Blog · The Open School

The Inherent Nature of Traditional Schooling What are students really learning in traditional schools?

by Eric Barajas, Open School staff
November 19, 2019

After a prolific 26 years of teaching public school in New York, the late John Taylor Gatto described many of his observations and experiences in his book, “Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling”. In this book, Gatto describes the inherent nature of traditional schooling, which he claims teaches the following seven lessons: […]

How do free children become exposed to new things?

by Aaron Browder

A common concern parents have about self-directed democratic schools — which have no assignments, classes, or “teachers” — is how kids will be exposed to new things without forced lessons. What they mean is that starting a new pursuit is hard work, but often becomes fun and interesting once you get into it. Children (like […]

Incidental Learning Kids learn easily when their activities are connected to real life

by Tay Arrow, Open School staff
September 22, 2019

When I was going to a self-directed democratic school, I often enjoyed — as I think most of our kids do — the opportunity to go down a rabbit hole with many kinds of niche interests. I got really into things like playing chess, the history of planetary discovery, ancient cuneiform languages, 19th century French […]

Perfect Information To find their own way in life, children must be told the whole story

by Tay Arrow, Open School staff
September 12, 2019

When I was a child, my family spent our summers in a pair of cabins in a forest on Mount Desert Island in Maine. Most of the time, I played in the woods, inventing tiny societies in the thick moss, or picking blueberries, or climbing on rocks. My mother would go for walks on the […]

Windows of opportunity Do children need to learn certain skills while they're young?

by Aaron Browder, Open School staff
August 29, 2019

Even before he met his wife, Laszlo Polgar was strategizing about how he would bring up his children. In the 1960s, having studied the life stories of 400 great intellectuals from Socrates to Einstein, the Hungarian psychologist argued that with the right approach to child rearing, parents could turn any child into a genius. Klara, […]

An antidote to peer pressure Age mixing makes it okay for kids to be themselves

by Aaron Browder, Open School staff
August 19, 2019

One of the major fears parents have when sending their children off to school is “peer pressure”. This frightening force is what makes otherwise good kids do bad things, like trying drugs or committing crimes. And beyond this obviously dark side of peer pressure there is a broader risk of young people losing themselves, and […]

Announcing A(nother) New School!

by Cassi Clausen, Open School founder
August 9, 2019

The Open School began as a dream of a handful of people committed to bringing democratic free education to Orange County. We wanted a place for local kids to become self-directed and independent. It started with just under a dozen kids in the house of one of our founders. The following year, we moved to […]

Liberty or Lord of the Flies?

by Aaron Browder, Open School staff
July 31, 2019

Some people, when they hear about democratic schools — where each student has the same power as any adult — are reminded, in horror or breezy dismissal, of Lord of the Flies. In William Golding’s 1954 novel, a group of British schoolboys are stranded on a deserted island and attempt to survive while they wait […]

Nice kids, mean kids How to teach children morality without relying on crude labels

by Aaron Browder, Open School staff
March 16, 2019

Lately, the number of little kids (in the 3 to 5 age range) at The Open School has increased greatly. The “munchkin brigade” is always scurrying around the school, making lots of joyful noise, and calling each other “nice” and “mean” as it suits their mischievous purposes. These words — “nice” and “mean” — have […]

Is sharing caring? The truth about children's sharing culture

by Aaron Browder, Open School staff
March 6, 2019

When you first start coming to a Sudbury school — a school where there are no teachers, classes, or curriculum — as an adult, either as a staff or a volunteer, there are naturally a lot of cultural hurdles you have to overcome. Like: how do I respect the activities the kids choose? How do […]