Re: Comparing the Sudbury Model

Coby Smolens (
Sat, 5 Apr 1997 03:12:38 -0800

Hi, Photo!

You wrote in response to my post containing Romey Pittman's piece
"Comparing the Sudbury Model", and I have been too busy til now to
finish solidifying in words what I've been thinking. So here goes -- I'm
gonna try it again:

I am aided this time by our Easter visit to my sister's home in northern
California. She is becoming something of a leading figure in the
northern Ca. Homeschooling community, through her monthly newsletter,
"Live and Learn", and her wide involvement in the scene, including
producing radio talk shows on the subject. She has become one of the
resources to whom new Homeschoolers are referred by the state and county
departments of education in the Humboldt County area.

She has two kids, 14 and 12. Their only "educational" experience has
been unschooling. They are wonderful kids, who are not lacking in any
important way insofar as their "education" is concerned... They are both
in avid pursuit of their chosen interests (Delsin lives and breathes
baseball, Aila is studying and practicing teenage behavior 101) and are
firmly their own people.
I find it difficult to look at them critically because I love them
dearly, changed their diapers when they were small (if you ever say I
said so I'll deny it), played with them endlessly... So I'll skirt
around what I feel to be missing there, and hope I can clarify by
talking in more general terms.

As I see it, "Homeschooling" contains "Unschooling" as a subset of
itself, while "Unschooling" does not contain "Homeschooling" in the same
way. I see Unschooling as the frontier, the cutting edge of the
Homeschooling movement. Homeschooling, as defined in the following
paragraph, bears little or no resemblance to any aspect of the Sudbury
Model, and therefore is best suited to some other forum for discussion
than this list. I do want to be clear that I do not subscribe to the
infamous stereotype of Mom and the Kids at the Kitchen Table, nor do I
feel that this is what Romey is referring to in her article.

What IS being referred to is that which distinguishes Homeschooling,
not only from the Sudbury Model, but also from it's own radical cousin,
the Unschool. That is, the practice of imposing a curriculum -- any
curriculum -- on children. This tag-along idea which supports the notion
that some person knows what is best for another person to be learning at
any given stage of that person's development cannot be encompassed
within any educational model built on a foundation of individual liberty
and self-determination.

The foundation of the Sudbury Model School is not a single pillar,
however, and it is while viewing the second of it's major underpinnings
that the features which distinguish it from the Unschooling model begin
to come into focus. It was to this feature that Romey referred when she
spoke, in the poetic, of the Village it takes to raise a child. That
phrase is best understood within the context of the reality of the
Sudbury Model as it exists, while examing the elements contained within
it which are not found elsewhere.

The Sudbury Model holds that every society, no matter where or when, has
a set of over-arching goals it hopes to attain in implementing methods
of bringing up it's young. Two of these are: (1)To produce effective,
healthy adults who are good at surviving as individuals. (2)To produce
good citizens (however "good citizen" is defined by the particular
culture in question). That is, people who are effective, participating
members of the community.

In the Sudbury Model (the school being the model of society), the first
is "achieved" by letting people find, from the earliest possible age,
the way that is best for them, that they are best suited for. The second
is achieved by making sure that all of the society's members are
guaranteed equal rights, period. And that each member is given an equal
voice in the decision-making process which crafts and protects the
framework which supports those rights, and that each member is an equal
shareholder in the venture. (Sudbury Valley is a non-profit corporation
held in common by it's members which consist of all the students, staff
and parents.)

It is the experience of being an equal partner in one's own community
which is, to the best of my knowledge, missing in the Unschool, where,
as you imply, parents have the final word... Under these conditions the
growing experience is that of learning to survive in an autocracy, no
matter how benevolent. In this situation real trust and respect cannot
be uncompromised. Not to say that parents of S.V. kids won't succumb to
the habits of a lifetime and to pressures from without and throw their
weight around from time to time and to greater and lesser degrees --
they certainly do. But they are living as participants in a community
which encourages them by it's nature to at least experiment with another
way of doing things.

Ok, I'm outta here. Thanks for your perseverence, in the event you made
it this far!