Frequently Asked Questions
What does a typical day at Little Lake look like?
At LLLC there are no mandatory classes or activities. Students have total autonomy on what they choose to do on any given day. As a result of this emphasis on self-direction, at any given moment at little lake there is a wide variety of activities engaging students.
Students arrive at 8:30 in the morning and often quickly immerse themselves in an activity that interests them. Staff are available to help students with any idea or project at their request. Student-initiated classes are held (sometimes at regularly scheduled times, other times randomly when inspiration strikes) throughout the day. There is no set lunch period; students are encouraged to eat when their body needs it instead of at a prescribed time. (However staff is always happy accommodate a regular lunchtime for a particular student if it is their need.)
Unlike traditional schooling environments, Little Lake students are not split up into classrooms based on based on age. Instead, spaces are prioritized for different kinds of activities. Students have access to a large common space as well as a several smaller rooms where classes and activities are often organized. Additionally, there is a large outdoor space including a forest area and play structure that children are welcome to explore. Students have the opportunity to spend their time with other students across a range of ages.
How are decisions made? What rules are there?
Decisions about all day-to-day activity and operations are made using a consensus process in All School Meetings. Any community member, including parents and volunteers, are welcome to attend or call an ASM, but they are typically composed of students and staff. An ASM can be called whenever a decision needs to be made or a problem needs solving that requires the attention of the whole school. There are lots of things are discussed in ASMs, but the most frequent kinds of agenda items are:
-Proposal of a new Community Agreement (rule)
-Field trip proposal
-Announce a class or inquire to the community’s interest in a certain class
-Request to use some of the allocated budget to buy materials for a project
-Resolving of a conflict that couldn’t be solved one-on-one or with a mediator
Any community member may make a proposal to the group and after any clarifying questions are asked, the proposal is voted on using a “fist to five” consensus process. “Fist to five” consensus is where everyone holds up their hand with anywhere from 5 fingers up to a closed fist to show their vote.
5 fingers means that someone is 100% in favor of the proposal
3 fingers indicates indifference
1 finger indicates that someone really doesn’t like the proposal, but will let it pass if it is what the rest of the community wants.
A fist means that someone thinks this proposal is bad for the community as a whole and blocks the proposal from passing entirely.
After the vote, anyone with a 2, 1, or a fist voices their concerns with the proposal and the person proposing then has the space to try to amend the proposal to better meet the community’s needs and call for a revote.
What is the role of the staff at LLLC?
The role of staff is to be available to students when they express a need or interest. Staff presence to help students at their request to help facilitate their learning. Staff may help in many ways, such as: driving students to and from destinations of interest, helping to acquire resources and materials, sharing conversation, leading classes, playing games, answering questions, and much more.
What can students do at the Little Lake Learning Community?
Students can be indoors or outdoors. Materials available include art and craft items, building supplies, games, musical instruments, books, writing materials, computers, outdoor game equipment, and more. What students learn, discover and create will be their decision.
How do students learn things like reading, writing and math? Are there classes to teach these things?
We have a wealth of learning materials and resources that can accommodate a variety of learning styles that students always have access to. When a student expresses interest in intentionally learning a skill or subject, they have a lot of different options to make that a reality. It often depends on the specific needs of the student, but some of the ways learning manifests at little lake are:
-Working individually with a staff member (sometimes maintaining a regular schedule, but other times asking for the attention of staff whenever they feel the excited and inspired to learn something new.)
-Working individually with the resources available. We utilize all sorts of mediums for learning at LLLC. Many students enjoy reading books to find information, some enjoy watching informational videos or listening to podcasts. We also have access to all sorts of learning-based software that includes math lessons, reading/writing skills and foreign languages. Additionally, upon student request, we take trips to the library to check out more resources.
-Proposing a regular class on any given subject to the entire school. Students as well as staff can teach/facilitate these classes. The content covered in the class is based in the interests of those who attend.
-Asking another student to teach them about a certain thing.
-Inviting a volunteer from outside the immediate community to come in and share specific knowledge. We have a growing network of folks with different skillsets who are willing to come in and share.
-Putting together an off-campus apprenticeship
What if a student wants to do nothing all day?
It is common for students who switch from a controlled schooling environment to an unbounded learning environment to go through a period of “deschooling,” which often looks like doing nothing. After some time of this, students will often ask, “What do I do now?” This is a sign that they are ready to get more focused about their learning. It is the role of the staff to be patient and wait for that sign, and then be ready help facilitate the student in following their own instincts. Staff also works to make students aware of all of the opportunities at Little Lake without forcing them to participate in anything they don’t want to do.
What if a student wants to play all day?
We recognize play as an educationally valuable activity. In fact, a lot of the learning that happens at Little Lake happens through play. In play, students practice all sorts of skills from communication and problem-solving, to math, reading, and writing (often making game-related signs and notes)
What If students get bored?
Sometimes they will! When a student expresses to a staff member that they are feeling bored, staff are always happy give suggestions about how a student may spend their time, but it is ultimately up to the student. However, unlike traditional schooling environments where boredom is usually rooted in feeling disengaged with what someone else is making you do, when boredom arises at Little Lake, it offers an opportunity for students to figure out for themselves what they find engaging.
What if a student needs routine to thrive? Wouldn’t a freeform day will leave them feeling ungrounded?
One thing that’s nice about the freeform environment is that it leaves space for every student to use their time in a way that works best for them. If a student knows that they find routine really helpful to accomplish their goals, they can make a routine customized to their interests that they can stick to. Staff members are always willing to help students develop a routine, and can help keep them accountable to whatever schedule they decide on, but staff will not impose any routine onto a student.
Are there field trips?
Yes! Field trips are usually student-initiated, however, any community member and propose one at an all school meeting. Trips are not planned for students, they participate in the logistical process of planning when we go, how we get there and even the budgeting involved.
What is the LLLC’s policy about aggression/bullying?
One thing that Little Lake is proud of as a community is that we have been pretty successful at fostering an environment where issues of bullying and aggression rarely arise in the first place. However, if these situations arise, we recognize that aggression and bullying are complex issues that are often connected or even rooted in the ways that systems of power and privilege play out in the world around us. Students are never punished for behavior. We treat conflict as an opportunity for students to learn/practice how to communicate with one another effectively and solve problems. Instead of deferring immediately to a staff person, we encourage students to work to resolve conflicts by communicating with each other first, then with a neutral mediator (who can be either another student or a staff member.) If a mediation is not effective, or if someone is repeatedly hurting someone else, we can call an ASM, and in a process of community accountability, we as an entire school will try to identify the root of whatever the conflict is, and from there, brainstorm as a group with how to solve it in a way makes those involved feel validated and heard. The staff and students are trained in non-violent communication skills and each conflict that arises presents another opportunity to practice those skills.