Re: DSM: New to homeschooling and SVS
Sat, 31 Mar 2001 11:46:14 -0500


Your story is so familiar and so moving. Don't you feel like you've been
doped or hypnotized or something for years, and suddenly someone just threw
cold water on you and you perked up and recognized some deep truths that
you've known all along? That inner knowledge is the real power of the
Sudbury model -- we are just implementing it. You and your daughter have
that knowledge, and can implement it to.

You are being de-programmed -- by yourself, and by events. And now what you
have to look forward to is isolation from most of the community around you
when it comes to discussing these details, and to the support of the quiet,
personal understanding you have with your daughter. I'm here to tell you
that it will only grow! And over time, if you keep your eyes peeled (and if
you learn how to talk about it without getting into fist fights or
handcuffs) you will find like minded people. You have to keep looking and
keep your mind open, and you *will* find them.

You also face a succession of challenges like your quandry over Composition.
I don't think you can solve them one at a time -- you've got to devise a
strategy that deals with the authorities, with your ex-husband, and whoever.
I don't know what will work best, and in the absence of a local Sudbury
school, your best bet is probably in the un-schooling community, who is
going to have more specific experience with how to keep the authorities
placated. Their kind of reasoning might be the best to use with your
ex-husband as well, I don't know.

But I want to point out a harder fact, which took me a while to understand
eleven years ago when I started down this path. You said,

> Obviously democratic school students learn how to write well.

and it's true. But they don't learn how to write the same as each other, or
the same as some test -- or the same as you hope they will. If you and the
school system get out of the way, your daughter will define her own
relationship to writing that serves her needs and passions. But please
don't think that if you could somehow plop the entire Sudbury Valley School
into the middle of Jacksonville and Shar could be going there that at the
end of the year, or the end of five years, she will emerge prepared to pass
the "Florida Writes" standardized test, because it ain't necessarily so.

My point is that this is not some alternative way to get the same education.
This is not even education as you know it. It's more, and it's wonderful.

Alan Mitter-Burke

on 3/31/01 6:08 AM, at wrote:

> Hello Everyone!
> I have an (almost :-) 10 year old daughter that I just pulled out of
> public school at the beginning of February. Her teachers, since
> preschool, had been reporting her difficulty "staying on task". This
> really didn't cause a problem until 3rd grade although getting through
> the homework has been a problem right from the start. It would take
> hours! Starting in 3rd grade we started testing her for 'learning
> disabilities'. Of course the results came back that she was at or beyond
> where she should be in all areas. So then we went to a tutor who
> specialized in kids who have difficulties and the tutor found only a few
> minor gaps in her basic skills and after 4 months said we really didn't
> need her any more. However, 4th grade didn't get any better. My
> daughter was grumpy and forgetful and homework dragged on for hours. The
> school was very cooperative and 'meetings' were held and 'concessions'
> made.... So much so that she made A/B Honor Roll both quarters before I
> took her out. It was the Honor Roll thing that was the straw that did
> it. My daughter had no love of learning. She was only doing the work to
> get the answers right because she _had_ learned that A's were good and
> F's were bad. But she had no interest in what they were teaching her.
> By this time I had long ago rearranged my work schedule so that I could
> be home with her during the week because just getting the homework done
> took so long and wouldn't get done without my being there. I could
> easily envision her getting pushed through the system even though she
> would have learned very little.
> Finally it dawned on me that I should just homeschool her. And even now,
> 2 months later, I'm still stunned at how quickly it all happened once I
> decided that's what I wanted to do. (Sharlyn wanted it as well!) ( Quick
> background information: I am divorced from Shar's father and, although we
> parent Shar together quite well, he often refuses to make changes.
> However, in this one instance he readily agreed.....I still haven't
> picked my jaw up off the floor from the shock! :-) I had never heard the
> term 'unschooling' until I started researching homeschooling and during
> that research I did not run across any references to SVS. (I heard of SVS
> in the Abraham-Hicks catalog.) I confess that while unschooling sounded
> like paradise, all the typical objections ran through my mind and I
> ultimately settled on the Calvert School curriculum to use for our
> homeschooling.
> We've been "officially" homeschooling for only a month now - using the
> Calvert curriculum. Boy, what an odyssey it's been. The first two weeks
> I spent making sure we crossed every 'I' and dotted every 'T'. Then, 2
> weeks ago, while I was waiting for Shar to get through an assignment, I
> decided to check out the SVS web site. NOTHING has been the same
> since!!! I have devoured every word about the Sudbury Model that I can
> find on the Internet , listened in on these listserve discussions and
> ordered books that I am now anxiously awaiting the arrival of. All of my
> ideas have been turned on their head and most are getting tossed out the
> window. I started making changes immediately. I hadn't really realized
> prior to this how dictatorial I was with her. How frequently I gave
> orders instead of discussing an issue. With SVS's philosophy in my head,
> I began to make changes in how we went about the homeschooling, but
> basically it doesn't boil down much more than forgetting some 'I's' and
> foregoing some 'T's'. I would have to fight a major war with her father
> and all the relatives to go to an unschooling or SVS method. However,
> right now, she and I are totally left alone. No one suspects that these
> sort of ideas even exist in my head so no one (i.e. her father) is
> checking to see what we are doing. This gives me the leeway to make
> gradual changes. I even asked Shar if she wanted to be able to decide
> for herself what she wanted to do, but she said (and I'm paraphrasing
> here) that it would be too much for her right now. Which makes total
> sense because she has been told what to do all her life and is basically
> just asking me to make the changes slowly.
> I'm writing all this here because there is not one other person that I
> know personally that knows these ideas so that we could discuss them.
> I'm a group of one at the moment although I intend to change that as
> quickly as possible. (There is no Sudbury Model school near me to turn
> to either.) Which finally brings me to the reason that caused me to
> write in the first place. I'm looking for reassurance on one topic in
> particular - namely Composition. Shar hates it. I hate it. If I never
> have to write another report as long as I live, I'll still never get over
> how much I hate it. (Oh, I know how to write them. I went through the
> public school system and I have two degrees, but it was the thing I most
> hated about school.) I want very much just to drop it out of the
> curriculum altogether. Thus the reason for me turning to you guys.
> Obviously democratic school students learn how to write well. My concern
> is that I still have to have her evaluated once a year by a teacher 'for
> appropriate progress'. I'm worried that if I drop composition that we
> won't get that 'stamp of approval' and that I'll start getting
> questioned.
> I'm in Florida and the state is really big on writing skills. All public
> school kids have to pass a 'Florida Writes' standardized test and there
> is a very specific format that they are expected to learn. I'm worried
> that if she doesn't learn to jump through this hoop then we might come
> under scrutiny and whatever level of freedom I've managed to give to her
> will start being monitored.
> So that's it in a nutshell. I gave so much additional information
> because all of you who have devoted yourselves to these ideas ought to be
> told when you have had a profound effect - for the better! - on someone's
> life. My relationship with my daughter is improving daily. That is such
> a precious gift to me. Thank you all for all your time and effort in
> documenting the results and making them available. Words really can't
> express what this means to my daughter and I.
> Thank you again!
> Julie Burns
> Jacksonville, Florida
> P.S. As an example, just yesterday I told Shar that all these years that
> she's been hearing that she has problems at school and can't focus and
> can't stay on task were all because she didn't want to do what she was
> being told to do. I told her that it wasn't because she had difficullty
> with focusing. It was because she was bored. She wisely nodded her head
> and said she knew that, but I know that her hearing me say the words out
> loud went a long way towards healing the hurt done by all those years of
> negative messages. I wish I could have learned all this sooner, for her
> sake, but I'm glad I now have the opportunity to make the changes while
> she is still young.
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