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Alpine Valley School

Real Learning for Real Life

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Own yourself. Own your actions.

Personal responsibility is learned through practice. Here, students experience the benefits and challenges of being in charge of their own time and behavior.

Be a role model.

Every student is unique. So is the example they offer to others. Alpine Valley School affords students the opportunity to realize and model their strengths, and take pride in leading by example.

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Play a part in your community.

Students and staff are equally responsible for the well-being of the school community. Real opportunities for leadership and an equal vote create a context where students are empowered to share ownership of their environment.

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Become who you really are.

People are in a perpetual process of growth and discovery. This is true for children and adults alike. Here, students have the time and freedom to explore their interests. As a result, they discover what’s meaningful to them, and self-awareness becomes an integral part of their character.

Expect to be respected.

Students have rights. They have the right to their safety. They have the right to their time and personal space. At Alpine Valley School, a participatory justice system based on testimony and evidence protects students’ rights.

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Self-powered education.

Students at Alpine Valley School initiate and control their own education. In the school’s supportive environment, they practice the skills and habits that make them masters of lifelong learning.

Every voice matters.

A 5-year-old can contribute as much to a conversation as an 18-year-old. Here, this is the norm. People of all ages interact freely, engaging each other in their interests, activities, and conversations.

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Explore. Create. Play.

Children are born curious and creative, with a powerful drive to learn. Here, students use the tools of play, interaction, and exploration to master their environment. They grow into confident, independent adults, successful in a variety of fields.

I always thought the point of education was to learn to think for yourself.
— Robin Williams
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We believe that children deserve to be trusted. They deserve to choose how they spend their time, just as adults do. Children who practice living their own lives grow up with an unparalleled sense of safety, confidence, and responsibility.


Students at self-directed democratic schools like Alpine Valley School and others, have significant freedom. In many ways they can “do what they want” all day long. However, that freedom must be balanced with responsibility - a concept that founder and staff member Larry Welshon discusses in this engaging talk. This speech was originally given at a sister school, Glacier Lake in Montana, as part of their recent fundraising efforts, and it covers a lot of ground. Find out by what age most kids have dropped out of school, how Larry first discovered the alternative schooling movement, and more on this episode of the Alpine Valley School podcast.

Check out the show notes page for more information.


At Alpine Valley School we are often asked what a "typical day" in self-directed democratic education looks like. This video is our attempt to answer this question, along with testimonials from each of our staff members. Get a rare peek inside Colorado's first Sudbury School and see just how amazing learning can be.