All Articles

By: Daniel Greenberg, Mimsy Sadofsky
Sudbury Valley School

I came to Sudbury Valley the first summer we were open. I was seven. I was really surprised when I saw the school. The picture I had before I came was nothing like what it turned out to be! I had imagined it to be a place with rooms that had labels according to what you did inside the rooms a room that said "Science," and a room that said "Reading," and I don't know what else. My picture didn't look like the public school I went to, but it also didn't look like a house; it looked institutional.

The school is such a great looking building to a little kid, big and old and kind of mysterious. It was exciting to go there and find out that it looked like some old mansion, where you can get lost or hide from people if you want to and not be found, and things like that. I remember just feeling joy at being at this place where I could do what I wanted where I wanted. The school was physically beautiful, and to be around this beautiful place and not be constrained was wonderful. The grounds were also incredible, and walking around on the rocks were really frightening! They were big. They were several times higher than I was, and people were jumping around on them. It amazed me that people were just going up there to this far away, scary place and nobody was attempting to make them not do that.

By: Nina JeckerByrne
Hudson Valley Sudbury School

I think it is now widely acknowledged that the U.S. school system was originally intended to produce lots of good factory workers – individuals who have basic literacy and are practiced at following orders and obedience to authority figures. And that college was generally intended for a minority of the especially intelligent or wealthy. I have been asking myself over the past year, what is the goal of our country’s school system now? I have found many answers to this question, in books, documentaries, articles, and in conversations with people of differing perspectives. I am no authority on the subject, but it is with a feeling of passionate interest that I share with you my opinion, my answer to this question, in the following paragraphs.

By: Fairhaven Staff
Fairhaven School

At our March informational meeting, a skeptical father asked me a very straight-forward question. He explained that after reading about the graduates of Sudbury Valley School he was convinced that this kind of education did not harm kids in their future academic pursuits and careers. But if it didn't make any difference one way or the other, why send a kid to a Sudbury-model school? That question stayed with me for several days. It had been such a great opportunity to explain why this form of education is so important and I had somehow not risen to the occasion. I'd like now to answer him again, this time with the luxury of a little more forethought.

By: Daniel Greenberg
Sudbury Valley School

Sitting before me were a dozen boys and girls, aged nine to twelve. A week earlier, they had asked me to teach them arithmetic. They wanted to learn to add, subtract, multiply, divide, and all the rest.

"You don't really want to do this," I said, when they first approached me.

"We do, we are sure we do," was their answer.

"You don't really," I persisted. "Your neighborhood friends, your parents, your relatives probably want you to, but you yourselves would much rather be playing or doing something else."

"We know what we want, and we want to learn arithmetic. Teach us, and we'll prove it. We'll do all the homework, and work as hard as we can."

I had to yield then, skeptically. I knew that arithmetic took six years to teach in regular schools, and I was sure their interest would flag after a few months. But I had no choice. They had pressed hard, and I was cornered.

I was in for a surprise.

By: Beth Stone, Debbie Viani
The Circle School

What do kids learn at The Circle School? More than I can know or name, I'm sure. But what do we see them learning? Here's what some of the staff have seen in recent months ...

I have seen kids learn to value reading as a functional tool. They read the agenda for the School Meeting to determine whether or not to attend this week. They read about upcoming field trips and other events on the front door. When they serve on the JC they must read the complaints they are investigating. They read the muffin recipe, to divvy up the ingredients for various people to bring in. They read the school law book to determine what law was broken, so they can fill out a JC complaint.

By: Alan White
Sudbury Valley School

Life is a journey and upon reflection I realize that, in my journey, I have been trying to recapture what was mine as a young child.

The accomplishments of young children up to the age of five are remarkable and have been acknowledged by many before me. They learn to sit up, to crawl, to stand up, to walk, to gain command of spoken language (even several languages), among other things and since almost all babies accomplish these enormously difficult tasks, we are not as awed by their accomplishments as we should be. Rather than recognizing how successful they have been at teaching themselves tasks that would be very difficult for any adult, we have gotten the idea that when they are four or five we can now take over their education and really teach them all the "important" things that they will need to know to be a successful and productive adult. We want to share what we know, offering them short cuts to our hard earned knowledge, and save them from making mistakes. Even if I were to concede that our intentions were good, which is not at all a foregone conclusion, I would argue that we have never been able to come close to doing as well for our children as they have been able to do for themselves.

Fairhaven School

Fairhaven School's two fundamental principles are, of course, freedom and democracy. But sometimes, since these two ideas are sensible and decent in their own right, we lose sight of their importance as educational cornerstones, of the fact that they set conditions in which real learning can best occur.

By: Sue Narten
The Circle School

The buzzing sound is always present. Sometimes it swells up, loudly cloaking us all in an almost tangible roar. Sometimes it softens to background murmur. But always it changes, moment to moment, day by day, a living force, an electromagnetic surge of power and energy...It's people. It's people talking, talking, talking... in groups, in pairs, in threes, in informal sessions, in meetings, in side by side play activities, in games, in the office, on the stage, over lunch, during football, during cooking, hamming it up, or arguing an idea... talking. It's people finding their way, learning about choices, making new beginnings, trying new things, building and existing in community...Which way creates ownership, community, and creative independent thinking? Which way, in the long run, more efficiently allows individuals to become adults who can make choices, handle decisions, make judgments, take responsibility, and have initiative?

By: Daniel Greenberg
Sudbury Valley School

“One thread that runs through every point in this book – letting things go their own way, letting children develop their own curiosity freely, letting people make all the mistakes they can on the way to developing their judgment – is that all these things involve an enormous amount of time, and require patience. You have got to have time to work things out. Perhaps the most devastating feature of our society is its preoccupation with speed. In fact, the single most effective tool society has for squelching creativity and independence is rushing everybody to death. How often have I seen people who have almost reached their goals suddenly stop and say, ‘Time is flying by, I have got to move on,’ and then all of their relaxed ability to work things out goes down the drain. It is just plain ludicrous to think that a person has to have ‘made it’ by a certain age. Some people find their life calling at six, others at thirty-six, others much later. Things have just got to be allowed to work themselves out in their own good time.”

Fairhaven School

An article in a local Massachusetts paper recently described Sudbury Valley School as a "School with No Rules." The reporter obviously hadn't seen the 30-page rule book which Sudbury Valley's School Meeting has created (over 30 years) and to which all students and staff are beholden. Why our schools need so many rules? It's the same question that was posed about democracy when it first emerged. In the absence of an overarching authority figure -- king, parent, teacher -- rules are the backbone of a just and orderly society. Painstaking attention to the process of rulemaking and enforcing is a necessary component of any democracy.

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Hudson Valley Sudbury School

84 Zena Road
Kingston, NY 12498
 
Phone: 845-679-9550
Fax: 845-679-3480