Self Directed Education in Community

Pathfinder will be a dynamic learning community supporting self-directed education for ages 5-18.  

Each student will be: 

  • free to choose their daily activities,
  • responsible for their choices, actions, & education,
  • and empowered to participate in fair and transparent school governance.

Project Details.

Frequently Asked Questions.



We value the human rights of all people, including children.


People learn to make good decisions by being trusted to decide for themselves.


Community limits on behavior should be clear, transparent, and consented to. We also value consent decision-making, and consent to participation in activities.


We value conscious culture creation, and balance the needs of the community with the needs of the individual.

A research driven approach TO EDUCATIOn

What is Self-Directed Education?


"We believe that education is the sum of everything a person learns that enables that person to live a satisfying and meaningful life, and that people come into the world equipped with everything they need to educate themselves."

Alliance for Self Directed Education

Self-Directed Education is learning through living. It can include organized classes or lessons, if freely chosen by the learner; but most Self-Directed Education does not occur that way. It comes from everyday life, as people pursue their own interests and learn along the way. The motivating forces include curiosity, playfulness, and sociability—which promote all sorts of endeavors from which people learn. Self-Directed Education necessarily leads different individuals along different paths as they find their interests and passions.

Read more here at ASDE.


Time to Play, Time to Learn

Studies show that play is deeply involved in child development and learning: Play improves memory, creative problem solving, and self-regulation. Strong bodies, good coordination, social skills, and imagination are natural consequences of free play.

Additionally, since all pursuits are considered equal, students at self-directed schools have an amazing opportunity to focus on tasks for hours on end, creating worlds and mastering complex skills from woodworking to goat farming to algebra. Students can follow their interests wherever they lead- and you guessed it, interest has been shown to be vital to deep learning.

For more notes, see our Research page.

Autonomy Increases Motivation

People learn best when they are self-motivated. Researchers have known for some time that autonomy (student choice in the learning process) increases motivation and learning effectiveness. For example, a comprehensive literature review of empirical research on autonomy and learning concludes that “there is evidence that learners' active and independent involvement in their own learning (autonomy) increases motivation to learn and consequently increases learning effectiveness." Student autonomy has been shown empirically to correlate with higher levels of motivation, perseverance, and deep learning.

For more reading, check out our Research page.

Age Mixing

Children learn best from other kids who are just slightly ahead of their own abilities. In a mixed age setting, older students have the opportunity to mentor younger children. Age mixing also allows for nurturing relationships between older and younger children, and is an effective anti-bullying strategy.

Social Learning

Learning is increasingly being appreciated as a social process. One strongly influential theory about learning as a social process was developed in the early 1900s by psychologist Lev Vygotsky, who argued that the human mind is formed by participating in the social world (interacting with tools, culture, and other people. A more recent influential theory suggests that learning is embedded in social practice, that we learn not by individually learning isolated bits of knowledge, but by sharing and receiving information in “communities of practice." Social learning theories have gained more steam and evidence as the internet has generated social learning forums that enable people to share knowledge in social networks.

For full academic footnotes, see our Research page.

Alumni Success

We define "success" as meaning that alumni from similar programs- democratic schools like Sudbury Valley, and the Circle School, or unschooling homeschoolers- go on to have meaningful lives, full of purpose, as measured in alumni studies and surveys. Most of them pursue higher education, but some enter directly into the fields of their professional interest. You can read alumni studies for yourself by following these links.

Sudbury Valley Alumni Study(pdf)

Legacy of Trust- Sudbury Valley Alumni Study (book)

The Circle School Alumni Study 2015 (pdf)

Unschoolers Survey by Peter Gray

The Hudson Valley Sudbury School (HVSS) in Woodstock, NY is an alternative, private school for students ages 5 to 18. HVSS is based on the educational philosophy first developed by the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, MA in 1968. Video made by

Our Vision and Mission At Pathfinder

Our vision is to help children grow into curious, confident, capable adults with the self-understanding, resilience, and initiative to act with integrity in a changing world.


Our mission is to provide participants with an enriched physical and social environment, the opportunity to participate in effective, cooperative governance, and a safe space to explore and develop their diverse interests and skills by engaging with others involved in self-directed education, freedom of choice, and the absence of a standard, imposed program.


"We believe that, in any educational setting, young people have the right to decide individually how, what, when, where and with whom they learn; to have an equal share in the decision-making as to how their organizations - in particular - schools, are run, and which rules and sanctions, if any, are necessary."

International Democratic Education Network