The NEW thread about Sudbury schools - Page 2 - Mothering Forums

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#31 of 69 Old 05-01-2009, 09:29 PM
 
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We do not have our (unborn) kid at a sudbury model school yet, but I read a lot about them when I was a miserably unhappy high school student. I would be interested to see how they are in action, but I guess that is a few years down the road for us. I do think this article: http://www.sudval.org/05_underlyingideas.html#03 speaks to the "what do teachers do" idea a little bit.
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#32 of 69 Old 05-02-2009, 02:43 AM
 
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We do not have our (unborn) kid at a sudbury model school yet, but I read a lot about them when I was a miserably unhappy high school student. I would be interested to see how they are in action, but I guess that is a few years down the road for us. I do think this article: http://www.sudval.org/05_underlyingideas.html#03 speaks to the "what do teachers do" idea a little bit.
Thanks for the link, CourtBChase. I, too, was a miserably unhappy high school student and would have LOVED to know about something like Sudbury. I was so frustrated and ready to quit "regular" school at 16 but was guilted by my family (I will never again underestimate the fearsome power of a distressed call from a grandmother) into staying.

To this day I know it was a mistake.

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#33 of 69 Old 10-31-2009, 02:33 AM
 
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My son just finished his third week (including 1 visitor week) at Rising Tide Sudbury school in Olympia. He is 5 years old and was unhappy in his structured Pre-K program last year and very resistant to adult authority. I was dreading the start of Kindergarten for him, because I could tell that no matter how wonderful the teacher was, he would hate it because someone was telling him what he should do.

He has been happier the last 3 weeks than I can remember him being in a long while. He loves school, and wishes he could go there every day. That being said, it is not without a lot of struggles for us as parents. There are huge issues we have deal with emotionally to "let go" and give our son the kind of freedom he has at school. For one thing, I have huge issues around kids and media exposure, and my single biggest fear was that my son would spend a large amount of his time playing video games and that the content of the video games would be violent. By the end of his visitor week, my fear was totally being lived out. My DS spends much of his time (at least according to him) playing Halo. I totally freaked out when I found out that not only could media with violent content (rated M) come into the school, but also that my son would have free access to that media. We came mighty close to not enrolling. I am all for my son having all the freedom in the world to play outside, play imaginitively, pursue his own unique creative interests. But I really do worry about the long-term impact of playing violent video games and exposure to violent media on a young mind. I'm also concerned about the emotional and physical health impacts of kids spending so much time in front of the screen and not outside. Maybe I'll have to buy a Wi for the school with some "physical" games to alleviate some of that concern.

From the research I've done, most Sudbury schools do not have a policy of limiting violent media content, and on many levels, that makes sense to me according to Sudbury philosophy. If we are going to trust our children to make their decisions and follow their interests, why wouldn't we trust them in this area as well.

What I'm having to realize is that this is MY issue. My son really is just fine. He has already shown us time and time again that he knows when something is too much for him. He will not watch certain scenes in the Harry Potter movies because we have already read the books, and he knows he does not want to see how those scenes would be portrayed. He will walk out of the room when such a scene comes on, or ask us to fast forward. When I as a parent try to control everything (for his own good, of course), I end up undermining his confidence and ability to regulate himself.

I have crazy feelings about this, almost daily. I find myself really angry when my sweet, happy little boy comes home and tells me he played Halo again. Inside I'm screaming: "why in the hell am I paying $370 a month for you to play a video game for 3 days a week that I would never allow into my own home." I also find myself really angry with him - on some level I feel like he is squandering his freedom on something I find to be so worthless. But, these are MY issues, not his. I readily admit that there have been days I've tried to make it his issue, going even as far as telling him that if he spends this whole year playing video games, it will be hard for me to send him back in the fall - and yes, I know this was crappy and horrible of me, but was authentic to how I felt at the time. My son's reaction was "well, maybe I should bring it up at school meeting, because I want to keep on going there, and I'd rather have no video games then not be able to go." Boy did I feel like crap.

So, I truly value the freedom my son is experiencing, and am also totally challenged and freaked out by it on a daily basis. I go back and forth between being elated about his opportunity to feeling like I have totally abdicated all of my parental responsibilities and am sending him to his doom. If he were using his freedom to, say, go outside, build a fort, run around, build legos, we'd be totally elated. And, our own control issues and fears around "screen time" probably (very likely, definitely) are one of the factors that lead to him using his time to play Halo. It sucks. And it is wonderful. What a great crucible for growth this is and will be for us, if we can stand the angst.
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#34 of 69 Old 10-31-2009, 06:08 PM
 
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ejsmama - I will try to come back and respond when I have more time.

I am a 40 year old unschooling, belly dancing, artist-mama of one almost 8 year old. I just had brain surgery and blogging.jpg about it a bit because it's just so surreal.
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#35 of 69 Old 10-31-2009, 07:05 PM
 
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You know, I'll freely admit that I am not a Sudbury expert, not even close. But Halo? For a 5 y/o? I don't get it. I would be hard pressed to think of any situation in which I would think that was OK for a 5 y/o. Just because he "can" be put in the position of choosing to play it or not, doesn't mean that he "should" be put in that position. It's not a great comparison, but if something else dangerous were to offered as an option for a 5 y/o, would that feel OK? I'm all for being in the place of trusting our kids, but kids at 5 have diffent developmental needs and capacities than the kids for whom a rated "M" video game is intended.

I'm sorry for your angst-I'd feel the same way.
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#36 of 69 Old 10-31-2009, 07:53 PM
 
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It's not a great comparison, but if something else dangerous were to offered as an option for a 5 y/o, would that feel OK? I'm all for being in the place of trusting our kids, but kids at 5 have diffent developmental needs and capacities than the kids for whom a rated "M" video game is intended.

I'm sorry for your angst-I'd feel the same way.
Hi Karne, your reaction is exactly what our initial reaction was. The problem is that for a Sudbury school to limit this particular activity - an activity that is causing no outward harm to the community and does not appear to be causing harm to the participants, then next they would need to limit other activities that other parents might find objectionable - like eating sugar or junk food(can be dangerous to our bodies). Once you start down that road, like one staff member told me, very shortly it will be something very different than a Sudbury school.

The thing about Sudbury is that it all sounds fantastic until you realize what freedom truly means. That is when it becomes mighty challenging as a parent. BUT, the other side of it is that I am seeing the incredible benefit to my son of his freedom. He is more centered, kinder to his little brother, more polite, and is really doing great with self expression that is not so emotionally charged. The fact that he was able to listen to my concerns about the video games, and even offered to bring it up at school meeting totally floored me. In many ways, he was more mature about it than I was being.

One thing I am certain about is that if my son starts behaving in a violent manner after he plays a video game, he will be brought up at JC. It is the nature of the school to respect kids ability to make choices, but also to hold them accountable when their choices are harmful. When I was sharing my angst with a staff member that I highly respect (I should mention that the staff members at Rising Tide are awesome), she shared a story with me about a student at another school whose behavior was being obviously affected by video games to the detriment of the community and safety of others. He was banned by JC from playing the games for something like 3 months. In the end, he was thankful for the ban, and thought it was good for him. The single most compelling thing to me about Sudbury is JC - how students hold one another accountable for the choices they make, and how fair the kids are because they know that the next day it could be them who are at the other end.

Allowing this kind of freedom and having this kind of trust in my son requires a huge paradigm shift for me, and the jury is still out for me whether it is right or wrong for us. Short term, it seems very very right, at least in terms of his joy. It sure would have been nice to not confront this particular issue this soon.

Am I pissed my son is playing Halo, you bet. Do I wish that it wasn't at the school, for sure. But I also understand that if a school is really going to be democratic and put decision making into the hands of kids, and allow age mixing the way a Sudbury school allows, then this is the natural consequence. What I as a parent need to figure out is if my particular 5 year old is doing ok in that environment. What I see is that when I can let go of my own emotional reactions, he is doing more than fine. He is doing great. I don't know how I'll explain it to the neighbors and my relations, but that is a whole different topic.

I'm looking forward to more replies and a great discussion!
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#37 of 69 Old 11-01-2009, 01:37 AM
 
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ejsmama, we're a Rising Tide family, too. My kids are the four that go full time- August Emmett, Ruthie, and Aster.

I share your concerns about Halo. My kids have been unschooled since birth, we have a wii, and I have never restricted their video game playing. We have dealt with it the way they do at Sudbury- play as much as you want, and be responsible for your behavior. But we've never had first person shooter games! Halo was at the school already- it's also the youth group area (Rising Tide rents the upstairs of a church). I tried supplying two video games we got on ebay, but I don't think they're as popular.

My sons came home the other day saying they wanted to buy Halo 3. I don't want to bring a new shooting game to the school. I haven't really seen the game- at home I play the games with them, so I know what's going on in them.

Part of what your ds is experiencing may be the novelty effect. My sons played wii literally all day for months when we first got it. We had serious issues with the fallout from them not eating, exercising, or even peeing for hours on end. Your ds will probably get his fill at some point. According to my kids, he isn't very competitive. If he doesn't get a kick out of competing, the video games will probably lose their appeal pretty fast.

According to August and Emmett, E also likes to run around and play bionicles. Sometimes it's hard for a little one to describe general activities like "running around"- it's much easier to put a label on things like video games. He might not be spending quite as much time as it sounds like playing Halo.

If it helps, my sons have spent the better part of the last year playing video games, and they have matured and gained skills at a perfectly good rate. They have taken off with their math skills, and their social skills (ironically?) have improved vastly. Their personalities are intact, and they can self regulate video game playing. So it's true, video games don't ruin kids or anything.

Maybe I'll see you at the school some time- I'm not sure if we've met or not!

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#38 of 69 Old 11-01-2009, 02:02 AM
 
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Wow! Thanks Singin'! It is great to hear from another RT mom. I'd love to talk with you more in person. I'll PM my contact info. Since Wendy and I trade childcare and alternate giving Quinn and Elijah rides, I don't actually get to the school as often as other parents. I'd love to meet you. I've been thinking about trying to get the parents group organized...

I really appreciate your perspective on the games, and the novelty effect. I've been thinking that Elijah probably spends less time on video games than I imagine. I know that when he is around other kids, he loves to play deeply and creatively, but when he is home, he gets bored and wants the screen time. I do have a seriously difficult time getting him to go outside, and that has long troubled me. And...the harder I push, the more he wants to be inside.
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#39 of 69 Old 11-01-2009, 10:49 AM
 
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I just want to thank you all for the honest discussions of real life at a free/democratic/Sudbury school. As a miserable public schooled adolescent, I discovered a few books about Sudbury and Sumerhill and DESPERATELY wanted to attend a school like that- I knew I would have thrived (and as an adolescent, I would have). Having now become a mother, I've truely mourned that there are absolutely no such schools anywhere near us because that's the choice I was sure I would have made for dd (Unschooling isn't an option because I have to work outside the home- but would be open to trying to find an unschooling family that I could pay to take her in for the day!). Now I do realize that I'm not quite sure that I could handle the consequences of absolute freedom for my 5 or 6 year old. For a 13 year old, yes, but I personally don't think I could handle it- like a previous poster said, My problem not the school or my child.
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#40 of 69 Old 11-01-2009, 12:34 PM
 
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I also wanted to chime in and thank the few parents who have kids in Sudbury schools for writing and sharing. ejsmama, your thoughts could be mine, we don't do video games at home, yet anyway. I've always wanted my kids to go the democratic route for education (oldest is 5, in public K right now) but the way the last year worked out, we couldn't swing enrolling him yet. He will thankfully do a visiting week this December for possible spring enrollment...I hope its ok to post yet another question/vent, if any Sudbury parents read this I'd love some advice too!! :

I'm so worried that now that my son has been at public school, even if he likes the visiting week at the nearby Sudbury school, he's going to want to go back to public b/c of his friends, or he sees that as his "school", etc. Of all things, he likes the public school. I didn't mind it at first, and at times I still don't, but it was never in my plans for him to go to p.s. He follows the teachers rules to a "T" and she rewards him everday with candy, stickers, etc., and it gives him confidence/happiness to be a good rule follower. He even loves doing his homework...it confuses me that he enjoys it to be honest!...anyway that's me venting. Almost all the accounts I've read of people enrolling their kids in Sudbury it seems as if the public school route wasn't working, and the kid was so happy when they enrolled in Sudbury. For us my kid is actually happy now (and I don't share my unhappiness with things like candy rewards and homework, since those at this point are only my issues, not my son's), but I value the Sudbury model as far superior to public school...and I hope I'm not pushing my ideas onto my kid. My son has a huge say in his life, and for us the choice of school is no different. How terrible is it that I'm stressing he won't want to go to the Sudbury school!!! Arrggg!!!

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#41 of 69 Old 11-01-2009, 08:34 PM
 
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I'm so excited to see this discussion take off. It is great to hear from more Sudbury parents and parents considering this model. I wanted to let you know that I also posted the same intro thought on the google Discuss Sudbury Method group and got some amazing responses for students, parents, and former students. It was very helpful to me and might be to some of you as well. http://groups.google.com/group/discuss-sudbury-model

Hipsands, we actually let our son make the choice this year whether to a) go to kindergarten, b) to to a co-op preschool for another year, or c) go to Rising Tide Sudbury. It was amazing for him to be trusted with that choice. Our only requirement was that once the decision was made, he had to stick with it for a year. This was practical - he tends to want to quit when things get hard and we were signing a year long tuition agreement with R.T. and couldn't afford a change. If you child chooses to still go to public school, I wouldn't be too worried. I think that public school works really well for some kids. We have neighbors whose kids are totally amazing, self confident, articulate, and LOVE public school (I'm laughing as I write this - "some of the coolest kids I know go to public school). I loved public school as a kid - but I loved the competative and praise aspects of it and had a real drive to excel. It was who I was and worked really well for me. I'm sure I would have done great in a Sudbury model as well, but I'll never know. My younger son is shaping up to be more like your 5 year old and like I was.
I didn't enroll my son at RT because I thought public schools were horrible. I just knew that they don't work for every kid, and had a strong hunch that it would not work at all for my son.
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#42 of 69 Old 11-01-2009, 08:53 PM
 
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Hipsands, I don't like that bribery stuff, either, and I have no issues sharing my point of view with kids. In our neighborhood, there's a church that sends a bus around to pick up kids and take them to church on Sundays. They bribe the kids shamelessly- candy for being quiet on the bus, prizes for memorizing verses, treats for getting other kids to come. It's weird. It's downright creepy. I don't put down the church or anything, but I do point out that they are trying to make the kids do what they want. I just say, I wonder why they want you to do all of those things? Do you really want to do them? Would you do all that stuff if they weren't giving you candy? It's just information, the kind that fosters critical thinking. I think it's ok to share that kind of information with kids- it doesn't negate the benefit they see in what they're doing, it just gives them another tool to make conscious choices.

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#43 of 69 Old 11-02-2009, 10:54 AM
 
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ejsmama, very helpful! that is fabulous your son got to choose. and in some ways I feel the same way about p.s....though trully I feel lucky in that my son is extremely adaptable, I think probably anything could "work" well for him in terms of school. (we too visited different places to see what my son would like best, and he really seemed to like almost all of them.) and like you, my second son is a bit opposite, and I doubt right now public school will work for him. which makes us consider, if my eldest wants to stay at p.s., are we really willing to send our kids to different schools? is that what you think you'd end up doing, ejsmama?

singin' in the rain, I agree bribery is awful. its constant and my dh and I feel like its slowly undoing the 5 years we've spent with our son showing him that you act in good faith because its the RIGHT thing to do, not because you get rewarded for it. (side note, my husband is a h.s. public teacher, and thats one of his biggest complaints about students, they always feel they should get something for doing work, so clearly this method has an impact throughout life; though overall my dh is pretty supportive of public schooling in general).

singin' in the rain, I actually have shared my ideas with my son, I just tread carefully on how strong the opinions are that I express; as I said before, overall he really is happy there, and I don't want to undermine that. So when he brings home YET another piece of candy for "being good", I have said, "you know J, its also ok to tell Mrs. S no thank you, you don't need a reward, you are following directions because you think its the right thing to do". But seriously, how much expectation can I really have that my 5 year old turn candy down?! It would be more up to me to ask Mrs. S to stop doing it, but truth is, this is the system I enrolled my kid into, its in every class in every grade, and I feel its more either we adapt to it or find another system instead.

thanks so much, this discussion has been really helpful!!!

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#44 of 69 Old 11-02-2009, 01:17 PM
 
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The bribery stuff annoys me, too. Though, as a parent I must own that there are times that I do it as well (i.e. eat a well balanced dinner and you get to have dessert). I'm reevaluating some of that myself right now.

It is hard for me to imagine a child not wanting the kind of freedom and respect that they would find in a Sudbury School. I think that if I had been in a Sudbury School rather than a public school as a kid, I would not be so affected by a need for external affirmation. I really had trouble as a young adult figuring out what I really wanted as opposed to what others wanted for me. I excelled in many areas, but it was difficult for me to realize that just because I excelled at something and was affirmed for it didn't mean that it gave me joy. To this day I am very motivated by external praise, and have a high need for affirmation. Some of that may simply be temperament (highly extroverted people tend to have a much higher need for external affirmation), but the education system certainly contributed to that as well.

This is slightly off topic: we have recently started having allowance in our house. My son got to choose some chores, and then tracks how many he does each week, and gets a certain amount for each chore. I guess it is a form of bribery (getting money for helping around the house) but it is also an opportunity for him to take part in our family responsibilities, and to get to earn some of his own money, which is something he truly values. He really loves that he is spending his own money that he has earned when he buys a toy these days. It is a real source of pride. When he chooses not to do the chores, we don't make a big deal about it at all. We honor his choice. I think there are some subtle distinctions. I hope that our system is instilling a sense of self confidence in Elijah rather than simply trying to manipulate his behavior. I got really tired of the constant requests to buy him things, and recognized that he needed a way to earn some money of his own so that he could save and make choices. I think/hope that this is honoring a need he has. It really doesn't help me that much to have him do chores - he needs a lot of help with them and they take more time. But it does seem to be doing something for him.
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#45 of 69 Old 11-03-2009, 06:32 PM
 
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I can relate to the school experience you describe, mine was similar, I did well and really liked it. I totally agree too models like Sudbury take away that need for external affirmation as really the "grand overview" for why students are working hard. BTW, we also dabble in allowance (I personally don't see anything wrong with it), we pick things that are outside the norm of expectations here to pay our 5 year old for, and just like your son he loves spending his own money.
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#46 of 69 Old 11-05-2009, 06:06 PM
 
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For a while I "paid" the kids to do jobs around the house, wanting to tie money to work in their minds. I want them to understand the connection! But it got really annoying- they were always asking me if there was something they could do (for money), and they quickly got to the point where if I asked them to do something, they said, "How much are you going to pay me?". I realized that this kind of economic system just doesn't work very well within a family. So now I just give them each $10 a month- the only thing it's tied to is whether or not we can afford it! I expect them to help at their level. If it's getting messy, I say, before you do that, we are going to clean. And as I go along, I ask them to help with little things. I also remind them to pick up things they drop on the floor, very politely. On the weekends we do a big cleaning and I let them know that not helping is not an option. I wanted to make cleaning optional, but after about a year of me doing a TON of work (four kids!), I gave that up.

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#47 of 69 Old 12-06-2009, 01:11 PM
 
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Hi again,
I'm really feeling the need to vent!! So my worst fears were confirmed, my eldest just tried a week at the wonderful sudbury school nearby, and he was miserable. The first day when I left him, he was very happy. When I picked him up, the very first thing he said to me was "I do NOT want to go back there." So we got in the car, and I said, "before we talk about going or not going, can you just tell me about your day?" He said, "it was fun, I guess, I just played all day, tag football, etc". And I said that sounded like fun. His reply was, "well it wasn't THAT much fun." So I told him, because it was so different, I wanted him to go back for a second day, I just didn't trust that he really understood the experience, since it is SO different from public school where he's been the last 3 months. So after hearing that he cried in the car till he fell asleep. (How is that for being the worst mom ever--forcing your kid to go to a democratic school? I still feel so terrible I made him go back the second day. Ugh.) When we got home my husband talked to him, and my son even made this comment when talking about how he can play all day if he wants, he said "well, playing is fun, but learning is fun too." I feel like I've messed up b/c at some point he has learned that play and learning are two different things. So I dropped him off the second day, and he was ok when I left, but then cried when I was gone. My kid has done a lot of different things in the last few years, sports, summer bible school, etc, and has *never* cried about anything new, ever, except this. When I picked him up he seemed ok, but said he didn't want to go to ANY school on Wed, just wanted to stay home with me. So I let it all go. He got to pick a fun thing to do on Wed, and we spent the entire day not at any school but at the science center, playing, reconnecting, having fun, and he went back to public school on Thursday.

So please, someone talk some sense into me here. I actually cried (NOT around my son, after he went to bed) on Tuesday to my dh because in my heart I believe the sudbury school is far superior to any, and I feel a failure all around, that I didn't listen to my son the first time, and that my son's idea of normal is public school since we started him there first. (Why did we do that is a great question, there are lots of reasons, some of which include my dh, who feels there isn't a perfect fit for everyone, he wanted to give public school as an option to our kids too, which makes sense since he's a public school teacher. Money too was an issue, and the fact that all his close friends around this area go there, which made my son want to go too).

I know the democratic school will be there, and I can offer it to him in the future. I just really needed to vent. Anyone have any thoughts to offer I'd so appreciate hearing it!! BTW we have 2 younger kids, and now the issue will be, do we try my second son at the sudbury school this fall, knowing I'll have to coordinate 2 schools not close together in proximity?

Thanks so much for listening. S.
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#48 of 69 Old 12-08-2009, 04:02 PM
 
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I have to chime in here. A lot of my friends went to Sudbury Valley, as older kids, some for their entire education, or for a major part of it. My brother went for a year, and my husband went for two years. I know we all want better experiences for our kids than we had, especially if they weren't amazing, but I think it is invaluable to hear from people who went to SVS.
I am undecided about what school to try with my boys. They will be 4 in a couple of months and they have only attended parent-toddler classes at a Waldorf school, and a community gymnastics class. I'm still trying to figure out about them, their learning style, their personalities, and their needs, to make an educated decision regarding education for them.
BUT, I would never send them to SVS. I like the idea of democratic schools, and child-directed learning, but in my opinion the learning that happens at sudbury valley is very singular, and does not help children become adults in this culture.

Where do I start? Ok- My friends who went there as teenagers, needed a different experience than their highschools could provide. When they got to sudbury valley, they hung out, talked about their dreams, were pretty creative, and were a tight community, so they learned about how to be social in their community, but lost/never gained a lot of skills about how to interact outside of that community, they were brazen, destructive, and did A lot of drugs. A LOT! Most everyone I know who started later on as teens or pre-teens never graduated from Sudbury valley, and when they were ready to pursue higher education, and asked for a "transcipt" sudbury valley was decidely adversarial. This example holds across the board with over a dozen of my friends.

My brother was very different than most of the other kids, and was chastisted. My Husband, just played basketball. He didn't want to do anything else, and never did. He is a total bookworm, and not very social, so other than play basketball with the younger kids, he just read his own books from the Newton Public Library, because SVS doesn't even have a great Library, or enough resources for diverse, and deep learning.

I have one friend who only ever attended SVS, and I was really disheartened when she told me, a couple of years ago, that she is really upset to have to only been in school at SVS, because she is struggling immensely to pursue her interests now, which are science-base pursuits.

My kids are already social beings, they are twins, and love to talk and engage with others. They do not need SVS for the social freedom that it offers, and I want them to have more options than SVS can actually offer them. Sometimes some structure is a really productive and useful thing.

My husband went to a democratic school in Israel, when he was younger 9-11yrs old. It was more structured than SVS. There were classes, but you got to choose what you wanted to study, and how. This really worked for him.

I would call SVS more like anarchy than democracy. But that's just my opinion. If i had one positive report to rest with I might think differently, but accross the board, I haven't heard SVS being a positive experience in the long-term.
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#49 of 69 Old 12-08-2009, 04:27 PM
 
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Hi again,
I'm really feeling the need to vent!! So my worst fears were confirmed, my eldest just tried a week at the wonderful sudbury school nearby, and he was miserable. The first day when I left him, he was very happy. When I picked him up, the very first thing he said to me was "I do NOT want to go back there." So we got in the car, and I said, "before we talk about going or not going, can you just tell me about your day?" He said, "it was fun, I guess, I just played all day, tag football, etc". And I said that sounded like fun. His reply was, "well it wasn't THAT much fun."
It sounds like something happened. Do you think he was bullied? I mean, what he told you was fine. It sounds like there was something specific that he didn't tell you.

But I have to say that my experience is similar to TwinPetals. I've known a bunch of people who went to SVS, including a boyfriend in high school who was a student there. You couldn't pay me to send my child there. The bullying was astounding (we're talking high school kids physically hurting four year olds, stealing from them, taunting them). I went to a prep school that was known for its drug use but it was nothing to SVS. Of the kids I knew who went there, at least one of them is dead in a pretty gruesome manner, and most dropped out and never got so much as a GED. None of them became what I would consider a productive member of society, as in: being able to hold down a decent job, spouses, any sort of accomplishments. And they all have major, MAJOR attitude problems. I think when I was in high school I bought into their attitude that their way was superior, but in retrospect it's just chaotic anarchy and it doesn't create individuals who can function in the real world.

It was well known that if you wanted to go to college you had to transfer to another school by 11th grade, because SVS refused to help with college applications by coming up with transcripts or recommendations. There were two kids at my high school who had transferred out (both really nasty and egotistical individuals with no friends, fwiw) so that they could go to college, but the ones I knew who remained at SVS had no interest in higher education.

I'm sure there are instances where this experience is as good as could be, but that's my experience with SVS.

Trying to live a simple life in a messy house in a complicated world with : DH, DD (b. 07/07), DS (b. 02/09), and DD (b. 10/10)
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#50 of 69 Old 12-09-2009, 10:23 AM
 
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Interesting to read, yes I agree it is important to hear from past students. Are both your friends'/family experiences of the same school, the SVS? From the knowledge I have of these kinds schools (which isn't a lot of personal experience but more from reading books and watching videos of grads talking about their experiences on youtube, as well as having visited the nearby school) each and every sudbury school really does have its own "flavor", and I bet this ebbs and flows over time. These kinds of schools, just like every other school on earth, has its own issues too, and I'm not surprised to hear your comments on bullying/ drugs/ etc. No school, no community is immune from these issues, though of course some situations/schools have more of those issues than others. IMO the important thing to know is nothing is perfect; I'm hoping my kids education is MOSTLY right for them and not perfectly right. And when issues come up (which they already have!) we handle them together, as a family, and use it as a learning experience, and/or decide to go another route. For example...my son rides the bus, and he LOVES (as I mentioned before) his local public school, and there has already been 1 pretty serious fight on the bus, plus there are definitely 4 (yes, I said 4!) older boys who have bullied girls on the bus. He STILL likes riding the bus!!, so our compromise is we do it half the time, the other half I drive him. Say my kids are in public school through 12th grade, when they are older (like your friend says who went through SVS the entire time) they may be happy during it and never want to switch schools, but then look back and say "sure I liked it, but now I can't even figure out how to relax and not feel like everything is a deadline, and my experience with learning is based on someone externally telling me I got something right"...etc etc etc. I wonder, how content your friend is with her life?, (aside from knowledge of science), like confidence with herself and the ability to be flexible and pick up knowledge when its important, like it sounds like she is doing.

Different styles have different trade-offs. Say for arguement's sake that increased democratic freedom also increases the amt of bullying, then compare that to public school, where uniform participation is achieved with bribery (candy) and time-outs (including sitting out of recess, a big deal for a 5 yr old!) Which is worse? I'm not sure!! But I do appreciate hearing your friends/husbands/siblings points of view too. Its all important and relevant. OH to answer the q about bullying, maybe that happened to my son, who knows, he isn't saying so I won't know for sure (he also was NOT the one to tell me about all the bullying on the bus, I've heard about that from older kids who are neighbors.) Also, as my experience with my son seems to indicate along with both of yours with your friends/family, that no matter what, not every kid will like a school, or will find it a good fit even if they get to literally play all day.

Aside from the valuable experiences you've both aware of, there is a book (I'm sure you've heard of it) called the Pursuit of Happiness about the lives of over a hundred Sudbury Valley Alumni. Though not a huge sample size and only from that 1 school, their research nonetheless showed that 90% of their study sample did in fact go to college. But maybe even more importantly, the majority were overwhelmingly very content with their lives, and felt their life direction depended upon them and the choices they make. That contentment seemed to increase along with the increase of years that they spent at that school.

Gosh, thanks. Just having to think all this through and write it all out was a good processing experience for me!
S.
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#51 of 69 Old 01-01-2010, 05:15 PM
 
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#52 of 69 Old 01-08-2010, 08:58 PM
 
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I am very interested in this conversation, and hearing from folks who have both positive and negative experiences with Sudbury method. I do know personally several graduates who do not show the negative characteristics that are being described here. I'm not trying to downplay what is being said, but SVS has done in depth studies on its graduates, and find that most SVS graduates are happy with are leading very fulfilling lives. Most SVS graduates who wished to go on for higher education are able to do so, at least according to the research SVS has done on its graduates. So it seems to me that either SVS is lying about its studies on graduates, or the experiences of the SVS graduats that were described be the previous posters are exceptions rather than the rule. I think it is very important for people who are interested in the Sudbury method to meet actual graduates and make their own opinions. The SVS and other Sudbury graduates that I have met are thoughtful, well spoken, and highly motivated individuals who have a much greater maturity than others of similar age.

Granted, my son attends a Sudbury school, so I am biased, but I have seen growth in him in the last couple of months, and unlike any other school he has attended, he is excited to go every day. It is never a fight to get him out of the door. He is very happy there, which is saying a lot for him. Having said that, it is not a final decision for us. We may send him to public school next year. There are things we love about our current Sudbury school, and things we do not care so much for.

With permission, I would like to repost the two negative reviews of SVS on the google discussion list on the Discuss Sudbury Method. The responses would be very helpful to me as a parent, as many of those who post there are Sudbury graduates. It is not my intention to in any way dismiss those review of SVS, but rather to ask feedback as a mother who wants to make the best decisions possible for her son.
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#53 of 69 Old 01-08-2010, 10:18 PM
 
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ejsmama-

I'd be curious what you find is working vs. not working for your DS. You can PM me if you would like to have a private conversation about it.

I am also considering alternatives for next year. This is DD's first year at the SVS type school. Last year we unschooled after two years of co-op preschool. Now I am wondering if a bit more structured atmosphere may be more helpful for DD. When I say structure, I mean loosely structured as opposed to heavily structured like PS.

I am currently looking at all our options again and leaning toward unschooling again with a few things scheduled that DD choses herself. Our main reason for trying the SVS school was to try to provide DD with more time to be with other kids. She's a very extroverted only child. However, she seems to need more support than some other children at her school. The other thing that's coming into play is the cost of sending DD to the SVS school. It's a huge stretch for us financially, especially since it may not be the best fit for her after all. I could find ways of coping financially if everything was awesome, but I think maybe it's just not quite right for us.

I am a 40 year old unschooling, belly dancing, artist-mama of one almost 8 year old. I just had brain surgery and blogging.jpg about it a bit because it's just so surreal.
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#54 of 69 Old 01-09-2010, 07:14 PM
 
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"However, she seems to need more support than some other children at her school. " We saw that with another girl at our school this year. She ended up moving to a different school, but will likely be back at our Sudbury school when she is older.

What works well for us at our Sudbury School:
Our son is incredibly happy there.

He is following his interests and is in a supportive, respectful environment.

The staff is amazing and really trying to build a school that works.

He has learned a lot through JC and through the democratic process of the school, and was recently the deciding vote at School Meeting.

He has, by his own choice, "moved on" from the initial video game focus.

He lost his computer privileges, and has chosen not to the pay the fine to regain them even though he could. He is exercising his choices and it really is working for him.

Being a "sudbury parent" has been a great opportunity for personal growth and parental refleciton.

What doesn't work so well for us:
I think my husband and I both would prefer a democratic model where the staff were offering classes that the kids could freely choose to participate in. We are mildly concerned about the total hands off approach in the Sudbury method, and think there really is a positive side to staff initiative.
Also, by paying for private school, there are many other opportunities that our son would like that are not currently able to give him. He is a passionate interest to learn fencing, and we just can't afford lessons for him at this time. I've encouraged him to bring it up at school meeting, and he did once, but it wasn't on the agenda, so I'm hoping he will work with a staff person to learn how he can bring it up. I also am aware that with all of its drawbacks, there are many opportunities in the public schools that my son will not have unless he and others personally decide to make those opportunities happen (drama, arts, music, etc.). That is one of the major trade offs for me.

We also feel a loss in terms of his connection with other kids in our neighborhood who will be/are attending public school (we live in a great neighborhood with a good public school). I don't have the same deeply negative views about public school that many Sudbury and other alternative school parents have. I think PS works really well for some kids, but certainly fails many others. If my son was a kid who thrived in a PS school setting, I would not hesitate to send him there. He actually would like to try PS kindergarten next year, and we probably will go ahead and try that route, and then make a "final" decision ((what decision is every final) in the coming years as a family based on finances, our son's happiness, and what seems to work best for us as a family. Our son will certainly have a big roll in that decision, as he did in the decision to attend Sudbury this year.

I really want to see our local Sudbury school succeed. I think so highly of the staff who are completely volunteering their time this year (blows me away - people basically working full time for free). My husband feels very strongly about having our son try a year of public school and see how it works for him, and I do not really have objections to that, other than my concern that our not enrolling next year would somehow harm the local Sudbury school that is just starting and is in a fragile place. I want to have that option in the community for my child and other children and teens, whether we ultimately end up taking advantage of that opportunity or not.
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#55 of 69 Old 01-15-2010, 06:28 PM
 
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Hi everyone it feels so good to here all these families trying liking or even not liking this great alternative to mainstream eduction. We are on year three with my three kids attending a great democratic free school in Minneapolis , Second Foundation. http://secondfoundationschool.wordpress.com/
we love it. One reason to be there is because there is very little bullying and it doesn't go unnoticed or unresolved for long. Kids, boys in our case, naturally seem to get at odds and their need to learn best ways of communicating. Kids are EMPOWERED to take action to learn to get along and to express their thoughts and feelings about less then happy interactions. That said, I am amazed how happy the kids are here. My kids had the day off today for music lessons and a day out. They asked to go to school. They had an hour left of school time but here we are.
Right now the younger girls are dressed up in costumes being princesses (somethings don't change) and there are a group of mostly boys being dragons in the gym. A few kids made homemade noodles and some older kids are having a meeting about a play they wrote and will produce this spring. Two older students are at college classes today and a few teens are choosing to sleep. My kids aren't learning at the same pace as their public school peers. But as most homeschool parents know well; most of these kids know themselves, can speak clearly about their desires and make choices. They also aren't as stessed out, competative and generally negative as I was in public school.
In general I would reccommend this kind of schooling to families who want happy well rounded kids. However be prepared for kids following their own path at their own pace.
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#56 of 69 Old 02-09-2010, 12:41 AM
 
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I'd like to jump back into this discussion, too. My kids are also at RTS, and while I don't think ps is a viable option for any of my kids, I am having some reservations about the lack of learning opportunities there. My daughter is one of the few "big kids" at the school, and one of only two girls, so she's kind of on her own socially- which she does have the personality for, but with so little time for us to socialize outside of school, I wish she could have more peers at school. Academically, I am beginning to feel concerned that my sons, 7 and 8, are showing signs that they think they *can't* read. I know that they are ready to learn, but I don't think they're going to magically decide to ask someone to teach them- there's always something more fun to do. When we unschooled at home, I would carefully "strew" materials and suggest activities that I thought would interest them. It seems that this kind of thing doesn't go on much at RTS. Also, my daughter has been talking about becoming an engineer, and I want to encourage her. She has been telling me about her designs for houses and "kid's town" since she was four. I think she has a natural gift for design, as well as math. But as a pre-Dental student, I know that without certain meta-skills that people really only use in school, she will be at a severe disadvantage.

Part of having my kids at RTS is that for me it means even more letting them find their own paths than when we were unschooling at home. It can be hard to stomach at times.

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#57 of 69 Old 02-09-2010, 04:49 PM
 
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Singin, lets get together again soon and chat. I'll facebook you for details.

My DH and I go back and forth continually about our feelings. We love and support the school, but also want to make sure that we aren't holding our son back from things he could be really successful at by not providing him opportunities to learn in a more structured manner.

I am very curious about Sudbury and other dem school graduates, especially those who spent most of their school time in that method. When did they learn to read? How did they? Were there enough formerly ps kids who did read to help encourage that direction?

And for those who sought higher education, did they need to seek tutoring outside of their school to get the the background they needed to be successful?

As a child, I LOVED to learn, and I loved my ps as a place where I was exposed to all sorts of ideas that I might never have explored on my own. I developed a child a deep love of research and thorough exploration of a topic which has stayed with me to this day.

I think my biggest fear as a Sudbury parent is that somehow, by trying to provide the best opportunity for my son, I'm actully holding him back from his potential out of "fear" that traditional schooling will somehow be bad for him. I do not believe in making any decisions out of fear, whether it be to "flee" public schooling or to not continue with Sudbury.

I do not feel like I have enough information about how Sudbury grads actually achieve their goals, especially those who went for their full schooling in that method, even after having read "Pursuit of Happiness". Many of the grads there came to SVS after already having learned many basic skills in ps or other private schools, so it is really hard for me to know whether Sudbury is going to actually provide the opportunities for learning that my son needs.

He certainly is learning a lot about himself, democracy, being a valuable and important part of a community wiht responsibility and accountability. These things are awesome. But I also want him to use that fantastic brain of his for more than just playing Plants vs. Zombies or Bionicles. Not that I don't value deep play. I do. I'm just conflicted.
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#58 of 69 Old 02-17-2010, 08:18 PM
 
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Originally Posted by ejsmama View Post

I think my biggest fear as a Sudbury parent is that somehow, by trying to provide the best opportunity for my son, I'm actully holding him back from his potential out of "fear" that traditional schooling will somehow be bad for him. I do not believe in making any decisions out of fear, whether it be to "flee" public schooling or to not continue with Sudbury.

I do not feel like I have enough information about how Sudbury grads actually achieve their goals, especially those who went for their full schooling in that method, even after having read "Pursuit of Happiness".
In 2008, Sudbury Valley celebrated their 40th anniversary. As part of their program, they had a panel of 5 graduates speak about their time at SVS and their lives after graduation.

The talks are available on Youtube. Here is a link to the first talk and an introduction by one of the founders, Mimsy Sadofsky, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csAiJgvajYo .

I believe that one of them went from 7 years old to graduate, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOeRQrOZN6s

All of the graduate talks are worth listening to. They each had unique experiences as SVS and unique journeys in adulthoold.

I hope this helps you have a better understanding of the lives of Sudbury grads.

Kathy Williams
Sunset Sudbury School
South Florida
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#59 of 69 Old 02-21-2010, 05:48 PM
 
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Currently, both my kids and my nephew (we have guardianship) attend SVS here in Mass. We are now in the process of withdrawing them.
For my two kids this is their third year (age 8 and 9.5) and the second for my nephew (age 16). Our son (age 8) has the most problem with the school. He has been having anxiety attacks over the JC. Just the thought of being "brought up" causes a panic, and it is getting worse. He has served on the JC twice, so he knows the process, but the idea of everyone knowing/reading about his infraction and punishment causes him sleepless nights. He has fully participated in the Art selections (his sewing is awesome) and is now learning guitar. But likes the idea of having more concrete things to do. For example: Science he loves working with circuits, robotics and experimenting, and he is a Math fiend. One of his friend is leaving to attend Montessori for this very reason.

My daughter loves the social aspect but she wants some formal "classes". When I asked her why she does not approach the staff about a math, science, reading etc class, she said that the process is not easy. First you have to convince the staff that this is a good idea, then you have to get other kids who are also interested and then you have to.... This seems a lot of work for young kids, (BTW, this is her understanding and explanation of the process). I have spoken to a few other parents whose kids have reported similar experiences.

My nephew, who has attended public and private school loves it because he does not have to do anything all day. He is 16 and has documented learning disabilities, he and his friends play video games and Magic all day. He says that the kids who do actively read/study are usually in rooms by themselves. One of my nephews friends (he attended for about 3 years), just left and took his GED. His is exceptionally smart and said that to be accepted into Tufts University he had to get a GED first and attend some community college because they would not accept his SVS "diploma".

I think that this can work for some kids but not all, due to varying needs and expectations. This has been our experience with SVS and I would never discourage anyone from attending a Sudbury school. We like a lot of what SVS does and some of the life lessons, JC, discretionary money, learning through playing, has been great. They have never been bullied and have learned how to deal with peer pressure.
As they have gotten older the concerns/problems have grown. My kids attended Montessori and I homeschooled the for a year before SVS. They have great memories of both. We are now looking at homeschooling, for the rest of the school year, and possibly Montessori, next year, for them again.
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#60 of 69 Old 03-07-2010, 06:40 PM
 
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We have decided not to attend the Sudbury-type school next year. It is not the best fit for DD. Over the past few months, she has gone from a happy, interested kid, to a sullen, grouchy and anxious child. Basically, I ended up giving DD therapy for 2 hours every night, usually related to school situations.
The anxiety got bad enough we took DD to a therapist. (She is very supportive of whatever our educational choices are.)

If DD wants to finish out the year at school, we will. For awhile she was asking not to go at all but then she said she just wanted a week off. We want her to have the freedom to choose, but the choice is too big for her to make on her own comfortably, and DH and I don't want to cut her off if she still wants to attend on some level.

So for now we take days off when she wants one. We've also started going to school later, just kind of whenever we feel like it. We are only part-time anyway. We have also dropped our carpool because DD seems to need more time with me and this gives her a 30 minute transition time between school and home. This ends up being a lot of driving for me but DD seems much happier. She has begun to smile again. And play her imaginative games at home. We feel like our old DD is back again.

We plan to unschool again. In the mean time, we've been treating DD's attendance at school like a homeschool activity of her choice. This seems to really help. We plan to continue a family friendship that has started from the school, but the other friendships will likely just fade away as we focus more on the homeschool community out here.

I am a 40 year old unschooling, belly dancing, artist-mama of one almost 8 year old. I just had brain surgery and blogging.jpg about it a bit because it's just so surreal.
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