Child Initiated Education

At Play Mountain Place, the learning process is child initiated. Children have control over the direction of their education and are at the center of their own learning process. Learning is bound to a child’s interest, and organically generated from that interest. Curriculum offerings by teachers are primarily “hands on,” experiential and developmentally appropriate for each age group. Our program is rich with opportunities, both child-initiated and teacher-offered, but all are choices, and no curriculum plans are compulsory.

This type of education preserves the desire to learn and helps children gain experience in finding their way to the information they need. When interest and experience meet information, the knowledge children gain is deep and lasting. Through their active engagement in their own interests, children learn skills and concepts and master the process of learning.

Much like Britain’s Summerhill School, children can choose from both student led activities and teacher-offered curriculum without being required to participate in either. A child’s inner pace of both cognitive and social emotional development is honored. Trust is given to his or her choices. Children are not pressured — whether it is about transitioning out of diapers, sharing a toy or learning to read. By allowing a wide range of choices and behaviors, experiential learning is fostered.

Phyllis Fleishman, Carl Rogers and A.S. Neill believed in what Rogers called “experiential learning” – the act of playing and doing. Rogers felt that by addressing the needs and wants of the learner, a student’s self-conscious control over initiating, planning, organizing and carrying out activities is encouraged. To this end, Play Mountain cultivates education as a process, not a product. Skills development (verbal communication, reading, writing, math, science, arts, etc.) become the child’s desired means to further learning, not an end to themselves. The school strives not to impose adult educational expectations on children or to demand that they acquire skills at a certain rate. In addition, since we do not want children to associate learning with coercion, anxiety or boring rote, we do not use rewards, punishments, grades or tests.

These education principles are not born of blind faith in our humanistic philosophy or in theoretical understandings of educators. Over sixty years of experience has shown us that they work.

Children at Play Mountain learn far more than the “Three R’s.” They learn to live fully and joyfully in the world, with a deep understanding of who they are, what they are interested in, and a profound respect for others. Students here are creative, self-motivated problem-solvers with an abiding curiosity about the world and, they become equipped with all the tools they will need for a lifetime of continued learning.

See some real life examples of our curriculum in action in our articles section.