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!
What about reading and math?
Just as everyone learns to walk & talk on their own, schools following this model and proven that in the right, supportive environment, one also learns reading, writing & practical math by participating in everyday self chosen activities such as board games & cooking, as well as party planning & construction projects. There are hundreds of schools 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.
How will students get into college?
Sudbury Valley School, one of the largest & oldest democratic schools that our school models, does not encourage or discourage college education, and has a 85% college placement rate including Ivy League schools. Many colleges are eager to enroll self-motivated learners who know why they want to go to college. Students from schools like this tend to be very impressive in an interview situation because they have had so much practice socializing and talking with people of all ages.
Students graduating from Chagrin Valley School 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.
How does this school compare to conventional schools or homeschooling?
Instead of being told what to do all day long, students are free to make all their own decisions, helping turn them into responsible, independent, lifelong learners more adapted to today’s dynamic world.
Students are part of a larger community where they interact with diverse students of all different ages and backgrounds, parents, staff, guests etc. In studies, age mixing has been shown to be extremely beneficial for building social skills, a key indicator of success.
Is there any kind of curriculum?
In our self-directed school model, there are no traditional classes but students may request tutoring arrangements for any subject they are interested in. Students may decide that they want to take a class in a particular subject be it a typical academic one like chemistry, Spanish, or English Literature, or less conventional, such as learning about traditional healing herbs, or woodworking. In such cases they may arrange for a staff member to teach the subject, find online classes or other learning materials, or the staff may help them find a teacher/mentor/tutor from the broader community. There are also many online resources that may be used to learn a wide variety of specialized subjects.
Students may also offer to teach classes to other students and staff. And teaching is often the best way to learn a subject very well!
How can I learn more?
How is the school financed?
Tuition for the first child in the family is $6,500, second child is $5,000, and third & more are $4,000 each. Tuition will be pro-rated for families that opt for part-time attendance, though we are trying to move away from part-time to full-time for better consistency with meetings, committees, etc. Financial aid is available, which operates as a Co-op work-trade allowing parents/guardians to off-set tuition by contributing work to the school/farm/store operation at rate of $25/hour.