Homeschooling and Alternative Schools

Jennie Ladew (jennie@ziplink.net)
Mon, 20 Oct 1997 10:07:26 -0400

Dear Melissa and Mimsy,

Sadly, I have read both your posts with dismay. They seem to be closed
minded and to be driven by an agenda without any consideration for
individual styles and needs.

It is precisely this rigidity and lack of consideration that so many public
schools and organized groups insist on with their one standard of learning
and behavior models that turns so many people off and begins their search
for alternatives.

I sense a superior and better-than-thou attitude which is very
disconcerting, because my understanding after lurking for a while was this
was a forum to better understand how to empower and improve the lives of
children and to excite kids to believe in themselves, particularly if they
have found themselves previously oppressed and misunderstood educationally,
emotionally and creatively.

My daughter, Sarah has been in many situations. It was suggested by Melissa
she doesn't know how to deal with social pressures or groups. How ironic,
that's the public school's arguement.

I only can reiterate that she attends contra dances, pot lucks, modern
dance and pizza parties and a voluntary literature class several
homeschoolers decided to do together every week. She has continued with
this piece for many months, loving reading with the kids and discussing
characters and plot.
(Right now they are reading "Jane Eyre."

I hardly see where she is isolated. And as a kid who likes her friends and
adventures she has distractions. She has a disabled brother who is
incredibly distracting, a sister, friends in and out, decisions about
activities, etc.

As far as "democracy" Sudbury Valley or other schools like it goes I don't
see that as the reason to throw out other options. The ability to be
democratic in the way you were describing comes from learning to understand
and analyze all points of view, understand your own needs and desires, lose
graciously and work for a cause with courtesy and express yourself clearly.
All these things can and are learned by people in other ways as well.
Certainly, that is one of the interesting and drawing points for people who
are seeking a Sudbury model, but Sudbury does not hold the license to
free-thinking and compromise either.

In the past my middle daughter, Sarah has taken karate as well. She works
as a mother's helper for a parent with a toddler and a young son with
autism. Both kids require an intensity and differing approaches because of
their age and the boy's disability. This is a very important lesson. It's a
slice of life you don't get a Sudbury.

She has been in varied settings over her lifespan and has figured out what
makes her happiest. I never realized I would have to defend her well being
and comfort to strangers who I thought had a common interest in ensuring
those things, but so be it.

Sarah does indeed face the task of determining does she hang out all day,
go see friends or work on the objectives she has set out for herself. Days
have gone by and I have quietly wondered if she was going to settle down,
but overtime after experimenting with different approaches I have found
that Sarah is able to define pretty well what she needs and wants and
usually asks for some support and guidance when she falters. So, I try and
stay available, but not too much concerned.

I went to what was called a Free School as child for a while. I have two
friends who have spent short times and/or part of their education in them
as well as one good friend who spent most of her childhood at such a school
and my nephew attended one briefly in Maine.

I loved mine. I was able to be with people all the time and create and run
around. I needed that time especially after a terrible school experience to
unwind and figure out what mattered. With much regret I was only able to be
there for a little over a year, but it had a lasting impact and was my
favorite "school" year.

One friend of mine loved her alternative school as well. Another hated it
and begged to go back to "real" school as she put it. Another friend
enjoyed it, but has no stand on whether her kids should go to such a school
or not, because she prefers homeschooling.

I believe it depends on the child and that need can change year to year. My
older daughter would not want to homeschool if she was Sarah's age, because
she is a more social creature and needs to be out and about much more. She
is able to work and begin to seek outside opportunities much more freely
since she is 16.5. She has said if she was 13 she would want to be in a
Sudbury environment.
When she was that age she had been homeschooled a couple of years and chose
to go back to the school system because she wanted the group, etc. It was a
mistake in many other ways, but for her homeschooling at that age without
the freedoms older teens have was difficult. I realize they are each people
with differing needs!

She's not that interested in Sudbury Valley at this time even if I could
afford it because she says she doesn't want to hang out in the country and
what's the point of paying tuition if you won't ever be at the school much
and she wants to work, volunteer and travel. (Her logic) She's not so
interested in seeing people who all live in a microsystem.

I personally like the Sudbury concept and if I was a kid again I would
probably thrive there, but not everyone is me and visa versa. I enjoyed my
time in such a school tremendously, but for me it was the best of both
worlds, social, creative, energetic and CLOSED!

To some degree Sudbury is limiting and what you find after a time is people
who are conforming to a standard and theory regardless of how flexible and
interesting it seems to the outside world. The fact is any community that
is clearly defined and runs with a ideal is not completely representative
of society as a whole, so the arguement that kids learn more somehow
socially is not necessarily any truer than the arguement by another special
interest group.

Because I already support Sudbury Valley and other similar schools I won't
be turned-off or subdued by such remarks, but I am surprised and as I said
a little dismayed at this kind of closed minded opinion.

I have heard more than once from people that these schools draw people who
are hostile to adults and have decided to become strident and almost
disdainful of anything, but their cause and I thought this was just sour
grapes or something in the past, but now I wonder. THERE IS NO RIGHT PLACE
FOR EVERYONE!

It horrifies me to think that even the alternative movement might take a
stand on what a child SHOULD do or where or when they SHOULD be and in what
group or space. I believe those SHOULD's need to be done away with.

A child may thrive at Sudbury and decide to leave for homeschooling, public
school, private school, work place or a little of it all depending on the
availability at different points and it would be nice to think they could
do this.

However, I suspect if you all have much say in this freedom will be out the
window since quietly and not so subtly you believe it's your way or no way.

Jennie