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#31 of 47 Old 04-26-2004, 11:42 AM
 
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Well, I'm jumping the gun a bit...my dd is only 2.5 and my other one isn't even born, so it'll be a few years before I can even seriously consider having them go there. The school in my area isn't an official Sudbury school; I think it's a charter school that is modeled after their methods, so I don't know how many of those methods they keep true and how many they modify to keep parents happy.

Trusting my kid is one thing, but something about trusting everyone else's kids scares me. I know that people from the kinds of families that are likely to send them to such a school are maybe less likely to engage in the kind of bullying that other kids are, but still, it's not a guarantee that everyone is going to get along and that no one will ever hurt anyone else. I've read some posts from moms who have their kids in alternative schools and are shocked to find that kids there can be mean too. Money doesn't buy good behavior!

And then there is the accident factor...in the past, dh has always resisted buying all the childproofing stuff because he says "She's smart enough not to hurt herself." But I tell him, hey, accidents happen, it has nothing to do with obedience or intelligence, why not just prevent what we can? (Since we moved to a 2-story place, all three of us have fallen down the stairs at least once!)
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#32 of 47 Old 04-29-2004, 05:06 AM
 
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Hey greaseball,
Sorry it took so long to write again, dh has been hogging the computer! I take it you're not talking about the Blue Mountain School? That's near Eugene (not sure where Corvallis is)...I'm pretty sure they're not publicly funded.
I know that I spent several months thinking about the same questions when my dd was going to the playdays. But, at Clearwater I witnessed some fights between kids. The staff members would watch and if either of the kids asked for help they would give it. Or, they would remind them of the rules of the school (all decided by the school assembly, where everyone has an equal vote). They also have something called JC (forget exactly what it stands for, judiciary council maybe?) where the kids/staff could bring up problems they were having with other kids/staff and have them resolved democratically. Because of this, I feel like there wouldn't really be "bullying" per se, because each child is empowered. There will be fights, but there are always disagreements between people, no matter where you are. But there is a climate of creative problem-solving in a SVS-model school. No one would find in favor of a "bully" in JC. No one would say, hey, be quiet, we're needing to cover this lesson. No one would feel like they would be silenced if they complained because it was inconvenient for the adults. No one would feel like they would be beat up later if they brought it up, because the "bully" has as much of a voice as the bullied, an equal chance to explain what happened. It is amazing-- because it is a true democracy, the adults have no power of authority. Everyone has an equal voice. Plus, if rules aren't working, people can petition to have them changed. I have no idea if the government is the same at the school near you, though. Definitely check them out!

As for accidents, yes, they do happen. But, by the time your dd (and wee baby) is ready for school she will hopefully have a better sense of her own personal comfort/safety level. I think that there is only so much you can do to prevent accidents. You inform the kids, and then you have to let them go. I mean, you could say that you are a grown woman and yet you fell down the stairs, and you still use the stairs and don't worry excessively about your own safety, right? If you encourage your dd to find her own boundaries/comfort level (like asking her if she feels safe, if she would like a hand, etc, instead of stopping her from doing risky things), it might make you both feel better. I know that I am confident in my 5 1/2 year old's ability to say, no, I don't feel like dangling over the edge of the wharf...but my 23 month old scares the bejeebers out of me (I joke that some day I'll be getting the call that he was out rock climbing and had to cut his arm off). But, I know that he will develop his own sense of personal confidence as he gets older, because when my dd was 2 1/2 she scared me a *lot* more than she does now (and other moms have said the same thing to me). But, that said, I strongly believe in following your gut, and if it doesn't feel safe when she is school age, don't send her there...

Anyhow, need to go, but hope I've helped a bit...tell me what you think.

namaste,
Brenda
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#33 of 47 Old 04-29-2004, 01:56 PM
 
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Their rules state that you can't harm people or property, so I would hope a teacher would intervene in the case of a fight, but that's just one more thing to ask them.

I ordered some information from Blue Mountain and they do say they are non-profit and publicly funded. I don't know if that means free, though. They are required to administer standardized tests, but they don't require students to take them! That works for me. So it sounds like they are a charter school. I've read that charter schools can be very unstable financially and are often shut down, but this one has been going since 1998, so maybe there is more hope for it.

They are in Cottage Grove, but they send a bus to Eugene.
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#34 of 47 Old 06-18-2004, 02:02 PM
 
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I have heard not much supervision at these schools. I love the whole idea and philosopy yet I was wondering how social problems are handled.. are the children taught to problem solve or are the children that are teased, etc. left to fend on their own?

It seems to me that my DD may have the same social problems there that I had in public school when I was a kid. If you have a group of kids then somebody should be there to help with modeling good problem solving.
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#35 of 47 Old 06-18-2004, 05:00 PM
 
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This is the school modeled on Sudbury Valley School in MA - Cedarwood is in Santa Clara CA.

Here's an account of my visit:
The school building was on a large field adjacent to a church parking lot. The building is leased from PG&E and the lot is leased from the church.

Inside, there were about 12 children between the ages of 6 and 17. There were multiple rooms, which I will describe shortly. When I came in, there were a few early-teen-aged kids playing video games at computers in the entry room. One of them told me to go inside if I was looking for the office. On my way in, one of the kids stopped me, she was about 7 years old. She was very polite. She said she needed a favor from me, that she was required to do a performance of her dance routine for the next visitor to the school, and I was it. She asked me to find her before I left. I said sure!

I found the staff member who was going to give me a tour. She told me her daughter and niece both attend the school. We stood in the "town square" which was an open area with sofas and magazines strewn on tables, and talked about the school. She showed me three big boxes with stuff in them, next to a set of cubby holes each child uses for their personal belongings. The boxes were used for items that were left out after the clean up time. If someone leaves their stuff out after clean up time, it goes into one box until the end of the day; then into the next box for one week (it is 50 cents to get your stuff out); then into a goodwill box (it is for sale to anyone for 50 cents) and finally it ends up at goodwill. This system was created by the students and staff by democratic process.

She described the democratic system of the school. There are two committees chaired by students: the legislative and judicial committees. Every student and staff member are entitled to one vote on each issue. Due to the high student/staff ratio, the students often overrule the staff. The legislative committee establishes the laws of the school. The judicial committee enforces the rules and hands down sentences to offenders. For example, one boy (who happened to be the son of a founder of this school) continually broke some of the rules and had sentences imposed on him - clean the refrigerator, bathroom, etc. The little girl who had to perform her dance routine was also carrying out her sentence for breaking the rules.

Each student also has a community chore to accomplish before the end of the day. The students sign up for which chore they want to do.

The students are allowed to do as they please (minding the school laws, of course) and are permitted to leave the school if they like. Parents are responsible for assigning this privilege, and some of them gave "all access" permission while others required staff (or trusted older teen) accompaniment.

There is no curriculum, except that the students ask for lessons as they wish. The staff teach the lessons when they are qualified. I asked if they ever had a lesson request for which no one on staff was qualified to teach. Recently some of the students wanted an anatomy lesson. The staff found a biology professor who came in and taught the class (free, in this case). The kids had made a life-size sketch of a skeleton and labeled the parts. I also saw a microscope connected to a computer, a sewing machine, and a cage of chickens, all part of lessons the kids had requested. They also hired a yoga teacher (the interested students paid half of the fee on top of the tuition) and found a basket weaver who came in and volunteered lessons.

The school has the following rooms: town square, office, kitchen, craft, tv/media, library/boardroom, noisy computer, pillow, and bathrooms. The town square was described earlier. The office is for the staff and had a couple of desks with computers and files. The kitchen has a refrigerator, cubby holes for lunch boxes, sink, dishes, stove with oven, and microwave. The kids prepare their own food and keep the kitchen clean. The craft room has play clothes, sewing machine, felt and craft supplies, etc. Two large tables with chairs dominate the space for crafting. The TV/media room seemed to be soundproofed and was one of the few rooms with a door (the pillow room and bathrooms also had doors). There were big cushions and chairs in the TV room, along with a tv and vcr/dvd player. The library/boardroom was lined with Mac computers and had a large boardroom table. The computers are all internet connected. This is the room for the judicial and legislative meetings, as well as computer learning. The noisy computer room was the entry to the school. This is where all forms of violent and/or noisy computer games and playing is done. While I was there one kid was playing a video game while another was playing the Beatles loudly through the computer. The pillow room has a loft bed covered with pillows, and pillows all over the floor. There is a rule not to jump on the bean bag because "it will explode." but all other jumping is allowed. The bathrooms look just like school bathrooms with one stall and a sink.

The yard is pretty desolate looking with only a sandbox and a large rock to play on. The school has a portable climbing structure which can be taken outside. They investigated putting swings, slides, etc in the yard for approximately $3000. However the state requires the appropriate foundation (cushiony material over concrete, I think) at any school playground site and that cost $37,000 - out of the question with the budget they have.

After my tour, I asked to talk with some of the older kids. Two 16 year old girls talked with me. I asked if they had plans for their futures and got a strong response from both. They were both noticibly bright, well spoken, confident. The first girl, I'll call her Melissa, was quite serious about her future. She told me she plans to attend a public school with an ROTC program to pay for her college. The second girl, call her Alice, has been attending dual credit courses - meaning she gets credit for high school and college - at the community college. She intends to finsih college a year early. They spoke with me for half an hour or so and I was very impressed with their social skills and confidence telling a stranger (adult!) about their lives and future plans. Two other kids joined in the talk. One was 13 (well, his birthday was coming up and he insisted he was NOT 12) and planned to be a doctor. He told me he is reading college level medical texts - his words! The other boy was 11 and told me he has "absolutely no plans for when the future hits." The other kids said his dad has other plans, since his dad has two college degrees from Harvard and Yale. The son repeated that he does not have plans for when his future hits. He seemed confident that he could hold his ground.

Before I left, I found the girl who had to complete her sentence. She forgot her music tape so there was no music to dance to - she improvised. She did a 3 minute "Brittney Spears" type routine. All the while the son of the Yale man sat with his back to her saying, "I am *so* glad I'm missing this." After the routine, I applauded heartily and she went off to play. I asked what she had done to "deserve" to do a dance routing for a visitor. The staff member and the Yale man's son said, in unison, "You don't want to know." Yes, I did. The staff member told me the girl (remember she is about 7) has trouble with acting out sexually. She is no longer allowed in rooms with doors and must not go behind the school because she has tried out unwanted sexual behavior on other students. The dancing as consequence was not well explained. No one made much eye contact during this discussion. It was WIERD.

Then it was time for me to go. The kids I'd met said goodbye and the staff member and I agreed I would check back in around 2 years when my kids are old enough to enter the school.

Well, that's a detailed description of my visit. I'm nowhere near a decision point - mixed feelings - and grateful I have YEARS to go before my kids are school age.

Hope this is helpful.

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#36 of 47 Old 06-22-2004, 02:09 PM
 
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WOW

I can't believe I've been missing this thread!

Too busy running our democratic school I guess.

Anyway, I'll subscribe, in case there are any Qs.

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#37 of 47 Old 06-22-2004, 02:10 PM
 
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And we are planning a new building....

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#38 of 47 Old 06-26-2004, 12:27 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by natmother
I have heard not much supervision at these schools. I love the whole idea and philosopy yet I was wondering how social problems are handled.. are the children taught to problem solve or are the children that are teased, etc. left to fend on their own?
This was one of my main concerns before encountering SVS. In discussions we had prior to seeing how SVS works, we decided that to establish a good school, it essential to have good role models that themselves have a unbendingly fair sense of social justice and responsibility. I was gratified to discover that one of the most important points at SVS is that this culture within the school is not restricted to the staff, but permiates all who attend, right down to the youngest.

Letting children "just go wild" is not at all what the SVS model is about. It is more about not over-crowding the children, and not taking away their voice.


Quote:
Originally Posted by natmother
It seems to me that my DD may have the same social problems there that I had in public school when I was a kid. If you have a group of kids then somebody should be there to help with modeling good problem solving.
That will depend very much on which SVS model school she attends, and whether or not someone in that school has taken the responsibility to personally ensure that either there is a culture of care to new arrivals, (kids of all ages who have been there a couple of months will pretty much know the ropes). When we started last year, we were surprised to get spite from someone we did not expect it from. I think it was thoughtlessness, but it was dealt with very swiftly, publicly and firmly.

We had 2 results from this.

Firstly, everyone could see that the bar for impermissable behavior is considerably higher than they were used to, but they liked it.

Secondly, there was a sense of relief amoung the children (even the perpertrator of that particular incident) that this was a safe environment that they could rely on.

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#39 of 47 Old 06-30-2004, 08:39 AM
 
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Sudbury schools.. I honestly wish I'd known about them sooner.

I spent two years of "high school" in one, and honestly - it was the best experience I've had in my life (until my own kiddos came )

I was lucky enough to attend Sudbury Valley School in MA - the "original" - I'd heard about it through a friend from a local gaming shop (You know, Dungeons and Dragons, et c) and asked my mother if I could try it out. I had to work my entire freshman year of high school to pay the tuition for sophomore year, and if I "proved" myself to my parents, they would pay the remaining years tuition for me.

It was the best thing I ever could have done for myself.

The democratic school model is incredible - it's not so much student run as student-led - with adult mentors (teachers?) to provide a baseline. We were allowed to either work on our own or in groups on a subject that we were interested in, or be "taught" conventionally in a classroom setting - it was great.

I rarely saw self-esteem issues, or self-consciousness .. We were all comfortable just being ourselves, without being "pushed" by our fellow students to look a certain way, act a certain way, wear the "right" clothes, or be someone we weren't. We were also allowed to learn at our own pace - for some of us fast and solitary, or in groups and "slowly." By the time I left SVS, I was only missing 3 college credits for my associates degree in early european history .. In a more mainstream school I would have had a total of 3 college classes.

As for younger kids being around older kids and teens - I really think it was awesome. Being able to spend time with a 5 or 6 year old, helping them "get" what they were working on that had totally stumped them, or helping them find a way that was more interesting to learn it, was awesome In a lot of ways I think it helped me become a better mommy once I had my own kids - when my oldest neice had moved in with us when I was in middle school, I had NO patience - I was very resentful of the time I had to spend being with her, helping with homework, tutoring, babysitting, et c.. But after time with the kids at the school, I learned patience, and felt so much more comfortable around them. My "graduation" party was the best, even if most of the people there were between 6 and 16 *lol*

My dad credits the school with helping me to become a better person - I don't believe that, though. I'm sure I was always the person I am now, but the mainstream public school culture made me so self-conscious about who I really am that I felt like I had to hide it. SVS made me comfortable in my own skin, and helped me to respect who I am, and what my beliefs are.

as it stands now, DD (6), DS (5), DS (4) all go to public schools, they wouldn't want it any other way, and that's where they're most comfortable. If they choose to switch when they're older, that's fine and dandy with me - we started them all off homeschooling. But DS (2) and DD (almost 1 OMG!) will probably remain homeschooled because of Benny's failure to thrive, and because after moving to new hampshire and seeing the current state of the public school system, I just plain don't want any more of my kids in it.
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#40 of 47 Old 07-01-2004, 01:12 AM
 
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Am I the only one who isn't totally sold on Sudbury? I see the philosophy and all, but only see it applicable for someone who is a homeschooler, but can't do it for some reason (work, illness, etc). I heard (only hear-say, mind you ) that at the Sudbury in Denver (i think it was) that the teenagers would leave school and walk across the street to smoke. I just don't get why I would pay (ALOT) to have my kid go somewhere and do nothing different than he could do with his family (well, not smoke :LOL). I mean, we've got art classes and college courses he could take, and we don't isolate, so socialization is not in question ( I thought Unschoolers were trying to break this myth).
Don't assume any tone here , just having conversation!

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#41 of 47 Old 07-01-2004, 01:20 AM
 
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I heard (only hear-say, mind you ) that at the Sudbury in Denver (i think it was) that the teenagers would leave school and walk across the street to smoke.
That happens in all high schools, though!

What I'm not totally sold on is the low number of teachers. They say they'll try to find one for any subject a child is interested in, but what if they can't?

Of course, that also happens in regular high schools - they can't (or won't) find someone to teach kids what they want to know.
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#42 of 47 Old 07-01-2004, 01:40 AM
 
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What I thought I was getting across is that leaving the building to go and have a smoke was allowed, part of their democratic process. I don't know what high school you went to, but most would definatly get a kid in trouble for that.

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#43 of 47 Old 07-01-2004, 01:43 AM
 
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I can see how a democratic process could allow that, but don't the schools still have to obey state laws? I think in every state you have to be 18, and even 18-year-old students cannot smoke on school grounds (I think that's a law and not just a school rule).
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#44 of 47 Old 07-01-2004, 03:20 AM
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The Catholic school I attended during the seventies had a smoking room for the high schoolers who smoked. I was elementary age so I wsn't allowed in, but it always seemed nasty and smoky.

This same Catholic school offered classes in tea-making and the ERA, which I took at age 8 or so... clearly not your typical Catholic school.

Dar, wandering off topic...

 
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#45 of 47 Old 07-01-2004, 07:25 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greaseball
I can see how a democratic process could allow that, but don't the schools still have to obey state laws? I think in every state you have to be 18, and even 18-year-old students cannot smoke on school grounds (I think that's a law and not just a school rule).
The state laws only apply to public and state-run schools, and federal programs like Job Corps - for those of legal smoking age. I don't know about other states, but at our schools underage smokers get visits with the police, as do whoever "got" them their smokes. IIRC, at least in MA and NH, it's not legal even for ADULTS (of smoking age) to smoke on school or government property - you have to be a minimum of 15 feet from the property boundary.
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#46 of 47 Old 07-01-2004, 07:29 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Greaseball
That happens in all high schools, though!

What I'm not totally sold on is the low number of teachers. They say they'll try to find one for any subject a child is interested in, but what if they can't?
At least with sudbury .. you have the option of seeking out another student who may know or be interested in the topic during class times .. not just nailed to a desk bored out of your gourd because you're on the fifth week in a row about european feudal government when you REALLY want to be learning american history or holocaust studies.
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#47 of 47 Old 07-21-2004, 07:50 AM
 
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We live about two miles from the original Sudbury school in Framingham, MA, and a neighbor has incredibly good things to say about it (her children, all in college now, attended throughout their K-12 years), so we've tried to check it out. Unfortunately when my husband called about it, and expressed interest in visiting the campus, he was told unequivocally: "no." He was quite taken aback. Apparently their policy is that no one (besides students) can visit the campus, unless they go through with the admissions process (cost: $50) and get an official interview. We were quite disappointed with this rather negative response. Our dd is only two and a half, and we're just in the beginning process of visiting and thinking about schools -- we don't really want to give them $50 just to get a feel for the place. We still believe in the philosophy, and may in fact end up sending dd there, but it wasn't a great way to start the relationship....

By the way, tuition at the original SVS is a bit over $5,000, which I think is quite reasonable, especially after seeing the tuitions at other private Boston-area schools!

Cheers --
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