HT Convince DH to be open to Sudbury Valley? - Mothering Forums

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Old 04-29-2007, 09:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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...Yesterday we went to the open house in Framingham MA. I am totally smitten and so is my 8 year old. I do have some questions and concerns but overall, I really liked the vibe and could picture my kids there...

Unfortunately my dh is NOT on board, and thinks I'm conspiring to take our smart kids out of public school and out of the "mainstream." Our argument spilled over into some really philosophical issues re: life. Should life be about finding what you "like" and doing what you are interested in, or getting into a career because you need to pay the mortgage etc? It was depressing and I ended up feeling attacked because I am not a "career" oriented person. My dh actually said that 90% of people in careers were "miserable." (!)

My feeling is that I want our kids to be happy, to be kids, and what's the harm in them taking life slow? Why do they have to be busy "preparing" for a career at the tender ages of 5 and 8? It's laughable really...

How can I calm his fears/address his concerns? He wants to be sure they learn something, and is uncomfortable with the no tests/assessments. He also thinks I will forget about this idea in a couple of days or weeks, but I don't think I'm going to! If it doesn't work out this year, I'm still holding out for it in the future....

Any ideas/experience appreciated!
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Old 05-03-2007, 07:16 PM
 
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My dd has been at Sudbury Valley School for 2 1/2 years, and my dh is still not totally on board. She is bright, sensitive and high strung, and public school was miserable for her. He could agree that she needed an alternative, but the lack of structure at SVS does bother him. He's a traditionalist, and I don't think there's anything I can do to change him.

There are lots of books published about SVS that address concerns about outcomes - the kids from SVS don't have trouble getting in to college, and are successful in college, so that might help with your dh.

I find the SVS kids to be well-spoken and well-adjusted overall. Going there on a spring day and seeing the kids outside enjoying their world is a wonderful experience. It is profoundly different from traditional schooling, however, and it's difficult for most people to understand and accept.

Good luck!
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Old 05-03-2007, 08:20 PM
 
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I would ask you DH to take a tour and try to be as open minded as possible while he's there (you'll need to use your own wording for this so that it doesn't become confrontational!) I'd try to preface the tour by asking him to think about if he could see your dc thriving there. If he takes a tour soon, it'll be at the end of the year so maybe he could see some "finished" work.

If your DH is still not on board after the tour or reading any supplemental material that supports SVS......I suppose there's not much you can do that wouldn't turn into nagging or simply enrolling your dc without his "approval."

Good luck!

Laura - Mom to ds (10) and dd (7) "Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life." Brian Andreas.

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Old 05-03-2007, 08:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Mommypam -- I pm'd you.

That's a good idea about seeing the "finished work."

To his credit, he did "take the tour" at the open house -- we were shown around by a student, 14 years old. Very sweet kid but he said he spent the majority of his time playing the bass and talking to his friends...which didn't exactly impress dh.

Dh believes that kids have to be forced to learn...that given the chance HE would have played all day outside too. Since my kids are little, I really don't mind if they play a lot more than they are allowed to now (dc1 is in 2nd grade). You hear no laughter in her class, no joy. Otoh, I want her to learn too...but I have faith in the system and in kids that they will learn in a freer environment. He doesn't buy it.
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Old 05-03-2007, 09:50 PM
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It is possible that I will say things here that proponents of the program will find upsetting. I am one of the people who has difficulty understanding and accepting the Sudbury model, and I see your dh's point.

Though I no longer live in the area, I grew up near Framingham and knew kids who went to Sudbury Valley School there. Reflecting on (my limited understanding of) their experiences, it's my personal feeling that it's silly to pay money for it. You can unschool your kids much less expensively, and probably more authentically, at home.

SVS kids (at least some of them) *do* go to college. They have to do a lot more work to put together their credentials and explain their experiences in their college apps. than students in more traditional programs do. Consequently, a number of students who could go to college don't bother to apply because it's such a pain. Where they also tend to encounter serious difficulty is in transferring to other high schools if they decide the Sudbury model is not working for them. SVS is not accredited, and therefore regardless of their age, ability, or what they may have done before transferring, students are often set back to 9th grade by their receiving schools.

It's also my experience in looking and working at schools that every school looks *fantastic* at open house. They've picked the sweetest, most enthusiastic students to lead tours, hung up the most interesting and impressive-looking student work, fed their instructors cake (often accompanied by a little chat about where the school's funding comes from) and made sure everyone has put on a happy face. One does not get to the truth on these occasions unless one asks some very pointed (but not pointed-sounding) questions.

Your sweet tour guide gave what was, no doubt, a very accurate accounting of his approach to school. He was one of the most impressive students the school could dig up to show you around. What did the program offer him that he couldn't get by unschooling at home and putting together a garage band?
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Old 05-04-2007, 05:24 AM
 
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well. I don't have any experience with SVS, but my kids go to a Sudbury school on the west coast.

conflictedmama, I think if your dh is willing, I would have him read a few of the books written by SVS about the students. They have been compiling books since their inception, so there is an extensive library at this point. The books describe where the students end up, how they view their lives, how they spent their time at SVS, and so on. That was very helpful for me on my path to choosing the Sudbury model. Another thing that may help is continuing your discussion about hopes for your kids, how you want them to find their paths, etc. How important is a mortgage? What are his fears? What are yours? Would he be willing to try the model for a year or two?

In response to stik:

I see your point about unschooling at home vs. paying a Sudbury school. I know that when we were deciding about school (when my kids were younger) this was a big consideration. In the end, we decided that because of our own limitations (mostly my limitations, since I would be home most of the time) and our dd's personality, school was the best choice. And Sudbury schools follow the path that I intended to take with homeschooling. There are more people and personalities available at a school, which is something I really value. Since we don't live in co-housing or with extended family, it is a way to have a village for our children. I am an introvert and my dd is an extravert, so looking at years of trying to get out of the house to go to homeschooling groups, etc, exhausted me.

As for college, I think the key point missing from your argument is that Sudbury school graduates know what they want. Sudbury forces you to really get to know yourself. I have yet to meet a student who is not willing to go as far as possible to pursue something they are interested in. If a student goes to college it's because they really *want* to go to college. Desire--that is the most important indicator for success. Having to work harder (which I personally don't think it's harder, I think it is just a different process than what a regularly-schooled person would go through) to get there is incidental. And another thing that is left out of your argument is the value of college. Personally, I don't think college for college's sake is particularly valuable. Passionately pursing your interests is more important than going to college because you "should." I think that leads to a big fear most parents have, that their kids won't thrive. College = better job = more money = kid must go to college. There are a lot of flaws in that argument. I and many of my peers went to college and have not a heck to show for it except for a huge loan payment. I feel like I wasted a lot of my time avoiding my real talents and interests by doing what I was "supposed to do." Sending your kids to a different (non-Sudbury) school certainly doesn't guarantee they'll go to college and "succeed."

I can see that it would be difficult to transfer to a K-12 school after Sudbury. I think it would be affected by so many variables, including why the transfer was occurring.

As for Sudbury choosing one of the most impressive students for the tour...I just find that hard to believe. At our school if a student took a family on a tour it would be because they wanted to give a tour. Nothing is forced, and no one is "selected." Each person has complete autonomy.

Again, I think the big advantage of a Sudbury school is the community aspect. There is a lot of support and strength that comes from having a solid network of varying personalities working to make a viable community.


conflicted mama, I hope that helped somewhat!

namaste,
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Old 05-05-2007, 01:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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[QUOTE=cloudspinning;8030447]
In response to stik:


I don't think college for college's sake is particularly valuable. Passionately pursing your interests is more important than going to college because you "should." I think that leads to a big fear most parents have, that their kids won't thrive. College = better job = more money = kid must go to college. There are a lot of flaws in that argument. I and many of my peers went to college and have not a heck to show for it except for a huge loan payment. I feel like I wasted a lot of my time avoiding my real talents and interests by doing what I was "supposed to do." Sending your kids to a different (non-Sudbury) school certainly doesn't guarantee they'll go to college and "succeed."

Cloudspinning -- Totally agree with this.

I appreciate the criticisms too; however I'm pretty sure the SVS is accredited. (Need to double check that.) I guess my feeling is that regular public school, at least in our town, is all about classroom management & following orders. And unschooling at home is not for me either -- we don't have the resources in our home: a piano, art studio, pond for skating, hill for sledding, beech tree for climbing, recording studio, extensive library, etc. etc. I never learned (or don't remember) how to read music, knit, use a pottery wheel, and on and on. At SVS there are teachers to teach these things (and older students).

My feeling is that if they try it now and then during Highschool age need or want more structure/a more traditional experience, hopefully by then we'll have moved someplace with a better school system. Though I do like our town otherwise...

I think you're right to pursue our fears and really get to the bottom of them. I know that one of dh's fears is that the other students are somehow "mess ups" and are at the school as a last resort.
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Old 05-05-2007, 04:02 PM
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The NEASC is the regional accrediting organization for schools in New England.

SVS is not on the NEASC roster of accredited independant schools in MA. Link: http://www.neasc.org/roster/maa.htm

It is also not on the list of candidate schools: http://www.neasc.org/roster/cafa.htm

There are other organizations that accredit schools on a non-regional basis, and SVS may be affiliated with one or more of them.

However, SVS also fails to show up on the current directory of AISNE (Association of Independant Schools of New England). http://www.aisne.org/school_or_camp/directory.asp

According to AISNE, "Every AISNE member school is accredited by a nationally recognized process which assures quality and accountability." (http://www.aisne.org/school_or_camp/...asp?groupid=24)
SVS's non-appearance in their directory may be a result of letting their AISNE membership lapse for any of a variety of reasons, or may be a result of failing to meet AISNE's criteria in re. accreditation.

A search on Sudbury Valley's website reveals that participants on the Sudbury Valley email list have discussed allowing NEASC accreditation to lapse, and that Sudbury Schools in several locations have encountered difficulty obtaining and maintaining accreditation. I have not located an announcement or official determination that the school has maintained credentials, sought them through another organization, or allowed credentials to lapse.

I am hesitant to draw firm conclusions without calling the school and inquiring directly. I can't at the moment, because it's Saturday, and the school is closed.

If I had known for certain what I wanted to do when I left high school, and my goals didn't require a college diploma, I might perfectly happily have skipped college. I would agree that college for college's sake is not particularly valuable. Nonetheless, I feel *I* gained a great deal from my college experience. It has provided me with benefits that are helpful in my chosen career and enrich my daily life. Consequently, access to college is an important consideration for me in selecting a school.

There are no guarantees in education or in life. Individual students can (and do) fail to benefit from many educational environments. However, it seems ironic to me that people would embrace the idea that college leaves one saddled with massive debt for little benefit, and then pay tuition for an elementary and high school education that also doesn't appear to offer later life benefits over less expensive options.

Conflictedmama, a lot of the benefits you listed for the school are available elsewhere.
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Old 05-05-2007, 08:51 PM
 
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Originally Posted by cloudspinning View Post

As for Sudbury choosing one of the most impressive students for the tour...I just find that hard to believe. At our school if a student took a family on a tour it would be because they wanted to give a tour. Nothing is forced, and no one is "selected." Each person has complete autonomy.

cloudspinning
Why is it hard to believe? Sudbury Valley Schools, like all private schools, are purveyors of educational services. They cannot continue to operate unless they convince parents to buy, and student tour guides are a vital piece of the sales force that helps persuade parents to do so. The mechanisms for selecting student tour guides are probably informal - a teacher or administrator suggests to particularly good and articulate kids that they might like to volunteer. If the suggestion is made in flattering terms ("we think you'd represent the school very well,") the kid is likely to want to do so. That desire is perfectly genuine and those kids are not dishonest, nor are the adults involved manipulative or malicious. No one is forced to do anything. But if kids who are struggling with the school volunteer, they're likely to be discouraged.

An open house admissions event is a sales event. You and your kids should tour more than one school, and you should not ever walk in thinking that the school administration has no interest in your money.
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Old 05-06-2007, 02:59 PM
 
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Conflicted -

As the mom of a graduate of a west coast Sudbury school, I know it is difficult for any parent, even those very committed to the model, to trust that their child will turn out well when you don't see any of the trappings of traditional school. We now know that it works, if you stay the course and support (rather than try to "mold") the child. Our Sudbury grad is well on the way to pursuing his personal professional goals, responsible at college and on the job.

Believe me, there was some conflict between DH and me along the way. Now he is very happy and proud of the result, and he did support me when the going got tough, for example to make sure DS fulfilled his "sentences" from the judicial committee and that he completed the graduation requirements.

Anyway, in hindsight I have some suggestions for you. (1) Keep the dialog going between you and DH. Listen to his concerns. Ask if he would consider a trial year and re-evaluate at the end of the year. There will be a trial "visiting week" in any case before you can enroll in the school. (2) Ask the school if they can put you in contact with other families currently enrolled, especially with Dads. Maybe you can meet a couple of families, meet their kids, see what you think... keeping in mind there is great diversity within the school.

Good luck. It does work if you stick with it and remember that your child is an individual with his/her own unique gifts, though it's not always easy on the parents!
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Old 05-06-2007, 09:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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"(1) Keep the dialog going between you and DH. Listen to his concerns. Ask if he would consider a trial year and re-evaluate at the end of the year. There will be a trial "visiting week" in any case before you can enroll in the school. (2) Ask the school if they can put you in contact with other families currently enrolled, especially with Dads. Maybe you can meet a couple of families, meet their kids, see what you think... keeping in mind there is great diversity within the school."

Good suggestions. We've kind of put talking about it on hold, esp. since dh is now "making the face" whenever the school name comes up...

Stik -- I was not so much in agreement with the idea that college doesn't do much for people as I was with the sentiment that A LOT of my education involved requirements or things I thought I "should" take and that I had little or no interest in. At any rate, college is a long way off for a 5 and 8 year old and it really irks me that at such a young age kids are drilled and drilled and answering multiple choice questions, and tested ad nauseum, and the work is dull and they don't get to be creative -- music is 45 minutes a week, so is library, gym, art. "Specials" they are...

As far as the accredidation goes -- I'll have to look into/think about that one. Thanks for the links.

I guess I could put a big yellow light on my minivan and cart my kids around to piano lessons, voice lessons, art, sports, dance, creative writing, and on and on, but I'm getting ready to pursue some interests of my own and hopefully start working more too. Would I rather not pay tuition? Yeah, sure. But I'm afraid I'm just not the unschooling type and if my dh won't go for sudbury valley, he definitely wouldn't go for unschooling. (Home schooling with a little classroom and posters and chalkboard and me standing there in front of a map, he might, but I don't want to do that..., or do I? ) ...and as far as private school tuition goes -- it's not that bad. Both girls could go for approx. $10,000 with flexible hours and days...(Not that we have that kind of cash lying around, but I'll cross that bridge when we get there...)

As for the "tour guide" issue, the boy who showed us around really wasn't all that impressive! He was nice, yes, but didn't know a lot of the answers to our questions and had only been at the school one year!

It's a lot to think about and I appreciate the support/criticisms. I guess I'll have to keep talking to people, do the interview and go from there.
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Old 05-07-2007, 04:12 PM
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I'll give SVS this - compared to other private schools in the area, tuition there is extremely reasonable.

And I agree about multiple choice drills. The ironic thing is, multiple choice isn't good prep for college anyway. Music and art and free play and libraries are much more meaningful than multiple choice exercises.

I hear you say SVS looks great, and I also hear you say SVS has some limitations that are concerns for you, which is why I'm still replying - if I thought your mind was made up, there would be no point in my arguing with you (which isn't what I want to do in the first place).

I hear you say you don't want to "cart my kids around to piano lessons, voice lessons, art, sports, dance, creative writing, and on and on. . . . " Do you think having your kids at SVS during the school day is going to free you from that?
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Old 05-07-2007, 10:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes it would absolutely free me from that b/c they can do all those things during the day. They could put their interests front and center and spend as much time on them as they want. We wouldn't need to rush around and try to cram all the "extras" in after school or on the weekends b/c at SVS they wouldn't BE extras.
kwim?

I like that they would get plenty of outside time, free time, & physical exercise during the day when they are fresh and not during the late afternoon when they are tired.
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Old 05-10-2007, 07:41 AM
 
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I don't have a lot of time right now, but I have to reply to the school "choosing students" for open house tours. They don't. All students and parents get a postcard about the open house. If we want to show up, we do. If we do show up, we are asked to lead a tour. It's the most informal process you can imagine. I guess the fact that a student or parent has shown up at the open house indicates an interest in meeting prospective students/parents. No one is coached in any way, shape or form on what to say to people. You can say anything you want. They don't put their best foot forward - in fact, I think the school looks significantly worse on open house day, because you don't have kids doing their school thing. I much prefer to walk around the school on a regular school day. But guess what - they don't give tours during school. You have to apply to the school before you can see it in action. They are passionate about protecting their environment from people wanting to peer in.

I was quite surprised in my early dealings with this school about how much they don't sell themselves. They are really all about the kids. If you want to look at a successful business model for private school growth and profitability, don't look here!

Whatever assumptions you have made about schools pretty much have to be thrown out the window when you look at SVS.

Yes, this is similar to homeschooling in a radical unschool fashion, however this is also kids running a school. The staff is obviously handling many aspects, but everything that happens here is voted on in school meeting, and the kids have equal voting rights. Since they greatly outnumber the staff, they have control. It is democracy in action. You just can't get that in a homeschool environment.

It's not surprising for people to be uncomfortable with this school - if you've developed a comfort level with the concept on unschooling, that helps. As an earlier poster mentioned, there are lots of books written about Sudbury Valley. They are good reads, if you want more information.
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