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-   -   The NEW thread about Sudbury schools (http://www.mothering.com/forum/286-other-reggio-emilia-sudbury-democratic/390425-new-thread-about-sudbury-schools.html)

**guest** 01-02-2006 08:45 PM

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

darien 01-02-2006 10:50 PM

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...

MommyPam 01-02-2006 11:09 PM

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.

**guest** 01-02-2006 11:25 PM

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!!

MommyPam 01-03-2006 05:38 PM

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.

**guest** 01-03-2006 09:31 PM

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

darien 01-03-2006 09:43 PM

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.

CrazyCatLady 01-03-2006 10:56 PM

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.

MommyTo3 01-20-2006 12:48 PM

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!!

Dragonfly 02-07-2006 03:32 PM

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.

madeaux 04-14-2006 05:37 AM

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)

dmydlack 04-29-2006 07:59 PM

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

Sharedspirit 11-06-2008 11:21 PM

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.

BCFD 12-08-2008 12:31 AM

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.

thisiswhatwedo 12-12-2008 09:44 PM

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"

thisiswhatwedo 12-13-2008 11:29 AM

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

jjsmommy02038 12-18-2008 12:03 PM

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!

thisiswhatwedo 12-20-2008 02:47 AM

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.

cloudspinning 12-20-2008 05:57 AM

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

thisiswhatwedo 12-21-2008 03:35 PM

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.

zeldabee 12-21-2008 10:36 PM

My son's democratic free school would let a parent stay all day if that's what they wanted to do...in fact, I think some people do just that. I get the impression that I'm out of the ordinary in not being there during school at all--I'm single and I work full time--most other families with younger kids seem to have someone there a lot. I'm sure schools differ a lot from one another, though...things change a lot over time just in this one school.

thisiswhatwedo 12-21-2008 11:32 PM

zeldabee we have a lot in common. :

cloudspinning 01-03-2009 06:01 AM

I don't really know the structure of your democratic schools, zeldabee and thisiswhatwedo, or, really, the structure of the Sudbury Valley School; I only know the structure of the school my own children attend. I searched online for a little while to see if I could find any differences between Sudbury schools and other democratic schools, and while I didn't find anything specific (I imagine each and every school finds its own path), I did find a really great article from the Alpine Valley School in Denver that clarified for me why a new parent might not be allowed to stay with their child all day. The essay is actually the middle part of a three part article-response-counter response. Here is a link: http://www.freecolorado.com/1999/03/welshon.html

The school my children attend differs in several small ways from Alpine Valley, and I've heard from people who are familiar with Sudbury Valley that it also differs. But, the fundamental idea that adults often treat children differently than other adults is something that *is* acknowledged at our school. And School Meeting (a group consisting of students and staff) has created boundaries and parameters to protect that. That is why I recommended that jjsmommy02038 check with staff, both to see if it would be possible to stay with him and to figure out other ways to help her ds. Staff can bring up these issues with School Meeting if necessary. Here are the relevant portions of the article I linked above:

Quote:
Because adults are accustomed to entering the world of children at will, with little or no regard for the privacy of the children being observed, all adult outsiders at Sudbury Schools are constrained by School Meeting regulations to keep silent until spoken to.

If the adult visitors would use the common decency they use when they visit a friend's house of worship, university, home, or business, these constraints would be unnecessary. But they do not. Most adults believe it is their right to approach students in schools and interrupt them, question them, probe them, and, in the end, invade their privacy. We take principle very seriously. When we say that students are free to engage in their own activities, so long as they are peaceful, we mean it. The fact is that many adults do not behave properly around children. Until more adults learn to treat children with respect, Alpine Valley School will request that visiting adults remain like flies on the wall, to be seen and not heard.
This isn't to scare anyone off, it is to protect the kids from people who intrude. (a disclaimer: I am in no way implying that anyone here would in fact do this. I am simply pointing out the reasoning behind the rule) And our school is in the process of developing ways that parents can volunteer that mesh with the values School Meeting holds dear. You actually can spend the day at our school, but only after approval (that can be revoked at any time by School Meeting). This isn't something that the kids take lightly.

cloudspinning

jjsmommy02038 01-16-2009 03:55 PM

Well, I am back. Thanks for the responses. My son is continuing to struggle at public school and after his Pdoc appointment today I am ready to get back in touch with the SVS and see what can be done. Cloudspinning, I truly understand that process and agree. His Dr thought by just going with son for an hour or so once and a while to get him used to the idea would help. If he decides to go there and he feels he needs me I would bring my own stuff to do and keep out of the way until my son checked in with me. I don't think it would take long for the adjustment-once he met friends he wouldn't want anything to do with me. I will let you know what the school says.

seeking sisters 01-16-2009 08:33 PM

I'm not sure if any of you that are interested in Sudbury live in or near Olympia, WA. If you do and want some great information straight from former students then you should come to an Informational Gathering this Sunday, Jan. 18 hosted by Rising Tide School, Olympia's Sudbury School. There will be 4 young people that either attended a Sudbury school or spent time at one as an intern for a few months.

I am one of the founders of Rising Tide School. We are opening in fall of 09. We will be available for people ages 4-19. We are currently still working on our Federal non-profit status. We will be an independant community supported school. We are committed to being available to anyone who wants an empowered education for their child reguardless of financial situation.

I am open to any questions or comments.

You can check us out at our website. http://wwwrisingtideschool.org

thisiswhatwedo 01-21-2009 06:50 AM

"Because adults are accustomed to entering the world of children at will, with little or no regard for the privacy of the children being observed, all adult outsiders at Sudbury Schools are constrained by School Meeting regulations to keep silent until spoken to.
If the adult visitors would use the common decency they use when they visit a friend's house of worship, university, home, or business, these constraints would be unnecessary. But they do not. Most adults believe it is their right to approach students in schools and interrupt them, question them, probe them, and, in the end, invade their privacy. We take principle very seriously. When we say that students are free to engage in their own activities, so long as they are peaceful, we mean it. The fact is that many adults do not behave properly around children. Until more adults learn to treat children with respect, Alpine Valley School will request that visiting adults remain like flies on the wall, to be seen and not heard."


I totally disagree with this; a school that is that suspicious about the intentions of adults really raises red flags for me (after all that policy was written by adults correct? and why are they above suspicion, because they have somehow overcome the dominating behavior themselves???). our school asks for the same good behavior regardless of age and I think the idea above is rather dogmatic and they need to relax...
I am being crabby but there is a serious lack of trust in the principles of that school that reflects very seriously the lack of trust our public schools have for children. I hate how controlled public schools are about how and when adults can be present for our children's education, why would a free school want to follow that same idea!

Snuzzmom 02-10-2009 07:19 PM

Just adding my voice as someone who is interested in this. Our little one is only two, so we have some time yet to figure this out.

If anyone has insight into the Diablo Valley School in Concord, CA specifically, I would LOVE to hear it!

FreeTime 02-18-2009 05:24 AM

Snuzzmom, I can tell you that Diablo Valley School is thriving right now, but the best way to see if it is a fit for you is to visit and talk with folks there.

It is smart that you are thinking about all this while your little one is still little. The kids who have been at Diablo Valley School from an early age are quite impressive -- articulate, thoughtful, able to accomplish what they set out to. I say this only because most of the "Sudbury" schools are still fairly young (except of course Sudbury Valley which has 40+ years) and just starting to produce graduates who have been there for all or most of their schooling. I believe that those who persist are seeing really good results.

-- Freetime
(parent of graduate and still involved)

Snuzzmom 03-04-2009 05:09 PM

Thank you, FreeTime! We did visit once and liked it-- we'll go again when DS is a little older.

CA public schools are in dire straits right now and there's no positive end in sight. It's scary.

habitat 05-01-2009 12:55 AM

Hey Mamas (and others!).

I'm curious - what exactly is the role of the staff at Sudbury, particularly at the Sudbury Valley School? As a childcare provider, I would love to learn more about how the philosophy changes the role of the staff member from "teacher" or "dictator" into... something else. I'm thoroughly invested in a child-led approach, and try to make it the guiding influence in my work. I'm interested in how this handles especially in a "school"-ish environment with lots of kids.

So here's a spewing of curiosities that come to mind for Sudbury parents or Staff:

Do you feel that your children are welcome to bond with staff and vice versa? Do you feel that they're inspired at all by the staff and vice versa? Do your children ever tend to take comfort/interest in the same one or two staff members?

What is the staff doing throughout their day? Does it vary much from person to person? Are they engaging in many child-led activities? Are they doing any personal activities throughout the day (reading, handcraft, etc)? Secretarial or management duties? Cleaning up?

Can you give me an idea of any guidance that your child(ren) may have received from staff in his/her individual activities? Are they active in helping children explore their own interests at the child's request?

...I guess I'm just wondering how much of the work of Sudbury staff is directly engaging with the children, and when they're not engaging directly, what are they doing?

Thanks!


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