The Open School has no teachers, no classes, no curriculum, no tests, and no homework. So what does it have?
Students can spend all of their time however they choose. If they want to, they can play outside all day. They can do art all day. They can have conversations all day. They can dabble in a hundred different things. Nobody is judging or evaluating them. They have the space and time to discover and develop their passions. They can learn about themselves, how to function in a community, and how to learn. They are allowed to grow and be healthy intellectually, emotionally, and physically.
Because nobody is telling them what to do, and they are not supervised all the time, students are responsible for their own behavior and their own educations. They decide what to pay attention to, what to spend their money on, when to eat lunch, who to lend their toys to, and whether to obey the rules. This is a huge responsibility. There is no one else to blame if things go wrong. Students learn to own up to their actions and strive to do better in the future.
Away from the prying (though well-meaning) eyes of parents and policymakers, students can follow their own paths and become unique individuals. They are allowed to grapple with the problems of childhood — like boredom, mistakes, and conflicts with friends — without a helpful adult rushing in to take over. They only receive help if they ask for it. At The Open School, students are becoming adults capable of directing their own lives and making their own decisions.
Students are afforded the same rights as adults and are treated like full human beings. There is no adult authority — the only authority is the written law book, which applies equally to kids and adults. This law book exists to protect the rights of school members, such as the right to be free from harassment, the right to decide what happens to your own body, and the right to say what’s on your mind. At The Open School, kids’ voices are heard and their opinions are taken seriously. They learn respect when they experience being respected.
Students have the power to make their ideas a reality. Free from the confines of curriculum, they can procure whatever materials they need using the school’s budget, or request instruction either from on-site staff or outside professionals. They can organize field trips to anywhere, from the local arboretum to a distant national park.
Students here have the same administrative power as staff. They can be elected to committees and positions of authority. They learn how to be leaders and how to enact change in their communities and beyond.