[Discuss-sudbury-model] RE: compulsory element of sudbury model

From: Kamau 14 <kamau14_at_hotmail.com>
Date: Tue Oct 11 17:06:00 2005

Ooh, I told myself not to jump in because of the time I don't have at the
moment, but this issue of compulsory attendance really gets me going. My son
goes to Windsor House in North Vancouver, in Canada. WH has been around for
about 35 years and has an age range of 5-18 years which fluctuates between
about 150 to 200 kids. Actually, if you include people's babies, parents,
friends, relatives and alumni who hang out and are part of our community,
then the age range is birth to old age, but technically, the registered
learners are 5 - 18. It is a parent participation, democratic school,
non-coercive school based on Sudbury Valley principles. Last year we had a
struggle to keep our public funding due to changed government laws and one
of the issues we absolutely went to the mat on was compulsory attendance -
no way are we willing to compromise on the issue of forcing children to
choose between all or nothing at our school. This is something kids, staff
and parents were unanimous about in our voting.

I won't get into the ideological issues right now about why we, as a school,
are so strongly opposed to compulsory full time attendance, but I'll talk a
little bit about how it works for us on a day to day basis and it works

I am currently finishing a PH.D. in which I interviewed alumni from Windsor
House, some of whom are now in their 30's. Here is how different ex-students
talked about attendance (and I do think the most important voice here is the
students and what is important for them). Each quote is a different person:

"Going every day would have been too much. I liked going about twice a week,
that fit better with my rhythms and I liked to daydream and do my writing
from home. And I did lots of learning with my parents and aunt at home"
(this person is now an award winning novelist)

"We had family meetings where we talked about what we all needed, you know,
my brother was a jock, we all did our stuff. My Mom was willing to drive
that distance 3 times a week and my Dad could drive me home. Then my Dad got
transferred close to the school and I went every day. Well except there were
some months when I didn't want to go for weeks at a time and so I didn't.
Just needed space, and then I would find myself going every day again."

"That year, some of our animals got sick. I wanted to be home most of the
time and homeschool with my mom and take care of the animals. I also got
involved in some of the projects at WH. And I liked to go in to see what my
friends were up to. Like I always went in for the plays and when we put out
a newsletter and I had a session where I taught the little kids how to knit
scarves, so I went in for those."

"I went every single day I could from day one for 10 years. I would wake up
in the morning stoked and excited. If I was sick or it was snowed out, I
would cry. I always wanted to be there. Excited to be there every minute."

Kids and families work out their relationship with the community and
attendance and it ebbs and flows for everyone except the teachers who are
paid to be there full time. Some kids come all the time and some come
sometimes. Some have regular part time attendance and some don't. There
might be a class or project (requested and initiated by the kids or offered
by adults) where a decision is made by all the participants that they want a
commitment from everyone in order for the project or class to operate
smoothly or be completed or whatever. And the commitment is spelled out i.e.
You need to come to all of the rehearsals or sessions or whatever. There is
lot of discussion about everyone's needs, wishes, expectations. The
responsibility, I think, comes from being in relationship and hearing about
and negotiating re: everyone's needs and working together. But I can't
imagine why all day every day should be compulsory for everyone.

My son goes every day and aims to get there on time because he wants to. He
finds that if he gets up in the morning and gets himself there at the same
time every day, he is better organized and settled and ready to go for the
math class he requested and has signed himself up for. He gets his catch up
socializing out of the way and he is able to get some music practice on
instruments we don't have at home. He says if he goes later, he's frazzled
and doesn't have time to do everything he wants to. Why is he studying math
which he hates and which is a struggle for him (he was diagnosed with ADHD)?
Because he wants to figure out the calculations for the dimensions of the
guitars he is building and because it helps him better understand music
theory. He figures out what he needs to do to get what he wants. These are
HIS choices. It is not for anybody else to tell him what to do! I'm sorry
but when adults start talking about forcing kids to do things they hate or
be where they don't want to be so they'll grow and develop responsibility,
my teeth start to hurt. Where does that idea come from??

Gotta go.


Received on Tue Oct 11 2005 - 17:05:46 EDT

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