Kenneth Danford is the Co-founder and Executive Director at North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens in Sunderland, Massachusetts. He’s been working intensively with teenagers and their families since 1991. Ken is also the author of the book: Learning is Natural; School is Optional.

Living Against the Grain can take many paths.  Ken Danford talks about his journey from middle school U.S. History teacher to starting his own self-directed learning program.  At first, he had a negative perception of homeschooling.  He thought it was “isolationist, withdrawal oriented and selfish.”  However, he learned that it’s a great community of young people who don’t fit the traditional schooling model.

According to Ken, most human beings aspire to have interesting lives… and children are no different.  Ken would ask these important questions to parents: what do you think your kid will do once they are done with school?  Do they have the initiative to declare and pursue interests?  And how are they developing those skills and resources?

Ken explains that it is a myth that students must go to traditional high school to attend college.  He says self-directed learners are just as able to go to college as kids that do go to traditional high schools.  In fact, many young people that take classes at community college during high school are even ahead of the game if they decide to attend college.

For Ken, there’s no one size fits all approach to education.  And many young people feel a lot of depression and anxiety about their traditional education.  Homeschooling puts children in control of what they are going to learn and how they are going to learn it.

Ken says “school starts with the assumption that kids are not trustworthy.”  But, if we can stop that assumption and stop distrusting kids, this can be incredibly transformative.  When we put our faith and trust back into young people, very often they rise to the occasion.  

One tool for anyone for anyone feeling a little powerless and hopeless is to find a confidant – someone to whom they can express themselves and share thoughts with.  Often times, this makes all the difference in the world.

You can learn more about Ken, his book and his work right here.

And you can also check out North Star here.