SDE Learning takes place entirely through self-chosen activities which may or may not include classes and courses, and which may or may not appear ‘educational’ to the outside observer.
The goal is not to pass tests or comply with any set curriculum, but rather, to hone the skills needed to live a fulfilling life, by living a fulfilling life. (For children, this means having an awesome childhood!)
The value is placed not on verifying specific achievements, but on preserving and mastering meta-abilities such as curiosity, confidence, responsibility, initiative, critical thinking, self-empowerment, self-management, communication, conflict resolution, playfulness, ‘planfulness’, and the ability to enter states of ‘flow’.
A democratic SDE community allows people to grow into increasingly responsible personal freedom, rather than suddenly having to master this in early adulthood.
What is the outcome of SDE?
Rather than a batch of graduates who can all quote the same content, SDE produces highly individuated life learners who will be able to tackle any content they choose or need to master, throughout the course of their lives. In times of high change, these graduates are likely to have a life-long advantage since their ‘foundation’ is content-independent.
The experience of Sudbury Valley School, open since 1969, is that SDE graduates fare better than average when it comes to tertiary education. Also, SDE graduates who choose to prepare for and sit conventional entrance exams don’t appear to be at any disadvantage compared to peers schooled in the mainstream, even though they often have not had previous experience with this. Among alumni, entrepreneurial, humanitarian and arts careers feature slightly higher than in the mainstream, but many professional careers including medicine, commerce and law, feature too. Life satisfaction tends to be high.
Why have an SDE facility when you can do home-based ‘unschooling’.
Family-level unschooling could be optimal for some. For others, Self Directed Education facilities provide a rich, supportive environment for people to self-educate. They offer environments, resources, social support and levels of personal challenge that home-based SDE can struggle to match.
Even though each life-learning path is 100% individual, there is significant benefit to being part of an ongoing learning community. Peer-supported learning is continuous, inspiration from other people’s interests is wide, and companionship and yes, even assistance, is richly available. A sense of belonging within a diverse community gives enormous social space, allowing deep exploration or personal identity.