Frequently Asked Questions

What is a democratic school?

At this school we value children as equal individuals. Every school operating decision is made by the General School Meeting and each school member has an equal vote in that decision-making process. The daily interactions of school members make up the heart of the school as we solve problems, create activities, and live our lives together.

How will my child benefit from a Highland School education?

Highland students develop confidence, independence, resourcefulness, self-motivation, and responsibility in a school community that values individual rights and the democratic process. Our students have the space and time to delve into their passions.  They learn not to be afraid to make mistakes and how to develop through reflecting on the consequences of their actions. Students develop the self-confidence to find out what they need to know even if they are exploring previously unknown topics. 


Every child’s experience at Highland is unique to that child. Students become accustomed to making choices and taking responsibility for those choices. Through pursuing their interests, students develop self-discipline as well as the skills of finding information, persisting in working toward a goal, and solving complex problems. All students at Highland experience participation in the daily interactions of a working democracy. This results in gaining critical thinking and communication skills. Students also learn to follow through on personal and social commitments. All of these experiences help children discover their strengths and continue their learning long after leaving The Highland School.

Who does well at Highland?

We believe that each child is a unique individual and each child's experience at Highland is different. Overall, a wide variety of children have done well at The Highland School. Students have come to the school with different cultural backgrounds, family structures, and past experiences. If you have specific concerns about your child's ability to be a student, please contact us.

How do children learn if not required to?

Children are born curious with needs to reach out and explore their environment. Humans are social beings who enjoy sharing their experiences with others. Some of the most important and difficult skills are learned before children are school aged. For example, walking and talking are not "required" by families, yet they are embraced by children at an early age. At The Highland School, students learn because they are interested in satisfying their own curiosity, because they want to share in social activities that involve communication skills, and because they want to develop their own abilities to accomplish things in the world.

How will my child become a responsible person?

At Highland, children are able to practice being responsible in an environment where they can make mistakes and learn from them. Children learn to become responsible by reflecting on their interactions with the people and things around them. For the process to occur, children need to be equal member of a democratic community. This process of interaction results in change and growth - both for the children and those who live and work with them. Living and learning at Highland gives children the opportunity to grow into self-reliant and responsible adults.

How are rules enforced?

Rules are primarily enforced by the knowledge that the same school members who make the rules also enforce the rules. Most rule violations are handled informally by a student or staff member reminding the rule breaker of the rule. If the reminder isn’t enough, any school member can write a complaint and involve the judicial system. The Highland School’s judicial system is created by the General School Meeting. The system follows the principles of due process and innocent until proven guilty and safeguards individual rights. 

How do you graduate?

The graduation process involves choosing a committee to help the student demonstrate to the General School Meeting that he or she is ready to be responsible in the world. There are three competency areas including life skills, the student's special area of interest, and understanding how the school works. The prosepctive graduate defends his or her thesis in front of the School Meeting. Upon completion of the process, the General School Meeting votes to award a diploma and the student graduates. Graduates of The Highland School have been accepted at a wide range of colleges and universities across the country. A few of the colleges include Miami University of Ohio, Marlboro College, Salem International University, and the University of Chicago. 

What are the advantages of starting early

Children who start at 4 years old can continue the pattern of learning that they began at birth. They usually don't have to unlearn the idea that they wouldn't learn anything if they weren't forced or enticed into it. They are better able to participate in learning and living at The Highland School.

What's it like being a Highland parent?

Choosing to send your child to Highland is both rewarding and challenging. Part of the challenge is sometimes it is difficult to explain why your child goes to a democratic school. People ask many questions of you and you may find yourself at a loss for words when trying to describe how it works. The rewarding part is when you see your child grow into a happy, responsible adult. 


After students are enrolled, many parents describe a huge change in their children's willingness to attend school. Battles over homework disappear. For day students, children get out of bed looking forward to coming to school instead of fighting with parents. Boarding families find their children eager to return to school after breaks. When students return home parents are able to see the difference in their children's growth. 


During the year we have regularly scheduled Friends of The School Meetings (FOTS) for families and school members. At FOTS meetings we discuss school related topics, including how the school works. The Highland School Hotline is our school newsletter. It contains pictures, stories, and articles about school life.  

© 2020 by The Highland School. 

The Highland School admits students of any race, color, and national or ethnic origin

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