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

From: Scott David Gray <>
Date: Thu Oct 13 12:02:00 2005

There are two start-up Sudbury groups in Puerto Rico. Their
contact info can be found at

On Thu, 13 Oct 2005, Marilu Diaz wrote:

> I would like to know if there are any unschooled parents (or groups) in
> Puerto Rico that I can get in touch with?
> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> []On Behalf Of Melissa Bradford
> Sent: Wednesday, October 12, 2005 9:48 PM
> To:
> Subject: RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] compulsory element of sudbury model
> Hi, all. I'm Melissa from Illinois.
> This is a very timely discussion for me. I've started two Sudbury
> schools in the past 10 years, both of which have closed for various
> reasons. I started an unschool group about 1 & 1/2 years ago with about
> 7 families. We now have 40 families and we meet at least weekly (more
> frequently for most of the older kids) for playgroups/field trips, an
> anime club, and overnights, and we are now talking about the possibility
> of moving closer to a Sudbury-type arrangement. The key members of the
> group have read at least one book about Sudbury Valley School and have
> viewed at least one video.
> The list of what my two children and I miss about Sudbury schooling, and
> why we prefer it to unschooling, is really long. We miss the energy,
> the dialogue, the activities, the fun. We miss the community. We miss
> the daily interactions. There was always so much to do and learn, and
> no waiting for mom to give you a ride somewhere. We miss the things you
> can only do as a group, and/or do spontaneously - like making up your
> own line dance with your girlfriends, and being in a rock band, and
> making up fashion shows and talent shows, and playing capture the flag.
> We miss always having the option of doing things with others or spending
> time alone.
> My daughter (12) especially longs for the social life, the pop music and
> nail polish and fashions and dancing and other fun girl/teen stuff, so
> much so that, out of desperation and a bit of curiosity, she tried
> public school for 5th and half of 6th grade. (She decided to quit when
> she found out that she didn't really have much time to socialize, that
> the teachers used their power to make arbitrary/unfair decisions, and
> she just couldn't stand doing one more meaningless worksheet.) My kids
> miss the power they had in an egalitarian community. I miss the way
> they develop their judgement skills, their social skills, their ability
> to understand others so much more than in any other environment. I miss
> the way they are challenged to define who they are just by virtue of
> being around so many others who are different from them. I could think
> of about 100 more things we miss if I had time. Some have mentioned
> unschooling being real life, but how can it be real life when all the
> kids aged 5 - 18+ are absent from the community 5/7 of the week? That
> is our struggle.
> There are some advantages I've noticed to putting together an
> unschooling group. It has given all of us parents and kids a chance to
> get to know each other well, as we sit around and enjoy each others'
> company while the kids do their thing. Commitments do not need to be
> made right away to the group but can evolve as needed. Many of the kids
> are still quite young so they can grow up together. Most parents are
> pretty close philosophically - much more so than we ever had with either
> of the two schools. All the families obviously make their children a
> number one priority, so much so that they are willing to give up some
> income to do so. There is at least one parent from each family
> available during the day to help out with things. The kids are
> accustomed to self-direction. Also, it is much more affordable for more
> people. Parents get to see for themselves as we get together how
> important the group involvement is to their kids, and how amazing their
> interactions are between each other. The adults treat the children with
> respect and value their opinions.
> I am trying, for the sake of this group and my role in it, to make sense
> of the difference between parents who choose unschooling and those who
> would prefer Sudbury. It's definitely a struggle sometimes for me to
> understand why anyone would choose unschooling over Sudbury, since my
> kids and I love Sudbury so much more than unschooling, but I am trying
> to sort it out without being judgemental about their preference. I hope
> that some of you out there who unschool can help me.
> One thing I've noticed is that it seems that many of the parents who
> prefer unschooling to Sudbury are introverts. I don't know much about
> personality analysis, but someone explained it to me like this - that
> introverts get their energy from being home, and groups put them off.
> Sometimes their kids are the same way. On the other hand, sometimes
> their kids are quite extroverted, but are nevertheless frequently
> limited to staying at home and/or only doing things with parents because
> it is what their parents prefer. From those kids I get the sense that
> if they had a real choice in the matter or could make it happen
> practically, they would choose to be in a group and/or away from their
> parents more often than they currently are. But there are definitely a
> few kids - not many - in the group who just like being at home.
> Another thing that is clear to me is that a majority of the unschooling
> parents do not want to have compulsory attendance, and what it often
> boils down to is a reluctance to have commitments. They seem to dislike
> the idea that they can't stay home when they want to, or that it will
> infringe on their freedom to go to fun places as a family. I have to
> admit that in the back of my mind, I wonder if the parents are the ones
> opposed to it, not really the kids, but maybe that's not fair for me to
> say. It's just that in my experience, Sudbury schools don't infringe on
> the children's freedoms much at all, so I really have a hard time
> imagining that a child would think that unless it was something that the
> parents suggested to the child. Unschooling is like eating at home,
> where you sit down as a family to eat at the dining room table, and
> maybe you've helped plan the menu, and maybe you helped cook, and
> sometimes you get to go out to eat and get to pick from the restaurant
> menu. Sudbury is a great big pot luck on a banquet table where you
> bring something to pass, and there is about every food you can imagine
> on there, plus there may be a few master chefs who have brought dishes,
> too. If you find a dish you really like, you can ask for the recipe.
> There may be down sides - someone put the mac & cheese spoon in the
> apple pie, someone ate all the deviled eggs before you got one - but
> still, there are so many more choices. Why would anyone want to eat at
> home (I think to myself) when they could come to this feast?
> That's why it seems to me that kids have way more freedom at a Sudbury
> school than they do unschooling; because they have so many more choices
> of how to spend their time and with whom. Even compulsory attendance is
> not really a big deal in light of the fact that there could be an open
> campus policy. Yes, you have to clean up your own messes, and you have
> to treat others with respect. You do have to deal with interruptions at
> times. I don't see how that is much different from being at home, but I
> guess if you like lots of quiet, alone time or only feel "at home" in
> your own home, you would prefer to unschool. The quotes Donna from
> Windsor House posted help me understand this a little better, but it is
> still hard for me.
> I can see that some might feel Sudbury schools infringe on the
> *parents'* freedoms, or that the schools may give kids more freedom than
> what the parents really want their children to have, so I wonder if
> those are sometimes the unspoken concerns. Or maybe the parents don't
> want their kids will be exploring the world without them? I'm not sure,
> but I wonder about these things.
> Some other things I've noticed: there are some unschoolers who are
> committed to treating their children as capable of making decisions for
> themselves, and there are others who are not. For example, I know some
> unschoolers that limit TV, or limit how much their kids can go to
> outside activities. I think this may be because some view unschooling
> as only a "schooling" method, more like child-led learning, not a
> broader child-rearing choice/philosophical decision about trusting kids.
> Also, some of the kids I've met clearly are longing for much more social
> interaction, especially the older ones, but it seems to me that some of
> the unschooling parents don't value that type of activity as much as
> others, or don't see it as a learning activity equal in value to
> activities they can do at home or as a family.
> One last thing - the kids seem to rely on their parents to do things for
> them a lot more than in non-homeschooling families. Sometimes it seems
> like those parents are just more nurturing than I am, which I admire in
> them, because I realize that I probably err on the side of the "kick the
> little birdies out of the nest so they can fly". But sometimes it seems
> like the parents are enabling their kids, not on purpose, but just
> because it is the nature of the relationship when you do everything as a
> family.
> So, back to the question of compulsory attendance, I don't know if
> letting go of compulsory attendance will work or not, but I am not
> opposed to trying it. I remember talking to people from Windsor House
> at IDEC about how they allowed homeschoolers at their school, so thank
> you, Donna, for adding your input to this thread. I'd like to ask you
> more questions about WH in the future. One thing (out of many) I
> learned through my involvement with Sudbury schools is that it is
> politically costly to be rigid about issues other than the core
> principles, and I'm not sure if compulsory attendance is a core
> principle (although it may turn out to be logistically necessary). I
> also agree with Jeff that Sudbury schools are actually a lot more
> relaxed about attendance than the impression I had when I first got
> involved with Sudbury schools.
> What I'm thinking right now is that if we try it without compulsory
> attendance, and it doesn't work, then we will know that it doesn't work,
> and we can change it. I'm very curious how this will evolve. I'm
> wondering if, once we get a regular place, people will see the
> advantages of knowing you can count on others being there, too. I'm
> wondering if the kids will want to be there on a more regular basis even
> though the parents may not. I wonder whether, without compulsory
> attendance, the children will truly have freedom of choice. What I mean
> by that is, will their parents either exercise more control or try to
> influence the kids' decisions in ways they would not do if we were a
> typical Sudbury school with compulsory attendance and they had to "let
> go"?
> This thread has gone on quite a bit already I know, but if you've made
> it to the end of this message :-), and you have any feedback for me, I
> welcome hearing from you.
> Melissa
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--Scott David Gray
reply to:
 So now that every bridge is burned,
 and the road home was a long one,
 we're sure that if a lesson's learned,
 it'll probably be the wrong one.
-- Jimmy Gownley, Amelia Rules issue #8
Received on Thu Oct 13 2005 - 12:00:48 EDT

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