Frequently asked questions
De Ruimte is not like any ordinary school. At De Ruimte we give children space to develop their own intrinsic path of learning. It is only natural that this raises a lot of questions. We will try to answer the most frequently asked questions. Do you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
In what way does democratic education differ from regular education?
What makes this school unique, is that there is no binding top-down curriculum (coming from the government). Our educational concept puts its faith in the autonomous, self-directed development of the student, based on equality, liberty and mutual respect. This inspires self esteem and makes it possible for the natural development drive to arise.
Decisions concerning the school are taken in the sociocratic School Meeting and its sub-circles, in which students and staff members have an equal vote.
What do children learn here?
Children are naturally programmed to learn! Students at De Ruimte decide for themselves how, when and with whom they spend their time at school, what passions they pursue and how they prepare for adult life. Learning can take place by attending classes, but the same time there is ample space to learn in (other) ways that personally suit you, like self study, online research, playing games, internships, starting projects, visit musea, performances and conferences, travel or just talking to people. Talking a lot, to many people, and listening to each other’s wisdom, discoveries and experiences.
Is this democratic school an official school under national law?
Yes, this school is officially registered as a school under national law for primary as well as secondary education. De Ruimte is considered a B3 school (private education) and is subject to a specific assessment framework that was developed in cooperation with the inspection. This has resulted in the freedom to carry through transformations without a lot of restrictions from the law. We are not being funded by the government, because for now this is the only way to preserve the liberty we have, and to continue evolving.
Our school is being inspected regularly by the Ministry of Education. The reports on their findings are public. Check here:
Is De Ruimte advantageous to any child?
In principle: yes, De Ruimte serves any child that can carry responsibility on its own level. It is not to be denied though, that one does need a certain level of empathetic skills to really make the school work, because all decide together on how the school is being run. One needs to be able to see what the effect is of one’s own actions on other people’s life, to be able to find solutions that serve everyone.
Beside that the school may no be suitable for every parent, for the reason that we trust in the natural development of children and for some parents this may be too liberal or too far out of their comfort zone. If we use the words liberal or free, we do not mean non-committal. To better understand the depth of this choice we offer parents a deschooling course during the trial period, which will help them understand better what this life of learning at De Ruimte means.
If parents do not support the vision of the school, the child will be torn between two different messages. Experience has taught us that a child under those conditions will not evolve as well as it could and finding a different school might be better.
Do children not always choose the easy way out?
In general children really enjoy their own development. They use every bit of freedom to decide on their own actions. We see every day the intensity of the choices they make to shape their lives. One may play games all day, trying to learn how to take a loss, and how to win. The next decides on committing herself to a serie of math classes. A third experiments with handling his anger or bossiness, and another finds his own way to learn his numbers. Discipline and perseverance arise when the goal comes from within.
Does this concept not inspire self-centeredness?
On the contrary. At school there is always time and space to solve difficult situations together. We are not stuck to a curriculum-driven schedule. Most of the time when a problem arises that needs instant solving, people can make time to help each other. Because of this space in time children learn to take the time to listen to themselves and the other. So the opposite is true: this approach teaches children compassion without putting themselves aside.
Is anything mandatory at De Ruimte?
“We must do this” has two meanings. On the one hand it can mean something is mandatory, on the other hand it can refer to things that just have to be done to be able to move forward. Children at our school must do things as a consequence of the choices they make. If you have been cooking, you must clean the kitchen. If you make a deal with a teacher that he is going to teach you, you must be there when classes start. There is a logic in all this. If you have wishes, you have to connect with your environment to make it happen. This is ongoing. And in this connection things need to be done. In this way things ‘must’ be done every day at De Ruimte. Also part of that, is the mutual care for cleaning and running the school; administrative chores, roles in circles like chairing or making minutes, handling finances or reception work. De Ruimte is a shared mini society with chores and roles for every student and staff member.
For more information see: A day at school(chapter Chores).
Does the school offer enough structure for my child?
The fact that the school provides, that you can do what you think is important, does not mean that you can just do whatever you like. Freedom at our school does absolutely not mean that there are no boundaries. There are rules and structures we decide on together. School must be a good place for everybody involved. This means that you have to be considerate. If someone is opposed to something you want to do, then you have to find a arrangement in which all parties can move forward. Agreements and rules are made together.
Sometimes people confuse structure with control. Although it does not look like it at first sight, our school is loaded with structure. All agreements that we make in the School Meeting are registered and easy to find for everyone. Beside that there are also other ways of structure, for instance daily circles, classes and other schedules. Everyday students run the lunch cafe; other students take care of the animals. Some have their agenda filled with classes, others find their own creative ways to structure time. That is the structure of our school.
What if a child does not want to learn to read or do their numbers?
There is a natural drive in children in wanting to be able to take part in whatever is happening around them. For that reason children want to learn to read and understand numbers. At De Ruimte a lot of children learn reading and numbers spontaneously. Right where there is fun and playfulness, like in reading comics or while playing games. A lot of the reading and calculating skills are trained invisibly. All of a sudden they master it and want to take it further. Sometimes they get stuck and ask a teacher for support to be able to move forward. Sometimes they like the classes so much that they go there whenever they can. How, when, with whom and how fast they learn is accommodated to each individual style of learning. And of course there are always teachers at hand for lessons and to support self study.
What do you do for children with special (learning) needs?
We find that a lot of ‘learning problems’ are propelled by pressure from the outside world, for instance if the environment does not meet the needs of the child and it can not learn in a way that fits its personal preferences. Years of experience show that a lot of the learning disabilities that children might have, do not come up in a situation where children are free to make their own decisions. So our focus is on the inner drive and abilities of the child. If we notice a child still does not manage to ptogress or change restrictive behavior, then, in consult with child and parents, we will look what extra help and support still can be found.
Does the school really prepare for society?
Daily life at school is very similar to life in society. It is a group of mixed people; different ages, different backgrounds and different interests. In society you are free to make your own choices, including bearing the consequences of those choices. You also have a vote and you are co-builder of your environment. Likewise in our school.
Our school is part of this society. It is a place where children are supported to discover and shape their (social) environment.
We think that by treating each other with respect, we can make the world a better place.
Why do we have to pay school fees?
De Ruimte is not funded by the government. State schools get 10.000 euro per annum per child. We have made a conscious choice not to apply for government funding, because this would mean that we would have to start running our school like a regular school.