Learning is entirely self-directed at Fairhaven. Students ages 5 to 18 decide for themselves how to spend their days. Their innate desire to play, explore, and gain competence flourishes here. People are naturally curious; just try to stop toddlers from exploring their world! When students have complete educational freedom they show the same unstoppable passion.
Students of all ages mix freely, learning from one another and from staff, gaining self-confidence and a sense of responsibility. All kinds of learning, all types of intelligence are valued. Students acquire life skills, growing emotionally, physically, and creatively as well as academically. Learning takes place in many ways: through play, school governance, conversation, classes, computer activities, reading, and the exploration of nature.
Students are equal participants in running the school. Fairhaven is a true democracy: a weekly School Meeting made up of students and staff votes on all aspects of the school’s operation, from budgeting to staffing to school rules. Interpersonal conflicts, rule breaking, and other issues of justice are resolved democratically by the Judicial Committee. People learn firsthand what it means to live in a working democracy, with the freedom and responsibility it entails.
Fairhaven opened in 1998 on a beautiful 12-acre campus with towering trees, a fossil-filled stream, and open fields, in a quiet, rural setting near the Patuxent River in east-central Prince George’s County. A second, two-story building opened in 2003 to accommodate our rapidly growing student population.
Fairhaven School models itself on the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Massachusetts, which has pioneered this philosophy of education since 1968. Graduates have an excellent record of admission to colleges and other post secondary institutions. Their self confidence, motivation, enthusiasm for life, and their ability to manage their own time and goals have opened doors for them wherever they go.
There are a growing number of Sudbury schools and start-ups around the world, in Australia, Israel, Denmark, Belgium, Japan, Canada, and the Netherlands, as well as the United States.