In the recent past a lot of schools called ‘Free Democratic Schools’ are coming up and there is a lot of interest in these type of schools. But how is the actual daily life experience in such a school? Well, first of all, I would like to share with you that a typical day at a ‘Free school’ does not exist – every day is completely different, even though there are plenty of things being repeated in its weekly schedule.
So, how do we envision freedom in such a school? There will be different subjects and workshops offered every day in such schools. Sometimes the subjects are repeated every week or more often. Some of them are one-off.. Plenty of interesting people visit the community to offer workshops or projects. There are also many learning trips for the children. The critically important aspect of all activities is that the children choose what they’d like to do, when to do it and how. They do not have to choose anything from the schedule at all. So it means that you can choose to play soccer in the garden all days if you like or play music, paint, etc… If you are tired you can go to the relaxation room and sleep. Generally, everyone at school organizes her/his time by herself/himself. You have a free choice to do what you like but within the rules that have been created by the school community. (Usually, the only mandatory activity in a Free Form School is that everyone is required to help out with cleaning and attend certain school meetings). So it is a tricky task to specify what happens daily because every day is really different for all the kids and adults.
Usually, in free schools, the rules have been created to meet the needs of the community. Responsibility is equally distributed as it is connected to our freedom.
Age mixing creates mutual respect and engenders peer to peer learning. Just imagine what kind of game basketball becomes when people aged 6-30 are playing together. Relational work is never finished, but rather evolving constantly. The relationships between different members of the school community are not always ideal (that is purely loving), but everyone tries her/his best to get along well with others. In the absence of hierarchy, power imbalance, and coercive methods, peace is given ample room to grow. Ample attention is given to developing communication and social skills, as good relationships address and communicate needs for understanding and happiness in all aspects of our life.
So a Free form school provides an environment full of tools & instruments for learning and growth. A place where everyone (kids and adults) are learning from each other.
This article is a contribution by Kateřina Kováčová, staff member in the Free Democratic school Donum Felix in Kladno, which has the following motto for growing with children: “I do not know where you go, however, I want to help you to discover your unique journey and support you in it.”