[For pre-k through early elementary students, please see our Primary Program.]
It has become common for schools and school systems to follow a course of study (a curriculum) that is common for all students in each age range, irrespective of the interests, strengths, skills, or abilities of any one child. This method simply tells students what and how and when to learn certain topics. Not only is this ineffective for students who do not fit the mold, and inefficient for achieving the highest amount of learning in each child, and potentially damaging for students who are pushed along before they are ready, but it does not take into account the importance of training students in learning how to think.
In light of this, we believe that it is important for students to craft their own curricular path, rather than having one imposed on them by others. This does not mean that the Truly Free School has “no curriculum”; rather, we have chosen to go a “meta-curricular” course, by putting our emphasis in the following areas:
- Goal setting – The core of a student’s curricular experience is determined by self-selecting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable/ambitious, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) which govern the route a student takes. Students construct their own individualized daily schedules for completing activities to help them accomplish their goals, and show iterative implementation progress during weekly presentations of their work.
- Curriculum development – Given a set of meaningful goals that are an expression of love for God and others, we train the students themselves in the process of how to develop a course of study that is suitable to their interests and is cognizant of their own strengths and weaknesses. Students learn to appropriately set the scope of their course, create a sequence for learning the component parts, and conduct assessments of their progress in fulfilling their learning objectives.
- Thinking techniques – More than simply learning lesson content, students are taught the vitally important skills of critical thinking (when analyzing content), creative thinking (when engaging in ideation), and logical thinking (when walking through a process of reasoning).
- Research strategies – The massive amount of information we have on every imaginable topic means that students need to be trained in how to locate relevant content, evaluate its quality, and put it to use in both academic proofs and entrepreneurial innovations.
This type of training is critical for students at this moment in history, when it is becoming increasingly impossible to know everything that can be known about any given topic. Not only is the scope of human knowledge expanding, but even if a certain source is the “best information” about a specific topic today, it will not necessarily be the best source of information tomorrow. The Truly Free School will train students to know where to look to find information, to cull and filter relevant, reliable information from a broad pool of sources, to recombine and dissect it for creative results, and to synthesize a personalized program of study based on that information in order to make tangible progress toward achieving their goals.
If this paradigm is adopted, how do students (especially those in early elementary) learn the fundamentals?