[Ed. Kiran graduated from HVSS in 2015.]
From the time he was an infant, my son Kiran (now age 6) has had issues around feeling safe. Cautious, perceptive, and highly sensitive to other people's energies and emotional states by nature, he is generally slow to adapt to new people and situations. He has always shown an aversion to group activities, preferring the intimacy of one-on-one interactions with trusted individuals in familiar environments. Add to the mix his intense dislike of anything he perceives as compromising his sense of control over his own situation, and the result is a challenging child, to say the least. Monitoring his reactions to any given circumstance and making adjustments accordingly has long since become second nature to me. On more occasions that I care to remember, we have had to make a quick exit from social settings to avert a full-blown tantrum.
Since he started school at Sudbury, I've noticed a marked change in Kiran. Although he faced the first week of school with his usual resistance and apprehension, by the end of week two he was actually looking forward to school on most days. His behavior at the key transition times - drop-off and pick-up - has been a true barometer of the shift he's undergone in the scant two months of school. Last week he announced that I don't need to go inside with him anymore when I drop him off, and at pick-up the biggest challenge now is extracting him from whatever activity he's engaged in when I arrive. Whereas at most social events - even ones including other children - Kiran would usually not let me out of his sight, often spending the entire time clutching my hand, at the recent Sudbury bonfire gathering I scarcely caught sight of him for most of the evening, and practically had to launch a search party to find him when it was time to go home. In fact, that particular event was the first time he had ever requested that we attend a social gathering on his own initiative!
From my perspective, the Sudbury model perfectly addresses two of his biggest issues: feeling safe and feeling in control.
So just what is it about life at Sudbury that has sparked these changes in Kiran? From my perspective, the Sudbury model perfectly addresses two of his biggest issues: feeling safe and feeling in control. At first blush it struck me as counter-intuitive that offering children the degree of freedom and autonomy they have at Sudbury could make them feel safe. But Kiran's rapid adjustment to the school has completely convinced me otherwise. Being given such a high degree of independence with an equal measure of responsibility has done wonders for his self-confidence. The other factor that has been so positive for him is age-mixing. Kiran has always gravitated toward older children, often feeling more comfortable with them than with kids his own age. It has been truly heart-warming to see how helpful the older kids at Sudbury are with the younger ones, and how naturally kids of different ages interact with one another, as well as with the adults. Sudbury sometimes feels more like a tribal community than a school, and at this point in Kiran's development, I can't imagine a better place for him.