Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] New to list, questions

From: Carol Hughes <>
Date: Sun Mar 14 12:36:00 2004

Hi Sally,

14 years as a Sudbury parent here... three children who graduated from
there. I thought you might like a parent's perspective on this from many
years of observation.

You ask... "Like just what do staff do each day (I know, I know, there is no
typical day). I'm just curious about what they come in each day planning,
or not planning to do." I have often thought of the word tribe when
observing the scene of school when coming and going to pick up my children.
If you were to ask a member of a tribe what does he do all day, what kind of
answer might you expect? The interactions from staff to students is very
much in the present, much more of a response to the individual student, than
intentions of somehow molding or shaping them in any way that is planned.
The final proof of this is the wonderful and rich variety of topics in the
thesis defenses when they are ready to leave school. I am reminded of the
concept of the Native American marriage where one marries the tribe, not
just the individual. Because the children are not locked in rooms and move
freely about, they intereact with one another constantly. This is very very
hard work for them at times and immensely wonderful and allows them to get
terrific communication skills. When wandering through the school one will
see staff members reading books with small children, maybe a class on
history, and always in dialogue with someone. The Socratean aspect of the
environment is very rich and hard to define adequately. The staff at SVS
relish the individual expression. They hold up hand-mirrors to the soul of
each and every student.

" I'm also curious about the youngest children when they first begin. Is
there any oversight of their play, given their age and newness to the
environment (safety issues come to mind, as well as process issues)? What
would that look like?" My youngest was 4 1/2 when she started at SVS.
Little children naturally gravitate to other people. The older children are
aware of what's going on and look after the children. But it isn't some
kind of, let's sit down and see who's in charge kind of thing. It is human
nature to be aware of the well-being of those who are around you who may
require your focus at some point. I also discovered that somehow staff
members seemed always to know where my children were likely to be and
generally with whom. Stuff happens to children wherever they are. At SVS I
believe that they learn to take responsibility for their actions very well.

 " I've been discussing all this with my husband and one of his questions
has to do with staff interests and/or exposing children to an interest they
don't know they have yet. He's thinking of his own case with being exposed
to theater... So he says that he didn't know he had this interest until it
was offered and also that even if he did have an interest he doesn't think
he could have followed up himself and started the whole thing."

This question your husband poses is my personal favorite. It seems to me
that it is the heart and soul of the Sudbury model that the child has the
mental and psychic space to find that right interest for him/her. The
premis that exposure to multiple subjects and materials can only come from
course offerings needs to be questioned. It is touted over and over as the
reason why you need to study, x, y and z. I am a professional musician
myself and also teach. I can pretty much tell you within three or four
lessons if a child has a musician's pulse/response or a likely temperament
to continue on to an accomplished level. Each of the students at SVS gets
to watch the processes of their friends. They go to each other's art shows,
concerts, jobs where they serve food. My daughter was in a play at SVS when
she was 8, and had, really quite a few lines. If your husband had been a
student at SVS, he very likely would have been exposed to theatre and
manifested that interest differently. But if it is in him to be a creative
writer, then I don't think wild horses could stop that from surfacing in him
at a Sudbury school. I also feel that the the creative expression of choice
might have been different and that's okay. It's so incredibly important
that the child get the fundamental spirit of respect and belief that they
will know what is right for them and have the competence to do it. Nowhere
else on earth have I seen greater confidence building than at SVS. And yes
the staff do offer things that they are interested in.

Thanks for asking,
Carol Hughes
Received on Sun Mar 14 2004 - 12:35:14 EST

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