Author Topic: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?  (Read 2293 times)

RonjaHeidi

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Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« on: August 02, 2017, 06:42:02 PM »
I'm enamored with the idea of self-directed education as practiced in Sudbury Schools. Anyone else heard of this? There are two in Colorado, one in Chicago area, a few in New York, New Jersey, Texas, and in several countries overseas, all based on the original Sudbury Valley School (http://www.sudval.org/) in Massachusetts, est. 1968.

Here's what it's like:
It's a democratic school where each student and staff member have an equal vote at the weekly school meetings, where decisions are made about rules, sometimes disciplinary action, spending, electing leadership, even staff. There's a second governing body that also includes parents, board of trustees, some community members (I think) that meets less often (like twice a year?) which gives final approval to budget and hiring and other business.

All the rules, which are 100% made by the School Meeting, are enforced by the Judicial Committee, which meets daily and is made up of an elected student chair and mixture of student ages (drawn randomly) and one adult staff member, rotating daily. So, like a court to hear written complaints and give sentences, which tend to make amends for the broken rule.

The students range in age from k-18. They show up at school, sign themselves in, and simply do whatever they choose (within the parameters of the many rules, geared toward protecting the institution and each individual's freedom) ALL. DAY. LONG. They play, they learn, they follow their interests, they socialize a lot, they do what they need to do. This is what I never even knew I could want from education. Now that I know about it, I want it for my two young kids. It costs money, but less than any other private ed. It actually COSTS less than public school spends per pupil.

So I see a connection between my excitement about this and my love of MMM. Anyone else? It's like bringing a retired mindset to childhood. It both allows children to simply be children and simultaneously allows them to be as grown up as they can/want to be. They have an actual legitimate vote in the school from the earliest age and are expected to make responsible choices (while still being expected and allowed to make mistakes).

Okay, so it places a high value on personal freedom, fosters self-responsibility, gives the space and time for kids to experiment and take risks to learn time management and balance... there's so much more I can say, but I'm looking for some feedback. Do ANY of you mustachians dig the format?

Dusty Dog Ranch

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Re: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2017, 11:18:27 PM »
My former next door neighbor is a founder of the Seattle-area one, called Clearwater. I've worked with lots and lots of kids, mainly in public schools. What I noticed about my neighbor's kids and their friends was the incredible creativity of their play when they were younger, and the self confidence and self awareness they showed as they got older. Their eldest wasn't really into reading until he was about 7, and then he got tired of how slow the reading aloud was going while they were reading harry potter and suddenly it all seemed to click in his brain and boom, he was reading. I do think the lack of structure is not right for all kids, but the current structure of public school/mainstream pedagogy leaves a lot to be desired too.

koshtra

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Re: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2017, 11:28:15 PM »
I went to a school like that for a couple years (not technically Sudbury, in fact I think we may have predated Sudbury, but a similar Summerhill-inspired place.) It basically saved my life. I'm eternally grateful for it.

Such schools tend to be short-lived, though, and they can be really unhappy places when they're coming apart. I'd want to spend as much time as I could observing and talking to folks and understanding their finances & governance before I put my kids in one. When they're good they're wonderful. When they're bad they can be awful.

FinallyAwake

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Re: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2017, 04:51:28 PM »
I do love the idea.  If I was near one, I would definitely investigate.

Having said that, it appears to basically be unschooling at a formal level.  You could probably achieve similar results at home. 

We homeschool, and I absolutely love the idea of unschooling, but I just can't get past my own personal desire for measured results.  And math...lots of formal math.  So we do a more relaxed homeschooling approach: some child-led, some mom-imposed. 

Have you read any of John Taylor Gatto's work?  Specifically Dumbing Us Down

RonjaHeidi

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Re: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2017, 09:11:52 PM »
I haven't read Gatto yet, but I like John Holt's Teach Your Own, which got me much more comfortable with unschooling, which I was already leaning toward. My kids are only 2 and 5, so my first step here is simply to not put the 5 in kindergarten and keep doing what we're doing, just living and learning and being curious and supportive and social. I also love Grace Llewellyn's Teenage Liberation Handbook! So, those books really spoke to deep values in me and have made me more comfortable with the concept of self-directed education.

People have actually sometimes called Sudbury schools "unschooling schools" which is kinda like an oxymoron wrapped in misnomers! ;P But it does make sense to me because at the heart of it is self-direction and the whole democracy thing serves to maintain and protect the institution which gives the students resources and community.

I find my kids to be more extroverted than me, and I feel like they are ever hungry for more social play. We are not at all hermits, either. What would be truly amazing for them would be to run around in freedom with peers for as long as they could stand every day. I just know that there is a reason they crave to be with friends all day- because that is what they need to learn and grow.

Oh the book that got me into the Sudbury schools is Free To Learn by Peter Gray. He describes what we know about hunter-gatherer cultures, that the youth basically played together in mixed age groups from dawn to dusk, but like tiger cubs, their play was all about learning and practice and trial and error and developing muscles and agility.... you know, the stuff they were compelled to do was their school, because that was what they needed to do to become part of their society and they wanted nothing more passionately.

So we will be unschooling, but I'm trying to have conversations about the Sudbury idea in hopes that it will catch on...
Thanks for replying!

RonjaHeidi

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Re: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2017, 09:23:47 PM »
Dusty Dog Ranch, I agree that it wouldn't work for everyone. The students are expected to take responsibility for their own education and that is a lot to ask, especially of someone who has been trained up to think of it as the school's responsibility to educate them.

Koshtra, that is really cool to hear. Do tell more, if you're interested in sharing. I imagine it would have been a saving grace for me. Just the idea of being respected enough to follow my own interests and not even worry about all the bs that was required of me. Thanks for the advice, too. I'm working my way through the vast literature the Sudbury Valley School has put out and would love to find out more about the pitfalls.

RonjaHeidi

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Re: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2017, 09:30:04 PM »
Dusty Dog Ranch, I forgot to say- I love the story about the 7 year old clicking with reading, because that is exactly how it was with my younger bro and a few other 7 year old boys I've known well! What a lot of stress we could save if we could trust them to pick it up when they're ready.

jooniFLORisploo

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Re: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2017, 09:56:42 PM »
I explored one for my kid.

I'm a huge fan of unschooling (which is what we do), but had countless concerns about the SS-type space we looked into.

I would visit one you're considering, spend some hours, attend at least two of their meetings, and then decide. Through that process, I got all the info I needed...to decide not to put my kid at that particular one. (Chaos, several children hiding under furniture in an attempt to get away from the excess noise and motion, small children wandering well off the property into unsafe areas with the staff completely unaware of this, etc.)
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koshtra

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Re: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2017, 10:26:19 PM »
Oh, I could talk about it a long time :-) what sorts of things would you like to know?

It was called The New School, in (of all places!) Spokane, Washington. In my time it was in a big old 3 story house and had about forty students. Some eight of us were boarding students: we lived on the third floor, 2 to a room. There were maybe a dozen "little kids" -- elementary age -- and the rest were middle & high school age. I was 13 when I showed up there, and graduated at 15. (To graduate you only needed to fulfill Washington State requirements, which were surprisingly scanty. We wrote up our own transcripts. So I was launched in the world by the time I was sixteen.)

Basically, you were required to show up for community meeting, 9:00 Monday morning, and that was the only thing anyone required of you. It was seriously democratic: we tried hard to reach consensus on things, and I felt my voice was taken as seriously as anybody's.

Oh my God they let me read! No more hiding science fiction books in my textbooks, as I used to do in my middle school, and read under the desk. No, I could just read and read, and I read some good literature and history along the way.

We were bored sometimes: but most of us realized that it was our own fault if we were, and we got the habit of doing stuff, starting projects, inventing games. I got over "I'm bored it must be someone else's fault" my first year there, and really I don't know if I've ever been bored since.

I wish there had been more classes. There were only maybe a class or two per day, and we mostly went to them: they were really fun. I would have been happy to do math, but nobody was really teaching it -- one thing I was to miss. When I went to get a computer science degree, in my 30s, I hadn't taken a math class since 8th grade. But I spent a summer feverishly catching up through pre-calculus, making up a supposed four years' deficit. The self-reliance and self-motivation was worth a lot more than steady math classes would have been.

Peony

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Re: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2017, 10:54:30 PM »
There's one near me in upstate NY. We checked it out and did a visiting day. Older kid disliked it, younger kid liked it and we signed him up but he got himself suspended pretty quickly (he was about 7 and in a difficult phase that later resolved itself) and we withdrew to homeschool instead for a couple years. We have friends for whom it was a great option. In our area kids who graduate from Sudbury still have to get a GED or work something out with community college classes if they want to go to a SUNY college afterward.

2Cent

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Re: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2017, 08:36:02 AM »
Dusty Dog Ranch, I agree that it wouldn't work for everyone. The students are expected to take responsibility for their own education and that is a lot to ask, especially of someone who has been trained up to think of it as the school's responsibility to educate them.
I went to a Montessori school, which is more or less the same idea. The main problem that I saw there was that the kids where not required to do things, so they would avoid the things they struggle with. Also planning and organizing your work is not learned because no work is assigned. It can be pretty great, but make sure you address these things.

By the way. Recommended movie on the topic of radical unschooling: Captain Fantastic.

LadyStache in Baja

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Re: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2017, 08:49:38 AM »
I explored one for my kid.

I'm a huge fan of unschooling (which is what we do), but had countless concerns about the SS-type space we looked into.



Jooniper! I'm unschooling my kids as well, cool to see another one out there. OP, unschooling has a similar philosophy, if you're able to homeschool, look into unschooling and it could be a cheaper option.
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acroy

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Re: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2017, 09:22:26 AM »
Sorry to throw cold water but.....
'unschooling' is dangerous. The kids fail to learn discipline, fortitude, perseverance, etc. Those attributes don't come easily or for free; they have to be learned, practiced. If this never happens, the kid grows into an immature non-adult.
 
Kids are awesome. They can be fast learners, insightful, creative, etc. but good judgement? innate value of hard work? no. These things must be learned. Our job as adults is to guide them the right way. Please don't do them the disservice of denying them disciple and structure.
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jooniFLORisploo

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Re: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2017, 09:46:58 AM »
acroy, my child is 12 and developmentally disabled...and proving all of that to be untrue!

I imagine some people thrive with structure, external whip cracking, etc. Some of us are the opposite, though. The kids I've seen turn out in the danger you speak of went to school.
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LadyStache in Baja

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Re: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2017, 10:24:31 AM »
Sorry to throw cold water but.....
'unschooling' is dangerous. The kids fail to learn discipline, fortitude, perseverance, etc. Those attributes don't come easily or for free; they have to be learned, practiced. If this never happens, the kid grows into an immature non-adult.
 
Kids are awesome. They can be fast learners, insightful, creative, etc. but good judgement? innate value of hard work? no. These things must be learned. Our job as adults is to guide them the right way. Please don't do them the disservice of denying them disciple and structure.

No worries, acroy! Unschooling is just a word. A word with a huge variety of what it looks like in practice. It can mean so many different things to different people.

In our house, it just means that I look at my kids as people, and take their desires seriously. They don't always get what they want, but I try to have an open mind.

In our house, it means that we are as democratic as possible. This doesn't mean that kids rule the roost and get to go nuts all day long. It means that we try to meet my needs, their needs, dh's needs, and when we can't meet everyone's needs, then we get to talk about it and try to come up with a compromise.

This might mean that I don't let them watch TV until after they help me clean up the kitchen after dinner, something that a lot of unschoolers would be hell-bent against (because I'm "forcing" them to do something). But it works for me.

Other random example: let's say two kids want to use the same toy. I could make a rule and say "5 minutes then switch", or we could practice talking about it. I'd coach them on how to ask for what they want, how to say what they need, how to both set personal boundaries and state needs and find compromises. For me, that's what unschooling is about. I have no idea what you think unschooling is about :) It can truly mean a lot of things.

This is why I don't usually mention unschooling. The word leaves a bad taste in people's mouths.

ETA: Oh, my kids are in kindergarten and below, so we haven't really gotten into academics. But so far, it means that my kids spend their time doing practical life activities (washing dishes, laundry, scrubbing the floor, sorting their clothes and putting them away), all done without coercion.

As far as hard work and dedication, they have definitely encountered frustration in their lives and persevered because they cared about the end goal. Sort of like myself in my adult life. Humans don't need stars to do hard things. We do hard things because we want to.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2017, 10:29:22 AM by LadyStache in Baja »
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Psychstache

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Re: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« Reply #15 on: August 04, 2017, 10:36:35 AM »
acroy, my child is 12 and developmentally disabled...and proving all of that to be untrue!

I imagine some people thrive with structure, external whip cracking, etc. Some of us are the opposite, though. The kids I've seen turn out in the danger you speak of went to school.
You have to bear in mind that acroy chooses (consiously or not) to phrase his opinions as facts when reading his posts.

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jooniFLORisploo

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Re: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« Reply #16 on: August 04, 2017, 10:54:26 AM »
'k :) 

Since posting, my mind has been flooding with all sorts of stuff on the topic. Like the fact that it was teachers who urged me to unschool myself and start over. I think they were just wise humans who completely grasped that while some thrive in a structured, imposing school system (I know three people who truly did), others run (internally) on a completely different format. i.e., Some of us are PCs and some of us are Macs.

I'm just grateful I found out about this option in time to give my kid an opportunity to thrive, vs be weighed down by others' fears. Also very grateful to my parents and teachers for seeing the issues and choosing to save my life vs continue to be directed merely by norms.

Unschooling has so much in common with the larger MMM schtick. Independence, self-determination, focus, joyfulness, self-discipline, self-reliance, hard self-directed work, joy, attending to present self and future self, health, self-care, contribution, care for community, balance...
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LadyStache in Baja

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Re: Anyone heard of Sudbury Schools?
« Reply #17 on: August 04, 2017, 02:37:30 PM »
'k :) 

Since posting, my mind has been flooding with all sorts of stuff on the topic. Like the fact that it was teachers who urged me to unschool myself and start over. I think they were just wise humans who completely grasped that while some thrive in a structured, imposing school system (I know three people who truly did), others run (internally) on a completely different format. i.e., Some of us are PCs and some of us are Macs.

I'm just grateful I found out about this option in time to give my kid an opportunity to thrive, vs be weighed down by others' fears. Also very grateful to my parents and teachers for seeing the issues and choosing to save my life vs continue to be directed merely by norms.

Unschooling has so much in common with the larger MMM schtick. Independence, self-determination, focus, joyfulness, self-discipline, self-reliance, hard self-directed work, joy, attending to present self and future self, health, self-care, contribution, care for community, balance...

yay +1
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