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

From: Karen Locke <>
Date: Sat Oct 15 20:41:00 2005

Hi Melissa,

I remember you from visiting your school in Illinois. Thanks for being so
thorough in your analysis.

I was a homeschooler/unschooler who thought I wanted a Sudbury school but
could never find enough people to actually do it. My kids actually went to
public school when they got older because of the need for social network
(among other things like dad pressure :)

I think some of it is money - I know many of the people I knew didn't want
to pay for letting kids play, when they could do that at home or for less
money with friends. It reminds me of something that was said about low
childcare wages - women are paid poorly because they're willing to do the
work for that amount of money. If something is highly desirable (and I
think the original Sudbury partly is desirable because of building, grounds,
and location in addition to staff) then it can charge lots of money. If
not, then it won't get lots of takers.

I think it's hard to be on that "far-out" edge, and sometimes people only
hold out for a few years and it collapses. It's like wingwalking on a
plane, I think :)

Thanks for holding out there in Illinois and doing things for kids around
you. Whatever the form, I'm sure it's meeting needs and will evolve for the

Karen Locke

----- Original Message -----
From: "Melissa Bradford" <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, October 12, 2005 8:48 PM
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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Received on Sat Oct 15 2005 - 20:40:09 EDT

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