Village Free School
The Village Free School (VFS) is a non-profit 501(c)3 private school located in Portland, Oregon, United States. The school opened its doors to students in the fall of 2003. The school offers enrollment to students ages 5–18. The educational philosophy at the Village Free School is based upon the idea that if children are given freedom and access to resources, they will learn. Students at VFS choose what they want to learn and how they want to spend their time.
Admissions are designed so that many ages are represented, and enrollment in each age group is limited. Off-campus learning is encouraged and facilitated by staff at the free school.
Parents are integral to the mission of VFS, so the school honors the primary attachments of youth with their families and values the dignity and worth of students, staff, families, and volunteers alike. Many different kinds of families find homes here, and families with nontraditional backgrounds are welcome. The school does its best to support, share, and learn from all the people who come to the Village.
VFS shares what they learn about active youth participation and self-determination with educators and advocates around the world. During the summers of 2007 and 2008, students, parents, and staff attended the AERO Conference on Alternative Education in New York. This allowed those from the Village to share what they've learned with other free and democratic schools, offered students hands-on leadership and speaking opportunities, and allowed the school to learn.
The school has adult advisers who assist youth with accessing resources, and encourage students to ask questions, explore, and play as their intellectual, social, emotional, and physical health are nurtured. Staff believe that when kids learn the art of problem solving in a holistic way, their skills can be applied to any subject.
VFS offers vibrant and interactive spaces to study, play, and share. Students are not coerced into following a schedule dictated by standardized curriculum or testing. However, there is a daily rhythm to help students know when and where opportunities are being offered.
The Village Free School started in 2005 after three years of planning by a group of folks who mostly learned about each other from fliers posted at co-ops. Surprisingly, few of these initial school-starters were parents; they were people who wanted to give kids a shot at freedom and democracy, with the hope of creating a natural love for learning.
The Village Free School is non-profit, and thus relies upon donations and sponsorships to cover the costs related to running the program.
The Village Free School has chosen not to seek accreditation through the State of Oregon, as it did not want to be held to any state standards that would interfere with the educational approach. Since each student's education plan at the school is highly individualized, lack of state accreditation is not seen as a barrier. College is a perfectly reasonable option for those who want to attend, and the school will support those students in their efforts. (The school also supports the efforts of youth who are on different life paths.)
- Village Free School (official website)