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fixing a bike Students can ask a staff member or another student for help.

two students make a business deal Negotiating and keeping agreements are part of everyday life.

JC clerks Judicial Committee clerks check the law book.

three students drawing together outside Students can learn by interacting with or observing other students.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a typical day like at your school?

It is difficult to describe a typical day because no day is like any other. On any given day students may be involved in many different types of activities: reading a book, playing chase outside, taking a class, doing an art project, talking with other students and staff, playing video games, playing a musical instrument, running corporation meetings, going on field trips, playing games, building with blocks, attending Judicial Committee, voting on issues in School Meeting or going out for lunch. Mostly, to outsiders, a typical day looks like kids playing or hanging out. But, what is going on for our students is real life.

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What kind of child thrives the school?

A wide variety of children flourish at Diablo Valley School. The physically active child can move freely. Academically gifted and creative children can delve into their interests as deeply as they wish. The verbal or social child can befriend and converse with people of all ages. The quiet child can join in at her own pace. The individualistic child can be respected for who he is. Our graduates have said that the diversity of our school community was one of the most valuable aspects of their Diablo Valley School education..

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What resources are available for the students?

We have books, computers, art supplies, sporting equipment, a kitchen, a sewing machine, toys, games and science equipment. The students and staff organize to buy or have donated any materials or physical resources that they want or need. We have the staff and the students as human resources.

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How do they know their choices?

In today's world, we are all constantly bombarded with possibilities of how we may use our time and things to learn about. Children live in this world as well, and have no trouble at all figuring out what they could choose to spend their time doing. The hard part is narrowing their choices down so that they can choose what they want to spend their time doing at any given time. All activities are accorded equal validity in the school community. As long as the activity does not infringe on the rights of others to pursue their own activities or break other school rules, it is allowed to happen for as long or as short a time as the student desires.

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Are you similar to a Montessori or Waldorf school?

Like the Montessori approach, we believe that children are naturally curious and don't need to be forced to learn. At DVS children are allowed freedom to make decisions about what interests them and to set their own pace. Unlike Montessori, where children choose between options presented by the teacher, at DVS children self-select choices from the full array of activities life presents and determine their own sequence of learning. The child's interest is the only criterion for engaging in any activity, and satisfaction is the only evaluation of success.

Like Waldorf schools, we are not only interested in academic success, but in the happiness and full human potential of each individual. We do not push early academic activity, and we value play as crucial to children's development. Unlike the Waldorf model, we do not promote any specific curriculum or path of intellectual and spiritual growth. At DVS, we respond to each student's individual, self-determined needs and trust children to recognize and pursue their own agenda, make their own mistakes, work through their own problems, and come to their own solutions. The staff's role is to help, when the student feels that it is needed, but without the attitude that adults know best.

How does the school make sure students become well rounded?

We don't. Some of the most brilliant people in the fields of science, medicine, the arts and business are very focused on their field of specialty and don’t require in-depth knowledge in a wide variety of topics. Exploration of many different subjects is allowed in our school without the constraints of time. When a strong interest is discovered by a student, it may be pursued for a week, a month or all year long. Many students move from one interest to the next and over time return to the initial interest to deepen their knowledge.

Our students learn how to concentrate intensely on whatever their passion is, and are given the freedom to pursue that passion for as long or as short a time as they want. Some students simply "play" all day. But, we recognize that through play, children are learning about their world and about how they will relate to their world as young people and as adults. We don't believe that every student needs to be exposed to or taught the same things. Each student is an individual, and the school and staff don't presume to know what or how it is best for the students to learn.

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But if I let them, won't my kids just play all day?

At Diablo Valley School, we have great respect for play. We don't try to modify it, interfere with it, or quantify it. Play, in all its varied forms, is the work of young people. We do not see play as the opposite of learning, but as children's main educational mode. It is through play that students learn to concentrate, imagine, and communicate; through play that they learn what their aptitudes and affinities are; and through play that they acquire skills they need to be successful.

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What do the staff do?

First and foremost, staff members provide a model of strong, successful, and caring adults. The staff fill essential administrative roles at the school. Staff are available to assist or teach a variety of skills and subjects when requested by students. Like all members of the school community, staff have a responsibility to maintain a safe environment at the school.

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How do the different age groups mix?

Wonderfully. More often than not, when young children need to learn a particular skill - physical, social or otherwise - they best learn that skill from someone who is just slightly older than they are. This is because the older child has probably recently mastered the skill being taught, and thus easily remembers what it was like to learn it, making the older child the ideal teacher. Older students have an opportunity to develop skills similar to mentoring or parenting and to experience the freedom to play in a safe environment free from judgment. The younger children learn many skills from the older ones, and the older ones are reminded how to play and see the world anew from the younger ones as well.

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Are there cliques or bullying at the school?

It would be highly unusual for a student at Diablo Valley School to be mistreated because of appearance, interests or personal traits. At Diablo Valley School, there is no competition for grades, teacher approval, cliques or position in a hierarchy. Instead, the atmosphere is one of cooperation and mutual respect for each individual.

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What about the child diagnosed with ADD or ADHD?

At conventional schools, active students get into trouble for making noise, running around, and being physical. At Diablo Valley School, our students have the time and space to do all types of activities, including physically active ones.

We have fairly strong proof from Sudbury Valley School's more than 40 years of enrolling students labeled with all sorts of learning disabilities that many of these disabilities tend to "disappear" without the coercive nature of regular school. When students are not forced to sit at desks for hours at a time, or forced to participate in activities and lessons about which they may have absolutely no interest, or told when they can eat, etc. ADD tends to not be a relevant diagnosis anymore. These students flourish in an environment where they set their own agenda and take responsibility for using their time the way they see fit.

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How do they get a job or get into college?

Our students may choose several paths to get into college or the workforce, depending on what their personal goals are upon graduation.

Some students begin working before they graduate. A valuable employee is someone who is capable of learning a new skill and being responsible on the job. Our students develop these attributes naturally by attending our school.

If college is the goal, students may need to take the SAT exams in order to apply. Staff are available to support students in preparing for these exams and with the college application process. Some students explore the college academic experience by taking community college courses while concurrently enrolled at DVS. To date, our students applying to college have thoughtfully selected schools that fit their personal goals and have been accepted.

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