Village Free School
Portland, OR 97232
At VFS, each person’s voice matters as much as another’s, which enables students to gain skills in communication, empathy, compromise, and understanding. During All School Meetings, our community makes decisions small and large that affect daily life, which prepares them to be active participants in the world.
One of the first things students learn at VFS is that the adults in the space trust them. We are academically non-coercive, which means that we don’t force students to study subjects they aren’t ready for or interested in, and we promote Self-Directed Education, which means that learning is directed by students’ passions, curiosities, and questions.
SDE Optimizing Conditions
- Responsibility – VFS has no coercive classes of any kind, and children are given ample time to explore their own interests. Staff, students, and parents have the option to offer optional standing classes to share with other community members; attendance is optional.
- Youth Autonomy – Kids are free for most of the time most days. Occasionally there are trips that require everyone to leave campus, and there are some limits on game-related screen time.
- Access to Tools and Technology – Some construction tools, tons of art supplies, and laptops and computers with internet access are available to people in the space. Many other tools are brought in by parents, students, and staff from time to time.
- Adult Allies – There typically at least 5 adult staff present on any given day, with various volunteers and parents that come in with some frequency, giving the students a pretty wide sample size. None are engaged in testing or measuring student performance.
- Free Age Mixing – There is some suggested grouping for offered classes, but none of the groups are restrictive. Our community typically includes 5- to 17-year-olds.
- Community – All school meetings and a student-run council are responsible for making decisions. Moderation is provided between kids that are having challenges interacting with each other or with other staff.
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