All Articles

By: Jeffery A. Collins
Hudson Valley Sudbury School

The fundamental difference between a Sudbury school and any other type of school is the student's level of responsibility. In a Sudbury school the students are solely responsible for their education, their learning methods, their evaluation and their environment. In a public school, the state takes responsibility for most aspects of a student's education including curriculum and evaluation. The student is left with little responsibility except to learn what is taught, how it is taught, in the environment in which it is taught and then to reiterate it back at evaluation time.

In a public school, the state takes responsibility for most aspects of a student's education including curriculum and evaluation. The student is left with little responsibility except to learn what is taught, how it is taught, in the environment in which it is taught and then to reiterate it back at evaluation time.

In a non-Sudbury private school, the school administrators take a larger role in determining a student's curriculum than in a public school. In some private schools, the school takes responsibility for evaluation, while in others the school administers the state tests. In most private schools, as with public schools, a student has personal responsibility only for learning what someone else determines is important to learn, at a time they think it is important to learn it, in a way someone else has determined it should be taught, in an environment designed by someone else, and they must do this well enough to pass the evaluations written and graded by someone else.

Sudbury Valley School

From interivews by Hanna Greenberg; Edited by Mimsy Sadofsky and Daniel Greenberg

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: Jeffery A. Collins, Vanessa Van Burek
Hudson Valley Sudbury School

As we sit in our school's main lounge, trying to write about the underlying lessons of a Sudbury education, we often find ourselves "off task." We are watching the bustling activity around us…Jeff, a staff member, and Sonya, a 14-year-old student, are working on math problems in order to move her closer to her goal of becoming a vet. (She's contacted Cornell University to find the best method of getting into their program.) Cody, age 11, and Madison, 15, are reading medicine cards for all who walk by. Eli, 5, and Kiran, 6, are comparing new Magic Cards and talking about the mysterious gum switcher—the spearmint and cinnamon gum from the School Store have seemingly switched bottles.  The Judicial Committee members file into the JC room to start the daily session but Natasha, 15, one of our JC clerks, has to find a replacement for the 5- to 9-year old representative to the JC who is out sick. Success—Sophie, age 8, is filling in. Lisa, a staff member, and David, age 16, are discussing whether or not putting "spring water" on a bottled water label ensures you aren't getting someone's random tap water. A man drives up attempting to deliver food to the Zena Elementary School, a public school down the road. While only a few miles away, the Zena Elementary School couldn't be more different then The Hudson Valley Sudbury School on Zena Road.

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: Daniel Greenberg
Sudbury Valley School

Why go to school?

For people who like to think through the important questions in life for themselves, Sudbury Valley stands as a challenge to the accepted answers.

The first phrase that pops into everyone's mind is: "We go to school to learn." That's the intellectual goal. It comes before all the others. So much so, that "getting an education" has come to mean "learning" -- a bit narrow, to be sure, but it gets the priorities clear.

Then why don't people learn more in schools today? Why all the complaints? Why the seemingly limitless expenditures just to tread water, let alone to progress?

The answer is embarrassingly simple. Schools today are institutions in which "learning" is taken to mean "being taught." You want people to learn? Teach them! You want them to learn more? Teach them more! And more! Work them harder. Drill them longer.

But learning is a process you do, not a process that is done to you! That is true of everyone. It's basic.

What makes people learn? Funny anyone should ask. Over two thousand years ago, Aristotle started his most important book with the universally accepted answer: "Human beings are naturally curious." Descartes put it slightly differently, also at the beginning of his major work: "I think, therefore I am." Learning, thinking, actively using your mind: it's the essence of being human. It's natural.

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.

By: Scott David Gray
Sudbury Valley School

The Sudbury Valley School has been in operation for more than 30 years now, and several other schools around and outside our country (the United States) see our school's success and are modeling their schools on ours.

The school accepts students from ages four and up, and awards a high school diploma. It is a private school, which relies upon tuition and does not engage in fundraising. Studies of our alumni show them to be "successful" by any criteria; most have gone on to their first choice career or college, most have a comfortable income, and (the best definition of success, in my mind) most are happy people.

The physical plant is a beautiful Victorian mansion on a ten-acre campus. It is furnished like a home, with couches, easy chairs, books everywhere (rather than hidden in a library), etc. The grounds are excellent for sport and games, and the school has several facilities; music rooms, an art room, a high speed Internet connection, a darkroom, a piano, a stereo, a pond great for fishing, several computers, etc.

Students (from age four on up) are free to do as they wish during the day, as long as they follow the school rules (more on school rules later). The campus is "open" and most students come and go as they please, without having to check with an office or other such nonsense. No one is required to attend classes and, indeed, classes are rare and bear little resemblance to the usual notion of a "class." There are no tests or grades of any kind. Students and staff (teachers) are equal in every regard. The students and staff refer to each other by first name, and the relationships between students and staff can't easily be distinguished from the relations between students.


Contact Us

Hudson Valley Sudbury School

84 Zena Road
Kingston, NY 12498
Phone: 845-679-1002
Fax: 845-679-3480