RE: DSM: attracting relatively free kids to a Sudbury school

Diablo Valley School (
Thu, 29 Mar 2001 13:28:23 -0800

Dear Ben,


>From my experience and understanding from others, all Sudbury schools
attract families that aren't really looking for a Sudbury school. This is just a
fact of life when offering a new option in education. We have challenging
experiences with all kinds of people, not just those who are unfamiliar with
Sudbury. It tends to be the people and their personalities that create problems
in a school either during or after admissions.


In terms of a split during startup, my experience was a little bit
different than some others. I am a very strong-minded and vocal individual who
was very clear from the beginning that I was opening a Sudbury school and
nothing else. This certainty tended to keep the group a little more focused and
didn't offer any huge splits with a traumatic flavor. We did have people coming
and going, as they were searching when they joined us and continued searching
when they left. Whenever things began to sway towards another direction, I
simply opened my big mouth and put my foot down. Usually this was effective
because those who were trying to move the group another direction were not
particularly clear and were a bit wishy-washy in their expressions (i.e.
ineffective in communicating what they were offering instead).


We ended up starting with a very small group when the school opened. With
lots of work and many mistakes, we now have a very solid group of parents who
understand the philosophy quite well, work hard to learn more on a continuous
basis and are very helpful in growing the school.Many times the initital problem
of "tinkering" comes from a different interpretation by different people.
Inevitably this will happen. However, the most useful thing I've found is to
find a middle ground that is presented by the staff in their day to day life at
the school. Tinkering people will have less strength if the boundaries are well
defined. We spend a lot of time talking and talking in order to understand each
others' point of view and find the places we agree and disagree. In our school,
at this time, we have established an environment of respect which is upheld by
the parents in meetings that we have to discuss philosophy together or even in
the Open Houses where newcomers are wandering in. Hope these meandering thoughts



----- Original Message -----

From: Ben Robins


Sent: 03/28/01 6:54:37 PM

Subject: RE: DSM: attracting relatively
free kids to a Sudbury school

Hi Amy,


 We have become a legitimate option for home schoolers who are

 looking for a broader base of people or activities to draw on, or


 lives changed and they weren't able to continue home schooling (parent

 needed to

 get a job or something). These families are wonderful resources for the


 and very supportive in general (except for the parents who are focused


 benefits of home schooling as an inexpensive option).


So the situation is reversed and you're attracting people who aren't even

interested in the Sudbury model!


How big a problem is that? Most new schools split in half
because half the

school didn't really want a Sudbury model school.


Another problem mentioned in Starting a Sudbury is that one school became

the dumping ground for public school "alternative students."


Do Sudbury schools near a variety of other alternative schools have less

problem with people coming in to tinker with the model (since the people

will likely find another school that requires less
tinkering)? Has the type

of tinkering changed over time? Will Sudbury schools always be
swamped by



Ben "soon to fade back into the background" Robins


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