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The NEW thread about Sudbury schools

post #1 of 69
Thread Starter 
I'm starting to look into the Sudbury Valley School in MA and would love any up to date comments. I've read the former thread but am hoping maybe more moms went to check out the school and/or would be willing to chat about their experiences with Sudbury schools.

Thanks!
Liz
post #2 of 69

mixed feelings

I definitely would encourage you to look at SVS, even though my son had a bad experience at a Sudbury model school.

I think the positives of a free/democratic school can also be negatives. Just like in the "real world," freedoms can be abused, and the justice system can be manipulated. A lot depends upon the people involved-- especially in a small school, the whole tone can change from year to year.

I have more to say, but my toddler says no! Later...
post #3 of 69
Hi Liz - My 9 year old daughter attends SVS. We are happy with the school, and I would be glad to answer any questions or discuss any topics that interest you.
post #4 of 69
Thread Starter 
One of the things that I am wondering is if it would be a good choice for a younger child. I would enroll my son to attend when he is 4 (he just turned 3). My goal is to work at whatever school I enroll ds in. I don't have a degree so that is a plus of the SVS. I have worked as an assistant teacher at a Montessori school before though so I do have some experience in a school setting. (plus I have over 20 yrs experience as a professional nanny and other child care).

I don't think I'd enroll ds in SVS if I couldn't be on campus though. Well, for one thing, I couldn't afford to! heh.

I'm just wondering about the safety of younger children at SVS. They have over 10 acres of land with a lake...and I'd be paranoid that ds would run off and meet disaster.

So, I'm trying to choose between Montessori and SVS.

Would love to hear more input.
Thanks!!
post #5 of 69
One of the main criteria for enrolling in SVS is that your child needs to be able to take responsibility for following the rules. One rule is that no one is allowed to put any body part in or over the pond. If you can't totally trust your child to follow this rule, and to not run out into the street, for example, the child is not ready for SVS. In discussions with parents and staff, we all seem to conclude that it is a rare child who is ready for the school when they turn four. It seems that many boys aren't ready until they are 5 or 6.

My daughter started SVS when she was 8 (we moved to the area) and I have had absolutely no concerns about her safety. My son will be four in Febuary, and he is absolutely not going to be ready for the freedom of SVS.

IMHO, it's hard to be a staff member at this school, because you have to totally embrace the philosphy - you can be a role model, but only passively. You have no real authority over the kids. It truly is a democracy, and the kids have as much power as the adults. That's why they have to be able to function as pretty much full community members to attend the school.

It's a really interesting place, and I love it, but it is entirely different from any other school you are likely to have encountered before. Good for you for doing research - I think it's a journey to fully understand and appreciate a Sudbury school.
post #6 of 69
Thread Starter 
Pam, thanks SO much for sharing. Yeah, I was wondering how most 4 yrs would be do without supervision.
There would be NO problem with me working there as I completely believe in community learning, etc. But, I think I'll most likely put it off for a few years.

Thank you!
Liz
post #7 of 69

Agreeing with MommyPam

Younger kids need to have a certain personality and a good amount of luck to do well at a school like SVS, I think. My ds went to a Sudbury model school when he was 6-7. He loved it, and may go back when he's older, but he was in trouble so often, they asked him not to come back until he was older! Most of the trouble was normal young kid stuff. He doesn't react well to being disciplined, so he'd get in more trouble for putting up a fuss about being in trouble!

Also, there was a group of older boys (10-12 y.olds) who liked to tease him, get him riled up, and then report HIM for his behavior. :

Many younger kids need more nurturing than this kind of school provides.
post #8 of 69
I'm lurking here. Really like the Sudbury idea and will consider it when Zayla is old enough (depending on her temperment). I still have lots to learn though. Thanks to everyone for sharing your experiences.
post #9 of 69
My daughter attended SVS from when she was almost five till she was 11 1/2. At the time she started it was completely open campus for all ages. (Since then they have restricted it so ages 4-7 must stay on campus, 8-12 must sign out and go with a buddy, and 13+up is open campus.) She was sensible and mature and I don't think she ever went off campus until she was 6 anyway. I told her she must not leave campus without a buddy, and there were some kids that I said would not qualify.

She definitely enjoyed the school more and more the older she became.

She decided to try public school (6th grade) for one year for the experience, and to see how she would do. Also because some of her friends said they were doing the same thing. (They ended up staying at SVS.) She did great academically, but hated it and wanted to go back to SVS. Her dad refused to let her go back. He told me this when we had two little ones, 2 1/2 and 6 wks. and I was feeling pretty powerless.

We have been fighting ever since, and are in the process of getting divorced now. DD has been desperate to go back this whole time, and this experience seemed to hurt her quite a bit. She still sees her old SVS friends quite a lot though, and only seems happy when they are together. After much lying and stalling, dh is granting me the power to make educational decisions for dd after the divorce in May (she will be 16 in the fall anyway), but stipulated that the two younger boys, now 6 and 3 1/2, must go to public school. Before all the fighting over our daughter, he always believed public school was unnecessary for younger kids, at least. He did make disparaging remarks about the older kids. But now he changed his tune about the younger kids, because SVS "ruined" dd (since she did not adjust to public school after she was tricked into staying).

I am very sad for my sons, but there is nothing I can do without ds's permission. I am having a lot of trouble forcing my first grader to do his silly homework when he doesn't want to. And it is just going to get worse.

Thanks for listening, sorry to run on so long....I am having a hard time with this. But I would love to answer any questions I can about SVS!!
post #10 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by MommyTo3
I am very sad for my sons, but there is nothing I can do without ds's permission.
OT: Why would you need permission? I'm divorced. My ex and I have joint legal custody. Neither of us has the power to dictate to the other where our child goes to school. (As it happens, I tend to make the big decisions because he's with me more and because my ex doesn't really want to take the time. In a court, though, my preferences wouldn't have any more legal weight than his except that courts tend to favor continuation of the present situation.) If I make a decision and his dad has an issue with it, then we can either sort it out between ourselves (with or without a mediator) or, if absolutely at an impasse, we can take it to court. My attorney said to me that my ex would have to have a really good reason to contest my decision if my son were doing well in the place that I chose.

I hope this is something you can re-look. Early education is SO important and it must really be horrible to feel that you and your children are at the mercy of your ex-husband's whims.
post #11 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by lizc
My goal is to work at whatever school I enroll ds in.
Unfortunately, its not quite as easy as that. First of all, if you are talking about Sudbury Valley (the original school), most of their staff has been there for 20+ years and there are not a lot of openings. There are sometimes openings at other schools around the country, but they usually pay very badly or not at all (which may or may not be an issue for you). But they also often have a long internship process before you can become staff. Anyway, the reason they do this is because staff being totally on board and committed to the model is so important to the healthy functioning of the school. To have someone there who is subtly (maybe even without knowing it) undermining the philosophy can tear the school community apart. Being a staff member at a Sudbury school is, for the most part, not something to do just because you can. You do it because you have to--ie you feel so called to it that you are willing to put up with a lot in order to make it happen.

Love,
Mado
(unpaid staff person at Katuah Sudbury School in Asheville, NC)
post #12 of 69

Fairhaven School Documentary on boingboing.net

Hi,

I'm the Professor/Filmmaker quoted in Monday's Washington Post article.

boingboing.net just featured the trailer to my documentary this morning (Sat. 4/29.)

Please visit the film's website and let me know what you think:

newamericanschoolhouse.com

All the best,

Danny
post #13 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by MommyPam View Post
One of the main criteria for enrolling in SVS is that your child needs to be able to take responsibility for following the rules. One rule is that no one is allowed to put any body part in or over the pond. If you can't totally trust your child to follow this rule, and to not run out into the street, for example, the child is not ready for SVS. In discussions with parents and staff, we all seem to conclude that it is a rare child who is ready for the school when they turn four. It seems that many boys aren't ready until they are 5 or 6.

My daughter started SVS when she was 8 (we moved to the area) and I have had absolutely no concerns about her safety. My son will be four in Febuary, and he is absolutely not going to be ready for the freedom of SVS.

IMHO, it's hard to be a staff member at this school, because you have to totally embrace the philosphy - you can be a role model, but only passively. You have no real authority over the kids. It truly is a democracy, and the kids have as much power as the adults. That's why they have to be able to function as pretty much full community members to attend the school.

It's a really interesting place, and I love it, but it is entirely different from any other school you are likely to have encountered before. Good for you for doing research - I think it's a journey to fully understand and appreciate a Sudbury school.

You have made a very good point. When I enrolled my children in a "democratic school" I talked to the director. I told them my children had been abused by their father and had serious emotional problems. They had been in therapy for several years. I was very open about our situation. They should have said to me that this wasn't a good option for me. But they didn't. In the long run it made it worse.

I don't think the Sudbury School would have accepted my girls as students.
post #14 of 69
I'm lurking, as well. I have 3 girls that are 4, 3, and 2 right now. Our 4 and 3 y.o.'s are in Montessori and I want to go as long and as far as possible with that. However, I'm considering Sudbury for high school. Things could change, but I don't like the idea of public high school where we are (Northern Ca) and I think that after a K-8 Montessori education, Sudbury might be a perfect fit for them.
post #15 of 69
I know this seems nit-picky but people who don't go to the Sudbury Valley school may not want to call their school a Subury valley school. I think it is a great school but the school my kids go to started earlier than Sudbury and it just doesn't make sense to me why we call these schools sudbury. If we are going to not call them democratic free schools could we call them after the original school; that being the Summerhill school???
to me it's like calling all Waldorf schools "City of the Lakes (Waldorf) schools"
post #16 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by dmydlack View Post
Hi,

I'm the Professor/Filmmaker quoted in Monday's Washington Post article.

boingboing.net just featured the trailer to my documentary this morning (Sat. 4/29.)

Please visit the film's website and let me know what you think:

newamericanschoolhouse.com

All the best,

Danny
I totally love your documentary
good work
post #17 of 69
My 8 year old son has extreme anxiety especially about school and separation anxiety from me. His psychiatrist has recommended the Sudbury Valley School. We did try it this past fall but he was so stressed out he only lasted 4 hours and would not go back. He has great difficulty with new situations and would rather stay miserable at the public school than switch. Things are getting worse for him at public school even though the school has done all they can. He cries several times a week about how much he hates it. His Dr. keeps talking about Sudbury Valley to him and I think he wants to try it again but he is too scared. He says he doesn't know anyone and he would be lonley. Because kids can choose what to do, he chose not to interact with anyone last fall and sit on a rock for 4 hours. If he would try it again I would get him a cell phone so he could call me whenever he wanted and I would even stay parked in the parking lot so he could see me when he wanted. I don't know if these measures would help or hurt, just until he met some friends. Then as I and his Dr. believe he would be in his element there. He is very bright and loves to learn but public school is sucking the life out of him. Any suggestions!
post #18 of 69
stay with him. I mean that Just stay all day with him and he will eventually start to venture out into his surroundings.
I had horrible anxiety as a kid but somehow was pretty secure with my social life. I hated school and my teachers ( abusive teachers for real!)
Two of my three go to a dem/free school , the oldest wasn't able to adjust to Jr High and he just sobbed for days. We tried two schools and then Second Foundation here in Mpls. it totally clicked. I have to say I want him doing more academics but he feels good about himself and that is perhaps a first.
Many of the parents of younger kids just come in with their kids all day. I can't as I work but when I can go in I do, I love being there.
post #19 of 69
I'm not sure that SVS would let you stay with him all day? I would check on that, though, because that might be the ticket to helping him feel comfortable.

You could also see if they have any get-togethers that you could go to, information sessions or parent meetings or some way to get to know other families. I'd talk with the staff and see if they have any ideas or suggestions.

Have you talked to him about it? Ask him if he has any ideas on how to make things more comfortable for him. Maybe you could draw a picture on his arm so he could look at it or kiss it when he got nervous, or maybe a piece of paper or stone or small stuffed animal for his pocket. What about if you made an agreement for him to try it for a certain length of time, say a week, with the option of him calling you if he gets upset, or going home after x amount of time there? Also, you could try reframing things for him...4 hours on a rock isn't so bad. Little steps are ok, he did a brave thing by just trying it for those 4 hours, right? He is now already pretty familiar with the rock, eh? So he is comfortable with one place! Maybe he could try bringing a book or a notepad for drawing or a Nintendo DS and just sitting quietly on a couch for a couple of hours. My experience at my kids' school is that it's perfectly fine to ignore everyone if you want/need to. In fact, in one of the SVS books I read I remember there was a girl who said she just sat in the sewing room and didn't say anything for a long time (as in weeks/months, I wish I could remember more details) until she was comfortable and wanted to engage. I think it's important for your ds to know that he isn't weird for being afraid/nervous (I'm sure you tell him that already, I'm just thinking out loud!), and that Sudbury really is different from his regular school. OH! Just had a great idea! What about if you borrowed/bought a copy of the documentary Danny Mydlack made to help familiarize him with the environment? It's a different school, but I think it could still help. Link again: Voices from the New American Schoolhouse

When my ds had a hard time with separation anxiety (made worse by the fact that I was working and had no choice but to leave) there was a certain staff member that he could be comforted by--she had a calm, matter of fact attitude and he could go to her when he was feeling overwhelmed. If there is someone (staff or student) with the time/interest in getting to know your ds, that might help him.

Good luck, and I'd love to hear more about what happens! Keep us updated!

-cloudspinning
post #20 of 69
I guess I wouldn't put my kids in a school that wouldn't honor their needs. So if the SVS school won't let him transition by having you available then I would either homeschool and or look for other opportunities for him to socialize. I've known parents with public school kids be able to show up daily until the kids are okay with it. I think talking it over with the staff so they understand would be key.
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