I've been trying to break myself of my mothering boards habit, but this thread just makes me want to throw caution to the winds and jump in...
first, good and healthy wishes to Alexander, whose ideas about the Sudbury model and education have always impressed me!
The model of democratic education developed at the Sudbury Valley School has successfully allowed children to learn, grow, develop, and become their own unique selves with confidence, freedom, respect, accountability, creativity, and fun for over three decades! I would heartily recommend visiting the websites of the various schools all around the country and world who have utilized and interpreted this approach to learning. You can find links through the SVS site, which is www.sudval.com.
The books are great resources, as well.
A critical element of this model of education is that children (and the adult staff members) learn to work and live and learn cooperatively, to make decisions that effect the whole together, that the opinion of everyone matters, that you are accountable for your actions, that your own innate curiosity is a good thing! The core of this model (imo) is the balance between individual and community, something that my society (USA) doesn't tend to focus on (we tend to be rather me first and the heck with the rest of you, much of the time).
Staff members are elected every year - "teachers" are selected by the community because they are an asset to the community. Classes are offered because students have requested them. Kids learn how to read when they need to, they can spend an entire day designing a fort or creating an elaborate role playing game with their friends, they can work on their skills in French, sew clothes, read novels, bake bread, take pictures, throw pots, put on plays, learn algebra...
I went to college with people who had been to Sudbury Valley, I've been fortunate to visit two SVS model schools in other parts of the country, and these schools are hopping with activity, kids are busy, busy, busy all over the place, they are talked to by adults with honesty and respect and respond in kind, they have a clear set of established rules for the good of the whole community that the community itself has established, they learn to work constructively to solve disagreements, they want to go to school each day!
It's probably more than a little obvious that this model of education is one that I strongly believe in (I have my own critiques, of course). With respect to the opinion of others, it think it is far more than paying for unschooling... I think the most impressive experience you can have is to visit a school, talk to the kids there, see how it works in action. In my experience, you will get a glimpse of a harmonious community of active, determined learners, supportive of each other, respectful and respected, learning how to solve problems and resolve differences, learning what it means to be responsible for one's actions and decisions, and finally, enjoying a period of their lives to the fullest!
edited to add - sanna, ironically enough, one dream of SO and I is to open a sudbury-influenced school in Ashland! Beautiful home you have...cheers, j