What is the Sudbury Model of Education?

The Sudbury model is an innovative take on self-directed learning, placing the power of education directly into the hands of students.

This unique education model not only enables students to take charge of their own learning, it also promotes a sense of responsibility and trusts children to follow their innate curiosity. This leads to a more engaged and fulfilling educational experience.

By cultivating independence, critical thinking, and self-motivation in students, this model prepares them for success in an ever-changing world where adaptability and creativity are highly valued.

Founded in 1998

The First Sudbury School in Maryland

Positive learning experiences grounded in self-motivation, collaboration, and personal growth

At Fairhaven School, we’re committed to supporting students with a unique approach to private education, promoting positive educational experiences and more meaningful learning outcomes.

Our model is based on the original Sudbury school, Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, MA (est. 1968) which has paved the way for Sudbury schools in the United States, Japan, Canada, Israel, and Europe. Fairhaven School, founded in 1998, was the first Sudbury school in Maryland, now celebrating over 25 years of self-directed education.

With complete autonomy over their education, students not only learn more effectively, they also get to shape their own personal paths.

Through the Sudbury education model, students are given access to the tools they need to unlock their full potential as future leaders and changemakers, while developing a lifelong love for learning.

The Sudbury model gives students the freedom to do what they do best, and the motivation they need to excel.

giving flowers

How Does the Sudbury Model Work?

student reading on porch

Student Autonomy

Independent learning, self-awareness, and the power to excel

Unlike public schools, where the state determines the curriculum and evaluation, or non-Sudbury private schools where administrators shape each student’s educational path, Fairhaven's Sudbury model ensures students have complete control over their education.

Central to the Sudbury model is the belief that children are natural learners who thrive when given the autonomy to explore topics that interest them. Students are free to choose how they spend their time, whether it's engaging in structured activities, pursuing personal projects, or simply playing and socializing with peers.

How Students Learn

Inspiring growth, following passions

Learning is the natural result of what our students do here, through play, school governance, conversation, classes, computer activities, reading, and the exploration of nature. Every experience, whether success or failure, teaches them valuable lessons and contributes to their personal growth and development.

At Fairhaven School, we foster an environment that includes the free exchange of ideas, and conversation is nearly constant, whether in formal settings like School Meeting and various committees or in the daily interactions among the members of the school community. Because all ages mix freely, students learn across different age groups. In instances when students request instruction, the school meets their needs.

young girl baking
small boy playing basketball with the big kids

Age Mixing

Dynamic development, inclusive collaboration, and empathy

Age mixing is a key feature of the Sudbury model of education, emphasizing the importance of learning in a diverse community of individuals with varying ages, backgrounds, and experiences. In Sudbury schools, students of different ages interact freely throughout the day, blurring the traditional boundaries of age-based grade levels found in conventional education systems.

Students at Fairhaven School are given the opportunity to learn from each other and support each other’s development — all while exploring their own interests and passions.

Age mixing also promotes a sense of community and social cohesion within the school, as students form meaningful relationships across age groups. This inclusive environment encourages empathy, cooperation, and respect for diversity, preparing students for life in a diverse and interconnected world.


Confidence, personal growth, and responsibility

In the absence of formal evaluations, grades, and tests, students are encouraged to assess their own progress and growth based on their individual goals and interests. This allows them to take ownership of their learning and develop a deep understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

This self-awareness not only empowers students to set meaningful goals for themselves but also fosters a sense of responsibility and accountability for their own education.

young student smiling during studying
girls outside playing

True Democracy

Finding your voice, listening to others

At Fairhaven School, you’ll find no principal or formal hierarchy. Everyone, students and staff, has an equal voice and equal vote in every decision affecting their education and the community as a whole. Through the weekly School Meeting and committees like the Judicial Committee, standards of ethical behavior are set and enforced, and important decisions are made.

By engaging in the school's democratic process, students acquire valuable experience working with others to reach decisions. They develop skills in articulating their viewpoints on significant matters that impact their daily experiences. Through this process, students gain the understanding that their opinions hold significance and can influence the broader community.

Our Graduates

Embracing excellence, autonomy, and leadership

Students who have spent at least three years at Fairhaven School may seek a diploma, if they choose. Alumni from Fairhaven and other Sudbury schools have gone on to lead successful lives, whether they attend college, enroll in trade school, or enter the workforce.The school’s emphasis on innovation and self-motivation provides students with the best possible preparation for an ever-changing world.

Our graduates have learned how to think for themselves, how to work hard, and how to work with others. They are civic-minded, articulate, and determined to live lives that are both fun and fulfilling.

fairhaven school graduates throwing caps in the air

Come See For Yourself

Schedule a call or tour today. Enrollment is open year round.