Values & Practices
"Education is the sum of everything a person learns that enables that person to live a satisfying and meaningful life." - Alliance for Self-Directed Education
Self-directed learners are driven by curiosity, playfulness and sociability to explore and pursue their interests and passions. At Cascadia our learners are presented with a wealth of opportunities and resources to support them in discovering what excites them and in digging deeper into their found interests.
“All I am saying can be summed up in two words: Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.” – John Holt
At Cascadia we operate from a place of deep trust. Trust in ourselves, each other, and our innate ability to learn, grow, and evolve. We build relationships from this place of trust and empower our learners to be the leaders of their own education and of the contribution that they bring to our world. We believe that as we nurture their natural desire for autonomy, they are becoming self-empowered citizens who will have the skills and self-knowledge needed to succeed in our fast paced and ever changing world.
These principals are the foundation of our trust and the soil that we ground ourselves in:
1. Learning is natural. It’s happening all the time.
2. People learn best when they make their own decisions. Children are people.
3. People learn more from the environment/culture they are immersed in than from the content they are taught.
4. People develop strength and purpose through cycles of Intention, Creation, Reflection, Sharing.
Freedom & Responsibility
Free to Play. Free to Learn. Free to Be Ourselves.
At Cascadia our learners have the freedom to choose how they will spend their time. They are also free to be their unique selves without judgement or expectations. Studies have shown the importance of play for development and learning and we provide a safe place for unlimited play. There is also time and space for learners to dive deeply into subjects and projects of interest. Having the power to choose how they spend their time is an important step towards taking control of ones own life. The cycle of exploration, enthusiasm, boredom and overcoming boredom is one that we all must learn to manage and Cascadia provides the free space for that to happen naturally.
Friendships and community are built as our learners move through their days, engaging and interacting as they feel they want to in each moment. With great freedom comes great responsibility. Learners are gaining the skills to move freely according to their own will, while supporting those around them in doing the same.
There is a significant body of research demonstrating how age mixing benefits learning. Our learners form caring relationships with others of all ages. They gain valuable opportunities for maturation through being both mentors to younger learners and mentees to older learners. These relationships also promote nurturing, kindness, patience, and understanding, while inspiring each individual to share their knowledge and strive for new skills.
At Cascadia, learners co-create the community culture together. They come together each week to address their needs and concerns and then through consensus create practices to try for the next week. As they refine their practices and master the ones that work best for everyone, the community culture evolves to best serve our learners. This practice supports empathy, understanding, strategizing, and consensus building, while facilitating an environment of harmony and freedom.
All of our learners, including parents, commit to using a non-violent communication based practice when there is conflict between individuals and groups. This practice, which can be done with or without facilitation, supports connection, empathy, problem solving, self-advocacy, and compassion. By moving from what happened to the feelings and needs that are present, participants are able to connect deeply to each others humanity and find ways to move forward together.
Adults at Cascadia enter our space, not as parents, teachers, or judges, but instead as learners, partners and helpers. They show up ready to play, explore, learn, and share. Parents are often on site both to provide learning opportunities and resources and to engage in the fun. Our parent room provides a space for adults to connect, socialize and do their adult work without "adulting" around our learners.
Our trained facilitators are present to ensure safety, provide support, facilitate the use of the agile tools that support our culture and practices. We are also working to build and nurture deep relationships with our learners so that we can best facilitate the exploration and development of their individual interests and passions.
Intention, Creation, Reflection
Each day that we come together, we acknowledge the cycles of intention, creation and reflection that all humans go through in order to create their lives. We do this formally through our small group meetings, personal progress tracking with kan-ban boards and portfolios, and informally through our daily conversations and group activities.
At Cascadia we believe that every individual has a shareable value and that we all benefit when we feel safe and supported in sharing our gifts with our community. Often in compulsory education settings, learners do not feel safe expressing their true selves and interests. Bullying, pressure to conform and perform, and education mandates prevent young people from discovering who they are and what brings them joy and squashes their enthusiasm to pursue their interests and passions. As a society as a whole, we believe that we are deeply negatively impacted by the loss of shareable value from this supression of so many unique individuals. Our goal is to create a safe space for our learners to figure out who they are, what brings them joy, and how to best contribute their unique gifts to their community and the world.
As a community we are committed to taking action to create a world that is more just. Each week we come together to learn about and discuss issues of social justice. It is our goal that together we learn the information and gain the skills needed to be the best allies and change makers that we can be. We know that for anyone to truly free, everyone must be free. And, we acknowledge the ways that our society and culture oppress and abuse groups of people. We are committed to correcting our own ignorance and being a part of dismantling the structures that support inequalities and violence.
A Typical Day
Everyone arrives and gets settled. Learners reconnect and make plans fr their day.
Set the Day 10:15
We start each day with a quick gathering to set our schedule. Classes, activities, guests, and field trips that are already planned are noted and then the learners add anything that they want to share, do, or explore with others to the day. This schedule is up on the wall so that everyone can reference it as the day progresses.
Spawn Groups 10:30
Small groups meet with a facilitator to share intentions for the day, ask for help, get support, and connect. Some of our leaners use kan-ban boards and other tools to record their process of intention, creation, reflection. Groups also do a community building activity to deepen their relationships.
The Magic Happens
11:00 - 3:00
Organized and spontaneous play occurs in the midst of a variety of opportunities to try out or develop skills, explore a topic or subject, or work with a specific medium. Some opportunities like D&D and chemistry club meet regularly to work on extended projects or layered learning. Often our adult learners are in the space sharing their passions and skills. Learners navigate their world with full autonomy, socializing, learning, negotiating, taking space, going outside, laughing, creating, and spontaneously creating new games/activities on their own. Facilitators ensure safety and provide support. Everyone agrees to follow our agreements (respect yourself, respect others, respect the space, respect the stuff) and to use our non-violent communication process when conflict occurs. We co-exist with deep care for each other and co-create with joy and enthusiasm.
Once a week on Tuesdays learners meet to decide if the agreements they have create for the space are working or if they need to make changes. We focus on the needs and values behind any issues and use consensus to decide on what practices we want to try as solutions.
We also meet weekly to discuss social justice issues and to plan actions for the community. We are committed to educating ourselves and working towards a more just world.
Group Clean Up 3:15
Everyone pitches in for 15 minutes toward the end of the day to clean up our space. Learners rotate through the end of day cleaning jobs and we get everything back in order and clean before we close the day.
At the end of the day our spawn groups meet again to reflect on their day and how they met, changed, or did not meet their intentions. Here we discuss any blocks that happened, areas where support was needed, as well as celebrating the awesome successes, surprises and fun that happened. We also use this time to update our kan-ban boards, portfolios/blogs.
After our spawn groups meet, learners gather up their belongings and say goodbye for the day. Pick up is by 4:00pm.