At our recent Alumni Parent Panel, the panelists reflected not only on their children’s process, but on their own process. I left that evening’s discussion with a sense that choosing a Sudbury school education for your children requires a willingness on the part of parents to let go, to trust, to listen. As alumna parent Pat Everret reveals:
“It did make me more aware. It forced me to be more accepting of what my daughter was the way she was… I wasn’t as bent on thinking my way was right, which, I’m guilty of. And I just had to step back and realize, step back and listen… you have to step back and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, it’s time for me to listen more.’ And I had to do a lot of that growing, I’m still trying to do it. But, you know, you’ve got to give them a lot more… I had to give them a lot more faith than I was inclined to at the beginning. I’m still working on it..”
Choosing Fairhaven School also requires faith and trust in your child, as alumni parent Robin Rice advises current parents:
“I would say, trust your child… I don’t want to sound overly fantastical, but I really believe that every child has a genius in them. And they know how to find it if they’re allowed to find it. And they will tell you what it is… they will tell you what they want and they will tell you what they need. And if you listen they’ll find their way… The more I tried to make my agenda the agenda the less it worked, and the more it worked to listen and follow and trust. And it is hard to trust sometimes, it is hard to trust what you see. But ... Read More
We are pleased to announce that Dr. Peter Gray, research psychologist and Sudbury Valley School board member, has published a book that collects many of the insights and posts from his Psychology Today blog, Freedom To Learn.
Throughout the book, Dr. Gray champions that most essential human learning activity: play. He captures what Fairhaven School students so ably demonstrate day after day, year after year. To learn, we must play.
Check out his book here.
Fairhaven School Staff
Three adolescent boys enter the back door and head into the Shop. They are talking a mile a minute, and they are on a mission to build or repair something, maybe a shield for their swordplay game. Their presence is loud, physical, and energetic. Here at Fairhaven School, the moment is insignificant; however, in the landscape of American schooling, the moment embodies much, and warrants unpacking.
A first element to appreciate is the boys’ liberty. No one has directed their activity, nor will it be measured, evaluated, or assessed by anyone but themselves. Instead, like many grownups in our post-industrial society, they are following a thread, an interest in combat reenactment that is rooted both in play and in history. Although their passage into the shop on this day is ephemeral, it also exists on a continuum, as their play and relationships span years. The late educator and process philosopher Don Oliver wrote about “concrescence,” naming the constant coming together of disparate parts to create a life form, in this case a person. Here at Fairhaven School, individual freedom enables concrescence.
Another aspect to consider is the larger, egalitarian cultural matrix of the school. We are a transparent, respectful democracy where we value all pursuits and activities. Again, the young men are going to the shop to work on their reenactment weapons, yet they are not derided for being nerdy or dorky at school, and they are not relegated to some isolated social rung. In short, nobody is shoving them up against the proverbial locker. Likewise, the best athletes and elected school leaders here garner no special adulation, nor do the stars of the school play. I recently read a lengthy article in New York magazine that deconstructs the experiences of adolescents in mainstream American high schools. Here is a typical ... Read More
Last night, members of the Rising Tide School community voted to close the school at the end of the 2012-13 school year. Despite an extraordinary level of dedication on the part of staff, students, and parents, we just don’t have the resources to keep the school going. We are grateful for the support and generosity of everyone who has helped to build and sustain the school. As we’ve debated the closing of the school, there have been many tears. As one teen observed after a meeting: “Sadness level over 9000!” While we’re all dealing with an epic sense of loss and grieving for our community and the freedom it offers, we also have a lot to celebrate.
It’s been an amazing process to build a vibrant learning community run democratically by youth. Now in our fourth year, we are really experiencing the promise of the Sudbury model. When we began the school, we believed that it was possible for children to take charge of their own education and to guide themselves in learning everything they need to know to be successful in the world. Now we know that is it. We’ve seen for ourselves that young people do master the skills they need (including but not limited to reading, writing, and arithemetic) in their own time, at their own pace, largely with no instruction. We’ve seen that kids do learn to hold their own as full participating members in a working democracy. We’ve watched the incredible process of youth gradually taking full responsibility for the running of the school. Students now fill many of the key administrative and leadership roles in the school, and do so with great skill and intelligence. And we’ve had the amazing satisfaction of seeing teens move out in the larger community with the drive, ... Read More
When you’re free, as are Rising Tide School students, to choose how to spend your days, weeks, and life, how do you choose to fill that time? How do you learn to use your time well, to further your goals and to have an enjoyable, engaged, experience of life? Sounds simple, but it’s not.
Most of us, when fantasizing about what we’d do with unlimited free time, have a laundry list of ways we’d like to relax and creative projects we’d finally start. But in fact, when we have unlimited free time, if we haven’t learned to follow our inner compass, we’re likely to procrastinate, make excuses, and let tasks fill up our days, getting no closer than before to the life of our dreams. We’ve probably all experienced this at some point. To actually spend our time in pursuit of our dreams takes strategy, discipline, and a willingness to confront the demons that keep us from being who we want to be. (The real secret here is that it doesn’t take more time to start living the life we want, it takes more commitment. Much more difficult to deliver.)
Sometimes, Sudbury kids, either when first arriving at the school, or when in a period of boredom, will choose to do nothing with their time, or very little. They may have come to the school excited to do more art, or to read all the time, or to create huge projects that they’ve never had time for, but instead of that, they do nothing. Sometimes they’ll do a great deal of nothing and won’t take the even small steps, for example, to get certified to use the art supplies, or the computers, or to use the school’s many interesting resources. They’ll talk endlessly about being bored rather than take a step to do ... Read More