Re: DSM: sudbury in the home

From: Christopher Weeks (
Date: Sun Dec 02 2001 - 06:41:30 EST

> morticia crone wrote:
>i'd like to ask some sudbury parents:

I'm not a 'Sudbury parent' if you're talking about enrollment (but I
want to be) but I am if you're talking about philosophy.
> whether and if so, how they *implement* democracy in the home?

We are working on this. I suspect there's a big variety in how adults
who help their kids go to a Sudbury Model school work the home life. My
son is considered an equal member of the family. We have enough
disposable income and time that he isn't required to do any real work to
keep the household afloat. So we don't require anything like that. We
also feel that each family member contributes to the family what they
can without any need to measure their contributions. So my son gets a
say in family political matters. We don't vote or use rules of order,
but we do have family meetings. We decide together how to budget the
family money.

> perhaps it's not too much to assume that no one attempts the sm in the
> home to a complete degree.

The structures needed to keep a large and varied institution that isn't
built around mutual Love running smoothly are different than those
needed to keep a fairly small Love-based organization running. It would
be cumbersome, I think, to run your family like SVS.
> assuming this is correct, how do your children relate to non-democracy
> (partial democracy, whatever) in the home?

Well, he seems fine with it. Each of us owns our own time and only owes
what the law requires to the others. When we do stuff for one another
it's a gift. My wife and I feel strongly that food doesn't belong
anywhere but the kitchen and outdoors. Our son would like to take food
into his room. We ask him not to. He doesn't. We can also decide as a
family to have food in front of a movie in the family room as a special
> do you, the parents, attempt democratic solutions, and what are the
> results?

If we did that, my wife and I would usually just outvote my son. I
don't think that would be any prettier than just bossing him around. We
assume that everyone has the right to do anything they want so long is
it hurts no one else. Hurting someone's stuff counts as hurting them.
We have six cats too. They count as semi-property that has a right not
to be messed with too much. Of course, I don't want him chasing them
around, but then he sees us immobilize them to give shots and clip nails
and the like. So sometimes we discuss the rights and responsibilities
of animal stewardship.
Ann Ide wrote:

>We're very comfortable with how the model works at school; but are still
>learning how to incorporate it into our home life. The ongoing question
>is: when is it really necessary to intervene in our children's lives?

Ann, have you come up with any guidelines? I try to use the same rules
for my son that I would for my wife. I would use force to save their
lives, but not to impose my preference. We could hypothesize grey areas
like dangerous drug use, but I haven't had to face any of these and
don't know how I would react.

>Do we have rules about their eating habits? Our 7 year old would happily
>live on bread, juice and junk.

If they can live happily that way, then what's wrong with it? If it
would make them unhappy, then I would explain it and trust them to 'get
it' when they need to.

>Do we let them stay up all night?

I sometimes go to bed before my seven year old. :-)

>Do we let them watch tv all the time they're home?

We don't get TV at our house, but we have lots of recorded media to
which he has free access. He doesn't seem to have an unhealthy
addiction to it. Maybe 3-5 hours per week about half or two thirds of
which is with the family.

>Plus you have to factor in that other people are sharing the living space.

We find this to be a tough one sometimes. How much 'right' does
everyone have to the common living space? We don't dictate his room at
all, but we do like to keep the common rooms semi-orderly.

>We're talking about things like wearing a seatbelt even.

The seatbelt is the law (and a good idea) and I'm not willing to risk my
child's health and the legal repercussions of not wearing a seat belt.
It doesn't come up because he wants to wear it and feel safe. But if it
did, my car doesn't operate until all passengers are belted. The same
rule applies to my parents, so I suspect he would respect it as a fair

Alan Klein wrote:

>Specifically, I think it is important for parents to be clear about our own needs.
>As parents, we own the home and the property in it, except that which is personally
>the kids'. We do no one a favor by pretending that we will allow democratic
>decision-making to control OUR stuff.
>Democratic decision-making, even at school, is only used for those decisions that
>affect the community at large and its property.

I figure that the kids have some right to the disposition of the family
environment. It is my house, but it's really the family's house. You
note that the use of democracy is only for when it effects the community
at large, but isn't that what rules about the living room are? What
stuff is personally the kids'? Does even their bedroom count? I think
that I would be uncomfortable not having a place that is really really
mine to do with as I please. I wouldn't deny that same sense of retreat
or haven to my kids.

Christopher Weeks


If you wish to be removed from this mailing list, please send an email TO (do NOT reply to the mailing list) with the following
phrase in the BODY (not the subject) of the message, replacing
"email@host.dom" with the email address that you subscribed under:

unsubscribe discuss-sudbury-model email@host.dom

If you are interested in the subject, but the volume of mail sent is too much,
you may wish to consider unsubscribing from this list and subscribing to

This mailing list is archived at

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0.0 : Wed Mar 27 2002 - 19:39:48 EST