The Natural Creativity Center (NCC) is a learning center designed to incubate young people’s natural inclination to discover and create. We actively and consciously nurture the creative process according to the Self-Directed Education (SDE) model of learning.
SDE is an evidence-based educational approach defined by its “process-based” curriculum; instead of adhering to a strict, arbitrary set of lessons, we allow young people to follow their own academic interests while we carefully guide them through the process of taking an idea and making it into reality.
How does it work?
Some of us can remember having that one amazing teacher who introduced us to our most inspired and engaged selves, that rare gem of a teacher whose enthusiasm or unique way led us to discover our endless curiosity in chemistry or our unquenchable thirst to learn more about ancient history.
When the young people we love are enrolled in schools, we adults, we cross our fingers and we hope that are children are lucky enough to meet teachers like those. In self-directed education, we don’t rely on luck. We don’t even rely on teachers.
“children are naturally driven to acquire empowering knowledge and skills, mostly through play and exploration”
Instead, we trust that children are naturally driven to acquire empowering knowledge and skills, mostly through play and exploration, which mostly looks nothing like formal learning; and as adults, we partner with children to make sure they have access to information, playmates, and collaborators, and they’re free to engage with these resources completely on their own terms.
“self-directed education is unique in that it offers this one life-altering thing: personal choice”
Choice and natural connection are our focus, not curriculum and comparison. We see self-directed education as an irrefutably effective means of liberating children from disempowering spaces where their opinions, agency, and preferences are replaced by state mandated studies. There are many movements that support children and learning, but self-directed education is unique in that it offers this one life-altering thing: personal choice.
A child immersed in self-directed education may take classes or may simply connect with people in their community, or use the digital space to connect with people and with classes if they choose—the main thing is that they get to choose.
“informal or spontaneous learning is often far more effective than formal learning”
And just as they might choose to take a class or read a book, they also get to not take a class or read a book, or do anything that the adults around them associate with learning. We understand (through years of extensive research and our own observations) that learning is a continuous, lifelong process and that informal or spontaneous learning is often far more effective than formal learning.
For more clarity, here are three primary ways we observe and participate in self-directed education happening in families and communities today:
School-Free: Often referred to as “unschooling,” this philosophy is rooted in the belief that learning happens everywhere, and children are therefore never not learning. For some families, this happens inside their own home, where children follow their own interests without using a particular curriculum. For others, it can happen through travel schooling or world schooling, where traveling to new places—whether it’s new cities or countries—to play, to learn, to discover, and to simply live, is the agenda. Using all available resources—people, technology, places, books, all of it—exploration is prioritized and adults are available to support whatever children choose to pursue.
Student Centered: Mostly referenced as “Democratic Schools” or “Free Schools,” these environments offer a physical space where children enroll in the school but have significant agency over their own choices. Some children may read books and initiate group projects. Others might play outside or prefer to be alone or with one other person. All of that is allowed and respected, and there’s a structure in place to manage conflicts, to decide on tasks and goals, and to offer and receive any type of help a child might need.
Community Centered: Usually referred to as learning co-ops or resource centers, these physical spaces usually serve local communities by working to solve specific issues parents and children in that community are facing. Some community-centered spaces have a particular lens, like social justice for example, through which their support and resources are available. Others are more of an “unschooling together” space that doesn’t have the same structure as a democratic or free school, but still operates on the premise that children should be free to learn whatever they want and be supported in diving into that process.
“we trust children and we help them develop and manage their own educational paths”
As facilitators of self-directed education, our responsibility is simple: we trust children and we help them develop and manage their own educational paths. We do not decide what children should learn; we tap into the rich resources in local and digital communities and we provide a safe space for children to actively decide how to mine information to set and meet the goals that they choose for themselves.
—Akilah S. Richards, Alliance for Self-Directed Education
Where does NCC fit?
The Natural Creativity Center is somewhere between a “student centered” organization and a “community centered” organization. NCC offers a physical space for young people to pursue their interests in partnership with trained facilitators, but is not considered a “school.”
Young people attend NCC from one to four days per week as part of a home education program. Visit our photo gallery to learn more about what happens here, or our admissions section to learn how to apply.