All of us are learning every day. Every interaction we have with another human being or object in our environment teaches us something about the world or ourselves that we may not have known before. Participation in unlimited play allows for a free-flow of thoughts and ideas stimulating the development of higher thinking skills and creativity. Students at Diablo Valley School learn about life in many varied ways: by talking with other children and adults, by taking risks and learning new skills, by participating in a democratic community and by having the time and the space to really get to know themselves.
All of our students learn to read, write and do math when they feel that it is vital to do so. These skills develop organically, not necessarily through a planned process. We make no judgments about when students are ready to learn; those decisions are left up to the students. The school provides a setting in which knowledge is useful. For example, the written word is everywhere at the school: in books lining the walls, on rules posted for computer and kitchen equipment, and on agendas and minutes relating to the school democracy. Sooner or later, every student recognizes the usefulness of reading. All skills are learned in the same fashion.
Children are naturally curious to learn about the world and how it works. Some children are bored for a period of time, but we allow them to work through that boredom to get in touch with what they really want to do with themselves. Students without initiative eventually become bored with mind-numbing activities and seek out real interests to pursue. Once the external pressures are released, the children learn once again to trust their own judgment, and they motivate themselves to do what they need to do at any given time.
Sometimes young people, particularly those in schools relying on external motivation, do lose touch with the knowledge that the world and all its possibilities are open to them. Diablo Valley also provides an ideal environment for these students to recover their innate inspiration and self-motivation.
People evaluate themselves constantly. Students at DVS develop an internal gauge for evaluating their accomplishments. This is achieved by asking for opinions of other school members, or by simply observing the abilities of their peers. At Diablo Valley School, students set their own goals, decide how to reach those goals, and determine when the goals have been sufficiently fulfilled.
Learning to talk and walk are two of the most difficult skills any of us will take on in our entire lives, and we all, as very young children, challenged ourselves to learn those skills. Children naturally want to do the job that they began when they were born, that of growing up into adults. They challenge themselves and take risks every day, including learning the most difficult tasks, in order to get on with their job in life - growing up to be adults.
Classes are arranged by mutual consent of students and any person whom the students want to teach the class, including staff members, other students, or an outside person skilled in that discipline. Classes are held only by request of a student or group of students who wish to take a class.
If a student feels that they need expertise not present in the school community, the staff and student together will work to find an opportunity from the larger community to fulfill those needs. At times bringing in a knowledgeable person to teach a class or arranging for an apprenticeship may be appropriate.