Gastonia Freedom School started as a dream. An early childhood educator and community organizer for her whole adult life, Cassandra Byrd always wanted to open a school. Her daughter, Crystal Byrd Farmer, was an engineer who quit full time work to homeschool her autistic child. That child, Courtney, introduced them both to the power of self-directed learning.
Courtney attended ALC Mosaic in Charlotte, NC. The facilitators and children showed them how effortless learning could be when children are respected and supported. Cassandra and Crystal had a passion for their local community, and knew how difficult it was for many families in Gaston County to opt out of the public school system. They also knew that minority students and many with special needs were often dismissed out of learning in a system known as the school-to-prison pipeline.
Gastonia Freedom School has the mission of educating our most vulnerable children in an innovative, yet old-fashioned way. Self-directed learning is as natural to children as learning to walk–in fact, absent of rigid school structures, it is the natural way for children to learn. GFS takes away the stigma and shame of being a student outside of the curve and brings back the joy of discovery and exploration. These students need resources and support, but most of all, they need the freedom to learn.