Introductory Articles

The articles below give an introduction to the Sudbury Model of Education. Some of the articles are from other schools, such as the Sudbury Valley School and the Fairhaven School, that follow the same educational philosophy as the Hudson Valley Sudbury School.

By: Matthew Gioia
Hudson Valley Sudbury School

Hark, the school year beginneth! The long, languid, dreamy days draw to a drier, crisper end. Time to get back to reality. How utterly gratifying to return to a school designed to support young people’s humanness. How invigorating to be able to focus on such a vital task, rather than on, say, sprawling tomes of byzantine standards. Hallelujah. Summer fades, yet my mood endureth.

You know, our school is often misunderstood (big surprise, I know). It’s true that we’re different, indeed we are the alternative to everything else. But sometimes we are accused of living in a kind of Rousseaun fantasy - summer forever. Time frittered away in reverie while the rest of everyone is busy learning how to dominate the real world. I mean the markets. Or whatever. Ideas like this might even pop into the heads of Sudbury parents from time to time, or staff, or even students. But this unimaginative thought ignores the complexity, the history, and the evolution, of our human reality. In fact, HVSS is the most real place I know.

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: Vanessa Van Burek
Hudson Valley Sudbury School

Yesterday was the second day of school at The Hudson Valley Sudbury School. For me it was an emotional start to the year. My youngest is now officially enrolled as a fresh five year old, and two of my oldest graduated last year leaving me to start the year without them. It’s been bittersweet. I know that they were ready to leave.  One is at Sarah Lawrence College, not too far from home so I can still lay eyes on him every so often. I look forward to watching him grow, I eagerly await the stories of his classes, his adventures and what it’s like to be a Sudbury grad, and of course to watch him serve as an alumni at various school events. The other has flown across the world to conquer the professional video game stage, signed as a well-paid, pro player on a team in Asia. He’s on a team that is navigating having players who speak 4 different languages; he’s training, he’s greeting fans, he’s keeping color-coded spreadsheets about technical play - the opportunity of a lifetime. They are both exactly where they should be, and they have taken these steps with a grounded confidence that makes me proud. And I’m doing what I can to miss them in a positive way.

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: 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

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: 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.

By: Romey Pitman
Fairhaven School

After hearing a short explanation of our school's philosophy, many people understandably try to link it with something already familiar to them. The most frequently mentioned "so-you're-sort-of-likes" are listed below. We have tried to be fair, but clear, in distinguishing ourselves from other philosophies. However, all the subtleties of these educational models are not laid out and comparisons are not made from every angle. We hope that the explanations below serve to clarify what the Sudbury model is really about, and what it is not.

Contact Us

Hudson Valley Sudbury School

84 Zena Road
Kingston, NY 12401
 
Phone: 845-679-1002
Fax: 845-679-3874