"Hold On To Your Kids" and Sudbury schools - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 02-07-2006, 02:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I've been interested in the Sudbury educational model since reading Summerhill School and then discovering the American version. As much as I agree with the idea of children choosing their own course, steering their own learning, etc., though, something about it has always concerned me.

Lately I've started reading "Hold On To Your Kids" and it's helping me to nail down that concern. The premise of the book, in a poorly stated nutshell, is that much of the dysfunction that our children are experiencing today (and for the last 50 years approximately) is a result of children being primarily peer-oriented rather than adult- or family-oriented. In other words, the peer group is the child's central group - the group from which the child derives his self-image and looks to for guidance. So, a child is looking to other children at the same stage for guidance in the world which leads to an entire group floating out there with none of the anchoring that comes from having role models with real-world experience and wisdom.

Whenever I read about the Sudbury schools I always feel a little nagging concern that there are not more adults present on a routine basis, serving as a guiding force. The adults are there to support and not to impose which, in theory, is great. But I'm curious as to the actual level of support that is given. Are they there only when sought out or are they there as a continuously active, functioning part of the community, serving as an example and an anchor?

These are just rough thoughts and questions off the top of my head and I'd love it if others could help me develop them a bit more.
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#2 of 5 Old 02-09-2006, 11:54 AM
 
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That is a valid concern. Right off the top of my head...

In tradition school, kids develop a "we-against-them" mentality. When you visit SVS that is absolutely not happening. The kids and adults are part of one community. True, not all of the students spend a lot of time with staff every day. But the adults are scattered throught the campus and are definitely a presence. Kids and staff feel comfortable having lengthy discussions, working on projects, cooking, doing art, and much more.

You said "a child is looking to other children at the same stage for guidance". However at SVS, kids are not locked into a one-year age group. That age-mixing may be the most important thing about it!!

Students can interact with both older kids and staff members. Who they hang out with can change as quickly as their interests change.

And I agree that family time is crucial for developing role models!
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#3 of 5 Old 02-17-2006, 10:24 PM
 
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Sorry to double post! I need to read "Hold on to Your Kids" myself. In the meantime, I have been recalling negative things that happened in SVS when dd was little. She really was at the "mercy" of whatever group of kids she chose to be with. And I remember cruelty did happen. Often she, or another child, was told by the others to wait in the room they were playing in to hold it, while the others went to fetch their lunch boxes. The child would wait and wait, and the others would never come back. That was called "ditching".

Of course there are about 200 students at SVS (some way too old--but still 200 altogether) and kids have complete power to change who they would hang out with. Which they don't have in a traditional class of 20 kids!
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#4 of 5 Old 02-23-2006, 12:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Mommyto3 - Thanks for your replies! I've been away and am stopping in shortly... will be back after I've had a little time to think.
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#5 of 5 Old 03-04-2006, 11:47 AM
 
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This is an interesting question. When my daughter started at SVS last year at age 8, I had a little adjusting to do. She had gone to a public school where I felt really involved. I volunteered in the classroom, and the parents played a huge role in the extracurricular activities of the school. I tried to get involved in SVS at least in some peripheral role and was soundly rebuffed.

A year later, I understand better the purpose is to let the kids get more quickly to the point of feeling independent. The theory here is that kids will learn most effectively when they listen to their internal voice telling them what to pursue, rather than all the external voices in their lives.

Interestingly, I feel my relationship with my daughter is better than before. Generally, I'm not trying to control and she's not trying to rebel. We have lots of mutual respect - I listen to her ideas and she listens to mine. We discuss many issues in depth. I feel she listens to my advice and perspective, and she shares my values. I have a great deal of hope (please, please) that we keep these kind of open discussions through the teenage years.

She has a great relationship with the staff at school. In talking to them, I realize they know her better than any teacher she spent 6 hours a day with in public school. It's clear that they do keep an eye on the kids developmentally and emotionally in a subtle way. And I totally agree with the lack of the "us-against-them" mentality that MommyTo3 pointed out. All the kids seem very comfortable with the staff, and seem to have a few staff members that they especially gravitate towards. The staff are definitely a consistent presence serving as role models and mentors.

My Mom has lung cancer and is currently undergoing radiation. I am really happy my daughter has other adults she likes and respects who aren't so intimately involved in this situation so she can talk about this ordeal.

I'm sure the dynamic is different for different people. There is obviously lots of peer influence going on, but it seems to be a good balance to me right now.
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