Ken Danford

Kenneth Danford – School is Optional

Kenneth Danford is the Co-founder and Executive Director atNorth Star: Self- Directed Learning for Teens in Sunderland, Massachusetts. He has been working intensively with teenagers and their families since 1991. He is the founding Board Member of Liberated Learners through which he consult with others interested in the North Star model. He was a middle school social studies teacher in Prince George’s County, Maryland, then in Amherst, Massachusetts, left to found North Star. He had a Masters in Social Studies from Brown University and lives in Montague, Massachusetts, with family. Lastly, he is the author of “Learning is Natural; School is Optional,” book.

Key Takeaways:

00:00:13 The change in Learning Experience and how it all started.

09:01 The Little Clubhouse as an Alternative Way to Live for Learners.

14:58 Recognize the Terror and Hardship as a way to face Frustrated Afraid Parents.

20:06 North Star and Liberated Learners Experience Outside of United States

28:08 Get to Know the Forming Community of the North Star: The Staffs.

31:04 Broader Perspective on Liberated Learners.

40:12 Three Different Stories with One Great Mission of Letting Kids Be.

46:47 Managing Distraction Among Kids.

51:37 Dealing with Parents’ Frustration and Disillusioned Lack of Progress on their Kids.

1:03:50 North Star accepting Distance Members.

1:05:34 The Metaphor that represents the learning model of North Star and Liberated Learning Centers.


“We don’t make everybody do a little bit of everything every day.”

“The North Star approach offers teens a headstart on life. When I say school is optional, school is optional for learning and school is optional for a credential. “

“Everything I’m saying hinges on the concept that there is an alternative to traditional high school that is functional to go to university or to be included into the, you know, Professional World.”

“When I say school is optional, for me, it has all the tension and emotion of like summer camp is optional. “

“Kids could go to school and like it or not like it. It’s going to be okay and it’s not going to define their lives. “

“ We believe that kids can do okay just fine, without school, the same way they do just fine, after school or during the summers.”

“Things have to be resolved and not lived with a lot of times. Some things can be lived with, but a lot of things can’t.”

“They get to a point where they want to just know that they’re doing the thing they’re doing for themselves of their own free will and not out of fear or pressure from their parents.”

“Don’t compare what your kid is doing to some idealized homeschooling life. Let’s compare what your kid is doing in their weekly routine right now, to what it would be most likely going on for them.”

Social Links:

Kenneth Danford

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Liberated Learner –

Learning is Natural, School is Optional.: The North Star approach to offering teens a head start on life Book