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  Topic Review (Newest First)
09-26-2010 06:17 PM
Linda on the move
Originally Posted by mamagoose View Post
Most (if not all?) the students are white. I'm wondering if anyone here has some insight as to whether or not this is a common issue to free/democratic schools, or common to private schools in general, or just due somehow to geographic factors?
My kids go to a progressive school, not a Sudbury school, but it's in the same philosophical direction.

It's mostly white. The one African American student is adopted and has white parents. The area we live in has a high Latino Population, but there are very few latinos at the school.

It's just mostly white.

My kids' school has a high percentage of kids who have mild special needs. It's not a special needs school, but it works so much better for kids who are "quirky" that there are lot of them there. So it's worked out to be diverse in a different way than I first thought it would.

The Spanish teacher is a native speaker, one of the staff is in a wheel chair, and the sign language teacher is profoundly deaf.

I don't know why more families of color don't choose the school, but it's still the best place for *my* children.
08-14-2010 02:46 AM
FreeTime I've been involved with our local Sudbury school here in Concord, CA for about 10 years, and my son attended for six years. This school is very diverse in terms of ethnicity, religion, politics, income, family composition, etc. That might reflect the geographic area where we are.

So I'm not sure you could generalize about the diversity of all the schools, as each is individual.

Also to an earlier poster, don't feel embarrassed about attending an Open House with a young baby. At our school we love it! How wonderful when parents begin thinking early about the best education for their child.
08-10-2010 07:29 PM
mamagoose Hello all,
I've just been reviewing this thread because I'm in the middle of making a decision on where to send 5yr old DS -- and one of my option is The Clearwater School here near Seattle. I agree with many of the benefits of democratic/free schools cited by all of you here, and I share many of the same concerns cited by many of you. One concern I have is that at least at Clearwater, there appears to be almost NO racial/cultural/ethnic diversity. Most (if not all?) the students are white. I'm wondering if anyone here has some insight as to whether or not this is a common issue to free/democratic schools, or common to private schools in general, or just due somehow to geographic factors? I will of course be talking with the school staff about this, but in the meantime I wanted to get a feel from other parents who have more experience with free schools as to whether this is a common issue?
Thank you,
06-18-2010 11:55 AM
CourtBChase Kai28- I realize you posted about this a month ago, but I also have an almost 1 year old and live in your general area :-) Sudbury Valley has been on our radar for years as well. I'd love to hear how you found the open house, we have not been to one because we were worried we would seem ridiculous attending with our little babe! Feel free to send me a PM, I have some of the books from the sudbury valley press, if you are interested in reading them.
06-15-2010 03:42 PM
Linda on the move
Originally Posted by kai28 View Post
and I'm curious how internet access is dealt with at the SVS.
You would need to ask at the specific school you are considering. At the alternative/open school my kids will be attending in the fall, kids aren't allowed internet access at school at all until middle school. The computers are in public spaces where any one walking by can see what the child is doing, and there is a 6 to 1 teacher ratio.

how hard would it be for him to be exposed to something harmful an older kid is doing (drugs, smoking, drinking at school - if it happens in PS, it must happen at SVS too, only with less "supervision")?
Right now my kids attend public middle school, and these things aren't a problem at their school, nor with any of their friends that they see outside of school. I'm not saying that "none of the kids that attend my children's school ever drink/smoke etc.," but it doesn't happen at school and my kids do not hang out with kids who do these things. I honestly believe these problems get overstated in our culture.

I fully expect to be dealing with that sort of media access on some level around the age of 13 or so, I really don't want my 6 year old exposed to porn (or drugs/smoking/alcohol) regardless of how mature he is for his age.
If these things are going on at any school, then you aren't going to want your child there, even when they are 13!
05-24-2010 01:29 AM
teachermom my younger kids (ages 7 $ 10) are going to the Sudbury model shcool here.
( ) so far it has really worked for them. they love it. of course, our school is still small but growing. I like reading all of the feedback from other parents on their sudbury experiences.
up until now we have always homeschooled (unschooling mostly). my older ones are still learning at home.
05-20-2010 09:49 AM
kai28 Thanks for this thread. I'm looking into SVS (in Mass.) for DS - we know some people who have children who attend, but we don't know them well (everyone seems to love it). DS is just 1, but the SVS is so different that I feel we need the time to research it, find out what we need to know, weigh that against how DS develops, and basically just do our leg work now while we have the time (we plan on a second kid just around the time we'll "have" to be forming an actual opinion, and I think we'll be otherwise occupied then).

I did just cross post on the "old" subdury thread - but that seems to be a dead end as it's not very active, so I'm reposting here. If the moderator feels the need to delete the other one, that's fine with me.

At the moment, my particular concern is with internet/media access. chat rooms, facebook, myspace, youtube, etc. I think the SVS model is great, but I wonder if some parts of it are a little outdated for this technology age? I don't know. But I do worry about internet access/interacting via internet and personal safety. How hard would it be for a kid to stumble into a chat room (if such things still exist - you get my point, anyway), tell someone where they go to school, and 'oh, we have open campus, I can leave whenever' and run into trouble when they end up meeting someone just off campus (not that the SVS neighborhood is a bad one)? I'm sure the likelihood of that is extermely remote, and we can't control stuff like that (or anything, really) - but we'll be monitoring internet activity here at home (violating personal space? yes. my job as a parent? yes. computer/wireless access only in the main living areas, not the bedrooms, no electronic media in bedrooms at all - parents included) and I'm curious how internet access is dealt with at the SVS. I mean, can the kids watch porn on the computers all day? or would that be deemed "harmful" to themselves (assuming they didn't show anyone else) & be brought up at JC? What are the chances of anyone else even knowing about it? the computer room at SVS seemed a) small and b) possible to situate yourself so that you had adequate privacy (we attended the open house last month - which alleviated many of my original fears).

I know, I know - my kid is only 1 - he's a long way off from porn. But with freely mixing ages, how hard would it be for him to be exposed to something harmful an older kid is doing (drugs, smoking, drinking at school - if it happens in PS, it must happen at SVS too, only with less "supervision")? And while, yes, it might be called harmful and brought up before the JC, at that point...damage is done - or SOME damage is done (kids are elastic & can heal/learn/change/grow). I fully expect to be dealing with that sort of media access on some level around the age of 13 or so, I really don't want my 6 year old exposed to porn (or drugs/smoking/alcohol) regardless of how mature he is for his age.

It's ironic that the very technology that pays the bills that can afford us to send DS to the SVS is the one of the main things I'm concerned with him accessing unfettered...

I wasn't exactly an angel in public high school - the stuff I got away with while flying under the radar - well, let's just say I'm happy I survived. But then again, I suppose one could argue that I did survive anyway.
04-02-2010 11:14 PM
singin'intherain Thanks for giving input into this conversation, abbe. You're right that Sudbury parents face unique challenges with their kids, because we are dealing with situations that kids at other schools never face. For example, at a parent-staff conference tonight, we talked (again) about how and when our kids were going to learn to read. It's good to feel supported as a parent with concerns, and at the same time feel that my kids are supported to follow their own learning journeys. Because as respectful parents, we realize that we don't know all the answers, and that having concerns doesn't mean we should barge in and try to control our kids- we also have learning to do, and the goal is really to work it out to our kids' highest good.

When problems come up at the school, there is a lot of time and energy spent understanding the situation, trying remedies, and coming up with creative ways to improve the situation. There's no black and white, broken rules equals consequences. It can be frustrating, because it means problems stay up in the air for a long time. But even as a parent who took one child to another school, I have a lot of faith in the process the school uses to resolve issues. The resolutions take a while, but they result in growth for the kids- I've seen this happen with my own kids.

One problem I have with the process of problem solving at Sudbury is that it's hard for parents to access. I have come to school to pick up my kids and heard, "By the way Mom, E is being recommended for suspension at school meeting tomorrow." This would never happen in a public school! I can understand why keeping parents essentially out of the loop protects the community at the school. But honestly, I think I could have helped solve some of the problems my kids were having at school if I'd known what was going on. It's not that the school is trying to be secretive, it's that they don't approach parents with problems and turn them into a home discipline issue. I agree with that- JC would never work if parents were punishing kids at home- but I would like to see more open access for parents into the school community. Maybe it's there, and I don't know it because I'm busy with my own school?

These are some of the thoughts that came up for me following our first conference with the staff at Rising Tide- I'm feeling very good about my kids' experience there!
03-23-2010 06:23 PM
treestarsky Hi mamas!
I've been reading this thread and wanted to say hi to everyone and offer some support. I am the parent of a Sudbury student and a Staff and cofounder at Rising Tide School in Olympia, WA. Our experience with Sudbury has been incredibly awesome, rewarding, and life-saving. My daughter is happier than she's ever been and learning so much! I want to share some thoughts for people who are thinking about Sudbury and for those who are trying it but struggling.
Reading along here, I am really struck by how parents struggle over their children's attendance at Sudbury schools. Because it's so different that the schools that most of us went to, and so different than the schools that most people we know go to, it can really be hard to understand how it all works AND hard to know how to support our kids as they educate themselves. The problems that come up often have no equivalent in the world of mainstream education and so we don't have the practice and support to work through them.
For example, Caronne talks about withdrawing her kids from SVS because (in part) they haven't yet figured out how to how to get the classes they want. Yes...that's definitely not the typical problem that we faced growing up or that our friends or neighbors face A few parents from Rising Tide are here with concerns about resources and gaming. How many parents have to worry about trusting their children to use media responsibly at school? I hear other posters with worries that are based on incorrect information (for example, about transcripts and how Sudbury schools support students who go on to college). No, Sudbury schools don't provide transcripts. It would be impossible to, because each child's educational path is completely different and the school does not undertake to measure or assess student activities. Yes, that means that, unlike their peers in traditional schools, students have to take full responsibility for figuring out how to get to college. No wonder people often are so worried when thinking about trying Sudbury.
I really encourage people to reach out to the Staff at their schools when going through struggles like these. It's so helpful to get clarification about school policies and to hear what goes on at school directly from the Staff. I find that parents almost always experience relief and renewed excitement after reaching out and scheduling a conference. It is hard work to try this type of education--it requires so much trust and effort from us as parents. To really educate ourselves about how the school works and to constantly work through our own fears and worries--without much support from the world--is a big undertaking.
And yet is really is so worth it. I don't know of any better way for children to truly create a meaningful education and a meaningful life. I hope that those of you who are drawn to Sudbury give it a try, give your schools and students lots of support, and get lots of support for yourself.
Best of luck on your journeys! I really enjoy talking to people about Sudbury and about how to support your Sudbury student (and yourself) through the self-education journey. If you'd like to email me you'd be welcome to--it's abbebird at gmail dot com. peace,
03-07-2010 06:40 PM
Starflower We have decided not to attend the Sudbury-type school next year. It is not the best fit for DD. Over the past few months, she has gone from a happy, interested kid, to a sullen, grouchy and anxious child. Basically, I ended up giving DD therapy for 2 hours every night, usually related to school situations.
The anxiety got bad enough we took DD to a therapist. (She is very supportive of whatever our educational choices are.)

If DD wants to finish out the year at school, we will. For awhile she was asking not to go at all but then she said she just wanted a week off. We want her to have the freedom to choose, but the choice is too big for her to make on her own comfortably, and DH and I don't want to cut her off if she still wants to attend on some level.

So for now we take days off when she wants one. We've also started going to school later, just kind of whenever we feel like it. We are only part-time anyway. We have also dropped our carpool because DD seems to need more time with me and this gives her a 30 minute transition time between school and home. This ends up being a lot of driving for me but DD seems much happier. She has begun to smile again. And play her imaginative games at home. We feel like our old DD is back again.

We plan to unschool again. In the mean time, we've been treating DD's attendance at school like a homeschool activity of her choice. This seems to really help. We plan to continue a family friendship that has started from the school, but the other friendships will likely just fade away as we focus more on the homeschool community out here.
02-21-2010 05:48 PM
Caronne Currently, both my kids and my nephew (we have guardianship) attend SVS here in Mass. We are now in the process of withdrawing them.
For my two kids this is their third year (age 8 and 9.5) and the second for my nephew (age 16). Our son (age 8) has the most problem with the school. He has been having anxiety attacks over the JC. Just the thought of being "brought up" causes a panic, and it is getting worse. He has served on the JC twice, so he knows the process, but the idea of everyone knowing/reading about his infraction and punishment causes him sleepless nights. He has fully participated in the Art selections (his sewing is awesome) and is now learning guitar. But likes the idea of having more concrete things to do. For example: Science he loves working with circuits, robotics and experimenting, and he is a Math fiend. One of his friend is leaving to attend Montessori for this very reason.

My daughter loves the social aspect but she wants some formal "classes". When I asked her why she does not approach the staff about a math, science, reading etc class, she said that the process is not easy. First you have to convince the staff that this is a good idea, then you have to get other kids who are also interested and then you have to.... This seems a lot of work for young kids, (BTW, this is her understanding and explanation of the process). I have spoken to a few other parents whose kids have reported similar experiences.

My nephew, who has attended public and private school loves it because he does not have to do anything all day. He is 16 and has documented learning disabilities, he and his friends play video games and Magic all day. He says that the kids who do actively read/study are usually in rooms by themselves. One of my nephews friends (he attended for about 3 years), just left and took his GED. His is exceptionally smart and said that to be accepted into Tufts University he had to get a GED first and attend some community college because they would not accept his SVS "diploma".

I think that this can work for some kids but not all, due to varying needs and expectations. This has been our experience with SVS and I would never discourage anyone from attending a Sudbury school. We like a lot of what SVS does and some of the life lessons, JC, discretionary money, learning through playing, has been great. They have never been bullied and have learned how to deal with peer pressure.
As they have gotten older the concerns/problems have grown. My kids attended Montessori and I homeschooled the for a year before SVS. They have great memories of both. We are now looking at homeschooling, for the rest of the school year, and possibly Montessori, next year, for them again.
02-17-2010 08:18 PM
Originally Posted by ejsmama View Post

I think my biggest fear as a Sudbury parent is that somehow, by trying to provide the best opportunity for my son, I'm actully holding him back from his potential out of "fear" that traditional schooling will somehow be bad for him. I do not believe in making any decisions out of fear, whether it be to "flee" public schooling or to not continue with Sudbury.

I do not feel like I have enough information about how Sudbury grads actually achieve their goals, especially those who went for their full schooling in that method, even after having read "Pursuit of Happiness".
In 2008, Sudbury Valley celebrated their 40th anniversary. As part of their program, they had a panel of 5 graduates speak about their time at SVS and their lives after graduation.

The talks are available on Youtube. Here is a link to the first talk and an introduction by one of the founders, Mimsy Sadofsky, .

I believe that one of them went from 7 years old to graduate,

All of the graduate talks are worth listening to. They each had unique experiences as SVS and unique journeys in adulthoold.

I hope this helps you have a better understanding of the lives of Sudbury grads.

Kathy Williams
Sunset Sudbury School
South Florida
02-09-2010 04:49 PM
ejsmama Singin, lets get together again soon and chat. I'll facebook you for details.

My DH and I go back and forth continually about our feelings. We love and support the school, but also want to make sure that we aren't holding our son back from things he could be really successful at by not providing him opportunities to learn in a more structured manner.

I am very curious about Sudbury and other dem school graduates, especially those who spent most of their school time in that method. When did they learn to read? How did they? Were there enough formerly ps kids who did read to help encourage that direction?

And for those who sought higher education, did they need to seek tutoring outside of their school to get the the background they needed to be successful?

As a child, I LOVED to learn, and I loved my ps as a place where I was exposed to all sorts of ideas that I might never have explored on my own. I developed a child a deep love of research and thorough exploration of a topic which has stayed with me to this day.

I think my biggest fear as a Sudbury parent is that somehow, by trying to provide the best opportunity for my son, I'm actully holding him back from his potential out of "fear" that traditional schooling will somehow be bad for him. I do not believe in making any decisions out of fear, whether it be to "flee" public schooling or to not continue with Sudbury.

I do not feel like I have enough information about how Sudbury grads actually achieve their goals, especially those who went for their full schooling in that method, even after having read "Pursuit of Happiness". Many of the grads there came to SVS after already having learned many basic skills in ps or other private schools, so it is really hard for me to know whether Sudbury is going to actually provide the opportunities for learning that my son needs.

He certainly is learning a lot about himself, democracy, being a valuable and important part of a community wiht responsibility and accountability. These things are awesome. But I also want him to use that fantastic brain of his for more than just playing Plants vs. Zombies or Bionicles. Not that I don't value deep play. I do. I'm just conflicted.
02-09-2010 12:41 AM
singin'intherain I'd like to jump back into this discussion, too. My kids are also at RTS, and while I don't think ps is a viable option for any of my kids, I am having some reservations about the lack of learning opportunities there. My daughter is one of the few "big kids" at the school, and one of only two girls, so she's kind of on her own socially- which she does have the personality for, but with so little time for us to socialize outside of school, I wish she could have more peers at school. Academically, I am beginning to feel concerned that my sons, 7 and 8, are showing signs that they think they *can't* read. I know that they are ready to learn, but I don't think they're going to magically decide to ask someone to teach them- there's always something more fun to do. When we unschooled at home, I would carefully "strew" materials and suggest activities that I thought would interest them. It seems that this kind of thing doesn't go on much at RTS. Also, my daughter has been talking about becoming an engineer, and I want to encourage her. She has been telling me about her designs for houses and "kid's town" since she was four. I think she has a natural gift for design, as well as math. But as a pre-Dental student, I know that without certain meta-skills that people really only use in school, she will be at a severe disadvantage.

Part of having my kids at RTS is that for me it means even more letting them find their own paths than when we were unschooling at home. It can be hard to stomach at times.
01-15-2010 06:28 PM
thisiswhatwedo Hi everyone it feels so good to here all these families trying liking or even not liking this great alternative to mainstream eduction. We are on year three with my three kids attending a great democratic free school in Minneapolis , Second Foundation.
we love it. One reason to be there is because there is very little bullying and it doesn't go unnoticed or unresolved for long. Kids, boys in our case, naturally seem to get at odds and their need to learn best ways of communicating. Kids are EMPOWERED to take action to learn to get along and to express their thoughts and feelings about less then happy interactions. That said, I am amazed how happy the kids are here. My kids had the day off today for music lessons and a day out. They asked to go to school. They had an hour left of school time but here we are.
Right now the younger girls are dressed up in costumes being princesses (somethings don't change) and there are a group of mostly boys being dragons in the gym. A few kids made homemade noodles and some older kids are having a meeting about a play they wrote and will produce this spring. Two older students are at college classes today and a few teens are choosing to sleep. My kids aren't learning at the same pace as their public school peers. But as most homeschool parents know well; most of these kids know themselves, can speak clearly about their desires and make choices. They also aren't as stessed out, competative and generally negative as I was in public school.
In general I would reccommend this kind of schooling to families who want happy well rounded kids. However be prepared for kids following their own path at their own pace.
01-09-2010 07:14 PM
ejsmama "However, she seems to need more support than some other children at her school. " We saw that with another girl at our school this year. She ended up moving to a different school, but will likely be back at our Sudbury school when she is older.

What works well for us at our Sudbury School:
Our son is incredibly happy there.

He is following his interests and is in a supportive, respectful environment.

The staff is amazing and really trying to build a school that works.

He has learned a lot through JC and through the democratic process of the school, and was recently the deciding vote at School Meeting.

He has, by his own choice, "moved on" from the initial video game focus.

He lost his computer privileges, and has chosen not to the pay the fine to regain them even though he could. He is exercising his choices and it really is working for him.

Being a "sudbury parent" has been a great opportunity for personal growth and parental refleciton.

What doesn't work so well for us:
I think my husband and I both would prefer a democratic model where the staff were offering classes that the kids could freely choose to participate in. We are mildly concerned about the total hands off approach in the Sudbury method, and think there really is a positive side to staff initiative.
Also, by paying for private school, there are many other opportunities that our son would like that are not currently able to give him. He is a passionate interest to learn fencing, and we just can't afford lessons for him at this time. I've encouraged him to bring it up at school meeting, and he did once, but it wasn't on the agenda, so I'm hoping he will work with a staff person to learn how he can bring it up. I also am aware that with all of its drawbacks, there are many opportunities in the public schools that my son will not have unless he and others personally decide to make those opportunities happen (drama, arts, music, etc.). That is one of the major trade offs for me.

We also feel a loss in terms of his connection with other kids in our neighborhood who will be/are attending public school (we live in a great neighborhood with a good public school). I don't have the same deeply negative views about public school that many Sudbury and other alternative school parents have. I think PS works really well for some kids, but certainly fails many others. If my son was a kid who thrived in a PS school setting, I would not hesitate to send him there. He actually would like to try PS kindergarten next year, and we probably will go ahead and try that route, and then make a "final" decision ((what decision is every final) in the coming years as a family based on finances, our son's happiness, and what seems to work best for us as a family. Our son will certainly have a big roll in that decision, as he did in the decision to attend Sudbury this year.

I really want to see our local Sudbury school succeed. I think so highly of the staff who are completely volunteering their time this year (blows me away - people basically working full time for free). My husband feels very strongly about having our son try a year of public school and see how it works for him, and I do not really have objections to that, other than my concern that our not enrolling next year would somehow harm the local Sudbury school that is just starting and is in a fragile place. I want to have that option in the community for my child and other children and teens, whether we ultimately end up taking advantage of that opportunity or not.
01-08-2010 10:18 PM
Starflower ejsmama-

I'd be curious what you find is working vs. not working for your DS. You can PM me if you would like to have a private conversation about it.

I am also considering alternatives for next year. This is DD's first year at the SVS type school. Last year we unschooled after two years of co-op preschool. Now I am wondering if a bit more structured atmosphere may be more helpful for DD. When I say structure, I mean loosely structured as opposed to heavily structured like PS.

I am currently looking at all our options again and leaning toward unschooling again with a few things scheduled that DD choses herself. Our main reason for trying the SVS school was to try to provide DD with more time to be with other kids. She's a very extroverted only child. However, she seems to need more support than some other children at her school. The other thing that's coming into play is the cost of sending DD to the SVS school. It's a huge stretch for us financially, especially since it may not be the best fit for her after all. I could find ways of coping financially if everything was awesome, but I think maybe it's just not quite right for us.
01-08-2010 08:58 PM
ejsmama I am very interested in this conversation, and hearing from folks who have both positive and negative experiences with Sudbury method. I do know personally several graduates who do not show the negative characteristics that are being described here. I'm not trying to downplay what is being said, but SVS has done in depth studies on its graduates, and find that most SVS graduates are happy with are leading very fulfilling lives. Most SVS graduates who wished to go on for higher education are able to do so, at least according to the research SVS has done on its graduates. So it seems to me that either SVS is lying about its studies on graduates, or the experiences of the SVS graduats that were described be the previous posters are exceptions rather than the rule. I think it is very important for people who are interested in the Sudbury method to meet actual graduates and make their own opinions. The SVS and other Sudbury graduates that I have met are thoughtful, well spoken, and highly motivated individuals who have a much greater maturity than others of similar age.

Granted, my son attends a Sudbury school, so I am biased, but I have seen growth in him in the last couple of months, and unlike any other school he has attended, he is excited to go every day. It is never a fight to get him out of the door. He is very happy there, which is saying a lot for him. Having said that, it is not a final decision for us. We may send him to public school next year. There are things we love about our current Sudbury school, and things we do not care so much for.

With permission, I would like to repost the two negative reviews of SVS on the google discussion list on the Discuss Sudbury Method. The responses would be very helpful to me as a parent, as many of those who post there are Sudbury graduates. It is not my intention to in any way dismiss those review of SVS, but rather to ask feedback as a mother who wants to make the best decisions possible for her son.
01-01-2010 05:15 PM
ahpo5 subbing
12-09-2009 10:23 AM
hipsands Interesting to read, yes I agree it is important to hear from past students. Are both your friends'/family experiences of the same school, the SVS? From the knowledge I have of these kinds schools (which isn't a lot of personal experience but more from reading books and watching videos of grads talking about their experiences on youtube, as well as having visited the nearby school) each and every sudbury school really does have its own "flavor", and I bet this ebbs and flows over time. These kinds of schools, just like every other school on earth, has its own issues too, and I'm not surprised to hear your comments on bullying/ drugs/ etc. No school, no community is immune from these issues, though of course some situations/schools have more of those issues than others. IMO the important thing to know is nothing is perfect; I'm hoping my kids education is MOSTLY right for them and not perfectly right. And when issues come up (which they already have!) we handle them together, as a family, and use it as a learning experience, and/or decide to go another route. For son rides the bus, and he LOVES (as I mentioned before) his local public school, and there has already been 1 pretty serious fight on the bus, plus there are definitely 4 (yes, I said 4!) older boys who have bullied girls on the bus. He STILL likes riding the bus!!, so our compromise is we do it half the time, the other half I drive him. Say my kids are in public school through 12th grade, when they are older (like your friend says who went through SVS the entire time) they may be happy during it and never want to switch schools, but then look back and say "sure I liked it, but now I can't even figure out how to relax and not feel like everything is a deadline, and my experience with learning is based on someone externally telling me I got something right"...etc etc etc. I wonder, how content your friend is with her life?, (aside from knowledge of science), like confidence with herself and the ability to be flexible and pick up knowledge when its important, like it sounds like she is doing.

Different styles have different trade-offs. Say for arguement's sake that increased democratic freedom also increases the amt of bullying, then compare that to public school, where uniform participation is achieved with bribery (candy) and time-outs (including sitting out of recess, a big deal for a 5 yr old!) Which is worse? I'm not sure!! But I do appreciate hearing your friends/husbands/siblings points of view too. Its all important and relevant. OH to answer the q about bullying, maybe that happened to my son, who knows, he isn't saying so I won't know for sure (he also was NOT the one to tell me about all the bullying on the bus, I've heard about that from older kids who are neighbors.) Also, as my experience with my son seems to indicate along with both of yours with your friends/family, that no matter what, not every kid will like a school, or will find it a good fit even if they get to literally play all day.

Aside from the valuable experiences you've both aware of, there is a book (I'm sure you've heard of it) called the Pursuit of Happiness about the lives of over a hundred Sudbury Valley Alumni. Though not a huge sample size and only from that 1 school, their research nonetheless showed that 90% of their study sample did in fact go to college. But maybe even more importantly, the majority were overwhelmingly very content with their lives, and felt their life direction depended upon them and the choices they make. That contentment seemed to increase along with the increase of years that they spent at that school.

Gosh, thanks. Just having to think all this through and write it all out was a good processing experience for me!
12-08-2009 04:27 PM
Originally Posted by hipsands View Post
Hi again,
I'm really feeling the need to vent!! So my worst fears were confirmed, my eldest just tried a week at the wonderful sudbury school nearby, and he was miserable. The first day when I left him, he was very happy. When I picked him up, the very first thing he said to me was "I do NOT want to go back there." So we got in the car, and I said, "before we talk about going or not going, can you just tell me about your day?" He said, "it was fun, I guess, I just played all day, tag football, etc". And I said that sounded like fun. His reply was, "well it wasn't THAT much fun."
It sounds like something happened. Do you think he was bullied? I mean, what he told you was fine. It sounds like there was something specific that he didn't tell you.

But I have to say that my experience is similar to TwinPetals. I've known a bunch of people who went to SVS, including a boyfriend in high school who was a student there. You couldn't pay me to send my child there. The bullying was astounding (we're talking high school kids physically hurting four year olds, stealing from them, taunting them). I went to a prep school that was known for its drug use but it was nothing to SVS. Of the kids I knew who went there, at least one of them is dead in a pretty gruesome manner, and most dropped out and never got so much as a GED. None of them became what I would consider a productive member of society, as in: being able to hold down a decent job, spouses, any sort of accomplishments. And they all have major, MAJOR attitude problems. I think when I was in high school I bought into their attitude that their way was superior, but in retrospect it's just chaotic anarchy and it doesn't create individuals who can function in the real world.

It was well known that if you wanted to go to college you had to transfer to another school by 11th grade, because SVS refused to help with college applications by coming up with transcripts or recommendations. There were two kids at my high school who had transferred out (both really nasty and egotistical individuals with no friends, fwiw) so that they could go to college, but the ones I knew who remained at SVS had no interest in higher education.

I'm sure there are instances where this experience is as good as could be, but that's my experience with SVS.
12-08-2009 04:02 PM
Twinpetals I have to chime in here. A lot of my friends went to Sudbury Valley, as older kids, some for their entire education, or for a major part of it. My brother went for a year, and my husband went for two years. I know we all want better experiences for our kids than we had, especially if they weren't amazing, but I think it is invaluable to hear from people who went to SVS.
I am undecided about what school to try with my boys. They will be 4 in a couple of months and they have only attended parent-toddler classes at a Waldorf school, and a community gymnastics class. I'm still trying to figure out about them, their learning style, their personalities, and their needs, to make an educated decision regarding education for them.
BUT, I would never send them to SVS. I like the idea of democratic schools, and child-directed learning, but in my opinion the learning that happens at sudbury valley is very singular, and does not help children become adults in this culture.

Where do I start? Ok- My friends who went there as teenagers, needed a different experience than their highschools could provide. When they got to sudbury valley, they hung out, talked about their dreams, were pretty creative, and were a tight community, so they learned about how to be social in their community, but lost/never gained a lot of skills about how to interact outside of that community, they were brazen, destructive, and did A lot of drugs. A LOT! Most everyone I know who started later on as teens or pre-teens never graduated from Sudbury valley, and when they were ready to pursue higher education, and asked for a "transcipt" sudbury valley was decidely adversarial. This example holds across the board with over a dozen of my friends.

My brother was very different than most of the other kids, and was chastisted. My Husband, just played basketball. He didn't want to do anything else, and never did. He is a total bookworm, and not very social, so other than play basketball with the younger kids, he just read his own books from the Newton Public Library, because SVS doesn't even have a great Library, or enough resources for diverse, and deep learning.

I have one friend who only ever attended SVS, and I was really disheartened when she told me, a couple of years ago, that she is really upset to have to only been in school at SVS, because she is struggling immensely to pursue her interests now, which are science-base pursuits.

My kids are already social beings, they are twins, and love to talk and engage with others. They do not need SVS for the social freedom that it offers, and I want them to have more options than SVS can actually offer them. Sometimes some structure is a really productive and useful thing.

My husband went to a democratic school in Israel, when he was younger 9-11yrs old. It was more structured than SVS. There were classes, but you got to choose what you wanted to study, and how. This really worked for him.

I would call SVS more like anarchy than democracy. But that's just my opinion. If i had one positive report to rest with I might think differently, but accross the board, I haven't heard SVS being a positive experience in the long-term.
12-06-2009 01:11 PM
hipsands Hi again,
I'm really feeling the need to vent!! So my worst fears were confirmed, my eldest just tried a week at the wonderful sudbury school nearby, and he was miserable. The first day when I left him, he was very happy. When I picked him up, the very first thing he said to me was "I do NOT want to go back there." So we got in the car, and I said, "before we talk about going or not going, can you just tell me about your day?" He said, "it was fun, I guess, I just played all day, tag football, etc". And I said that sounded like fun. His reply was, "well it wasn't THAT much fun." So I told him, because it was so different, I wanted him to go back for a second day, I just didn't trust that he really understood the experience, since it is SO different from public school where he's been the last 3 months. So after hearing that he cried in the car till he fell asleep. (How is that for being the worst mom ever--forcing your kid to go to a democratic school? I still feel so terrible I made him go back the second day. Ugh.) When we got home my husband talked to him, and my son even made this comment when talking about how he can play all day if he wants, he said "well, playing is fun, but learning is fun too." I feel like I've messed up b/c at some point he has learned that play and learning are two different things. So I dropped him off the second day, and he was ok when I left, but then cried when I was gone. My kid has done a lot of different things in the last few years, sports, summer bible school, etc, and has *never* cried about anything new, ever, except this. When I picked him up he seemed ok, but said he didn't want to go to ANY school on Wed, just wanted to stay home with me. So I let it all go. He got to pick a fun thing to do on Wed, and we spent the entire day not at any school but at the science center, playing, reconnecting, having fun, and he went back to public school on Thursday.

So please, someone talk some sense into me here. I actually cried (NOT around my son, after he went to bed) on Tuesday to my dh because in my heart I believe the sudbury school is far superior to any, and I feel a failure all around, that I didn't listen to my son the first time, and that my son's idea of normal is public school since we started him there first. (Why did we do that is a great question, there are lots of reasons, some of which include my dh, who feels there isn't a perfect fit for everyone, he wanted to give public school as an option to our kids too, which makes sense since he's a public school teacher. Money too was an issue, and the fact that all his close friends around this area go there, which made my son want to go too).

I know the democratic school will be there, and I can offer it to him in the future. I just really needed to vent. Anyone have any thoughts to offer I'd so appreciate hearing it!! BTW we have 2 younger kids, and now the issue will be, do we try my second son at the sudbury school this fall, knowing I'll have to coordinate 2 schools not close together in proximity?

Thanks so much for listening. S.
11-05-2009 06:06 PM
singin'intherain For a while I "paid" the kids to do jobs around the house, wanting to tie money to work in their minds. I want them to understand the connection! But it got really annoying- they were always asking me if there was something they could do (for money), and they quickly got to the point where if I asked them to do something, they said, "How much are you going to pay me?". I realized that this kind of economic system just doesn't work very well within a family. So now I just give them each $10 a month- the only thing it's tied to is whether or not we can afford it! I expect them to help at their level. If it's getting messy, I say, before you do that, we are going to clean. And as I go along, I ask them to help with little things. I also remind them to pick up things they drop on the floor, very politely. On the weekends we do a big cleaning and I let them know that not helping is not an option. I wanted to make cleaning optional, but after about a year of me doing a TON of work (four kids!), I gave that up.
11-03-2009 06:32 PM
hipsands I can relate to the school experience you describe, mine was similar, I did well and really liked it. I totally agree too models like Sudbury take away that need for external affirmation as really the "grand overview" for why students are working hard. BTW, we also dabble in allowance (I personally don't see anything wrong with it), we pick things that are outside the norm of expectations here to pay our 5 year old for, and just like your son he loves spending his own money.
11-02-2009 01:17 PM
ejsmama The bribery stuff annoys me, too. Though, as a parent I must own that there are times that I do it as well (i.e. eat a well balanced dinner and you get to have dessert). I'm reevaluating some of that myself right now.

It is hard for me to imagine a child not wanting the kind of freedom and respect that they would find in a Sudbury School. I think that if I had been in a Sudbury School rather than a public school as a kid, I would not be so affected by a need for external affirmation. I really had trouble as a young adult figuring out what I really wanted as opposed to what others wanted for me. I excelled in many areas, but it was difficult for me to realize that just because I excelled at something and was affirmed for it didn't mean that it gave me joy. To this day I am very motivated by external praise, and have a high need for affirmation. Some of that may simply be temperament (highly extroverted people tend to have a much higher need for external affirmation), but the education system certainly contributed to that as well.

This is slightly off topic: we have recently started having allowance in our house. My son got to choose some chores, and then tracks how many he does each week, and gets a certain amount for each chore. I guess it is a form of bribery (getting money for helping around the house) but it is also an opportunity for him to take part in our family responsibilities, and to get to earn some of his own money, which is something he truly values. He really loves that he is spending his own money that he has earned when he buys a toy these days. It is a real source of pride. When he chooses not to do the chores, we don't make a big deal about it at all. We honor his choice. I think there are some subtle distinctions. I hope that our system is instilling a sense of self confidence in Elijah rather than simply trying to manipulate his behavior. I got really tired of the constant requests to buy him things, and recognized that he needed a way to earn some money of his own so that he could save and make choices. I think/hope that this is honoring a need he has. It really doesn't help me that much to have him do chores - he needs a lot of help with them and they take more time. But it does seem to be doing something for him.
11-02-2009 10:54 AM
hipsands ejsmama, very helpful! that is fabulous your son got to choose. and in some ways I feel the same way about p.s....though trully I feel lucky in that my son is extremely adaptable, I think probably anything could "work" well for him in terms of school. (we too visited different places to see what my son would like best, and he really seemed to like almost all of them.) and like you, my second son is a bit opposite, and I doubt right now public school will work for him. which makes us consider, if my eldest wants to stay at p.s., are we really willing to send our kids to different schools? is that what you think you'd end up doing, ejsmama?

singin' in the rain, I agree bribery is awful. its constant and my dh and I feel like its slowly undoing the 5 years we've spent with our son showing him that you act in good faith because its the RIGHT thing to do, not because you get rewarded for it. (side note, my husband is a h.s. public teacher, and thats one of his biggest complaints about students, they always feel they should get something for doing work, so clearly this method has an impact throughout life; though overall my dh is pretty supportive of public schooling in general).

singin' in the rain, I actually have shared my ideas with my son, I just tread carefully on how strong the opinions are that I express; as I said before, overall he really is happy there, and I don't want to undermine that. So when he brings home YET another piece of candy for "being good", I have said, "you know J, its also ok to tell Mrs. S no thank you, you don't need a reward, you are following directions because you think its the right thing to do". But seriously, how much expectation can I really have that my 5 year old turn candy down?! It would be more up to me to ask Mrs. S to stop doing it, but truth is, this is the system I enrolled my kid into, its in every class in every grade, and I feel its more either we adapt to it or find another system instead.

thanks so much, this discussion has been really helpful!!!

11-01-2009 08:53 PM
singin'intherain Hipsands, I don't like that bribery stuff, either, and I have no issues sharing my point of view with kids. In our neighborhood, there's a church that sends a bus around to pick up kids and take them to church on Sundays. They bribe the kids shamelessly- candy for being quiet on the bus, prizes for memorizing verses, treats for getting other kids to come. It's weird. It's downright creepy. I don't put down the church or anything, but I do point out that they are trying to make the kids do what they want. I just say, I wonder why they want you to do all of those things? Do you really want to do them? Would you do all that stuff if they weren't giving you candy? It's just information, the kind that fosters critical thinking. I think it's ok to share that kind of information with kids- it doesn't negate the benefit they see in what they're doing, it just gives them another tool to make conscious choices.
11-01-2009 08:34 PM
ejsmama I'm so excited to see this discussion take off. It is great to hear from more Sudbury parents and parents considering this model. I wanted to let you know that I also posted the same intro thought on the google Discuss Sudbury Method group and got some amazing responses for students, parents, and former students. It was very helpful to me and might be to some of you as well.

Hipsands, we actually let our son make the choice this year whether to a) go to kindergarten, b) to to a co-op preschool for another year, or c) go to Rising Tide Sudbury. It was amazing for him to be trusted with that choice. Our only requirement was that once the decision was made, he had to stick with it for a year. This was practical - he tends to want to quit when things get hard and we were signing a year long tuition agreement with R.T. and couldn't afford a change. If you child chooses to still go to public school, I wouldn't be too worried. I think that public school works really well for some kids. We have neighbors whose kids are totally amazing, self confident, articulate, and LOVE public school (I'm laughing as I write this - "some of the coolest kids I know go to public school). I loved public school as a kid - but I loved the competative and praise aspects of it and had a real drive to excel. It was who I was and worked really well for me. I'm sure I would have done great in a Sudbury model as well, but I'll never know. My younger son is shaping up to be more like your 5 year old and like I was.
I didn't enroll my son at RT because I thought public schools were horrible. I just knew that they don't work for every kid, and had a strong hunch that it would not work at all for my son.
11-01-2009 12:34 PM
hipsands I also wanted to chime in and thank the few parents who have kids in Sudbury schools for writing and sharing. ejsmama, your thoughts could be mine, we don't do video games at home, yet anyway. I've always wanted my kids to go the democratic route for education (oldest is 5, in public K right now) but the way the last year worked out, we couldn't swing enrolling him yet. He will thankfully do a visiting week this December for possible spring enrollment...I hope its ok to post yet another question/vent, if any Sudbury parents read this I'd love some advice too!! :

I'm so worried that now that my son has been at public school, even if he likes the visiting week at the nearby Sudbury school, he's going to want to go back to public b/c of his friends, or he sees that as his "school", etc. Of all things, he likes the public school. I didn't mind it at first, and at times I still don't, but it was never in my plans for him to go to p.s. He follows the teachers rules to a "T" and she rewards him everday with candy, stickers, etc., and it gives him confidence/happiness to be a good rule follower. He even loves doing his confuses me that he enjoys it to be honest!...anyway that's me venting. Almost all the accounts I've read of people enrolling their kids in Sudbury it seems as if the public school route wasn't working, and the kid was so happy when they enrolled in Sudbury. For us my kid is actually happy now (and I don't share my unhappiness with things like candy rewards and homework, since those at this point are only my issues, not my son's), but I value the Sudbury model as far superior to public school...and I hope I'm not pushing my ideas onto my kid. My son has a huge say in his life, and for us the choice of school is no different. How terrible is it that I'm stressing he won't want to go to the Sudbury school!!! Arrggg!!!

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