True North
Self-Directed Learning Program


We believe wholeheartedly in the wholesome and age-old proven effectiveness of play-based learning; what we call plearning. During plearning times activities include - nature play, rock hopping, reading, lizard hunting, mud pie making, tree climbing, studying field guides, crafting, storytelling, acting out plays, music, ninja practice, discovery walks, plant identification, singing, sewing, spinning yarn, painting, weaving, bird watching, cloud gazing, running, dancing, swinging in a hammock, cooking projects, slackline, games......and more! The mixed aged children learn so much from each other and the facilitators share their many skills and passions with the children as well. 

"She is so happy to be around friends outside, and she especially appreciates having freedom to self direct her activities and make her own choices about how to engage, which activities to choose, etc."
-- True North Parent

True North is currently accepting applications for fall 2022.

True North Self-Directed Learning Program

September 6 through June 16

Monday - Friday

10:00a.m. - 3:00p.m.
1-5 days per week options


Mixed-ages, 4.5 to 12

For teens please inquire about our junior mentor program.

For tuition and enrollment information see the tuition and enrollment pages.


Daily rhythm

10:00am: arrival

10:15: morning meeting - intention setting for the day
10:30-12:00: plearning (playing + learning, because they are the same thing!)
12:00 - 12:30: lunch and group time
12:30 - 2:15 plearning
2:15- 3:00 snack and C.A.R.E.  circle (community, agreements, reflection, empathy)
3:00pm: pick-up


Daily themes and activities for the fall term: ​

Mondays - Nature location tba

We will be exploring Dia de los Muertos by making crafts and telling stories about our ancestors, culminating in a Dia De los Muertos festival for True North families. Spanish songs, stories and culture will be woven throughout. In November and December we will be working on creating a Maker's Market of handmade wares. 

Tuesdays - Radl Ranch

We will be gathering around the art of archery, honoring the tools of string and flexible wooden fibers, focusing to create your own bow and set of arrows followed by training in target practice. We will also be offering painting and creative jewelry making.


Wednesdays - Nature location tba

Our Wednesdays will be centered around ancestral crafts. This will include plant identification, wood carving, fiber arts, ethical harvesting, weaving, herbalism, hunting philosophy, goat walks, pottery, fire by friction and cultivating wonder.


Thursdays - Radl Ranch

Together we will be offering home and farm life ways, including woodworking, furniture making, gardening, pottery, fiber arts, felting, natural dying, cooking and large projects on the land to support the local community. Also each month we will be visited by Vicki from Sweethawk Falconry and one of her magnificent birds of prey.

Fridays - Halcon Ranch

 At Halcon Ranch we have a herd of 5 horses with another one on the way! In addition to our amazing horses and two friendly guardian dogs, we have 5 ducks who will be making their way down the hill this fall. We will teach groundwork and horsemanship lessons to the students and introduce them to herd behavior and also personal connections with the horse(s) of their choice. Riding Lessons will be available to any True North student interested in staying on the ranch from 3-5 on Friday afternoons for an added fee. (We will have occasional opportunities to ride throughout the year, however this fall we are looking forward to introducing horses, teaching horsemanship and groundwork. We have found that solid skills with the horse in an unmounted setting always parlay into a very solid connection between horse and rider once the student is in the saddle.) Leatherworking, hanging out in the tree fort,  gardening and other fun ranch improvement projects will give us plenty of plearning opportunities. 

"One of my favorite comments from my daughter when asked how her day went at TrueNorth was: 'Oh Mom, I had so much fun! There's so much to explore in the creek and the woods with my friends. It's SO delicious outside!'"

-- True North Parent


Program philosophy:

Our Core Program is the heartbeat of True North where we get the
opportunity to live and learn by recreating the village in the beautiful
outdoor areas of Santa Barbara.  


In a village setting children would learn how to relate to the world (and each other) and what tools were necessary for survival by watching older peers and adults.  Children would practice, copy, and explore what they saw on their own.
Older children and adults were there to offer guidance, ensure safety, and assist with the development of new skills and learnings.  

At True North, we know we can not fully recreate the village.  But, we
can borrow what was useful, skillful, and vital about village living.
Intergenerational support, modeling, guidance, skill-building, and
communication skills are are directly transferable to our modern


Whereas the conventional school system prioritizes the three
R's, TN prioritizes personal agency, relationship-building,
communication skills, and a sense of place and belonging.  We feel that
if a child or youth feels healthy in these ways, that they can learn
anything they want to.

To help recreate a village dynamic  we have consciously chosen to structure the program with adult facilitators, young adult assistant facilitators, and
junior mentors.  We encourage mixed age learning for our participants through daily, active social engagement where older children can teach, healthily challenge, and model for younger children; and younger children can learn and also teach the older participants about being patient, slowing down, and listening.


We base our understanding of the rich landscape of "village" learning
from robust models such as Sudbury Valley Schools, Open Schools, Agile
Learning Centers, and Unschooling communities.  And, having opened our
proverbial doors in September 2020, we are just at the beginning of our
journey of gathering our community, creating our home space, and
defining our culture.

"Most days I run around fast.. I sing and I play... but today I decided to be quiet and still. It was pretty cool because I was so peaceful that I could actually hear my own thoughts in my head."

--6 year old TN learner