About Chagrin Valley School

Chagrin Valley School is a self-directed education program which is outdoor-immersive and run by student democracy for ages 5-18 years old. The program is held Monday through Friday, 8:30am-4pm, for full-time & part-time attendance, September through May. Depending on availability there is continuous open enrollment. Chagrin Valley School is a homeschool resource center, and upon enrolling families must register as homeschoolers with their respective towns. Our program offers:

  • Self-directed learning
  • Student run mediation & disciplinary system
  • Age-mixing which builds social skills
  • The responsibility & freedom of living in a "mini-society"
  • Field trips & special guest workshops
  • Entrepreneurial opportunities
  • Abundant free play time
  • Natural building, gardening & animals
  • Connection with the natural world
  • Part-time attendance options & very flexible hours
  • Affordable tuition & financial aid

See our School Handbook for an introduction to

self-directed education & to learn more about how our school runs:

Our Staff

Kelly Clark

Founder, School Staff

Kelly grew up spending her free time reading and exploring the woods with the neighborhood kids. She majored in physics at The University of Chicago (BA) and The University of California at Santa Cruz (MA). Kelly taught in several mostly progressive/mainstream educational environments from kindergarten through college undergraduate level. During that time she developed a variety of curriculum in science (physics, chemistry, physical science), math (algebra & statistics), food systems, and engineering/design and was constantly experimenting with approaches to increase students engagement with the material (coaching, team-work, inquiry-based learning, problem-based learning, experiential learning and so on). After over a quarter of a century she had to acknowledge that she had failed to discover an approach that would result in authentic, deep, and lasting learning for even a fraction of the students. Rather she found that most students (at the high school level) were primarily focused on the evaluation aspect rather than meaningful engagement with the material. And on top of that they had very little free time and were highly stressed.

On the advice of a colleague, she looked into the democratic education model first practiced in the US by Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts. Peter Gray’s book, Free to Learn, about the fundamental role of free play in learning, inspired Kelly to leave her job at an elite private school, to start Chagrin Valley School on her permaculture farm.

Ian Mungall

School Staff

Ian earned a BA in Communications from John Carroll University, focused on marketing communications and graphic design. He worked for a Fortune 500 company as well as PBS/NPR before living and working abroad in a new field which he has always been interested in, education. He taught at a unique elementary to adult level school in Seoul, South Korea and at an international university in Chengdu, China. During these four years spent teaching abroad he became frustrated and unsatisfied with the conventional style of schooling. He continued to learn and explore through travel, farming, and natural health & meditation programs and became increasingly interested in living a back to nature lifestyle. Upon discovering the self-directed education philosophy it resonated with him for many reasons, especially since it goes back to how most children have been raised and educated throughout most of humanity – by growing up in a supportive community environment or “mini-society.” He loves helping the school students, school & school community continue to grow & develop.


Erin Rodriguez

School Staff

Erin Rodriguez is a K-12 licensed Art Educator with over ten years of teaching in diverse settings. She earned a BA in Art Education from Kent State University, completing her student teaching in Quito, Ecuador. After graduation, Erin moved to Washington D.C. for three years, teaching and embracing her love for painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, and photography. She spent a year teaching English in South Korea before returning to her hometown of Cleveland Heights in 2010. Since then, Erin has been teaching art in charter schools across Cleveland as well as raising her son Franklin while simultaneously earning a Masters in Art Education from Boston University. She is drawn to Chagrin Valley School because of its intentional education focus and the opportunity to join a community of like-minded learners.

Jim Demko

School Staff

Jim earned a BS in Chemistry and a minor in Biology from Baldwin-Wallace University in Berea, OH and spent the following 18 years working in corporate jobs. He recently escaped this corporate life, a transition which has been decades in the making as he actively cultivates an environmentally conscious and authentic life. His interests include homesteading, building, hiking, cooking over campfires, beekeeping, and generally being active outside. Jim has volunteered at the farm and as a staff member for the past year and a half, gradually getting more involved and going deeper into the democratic schooling model and the permaculture community. He is the father of two current Chagrin Valley School students and is re-learning creativity and joy from all the students at Chagrin Valley School.