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By: Matthew Gioia
Hudson Valley Sudbury School

The 2016 presidential election has delivered us many novelties and peculiarities, and its outcome will likewise be historically notable, whatever it is, and will surely deserve prime real estate in all of Ripley’s Believe-it-or-Not museums.  Many political scientists believe the candidates for the two major parties are, as a pair, the most disliked by the American citizenry in any presidential election to date.  This aspect of the election, however, is not novel, and people have been griping loudly about it for several decades already.

By: Matthew Gioia
Hudson Valley Sudbury School

Last week a motion to ban sleeping at school(!) came before our School Meeting.  Although sleeping isn’t a widespread practice here, it is common to see one or two students sawing logs at some point on any given day, and occasionally certain of the cozier nooks in the building become de-facto napping spots; it’s the “flipped classroom” concept taken swiftly to its apocalyptic  conclusion.  Anyway, there’s a feeling, at least amongst a few of the staff members, myself included, that there is something just a little weird about it.  While it’s true that our students have full responsibility for deciding how to spend their time, sleeping is unique among human activities because the sleeper is unconscious (and can therefore hardly be responsible for themselves).  Besides, sleeping is generally a private act, not a social one, and it comes wrapped in an aura of intimacy - and blankets, and all those blankets and limbs strewn about willy-nilly look sloppy; it’s a little hard on the eyes and it’s probably pretty bad PR.

By: Matthew Gioia
Hudson Valley Sudbury School

Students playing computer gamesTake a peek into our “Lounge Extension Room One,” any hour of any day, and you’ll likely see a half-dozen or so 9-12-year-old students doing...something, intently on their laptops, often with eyebrows raised, mouths open slightly, and heads thrust forward, belying one-pointed concentration, unflagging determination, and ecstatic flow. So- what the hell are they doing exactly? What’s so darn engaging, and what’s it all about? Where’s the utility? Sometimes they appear to be collaborating, working together to defeat common enemies, and sometimes competing (fiercely) against each other. Other times they’re independently facing challenges, sticking it out as long as it takes to see them through, and still other times they aren’t competing at all, but are, rather, creating rooms, buildings, cities, and whole worlds. Their screens fill the room with bright colors, frenetic music, and a wickedly fast pace of activity, and to the uninitiated adult, the scene can be a little nauseating (this space is also noted for its stagnant air and organic-material messes; these students are indifferent to their immediate environment, as most people are when they’re buckling down to solve urgent problems). Sometimes one of them will bound into the office, spitting out a string of jargon that sounds to me like, “YAPBOPADOOBOPBIPBOPPA BAM!” and I don’t have a clue what they’re talking about, or even what they said, but the excitement is palpable, I can tell they’ve scored an epic win, and I’m happy for them. This is one of the most skilled, passionate, and engaged group at our school: the gamers.

By: Matthew Gioia
Hudson Valley Sudbury School

And we’re off, almost into October, and Sudbury education is under full sail here at HVSS. I think of learning at our school as happening in three basic ways: formally - with instruction and structure, informally - with conversation, play, and individual pursuit, and communally - with collaborative problem solving in our Judicial Committee and School Meeting. Personally, I am most excited by the communal learning, and I think it’s a unique facet of the school. Here’s an example from September: last week, a motion to reserve one of the school’s bathrooms for the exclusive use of those aged 12 and up was brought before the school meeting, and a fascinating discussion ensued. Incidentally, I have a toddler, so potty humor is so hot right now at my house, has been for a while, and in fact I’m giggling this very moment, but I promise I’ll spare you, sophisticated readers, any ill-formed jokes in this post, although I will admit that the meeting was not similarly spared.

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: 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: 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.


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Hudson Valley Sudbury School

84 Zena Road
Kingston, NY 12498
Phone: 845-679-1002
Fax: 845-679-3874